Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Thinking the Unthinkable (for me, that is)

Homeschooling has been a part of my life for ever it seems. It was something I approached initially with a lot of the enthusiasm and bravado that only youth can bring to it. Over the years I have gained experience, but the funny thing about it is that instead of getting easier, it has gotten progressively harder.

At some point the weight of responsibility that knowing my kids’ education rested pretty well on my shoulders became crushing. If I had only had two or three children it might have remained manageable, but when you add a lot of kids to the mix , at some point you can hit critical mass when you can’t spend the time with each one that you would like to. All the arguments in favor of homeschooling being more efficient because of the small teacher/student ratio flew out the window because what competed for my attention wasn’t merely children: it was also laundry, cooking large quantities of food, housework, appointments, and outside activities. If I could have focused just on the schooling and let someone do the cooking or cleaning, and running around things might have been easier.

The other thing that has made homeschooling harder is the sheer breadth of grades being taught. I know that there are systems out there like unit studies that allow you to teach everyone the same subject and then do work at their own level. However, I just couldn’t manage to do that program – it involved a lot of planning and tracking which meant time; something that has been in short supply around here.

The burden of responsibility was eased a great deal when I finally put the kids on a distance education program where we have a teacher to answer to. It has made a difference in how motivated the kids are to do their work and do it well when they know someone besides mom is going to be looking it over. It has also kept me from slacking off and taking off days when I just couldn’t seem to get started.

The question is not whether or not this latest approach works. It works if their grades are anything to go by. The kids are learning. The younger children that I have been more diligent in teaching are getting A’s. and B’s. However, this has all come with a cost – a burnt out and apparently over-stressed mother.

I was teaching the children the other day. James was on my lap being nursed, Elodie was trying to climb into my lap and I was teaching Garnet his grade one math. At the same time I was fielding questions on grade 11 accounting and grade 5 social studies. Sam looked at my red and distressed face and said, “Mom, go lay down. We don’t want a dead mother.”

I feel horrible about the whole situation. I try to involve Elodie with us as much as possible, but more often than not I am telling her to go away and watch PBS kids so I can spend hours in the attic schoolroom making sure that everything is getting done. My delightful baby becomes a distressing hindrance instead of the light of my eyes when he needs my attention. I feel like I am being forced to sacrifice their babyhood for the sake of an ideal that I am not so sure I really want to die for.

And so, I am doing the unthinkable – thinking of placing some of my kids in a local Christian school next year so that I can regain some sanity and start to enjoy my kids again.

What has surprised me about all this is that when I finally gave myself permission to contemplate this step, I really find myself not wanting to do it. Those who have read here for any length of time know that homeschooling is not something that I feel particularly well equipped to do. I make an excellent student, but a lousy teacher. My children will be grown and gone from the nest all too soon. I am not eager to see less of them especially as I know that my time with them is all too short. I also have this ridiculous idea that I have somehow failed as a mother in having to do this.

I realize that school is something that you can be withdrawn from once you start it. The kids and I aren't locked into it forever if we find later on that it isn't working. And who knows? Maybe by next summer some of the current situation will be eased enough that we won't have to go there at all.

Emotions aside, I need to make the best decision for the sake of the kids. It is their future that is at stake in all of this. Killing myself to keep them home will deny them a mother for good and ensure public school as a certainty. I definitely don’t want them to go there if they absolutely don’t have to. In any event, I have until next September to figure out how to homeschool without hurting anyone or find some money for the private Christian school. Pray for us if you think of it.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

I Forgot About This

Below is an article I posted last February. This might explain what happened to me recently...

Feb. 9, 2004 — Emotional stress can precipitate severe but reversible left ventricular dysfunction caused by an exaggerated sympathetic response, according to the results of a study published in the Feb. 10 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

"The potentially lethal consequences of emotional stress are deeply rooted in folk wisdom, as reflected by phrases such as 'scared to death' and 'a broken heart,'" write Ilan S. Wittstein, MD, from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, and colleagues. "In the past decade, cardiac contractile abnormalities and heart failure have been reported after acute emotional stress, but the mechanism remains unknown."

Using coronary angiography and serial echocardiography, the authors evaluated 19 patients presenting with left ventricular dysfunction after sudden emotional stress. Five patients underwent endomyocardial biopsy, and plasma catecholamine levels in 13 patients with stress-related myocardial dysfunction were compared with those in seven patients with Killip class III myocardial infarction.Median age of patients with stress-induced cardiomyopathy was 63 years, and 95% were women. Presenting symptoms included chest pain, pulmonary edema, and cardiogenic shock, and most patients had diffuse T-wave inversion and a prolonged QT interval.

Although 17 patients had mildly elevated serum troponin I levels, angiography revealed clinically significant coronary disease in only one of 19 patients.On admission, all patients had severe left ventricular dysfunction (median ejection fraction, 0.20; interquartile range, 0.15-0.30), which resolved rapidly (ejection fraction at two to four weeks, 0.60; interquartile range, 0.55-0.65; P < .001). Endomyocardial biopsy revealed mononuclear infiltrates and contraction-band necrosis.At presentation, patients with stress-induced cardiomyopathy had markedly higher plasma catecholamine levels than did those with Killip class III myocardial infarction (median epinephrine level, 1,264 pg/mL [interquartile range, 916-1,374] vs 376 pg/mL [interquartile range, 275-476]; norepinephrine level, 2,284 pg/mL [interquartile range, 1,709-2,910] vs 1,100 pg/mL [interquartile range, 914-1,320]; and dopamine level, 111 pg/mL [interquartile range, 106-146] vs 61 pg/mL [interquartile range, 46-77]; P < .005 for all comparisons).

Study limitations are those inherent in any small, observational case series, as well as inability to prove a causal relationship between sympathetic activation and stress cardiomyopathy."Emotional stress can precipitate severe, reversible left ventricular dysfunction in patients without coronary disease," the authors write. "Exaggerated sympathetic stimulation is probably central to the cause of this syndrome."

