Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Lance Corporal David Baker, Semper Fi

It was a sad day at work today. We came into the office to discover that Lance Corporal David Baker, the 22-year old son of our co-worker Mark Baker, had been killed in an IED incident in Afghanistan. We were all stunned and saddened, and a thinly veiled darkening of mood seemed to settle about the place.

I couldn’t help but think about how easy it is to distance ourselves from the bravery and sacrifice our bright, bold young people are giving to this country every single day. They sacrifice their time, any semblance of comfort, amenities we take for granted, and indeed their very lives to do what our country asks of them. They don’t question, they perform. They give their all even in horrific conditions in third world countries far from their loved ones.

And then suddenly the tragedy strikes close to home, when the soldier or marine or sailor that doesn’t make it back happens to be the son, or daughter, or brother, or sister of someone we know…

So if you will, when you head to bed tonight, say a prayer for Lance Corporal David Baker and his family. Then add a prayer for all his fallen comrades-in-arms, and say a third prayer that all those who have not fallen will come home safely.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The H1N1 Vaccine is here…What is an Acceptable Risk?

I’m going to define my era a little here by saying that this is not the first “swine flu” alarm we’ve had in my lifetime. Back in 1976, the first “swine flu” scare held the country in its grip. There was panic over the lack of a vaccine, and much like today, companies scrambled to jury-rig together something that was supposed to protect the public against this inveterate killing machine.

Hundreds of thousands received the shots. It was particularly recommended for pregnant women and those with chronic illnesses and the elderly. Emergency shot administration locations were set up all over the country. I actually volunteered to help at one of those sites. Obviously pregnant with my first child, one of the other volunteers asked me if I had received my shot.

“No I haven’t,” I replied.

“Why not?” she asked.

“Because I’m pregnant, not stupid. Not even an aspirin crosses these lips while I’m in this condition, and from everything I’ve read, this vaccine has not been around long enough to test for long-term effects.”

Even in my early 20’s, I was cognizant enough of what was going on to realize that not enough testing had been done.

That version of swine flu did kill some people, but it was never the pandemic they all warned us about. There was a huge backlash from doling out vaccine that wasn’t sufficiently tested, a hoopla about vaccinating low-income areas first (to test it for the rest of society), and there were some unexpected effects as well, but there are always unexpected effects from most new medications.

Flash forward 33 years. Here it is again. I am speaking to you not as a doctor or nurse or public health official. I am giving my personal opinion as someone with a long medical industry background and many years in pharmaceutical research. I will not be getting the H1N1 shot. I will get the normal flu shot offered at my place of employment.

I will also be requesting the pneumonia shot from my primary physician. Generally speaking, it is the pneumonia complication of the flu that kills.

Anyone in my general age range, from 40 up, has already been exposed to a similar strain of this flu and should have some residual antibodies to fight it. Would I give this new vaccine to my teens and kids? In spite of the lack of testing, I probably would. The younger age groups have not had the exposure of the older generations. And testing has come quite a long way in the last 33 years.

I’m not saying that it’s safe. I’m saying that there is a component of risk, and you have to consider that risk before you take the vaccine. As with all new medications, there are unexpected side effects, including allergies to the medication itself or to the vehicle the medication is mixed with so that it can be administered.

I’m sure that the parent of any child or teen who has died from swine flu would consider the risk of taking the relatively under-tested vaccine to be an acceptable one.

So, the question is, what will you consider to be an acceptable risk?

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Letterman, Halderman, Ehrlichman, Haldeman, Mardian…I’m so Confused!

Don’t you just love a good scandal? We don’t seem to be able to get our fill of those in the news. It’s interesting that when faced with exposure, media personalities just come out and admit it and move on while politicians deny it until they can’t anymore, then get on TV and cry about how sorry they are (meaning sorry they got caught with their pants down, not sorry they actually did it).

I got to thinking about Letterman and Halderman and it triggered something deep in my gray matter from the distant past…Watergate. We had Ehrlichman, Haldeman, Mardian, and Hunt and Liddy of course. It begs the question, “What did CBS management know and when did they know it?” Will David Letterman be impeached?

The reaction to Letterman’s folly is varied. Those who are mortified at any sexual impropriety, are still mortified. Those who couldn’t care less still don’t. The swing votes are those who are disgusted with politicians but will let errant Letterman slide. Why you ask? Because our tax money is paying those politicians who are out wining, dining, and getting their sexual jollies in expensive hotels and vacation spots on OUR dime. At least Letterman is forking over his own bucks to have a good time.

Every time I travel, no matter where I go, I run into people that I know, either casually, personally, or through acquaintances. I ask myself, how in the world do people manage to carry on discreet affairs in their own neighborhoods or places of work, when I can’t travel from Cleveland OH to Savannah GA without running into people I know? The world had gotten incredibly small. Six degrees of separation has shrunken to 4 or 5 degrees. I can’t imagine having an affair with anyone living less than several hundred miles from home! Even then I’d be looking over my shoulder constantly!

My personal opinion is that Letterman is a sick individual. It’s not that he had an affair…anyone can be forgiven a weakness or an indiscretion. It’s that he’s admitted to having multiple sexual liaisons with women in his work arena. That is a clear abuse of his position of power. Any responsible corporation would fire an employee for that behavior.

So I ask again, “What did CBS management know, and when did they know it?” It’s time for someone to come out and drop the hammer. The workplace should not be a sexual hunting ground for men in positions of power.