Friday, September 19, 2008

Alaskan Geography 101

One of the concepts I will continue to focus on on this website and this blog is the long series of implausible and inappropriate choices that Gov. Palin made regarding her pregnancy and birth. Although I have mentioned her choice of physician a few times before, it didn't hit home to me how really curious this choice was until I started looking in detail at a map of Alaska, and realizing just how far it really is from Juneau to Anchorage.

Like most folks in the "Lower 48," my sense of Alaskan geography is not very good. (I apologize for this.) I know Alaska is big. Really big. And that's about it. Here's a map to help us in our review.

And here's another that shows the relationship between Anchorage, Wasilla, and Palmer.

Most of us remember (or at least should remember) from grammar school that Alaska's capital is Juneau. This is where the governor's mansion as well as the state capitol buildings are located. This is down on a little "neck," mostly surrounded by Canada, and hell and gone for the bulk of Alaska. Sarah Palin is from Wasilla, a town about sixty miles from Anchorage. Anchorage is about 800 miles by road (a bit less by air) from Juneau. To put this into perspective, this is about the same distance as it is from Richmond VA to Chicago IL, or Philadelphia PA to Atlanta GA. No matter what map you look at, it's flippin' far.

Unlike being a state legislator (where in most cases, the legislators only come to and live in the capital during legislative session) being Governor is a full-time job. Sarah Palin's official residence once she accepted that job was in Juneau. Although she spent a lot of time at her home in Wasilla (and apparently billed the state for a per diem when she did so) at least theoretically, Sarah Palin was supposed to be living in Juneau.

So what did she do when she became pregnant with her fifth child at age 43? Did she seek out prenatal care where she lived - the choice that virtually every pregnant woman in America makes? There's absolutely no evidence that she did. She should have known by October 2007 at the latest that she was pregnant and has stated that she had an amniocentesis in December. But considering the "shock" that her staff expressed at the time of her announcement in early March 2008 (a staff that would, routinely manage her calendar and appointments,) it seems very unlikely she was seeing a doctor in Juneau.

Instead, throughout her entire "pregnancy," even once she allegedly knew that her child had Down's, thus putting her pregnancy into a HIGH RISK status, she apparently continued to consult her family practice doctor in Wasilla / Palmer - an HOUR from Anchorage which is itself two hours by plane (twenty hours by car) from Juneau! Did she intend to commute from Juneau to Palmer bi-weekly beginning at 32 weeks and then weekly at 36?

Who did the amniocentesis? Family practice doctors don't do them; usually they are done by obstetricians though occasionally they might be done by radiologists. Once she knew the baby had Down's, and of course, had made the decision to continue the pregnancy, it would be recommended for her to have at least one - and possibly two - special ultrasounds that are capable of visualizing fetal heart defects. Who did these exams? Where? When? Not a family practice doctor in Palmer Alaska, I can promise you that.

Although a woman who had a good "obstetric" history in the past has every expectation that the current pregnancy will be trouble-free, common sense intervenes. No woman assumes that just because all of her previous experiences were good, that this one will be as well. What was Sarah Palin planning if she'd gone into premature labor in February or March (dead of winter in Alaska) while in Juneau? Did she intend somehow to fly to Anchorage and then drive to Palmer, maybe in the middle of the night? Or was she going to just present herself at an E.R. in Juneau and hope for the best?

Of course, none of these prenatal choices can even compare to the claim that a 44 year old woman, who is supposedly in preterm labor with a Down's baby, bypassed NICU equipped facilities in three cities (Dallas, Seattle, and Anchorage) ultimately to give birth with a family practice doctor at a small community birthing center in Palmer Alaska. (And, according to some websites, (though I personally have not been able to confirm this) Dr. Baldwin Johnson, HAD PRIVILEGES at the hospital in Anchorage that has the NICU, Providence.)

But STILL Gov. Palin landed in Anchorage, 12 hours after her amniotic sac allegedly started leaking, and then bypassed this hospital (six miles from the airport) and drove to Palmer. On some websites her reckless behavior once in labor has been excused with the statement that she's such a staunch Alaskan that she was willing to take risks to make sure her baby was born on Alaskan soil.

But her choice to bypass Anchorage, where her doctor had privileges, in favor of Wasilla shows that "Alaska" was not the issue, nor even a favorite doctor. She was desperate to get to Mat-Su Regional Hosptial in Palmer Alaska. Why? What's there? Are their birthing rooms really THAT nice? Ummm, probably not.

Granted, not all births are likely reported on the Mat-Su Hospital's website. But it looks like on most days, there are only 1 or 2 births... it's a small facility. Could it be that the greatest attraction of the facility was its utter privacy, combined with the fact that Dr. Baldwin-Johnson was a long-time friend and acquaintance, who had Sarah Palin to thank for an appointment to the Alaskan Health Council in May of 2007?


Morgan said...

This is such a brilliant analysis. Have you considered putting it on your Web site as an article? It makes no sense at all, and I've not heard this put as succinctly as you did here. said...

One point of correction-- can't DRIVE from Juneau to anywhere... it is locked in by ocean on one side and mountains on the other. You HAVE to fly (or boat) in and out.

But, great site! This whole thing has been nagging at me, too!