Because patients with stress cardiomyopathy typically present with clinical features resembling those of acute myocardial infarction, the authors recommend coronary angiography in most cases.The Bernard A. and Rebecca S. Bernard Foundation partly supported this study, and the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation partly supported four of the authors.N Engl J Med. 2005;352:539-548

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

'Flu Flim Flam

Last night my hubbie and I watched two programs, one after the other, on PBS. Both of them dealt with the Spanish 'Flu epidemic of 1918. It was really amazing how quickly the SF spread and how fast it struck people down. What was especially interesting and surprising to me was the fact that the typical victims were not those who usually suffer -- the elderly and very young-- but for the most part struck those in the prime of life between the ages of 20 to 29.

The fact that viruses caused flus wasn't known at the time. Efforts to create a vaccine was based on bacterial studies and the resulting vaccine was of no effect. Vaccine production against various strains of flu viruses is on-going, but it is anyone's guess as to whether or not the vaccine producers have lucked out and chosen the correct virus to innoculate the population with. Then there are the problems with fraud...

Fraud in an already flawed flu plan

Just a few days ago, I wrote to you about the President's Big Plan to reduce flu infections and protect us against an outbreak of the H5N1 avian flu. As you might expect, increased flu vaccinations are the biggest component of this plan...

The problem with simply ratcheting up the number of vaccinations is that flu viruses can mutate into more virulent forms at a rate that's faster than what effective vaccines can be manufactured in mass quantities. I've written in the past (Daily Dose 3/8/05 and 2/20/04) about how worthless mass vaccinations are - except as profit drivers for the vaccine manufacturers. In one of those articles, I referenced a National Institute of Health study that showed flu vaccinations had not saved a single life in the supposedly "most vulnerable" over-65 demographic.

But these facts don't stop our government from lining us up every year and needlessly needling us in the name of flu resistance. And as if we needed any more evidence that these mass vaccinations with instantly-obsolete drugs were worthless, consider this:

In some cases, the shots themselves contain almost NO MEDICINE.

Apparently, the lure of easy money is too much for some doctors to bear in the fight against the flu. At least one such doctor, a man named Iyad Abu el Hawa, was arrested last month in Houston, Texas after the health care company he owns administered more than 1,000 fake flu shots to Exxon/Mobil employees and independent contractors at a job safety event in October. According to the now-involved FDA, the substance administered was nothing more than sterilized H20...

Authorities say el Hawa planned to keep giving the fake jabs while billing Medicare for the administration of real vaccines. So far, the investigation has gathered evidence showing that the doctor also administered ersatz vaccine to residents of a housing facility for senior citizens. Interestingly enough, "doctor" el Hawa was convicted of assaulting a police officer in 1999, according to the Baytown Sun, a Houston-area newspaper.

The doctor would no doubt have continued to perpetrate more of these frauds (another mass inoculation scheduled for October 22nd was canceled after his arrest), but for the clear head and strong medical conscience of a sharp-minded temp nurse contracted to help administer the shots. Keep reading...

According to a U.S. Newswire account, a nurse hired by el Hawa's company to help dole out the "flu shots" became alarmed after a conversation with one of the facility's other employees - the one filling up syringes the night before the event - revealed a startling lack of knowledge about the system of identifying and tracking vaccines currently in place in the U.S. According to the nurse's testimony, the person didn't even know what a vaccine lot number was.

Concerned, the nurse palmed a pair of the syringes prepared for the Exxon/Mobil safety fair and contacted authorities, who raided el Hawa's facility the day after the event. They also seized 32 syringes el Hawa himself attempted to discard in a dumpster across the street from his company's offices during the raid.

Thankfully, no injuries have been reported from this fraudulent jabbing. When you think about it, the people who received a harmless salt solution instead of vaccine are the lucky ones since there's no proof that the vaccines are effective in the first place.

But to me, this incident raises new questions about the safety of vaccinations - not from a point of view of adverse reactions to actual vaccines or the unwitting spread of secondary infections, but from a standpoint of the ease in which a disgruntled doctor could cause another terror disaster of a 9/11-ish scale...

Think about it. If it's this easy to inject people with something other than a vaccine in order to perpetrate simple fraud, it would be equally easy to inject a few thousand people with a toxic chemical or deadly communicable disease, like AIDS (or worse)...

I wonder if the president has a plan in place for THAT?

Always planning, never flim-flamming,

William Campbell Douglass II, MD

Copyright (c)1997-2005 by, L.L.C. The Daily Dose may not be posted on commercial sites without written permission.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Where I've Been

I know some people have been waiting to see what I would write about recent happenings in my life. I have held back because I didn't know quite how to address this. Should I be light and humorous? Should I be deeply reflective and profound? I also held back because I wanted some time to think about it all. What follows is merely prose.

Be careful what you pray for.

I was sitting in church on the Lord's Day a couple of weeks ago, mulling over various situations of friends and family and my own failings that were having me bummed out. As I sat there, I thought to myself "Lord, it would be so wonderful to be free from the power and presence of sin." An hour later a group of us were discussing various issues, and I began to have some chest pain. I thought perhaps it was a bad gas attack or something because it felt like I had swallowed some pills the wrong way, so I gathered the kids up and got them out into the van. As I drove the 20 minute drive home, the pain continued to grow and radiated out from my sternum towards my armpits and my back. By the time I drove into my driveway, it had gone down my left arm and I had a feeling of pins and needles in it. I had checked my heart rate as I was driving, and it was plodding along in its customary way. However, the pain in my arm had me a bit worried, so I stuck my pinky finger in my mouth and bit down and held it. The heart meridian happens to run into that finger.

I got out of the van and walked into the house and could barely make it down my hallway because now the pain was so intense that I couldn't breathe well and I felt slightly nauseated. My son Ben came and put his arms around me and asked me if I was ok. I said I didn't know and stumbled upstairs to my room. Bethany, my 10 year old came in and with a worried look asked me if she could make me some tea or something. I told her to go and get her father.

I was gasping and crying with the pain when Marc came down and found me. He took one look at me and asked me what was wrong. I told him about the pains I was having. He asked me what I wanted to do. I said, "Take me to Cal's!" (Cal is my health care provider.) "Don't be crazy!" he replied. "I'm taking you to the emergency room!"

In short order he hussled me out into the car and drove me to the hospital. The pain was still pretty intense, but it began to ease off. We arrived at the hospital and Marc ran in and grabbed a wheel chair and wheeled me up to the triage nurse. In a short period of time she had me hooked up to a blood pressure cuff, was taking my temperature, checking my oxygen saturation and firing questions at me. Next trip was down the hall to a small room with a bed to strip off and put on a hospital gown and await an ECG.My blood pressure was only slightly elevated. By the time the lab tech hooked me up to the portable ECG machine, it was considerably eased. She did one strip and then came back and did another in about a half hour. Another lab tech came and took some blood samples.

Sunday night is typically a busy night in the emergency ward of our local hospital, and this night was no exception. My bed was needed for other people being taken in, so I was asked to dress and go and sit in the waiting room until the doctor was available to see me. When Marc and I went out to the waiting room, Mike, one of the fellows from church came in. In his humorous way he said he was in the neighborhood and recognized our car so he stopped in to see what was going on. The truth was that either he called our house or my son Trahern called him and told We sat and chatted for a bit and in a little while they called me to come in to the actual emergency ward for an assessment. Being able to sit and chat with Mike and joke around helped to add some normalcy to the situation.

The doctor was very nice. He explained that it looked like I might possibly have had a very slight heart attack, but they would know for sure when the blood work came back. He was extremely doubtful that it could be that because I don't have any of the risk factors for it: no family history, no smoking, no drinking, and I was relatively young. Plus the number of children I have had is actually a protection against heart disease. He was thinking it might have been more along the lines of an esophageal spasm. At this point I am ready to get up and leave because I am thinking about Sweet Baby James at home without his mama and his nursies for several hours. Plus I wasn't in pain and just wanted out. It was not to be.

My blood work came back and showed slightly elevated enzymes. Gone was the warm reassurance that everything would be ok; now I am being informed solemnly by the doctor that I must not have any more children. And drugs are being ordered. Lots of drugs.

At this point I said, "I'm a nursing mother and I need my baby!" Well, ok, but baby will have to be brought to me and would someone be available to help look after him? Marc left with instructions to bring back James, his portable crib, clothing, and various things necessary for a short hospital stay. I lay back in my bed with a sense of unreality about all this.

The nurses were very efficient and in no time at all had me hooked up to all kinds of monitors, stuck full of needles, and on an IV. I'm not the typical patient. Before I would let them give me anything at all, I had to know what it was for, and whether it was safe for nursing mothers to use. I had them bring me the Compendium of Pharmaceuticals and Specialties which is the Canadian equivalent of the Physician's Desk Reference on drugs and another book specifically on the use of drugs in pregnant and lactating women and I looked up each and every drug and its contraindications, side effects, and if it was studied for safety in breastfeeding. The internist who looked after me was of the opinion that I needed the drugs regardless because it was important to save me, but I was of the opinion that I didn't want my baby being treated.

Marc returned with my son Ben and a baby who was very happy to see his mom. James charmed all the nurses, of course, being the cheerful sweet thing he is. It also doesn't hurt that he is as cute as a button. After much trial and tribulation, and finally some assistance from a helpful nurse the crib was set up in my cubicle, and the 40 tons of baby and mother paraphanalia were unloaded into it. James was placed beside me and by carefully manuevering around all the wires and iv lines, he was able to settle down to sleep.

I eventually ended up in the pediatric room in the emergency ward for the night since there wasn't space for me upstairs on the internal medicine unit. It had the virtue of being a separate room with walls and a door which would have afforded me the ability to sleep if it were not for the fact that I had nurses popping in and out all night long checking on me and taking yet more blood for more tests.

One of the things I came to detest was the automatic blood pressure cuffs they put on you. They have no brain and just keep pumping the air in until your fingers turn blue and your arm feels like it is going to fall off. I was hooked up to one and left on it for that first night. Every fifteen minutes it would blow up and cause me excruciating pain because they went and put it on the arm with the saline locks and iv in it. It felt like the iv and saline lock ought to be shooting across the room from the pressure of it. I finally protested to one of the nurses, and when she took it off, my arm looked thoroughly mangled and had long red streaks of broken blood vessels around it. The age of automation has rendered many nurses nearly incapable of taking a blood pressure manually it seems.

The following morning they brought me breakfast: a boiled egg, two pieces of cold toast, black coffee, and margarine. I ate the egg. I didn't sleep much and poor little James was a bit disturbed with it all, but it was a comfort to have him there to snuggle with.

The internist who would look after me came in that morning. His name is Dr. Hamour, and he is a tall, distinguished looking Muslim from Sudan. He has only been in Canada for two months but he speaks English beautifully due to some time he spent in the UK. He had a very calm and dignified demeanor. In the course of our conversation he learned that I had 12 children and that I was homeschooling them. "That is very noble of you," he said in his quaint way. He himself is from a family of 15.

He told me that he thought I had suffered a slight heart attack and that I would likely have to be on a statin drug to lower my cholesterol, a baby aspirin, and some other drugs for some time. I am severely allergic to even the thought of taking drugs so that prospect didn't do much for me. Then a very sweet nurse, who it turns out is a Christian, came in and in her quiet way read me the riot act about lowering my stress levels, taking naps in the morning and afternoon, easing back into life, etc. She went on to say that my heart was very unstable and another heart attack could be much more serious and do more damage if it didn't outright kill me. What a regular ray of sunshine she was.

Later that morning I got moved up to the IMU unit and I was placed on a mobile telemetry unit so they could monitor my heart rate, breathing, etc., from the nursing station and yet allow me up to shower and use the washroom. I was taken off the heparin, which was there to thin out my blood and instead they gave me injections of another similar drug which did the same thing, with the added benefit of leaving huge bruises on me about the size of a silver dollar all over my belly.

"It burns us!" I would hiss at the nurses in my best imitation of Gollum while they injected me.

They also brought me little cups of pills to swallow. I would not swallow them until I had quizzed them as to what each one of them was. Turns out this was a good thing to do. One morning a nurse rushed in at 6 am and woke me out of a sound slumber and shoved some drugs at me and commanded me to take it for the fever I had. Being slow of wit upon first waking in a strange place with strangers shoving cups at me, I did as I was told. Turns out the tylenol was not for me, but was for the gal in the bed beside me! IF I had been feeling somewhat nasty, I could have caused a lot of problems for that girl. As it was, since it was only Tylenol and I wasn't suffering ill effects from it, I let it go but shook my finger at her and told her, "Now you know why I have been such a pain about taking my meds!"

[Please note that this is a practice I think every person should employ if they find themselves in the hospital. If you can't do it, or you have a loved one who is out of it and unable to do it for themselves, then do it for them. If mistakes are made, you are the one who has to live with the results.
Medical mistakes kill 100 000 people a year. Is there something you can do, even from your sickbed, to protect yourself? Become an expert. First, know what ails you. Ask your doctor all about it. Research it on the Internet, for instance or look it up in medical books like Merck Manual. Patients should feel entitled to inquire about their care no matter how sick they are. Second, know about your drugs. The study shows more than 7,000 die each year because of medication errors. ]

On my second morning in the hospital, a cardiac nurse came to visit me. Up to this point in time, I was being a bit cagey about what I thought about all of what was happening. Some doctors can get really snitty if they know you use alternative forms of healthcare. Marvin was there to talk to me about lifestyle, eating plans and all that sort of thing. The first thing he told me was that he usually does this sort of thing in a group setting, but in reading over my chart, he found I was so atypical that he wanted to talk to me one on one.

He started out by noting that I didn't have any of the things that would normally raise red flags for doctors concerning heart problems. My blood pressure, even while still in the midst of the "attack" was only slightly elevated -- the sort of elevation you might see in a person who has "white coat syndrome" which is stress-induced by being in medical places. I am slightly overweight, but other than that, nothing in my history would suggest cardiac problems. My blood work for cholesterol had come back and it was nearly perfect. My HDL levels were very high, my triglycerides were in the basement, and I had only a slight elevation in my LDL levels. Instead of using statin drugs, which I know to have many bad side effects, I could use niacin to lower it to normal. I related to him how I had checked my pulse during the episode and it was beating at its normal rate. Other than the initial blood pressure reading which was barely high, it had remained in the normal range once I stopped taking the bp meds. ( I figure that no blood pressure is just as bad as too high, and they had it down to 95/55 on only half the medication they had prescribed for me!)In the course of the conversation, he looked at me thoughtfully for a moment and then asked me if I had a medical background.

"Why?" I inquired warily.

"Because most people don't know the medical terms you are using to answer my questions. Nor do they look up drug interactions and contraindications or quiz people about their vitals."

"Oh, well I read a lot. "

He raised his eyebrows.

"You know. Medical studies, and um, things like that."

"Why do you do that?"

I sized him up for a few moments and then... "I um.... I intend to be a naturopathic doctor some day." I blurted out and then waited for the explosions to start.

He grew quite animated, but in a pleasant way. Turns out this guy is into complementary medicine as well and we ended up having quite an enjoyable time together discussing alternatives to the drug therapy route. My diet was already pretty good. I just had to knock off the sugar which I was wanting to do any how and get more exercise to drop my weight back to what it should be. (This last one could be a feat in itself since I find it harder to lose weight when I am nursing a wee one.)

Later that evening, Cal stopped by to see me and check up on how I was doing. In between the nurse coming in and doing my vitals, he managed to give me a quick check over. In his opinion, it wasn't my heart that was the problem -- it was the pericardium, or the membrane around the heart. From what he could tell, it looked like I might have a bacterial infection in it. Now, I had quizzed the nurse about this very thing. Could a cardiac arterial spasm cause an elevation in enzymes? It is quite possible. Before you all think this was a bunch of malarky, I had been to see Cal six weeks earlier, and he told me at that time that something was going on in my heart region, but it wasn't at a level of severity that would cause concern. In the intervening weeks I had been under considerable stress with all that I was doing with homeschooling, lessons outside the home, business meetings and my clinic. The straw that broke the camel's back and likely caused the spasm was the stress I felt in church. (Incidentally, my sister, who is a nurse who worked in the emergency ward told me that they always had what they termed "the church crowd" on Sunday afternoons. People seem to find church stressful and the ER would get busy with all the people who had chest pains, fainting spells, and similar maladies.) In any event, when I went to see Cal a few days after I was out of hospital and he was able to do a more thorough examination, he told me that my heart was sound -- something that I had found in my own testing, but that my pericardium and the heart-end of the portal vein were both considerably weakened by the bacterial infection. And you know, that makes a whole lot more sense to me than what the doctors and nurses were telling me.

So what caused the chest pain? Likely a spasm in the pericardium or portal vein -- enough to cause an elevation in the enzymes. One of the enzymes is that which has to do with muscle damage, so I am not certain that it was actually caused by the spasm or from the fact that I had been working out at the gym the day before. What is certain is that I am taking it a bit easier these days and my family is assisting for the most part.

I left the hospital with a list of about five drugs that they want me on. I only filled the prescription for one: nitroglycerin. (Mom don't freak. I know what I am doing.) Instead I am watching my diet, exercising more, taking niacin for the LDL, herbs for the infection, and resting when I am tired. I am trying to lower my expectations with regard to household neatness standards. I think one of the banes of society is the Beautiful Homes and Gardens or House Beautiful types of magazines. The ideal homes never seem to have anyone living in them. That being the case, I guess I should stop trying to pretend that 11 people don't live in my home and work on keeping things clean, but not pristine. I never achieve pristine, but it doesn't seem to keep me from trying.

Thankfully, the last time I got seriously ill I gave up the notion that I was somehow invincible because of the supplements and herbs I use. If you have an excellent diet and are getting all the right nutrients but are under constant and sustained stress, the stress will "eat up" the nutrition and leave you vulnerable to whatever is gonna get you. Not only that, even youth grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall. But those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength. Diet, exercise, supplements, herbs, and prayer are only the usual means to good health. If the Lord doesn't want to use those means and would rather you endure a physical trial, He is free to withhold His blessing from them and allow you to become ill or even die.

I know the reaction of a lot of people when this happened was "Cheryl!?!" At one time this would have caused me shame and embarrassment. I mean here I am an enthusiastic promoter of good health and nutrition and this sort of thing happens? However, I got over that sort of thinking and now look on these sorts of things as invitations to learn something new. Last time I was ill I learned a lot about how to manage inflammation, systemic yeast conditions, and treating allergies. Now I will be learning a lot about cardiac issues and intensifying my knowledge and practice of stress reduction and management. This information won't be kept to myself, but it will become a tool for helping others.

For those who are worrying about me bucking the medical establishment in my treatment, I am going to get the echocardiogram and do a stress test as well as follow up blood work. This is to prove to myself, my family, and the doctors that I am really ok.

I can't close this post off without thanking all those who knew for their prayers on my behalf. Mike G. told me that before he came up to the hospital to see me that fateful night that he prayed that God would show mercy to my children, husband, and church by not taking me right now. I think my mother and father had me on half the world's prayer chains. Thanks Mom and Dad! I appreciated the visits from friends while I was in hospital, the beautiful flowers, Joyce sending me a care package, the phone calls, cards, meals for the family, and Teresa and her girls taking James a few mornings so I could rest in the hospital for a bit without worrying about him. God promises rewards to all of you; for in doing this unto this least of your sisters in the Lord, you did it unto Him.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Why I Love James

So there I am in the middle of the YMCA gym, flopped over a Swiss Ball, trying to stretch muscles that dont' want stretching, and trying to firm up flab that suddenly appeared with the advent of James. Hannah, who was taking care of Jamesie came up to where I was feebly working out to find out how much longer I was going to be, and she carried James with her. Despite the fact that I was surrounded by women, younger, firmer, and more attractive than me, James had eyes, grins, and happy squeals for no one but his mommy. He looks at me as though the sun and moon set by me and like I am the most attractive and wonderful woman in the world. That makes every single fat cell I am working on deflating worth the getting!
Why I Love SuperNanny

Last night I watched SuperNanny with my kids on the TV. I have to confess that I love/hate this show. The reason I hate it is because I so often see myself portrayed in the ineffective and even infantile and self-indulgent responses that many parents have towards their children. It is too true and too sad that much of the time our children suffer from our own childish behaviors and we have to grow up alongside of them. For some parents, it never happens, or it comes too little, too late.

Last night's show was about a family with two little girls and a boy who had been diagnosed with autism. The parents loved their children but had no effective coping mechanisms or training strategies for their particular situation. I really felt for the mom. On the outside she looked like a mother who didn't care about her children and was negligent of them in favor of doing her housework. Inside though, was a woman who was in helpless despair and loaded down with guilt over what was happening in her family. Dad was equally sad.

SuperNanny came in and gave them the straight goods, without pulling any punches. I squirmed for them as she laid bare their deficiencies for all the world to see. Very often at this interview, there can be a lot of defensiveness, but in this couple's case, there was deep humilty and a desire to do better for their children. Then an expert who worked with autistic children came in alongside of SuperNanny and they set up a program for the whole family that would encourage quality time and training for all the children.

Within the first day of training, this little autistic boy said his first words. All that was needed was the right amount of stimulation and perserverance to get him that far. It was a thrilling moment to see. It was also thrilling to see how the parents were able to improve their parenting skills with some coaching and direction and what a difference it made to their whole family.

That is why I love SuperNanny. She tells you the truth about your rotten condition, but then gives you hope that it can change. Kinda like the Gospel.
Will Avian Flu be the Next Pandemic?

Ok, so I am focusing on health issues lately. That's because I have an interest in health. Get over it or read something else.

Every year about this time we start to hear all kinds of alarmist reports about the next pandemic of flu that is about to hit and decimate the world's population and cause havoc in the chaos that already exists. I don't doubt that flu poses a threat to those who have a suppressed immune system due to malnutrition, improper eating habits, lack of exercise, lack of sanitary conditions, etc. However the media and the flu flunkeys from Big Pharma like to hyperventilate about the dangers of flu, especially when they look at the big $$ to be made from getting everyone on the flu vaccine.

I am pasting a post complete with references from Sheri Tenpenny below. Read it and then re-evaluate what you have been hearing in the mainstream news. Then make a decision as to whether or not it is worth getting that flu shot. Incidentally, though this is purely anecdotal, a lot of the people that I know who get the flu shot end up getting sick with flu-like symptoms soon afterwards. Mere coincidence?

Eliminating Bird Flu Fears:
10 Facts You Need To Know
By Red Flags Columnist, Sherri Tenpenny, DO

The concerns about avian influenza, a.k.a. bird flu, seem to have the entire world in an uproar. More than 150 million domestic ducks and chickens have been sacrificed throughout Southeast Asia, China, Russia and Eastern Europe in an attempt to stop the spread of the virus. Billions of dollars are being allocated to the development of a new “pandemic” vaccine and the stockpiling of two drugs, Tamiflu and Relenza, which are touted to “treat” the infection. The hysteria in the United States has risen to the point where President George Bush allocated resources toward preparing to use the military to enforce quarantines and perhaps even to enforce mandatory vaccination.

What is really going on? Is a pandemic going to develop that will stop all commerce for months and put an end to Western civilization as we know it? (1) What tactics are being used to scare us into believing these measures are necessary?

A level-headed examination of 10 important facts shows that the prevailing alarmist point of view is inaccurate, irresponsible and self-serving.

1. The death rate from H5N1 infection is highly overstated.
Between Dec. 26, 2003 and Oct. 24, 2005, there were 121 confirmed H5N1 infections and, of those, 62 have reportedly died. That makes the “apparent” death rate just over 51 percent, ranking this infection among the most deadly on record.

However, thousands of mild and asymptomatic cases are going undetected as detailed by Dick Thompson, a spokesperson for the World Health Organization (WHO). In an interview granted to CIDRAP (Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy) News on March 9, 2005, Thompson said that the case-fatality rate had been overstated. Documented cases were those where the patients were sick enough to seek medical care in a hospital and, predictably, they had very poor outcomes. He concluded, “Surely others were infected and either not getting sick or not getting sick enough to seek treatment at a hospital. Factoring those into the CFR [case-fatality rate] has been impossible. We simply don't know the denominator.” (2)

To illustrate, if 62 people died, but 10,000 had actually been infected, the death rate would be 0.62 percent, essentially insignificant. Therefore, without knowing how many are infected, the death rate is being highly inflated

2. The virus has barely infected humans; significantly, there has been no sustained person-to-person transmission of the infection.

Very few cases of severe human infection by H5N1 have occurred. An intensified surveillance of patients in Southeast Asia has led to the discovery of mild cases, more infections in older adults, and an increased number of “clusters cases” among family members, suggesting that “the local virus strains may be adapting to humans.” In other words, humans are developing their own innate resistance to the virus. (3)

In addition, all cases have occurred via animal-to-human transmission, and there is documentation of only one confirmed case of human-to-human transmission. Without sustained transmission between humans — meaning one person spreads it to another and another, and so on — there can be no pandemic. The “hype” that, sooner or later, the H5N1 strain will mutate into a strain that can be easily passed between humans is completely unsubstantiated. Whether this will happen is nothing more than a guess because:

3. We have had “potential pandemics” before.

In February 2003, Thompson of the WHO revealed that “there have been a half dozen pandemic ‘false alarms’ in the last 30 years.” A false alarm is an outbreak where a virus has jumped the species barrier, but has been confined to one or two people and has not been lethal. (4)

What makes H5N1 particularly significant? Why is this virus gaining the attention of the world? The attention may be due not to its potentially lethal effects on humans, but rather to the deaths of millions of domestic birds, infected or not. Could this be about commerce? Is this a global economic crisis in the making, but not a global health crisis?

4. Tamiflu does not treat the flu and it is unknown if it will stop the spread of the infection.
Clinical trials with Tamiflu have shown that the drug reduces acute symptoms of flu by a maximum of 2.5 days, depending on the subgroup analyzed. That’s it: 2.5 days. In addition, viral shedding in nasal secretions was reduced after Tamiflu had been administered. Although this would presumably lessen the exposure risk for close contacts, this theory has not been tested. (

5. The virus is already becoming resistant to Tamiflu.

Recent human isolates are fully resistant to older, less expensive influenza drugs, amantadine and rimantadine. (6) In addition, a high-level of resistance to Tamiflu has been detected in up to 16 percent of children with human influenza A (H1N1). Not surprisingly, this resistant variant has been detected recently in several patients with H5N1 infection who were treated with Tamiflu. (7)

In addition, nearly seven percent of people who are prescribed Tamiflu can’t tolerate the side effect: persistent nausea. So, at nearly $100 for a course of treatment, you might want to save your money and spend it on saline nasal spray, which is at least as effective. (8)

6. The other newly recommended drug, Relenza, isn’t much better.

Relenza is a powder, which is inhaled twice a day for five days from a breath-activated plastic device called a Diskhaler. Some patients have had bronchospasm (wheezing) or serious breathing problems when they used Relenza.

In fact, in January 2000, the FDA issued a warning about prescribing Relenza after some users reported deterioration of respiratory function following its inhalation. Particular concern was expressed for patients with underlying asthma or emphysema. The FDA stated that “an acute decline in respiratory function may contribute to a fatal outcome in patients with a complicated pre-existing medical history and pulmonary compromise.” (9)

7. The “seed virus” produced by the WHO and given to the vaccine manufacturers may not be the correct virus.

In February 2005, the WHO developed several H5N1 prototype vaccine strains in accordance with the requirements of national and international pharmaceutical licensing agencies for influenza vaccine production. These H5N1 prototype strains were made available to institutions and companies working to develop the pandemic vaccines. (10)

By October 2005, the WHO had evidence that the virus had evolved and is now “genetically distinguishable” — i.e., different — from the prototype strain selected for vaccine development. In what can only be described as a case study in bureaucratic thinking, the WHO, in spite of the new information, does not recommend changing the strain.

In any case, it will take another 4 to 18 months before the vaccine is ready for mass dissemination. As Nancy Cox, director of the influenza branch at the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) stated, "If we don't get a good match, the vaccine will be less effective, producing illness, hospitalizations and death." (11) By that time, will the “vaccine virus” show any resemblance to the “pandemic virus” thought to be in circulation then? If it is appreciably different, how can mandatory vaccination be justified?

8. Who benefits the most? Big Pharma.

Millions in grants and tax incentives to develop new products. Guaranteed purchase orders from governments here and abroad. Complete product liability protection. It doesn’t get any better for a product manufacturer, and in this case, all the benefits go to Chiron, Sanofi-Aventis and GlaxoSmithKline, the “big boys” in the market for making the new vaccine. With a global population of more than six billion, the market share is large enough to get their attention. Add in the financial incentives, and the developers are off and running.

To add an additional layer of protection, on Oct. 18, 2005, Senator Bill Frist (R-TN) and Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) introduced and fast-tracked a bill that would create a new agency within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) called the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Agency (BARDA). This new agency would help “spur private industry to develop and manufacture medical countermeasures for bioterrorism agents and natural outbreaks.”

However, the dark side of S.1873, the Biodefense and Pandemic Vaccine and Drug Development Act of 2005, is that it would exempt the pharmaceutical industry not only from liability, but would also ensure that no one would have access to data documenting medical failures or catastrophes. BARDA would be exempt from access by the Freedom of Information Act, the Federal Advisory Committee Act and parts of the Federal Acquisition Regulations. It would act in total secrecy and protection from the general public by the federal government. (12)
Fortunately, the scientific community is standing up loudly against the formation of the new agency. The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, a coalition of independent member societies and scientists, which has historically shown particular interest in public policy issues relating to science, weighed in to voice several concerns. In a letter to Chairman Burr, dated Oct. 18, 2005, the coalition’s president, Bruce Bistrian, MD, PhD, wrote the following:

“On behalf of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), a coalition of 23 scientific societies representing more than 65,000 scientists, I am writing to express our reservations over your recent proposal to create the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Agency (BARDA)….”

“FASEB is troubled over the impact this new agency might have on existing programs at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Centers for Disease Control, particularly in an era of limited funding for domestic discretionary spending. NIH and the dozens of universities and research institutions around the country where NIH-supported research is performed already have the scientific expertise and research infrastructure in place to carry out the bioterrorism research that our nation needs. Our concern is that BARDA would duplicate, constrain or even eliminate these programs. Moreover, while implementing a ‘top-down’ approach to research, as described in the BARDA proposal, may be suitable for the manufacturing stage of development, we do not believe it is an appropriate substitute for hypothesis-driven basic research, which has historically led to the most important advances in biomedical science.” (Emphasis added). (13)
Hopefully, other organizations and the general public will follow suit and fight to oppose this bill.
9. Who has the most to lose? The citizens of the world, particularly U.S. citizens.

The Global Pandemic Preparedness Plan is nothing more than a power grab for the government, the United Nations (UN) and the WHO. Buried deep within the WHO’s plan, here is a glimpse of the ominous plans in preparation for “affected countries:”

Activate procedures to obtain additional resources; consider invoking emergency powers.
Activate overarching national command and control of response activities, either by formal means or de facto (close oversight of district and local activities).

Deploy operational response teams across all relevant sectors. (14)

Global control and UN peacekeepers may be coming soon to a neighborhood near you.

10. What you need to do

According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the avian influenza virus is easier to destroy than other influenza viruses. It appears that it is very sensitive to detergents — i.e., soap — which destroy the outer fat-containing layer of the virus. This layer is needed to enter cells of animals and, therefore, destroys the infectivity. In other words, when you have been in public places, use soap to wash your hands before touching your face. (15)

Congress is attempting to shield Pharma completely from responsibility and then hide the resulting problems through the fast-tracking of S.1873. Contact your senators immediately to try to stop the passage of this bill. For quick access to the bill, and what to do, go to and click on “Senate Alert” at the top of the page.

Don’t get caught up in the hype. For daily updates and developing action plans, go to and stay informed.

Preparing for the Next Pandemic by Michael T. Osterholm. Foreign Affairs, July/August 2005.

Relatives of avian flu patients have asymptomatic cases, by Robert Roos. CIDRAP News. March 9, 2005.
Beigel, JH. Avian influenza A (H5N1) infection in humans. N Engl J Med. Sept. 29, 2005;353(13):1374-85.

The Scientist-Online
Stiger, G. The treatment of influenza with antiviral drugs. CMAJ. Jan. 7, 2003;168(1):49-56. PMID: 12515786

Li KS, Guan Y, Wang J, et al. Genesis of a highly pathogenic and potentially pandemic H5N1 influenza virus in eastern Asia. Nature 2004;430:209-13.
Avian Flu Virus Showing Resistance to Tamiflu by Katrina Woznicki. MedPageToday. Sept. 30, 2005.

Spray used for asthma may help slow spread of infections. Asso. Press. 11-29-04.

FDA Public Health Advisory. Jan. 12, 2000.

WHO. Recommended H5N1 prototype strains for influenza pandemic vaccine development remain the same. Oct. 28, 2005.

Breakdowns Mar Flu Shot Program Production, distribution delays raise fears of nation vulnerable to epidemic. SF Chronicle. Sunday, Feb. 25, 2001.

For more information and complete version of SB 1873, go to
FASEB letter.

WHO. Pandemic Preparedness Plan. p 30.

FAO. Special report on Avian Influenza.
Thoughts on Medical Politics

I have copied an article below by Nicholas Regush because he did a fine job in expressing what I have long thought.

Reading medical studies is not for the faint of heart nor for those who like their sanity. Just the other day I read a study that found that administering the flu vaccine to child asthmatics increased the number of asthmatic episodes requiring trips to the hospital and that there is a lack of clinical evidence demonstrating any benefit. What is the advice that come out from the health authorities? They especially want asthmatic children to have the flu vaccine. Hmmm...

By Nicholas Regush

Forgive me but I’m boiling. There is only so much nonsense that I can take on any one day. I had the misfortune to read an article in The Washington Monthly today that further convinces me that we have so-called "journalists" doing pieces on health when they should be writing about camping or maybe the art of walking big dogs. Something safe and relatively simple, so that not too much psychic challenge is involved in the enterprise.

This particular writer, Chris Mooney, who is described as a "senior writer" at The American Prospect, has just written the most garbled fable imaginable about "alternative" health. Not only is he clueless about what is going on, but he pretends to offer a critique of science of the type that he badly misunderstands and wouldn’t "get" even if enlightenment hit him on the nose. I suppose the Washington Monthly published this bilge because the editor is also clueless. Quite a team!

Here’s the essence of the piece: Government spends tons of money to test so-called "complementary and alternative medicine," or CAM. Researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health multiply like weeds to do the research at major medical institutions (Harvard, Yale, whatever). Research is often indecisive. Because research is often indecisive, this gives the practitioners of CAM an "out," enabling them to carry on with their practices. After spending $500,000 in tax dollars, the medical gurus can’t prove their methods work — "how convenient." The researchers (who obviously have an ax to grind) "fall back on the old mantra that "more testing" is necessary. Others try to bend science to their own specifications." And, oh yes, (as an example) one Tibetan meditator can’t show his stuff because he has a monitoring thermometer up his rectum. Bad Tibetan meditator!

Mooney presents a half-witted (I’m being kind) review of how there is so much difficulty in pinning down CAM. Did this guy ever read a science text book or a series of medical articles related to a controversy? If he did and caught the drift, Mooney would understand that medical science in general has difficulty pinning anything down — and when it purports to do so, there is a hue and cry from Members of the Opposition. Furthermore, whenever anyone reaches a conclusion in a study that goes against the Establishment grain, chances are the results will get shat on and the investigators will be get what amounts to a kick in the teeth. This is called medical politics, which Mooney and the Washington Monthly apparently never heard about.
To single out research on CAM as though it suffers from anything more than conventional medical science suffers from is hilarious and demonstrates the extraordinary bias against the non-conventional. Anyone covering medicine as long as I have — some 30 years — knows full well that every single research effort is subject to political as well as methodological dissection. If you don’t know that, then please write about dog runs or do work sharpening pencils. It’s bad enough that the entire edifice of medicine is entrenched in corruption and conflict of interest. We have to put up with the spectacle of this rotting corpse of science performing badly in regard to innovation — and worse still, we have to endure Mooney-like stories that clearly are more hell-bent on some type of quack-watching rather than understanding the problems science has when it tries to understand the complex and dynamic nature of things.

Look, let me be clear about one thing here: I am sure there is a ton of "alternative" stuff out there that deserves to be thrown into the sea. I’m talking about BS products that are merely created to rip people off. And there are specialized courses training people to become healers in a weekend. And there are so-called "practitioners" of CAM that need a good whacking. And so on. But what do we expect in a free-market economy? The BS will often rise to the top.
However, what we are seeing in CAM is a huge movement trying to reconcile ancient ways with modern sensibilities and political realities (particularly the sad state of modern medicine) and so we should expect some problems in the translation as well as problems with the staffing of the enterprise. But to keep sniggering away, as the Mooney types do about CAM, without understanding the social and political dynamics involved in the evolution of medicine (Forget about CAM, just think total medicine), is to succumb to a pernicious type of quack-hood — health journalist quackhood.

If anyone wants to debate me on this issue, I’m ready.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Ease pain by taking a good look at yourself
13:10 01 November 2005 news service
Gaia Vince

Some patients suffering chronic pain in their limbs have found an unlikely source of relief – mirrors. Researchers say the drug-free treatment works on people with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) and repetitive strain injury (RSI) because it tricks the brain into correcting its distorted image of the body.

CRPS occurs in about one-third of people who fracture their wrists: they suffer unexplained persistent pain in their hand, arm or shoulder once the supportive plaster cast is removed. The pain can be so bad that some patients beg for their arm to be amputated, says Candy McCabe, who developed the novel mirror therapy at the University of Bath in the UK.

In the study, eight CRPS patients sat in front long mirrors. These were placed so that each person could see only the healthy half of their body, along with another reflection of the same half.

The result was that the side of the body with the painful arm was hidden from their view and it appeared to the patients as if they had two healthy arms. They were told to concentrate hard on the image and try to believe that what they saw was a true depiction of themselves.

“Three of them were cured instantly; the others took a little longer,” says McCabe. “But once the mirror was removed, the pain returned.” However, with continued mirror therapy, six people were completely cured. The two exceptions had conditions complicated by limb ulcers and actual physical distortions.

Refined body image

Since the experiment, McCabe says she has successfully treated many other CRPS, and RSI patients, with the technique. She believes the pain results from a mismatch in the way the brain perceives the body and the actual condition of the body.

The brain is constantly sending signals to the body, predicting things like the shape and weight of the limbs, and their location. The sensory nervous system responds by sending information back, allowing the brain to refine its body image.

“When the arm is immovable in a plaster cast a mismatch occurs," McCabe says. "The brain sends out signals to the arm, but gets nothing back, so it triggers its own pain sensation in response." When the cast is removed, most people recover from the confusion spontaneously, but a third continue to feel pain. "The mirror tricks the brain into resetting its body image and stops the pain,” she says.

She thinks a similar mismatch occurs in people who develop RSI. "When a typist stares at a still screen, or a violinist at sheet music, while their hands move rapidly, it causes confusion,” McCabe says.

Mild tingling

In a further study to test their brain mismatch theory, McCabe and colleagues at Bath Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases conducted an experiment on 41 healthy volunteers. As before, each was sat in front of a mirror which bisected them in two, giving them a symmetrical image of their body, and were asked to believe that the image truly represented them.
They were asked to move their two arms in different directions while watching their reflection – creating a mismatch between the actual motion of the hidden arm and the apparent motion viewed in the mirror.

“Almost instantly they began to feel sensations in the arm they couldn’t see, which ranged from mild tingling through to uncomfortable levels of pain, McCabe said. “Some found it too painful to last the 20-second test duration.”

Peter Buckle, an RSI expert at Robens Centre for Health Ergonomics at Surrey University, says it is well-known that the brain can be confused by creating a difference between actual and apparent motion. But he does not believe this is a factor in RSI. “RSI has been around for hundreds of years and describes very real physical symptoms including inflammation and nerve damage," he says.

Thursday, November 03, 2005


Today was a field trip to Vanderhoof to meet with our E Bus teachers and turn in school work for grading. One of the main teachers was away to a conference in Edmonton, but I left some fat folders stuffed with the kids' work and an update sheet detailing what they have all been up to. In some ways it was a waste of a day in that nothing in terms of schoolwork got done. On the other hand, it is good for the teachers to put a face to a name and it keeps the kids connected with an outside accountability source.

My neighbor and her son came with us today. They are also doing the E Bus program, and one of the things she mentioned is that in a way we are being graded too. It's true. You can't get away from the idea that when you start using an outside source to whom you report, it isn't just the kids who are getting a mark -- their primary teacher (me) gets one too, vicariously.

One of the things I find most frustrating about this whole process is that I like to do everything I do thoroughly and well. It's impossible to do that with this many kids though. So my grade won't be as good as I would have liked it to be.