What is that white powder in the envelope?

While I am on this tangent of the events of April 2013, I decided I would do another blog post this day.

April 17, 2013 – two days after the Boston Marathon disaster another episode of ricin was brought to our attention.  Just when I thought that we had seen the last of the deadly white powder that mysteriously shows up in envelopes, it rears its ugly head. 

I can remember the last time ricin was sent in an envelope and because we receive a lot of white envelopes at my work, often without return addresses our mail room took extra caution in sorting, opening and delivering the mail.

So what why does the mere mention of ricin, cause panic and law enforcement to spring into action with the hazardous materials team at their heels.  Because if “inhaled, injected or ingested, less than a pinpoint of ricin can kill a person within 36 to 48 hours due to the failure of the respiratory and circulatory systems”.   It only takes one molecule of ricin to kill a cell it enters. A drop of it can kill although death may take several days. There is no known treatment.  However, ingestion of ricin is not always fatal and children are at more risk than adults.  

The name ricin sounds harmless enough but take a look at the ugly substance a natural, highly toxic compound that is one of the byproducts of processing castor beans.
                       
Ingesting ricin causes nausea, vomiting and internal bleeding of the stomach and intestines, followed by the failure of the liver, spleen and kidneys, and finally death by collapse of the circulatory system. If injected, ricin causes the immediate death of the muscles and lymph nodes near the site of the injection.

However, the good news is, if there is any, that if a castor bean seed is swallowed whole without damage to the seed coat, it will probably pass harmlessly through the system. But if the coat is chewed or broken, then swallowed, the poison will enter the body.

While medical experts claim that ricin is not the dangerous threat nor as powerful a killer as anthrax  it is little comfort that someone out there is sending this deadly white powder to our government officials and unbeknownst to the average citizen we could be next.

We need to be mindful that ricin has the potential of becoming a serious health crisis if we are not diligent and observant and fail to report any suspicous substance to the authorities.

CNN Health http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/16/health/what-is-ricin

Change of Direction – Why Am I So Skittish?

In my previous blog I mentioned I would continue on with the topic of organ transplantation  with more information but I am going to take a detour to another topic that is of concern to me and for which I have noticed that I am getting to be very skittish. 

Why do I profess to be skittish? 

Well, for a couple of reasons.  911 devastated us as a nation.  The disaster/crisis occurred in a major metropolitan city, catching us off guard and evidencing our vulnerability.  Since that horrible day some Americans have become complacent and are not fully aware of what is going on around them.  Whether we take it for granted that law enforcement is there to protect us at all times or we have become lax in the awareness of our surroundings – take heed. We are living in an era of terrorism, domestic or international. It exists and we must recognize it for what it is. 

Just this morning as I was driving my usual short commute to work, I noticed two abandoned back packs/suitcases left outside a vacant store front.  While this may not be a key site for any kind of “situation” it did occur to me that perhaps I should call the police.  I thought better of it and considered that the bags belonged to a homeless person as they do frequent the area. 

But then I recalled the recent crisis/disaster in Boston that occurred near the finish line at the Boston Marathon on April 15th. The vision of the two suspects is firmly etched in my mind as they were photographed after dropping their back packs, walking calmly away knowing the havoc and physical harm they were about to inflict.  WOW!  No one noticed – no one had their awareness antenna on…. We are constantly told at airports to be aware of unattended bags, packages etc.  It does not need to be a major event that draws thousands of people but anywhere and everywhere we live under this cloud. 

I am not saying we should live in doom and gloom but awareness and vigilance is vital for our protection, survival and peace of mind.  Our enemies, foreign adversaries or call them what you may, have given us their word that they will continue to strike – hitting us at our most vulnerable time: when we are the least aware. Take heed in this warning for we all should do our part at all times to keep us safe.

 

United Network for Organ Sharing

In furtherance to my previous blog on organ transplantation I am going to tell you a little bit about the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS).  Even though many will not think that organ transplantation is a crisis it is in many ways and unfortunately the great need for organs and the potential for losing lives is not often discussed or made public. 

The United States had long been in need of a service to facilitate organ transplants when UNOS was established in 1984 to fulfill that purpose. Its first federal contract was awarded in 1986 for the purpose of operating the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN). Even though the OPTN is its primary activity, UNOS has taken steps and gone above and beyond, providing services and as it works in concert with America’s organ transplant and procurement community towards advancing and saving as many lives as possible. This is the beauty of these two working together.

UNOS has developed its potential, designing services for transplant professionals and the patients they serve. They have also fostered other services, promoting their mission to save lives through transplantation.

Included in the list of services that UNOS offers are research and technology; communications; conference planning; education and advertising.

Unfortunately, despite the continuing efforts to educate the public, common myths of organ donation have developed along with misconceptions and inaccuracies.  The reality is that if even one person decides against donation because they don’t know the truth a tragedy will result.

As an example, one myth is that only hearts, livers, and kidneys can be transplanted.  The fact is that in addition to these vital organs, pancreas and intestines are also needed in addition to tissue from the eyes, skin, bone, heart valves and tendons.

Another myth is that if an emergency room doctor is aware you are a donor, lifesaving efforts will not be extended to save you.  This could not be further from the truth for a hospital’s number one priority is to save your life. Only after brain death has been declared by a physician can organ transplantation be considered.  There are a number of states that have adopted legislation to allow persons to legally authorize their wish to be a donor should brain death occur.  However, there are many states where the consent from the donor’s family may be required.

Next: things you did not know about the organ transplant process.

United Network for Organ Sharing Retrieved April 26, 2013 from http://unos.org/

 

The Little Talked About Health Crisis

It is with a heavy heart that I am posting that my son Jeb’s, beloved Yolanda, succumbed at 4:38 a.m. EDT in Jacksonville, Florida at the Mayo Hospital to the ravages of end stage liver disease.  It is a very sad time for our small family.  The last few weeks have been extremely difficult knowing that if an organ match was not procured in time, she could possibly die.  In the last two weeks she suffered renal failure and had to go on dialysis, put on a feeding tube and intubated for breathing purposes.  Because her blood would not clot, she was experiencing bleeders within her body that were difficult to treat.  The staff made her comfortable and she did not suffer at the end but her heart merely gave out.

After saying all this it is ironic that this is National Organ Donation Month.  In addition President Barack Obama designated this month as National Donate Life Month, a call for organ and tissue donation.Today, more than 115,000 men, women, and children are on the waiting list for an organ transplant.  To help them get the care they need, millions of Americans choose to be organ and tissue donors but unfortunately the organ availability especially for livers does not meet the need for there are many more people needing livers than there are available. 

In the 1980s doctors at UCLA medical school were warned by their professors that within twenty years they would see an epidemic of patients with liver disease.  An insidious disease that is lurking and has stricken many people with devastating results. The disease caused from the Hepatitis virus in all its virulent strains whether it is A, B, or C and others evolves from different sources.  Once contracted from either another person, dirty needles from drug use or improperly monitored blood transfusions the disease progresses without any digression.  It will eventually evolve into Cirrhosis of the liver.   Tumors are usually the step next in the deadly progression of this illness although not always. If a patient is fortunate to have the tumor removed he or she can be placed on a transplant list. Even if a tumor does not develop the health of the liver is compromised and a transplant is inevitable provided the patient qualifies following extensive medical tests.  Once on the list the patient can be matched up with a donor.  The problem lies that there are not nearly enough donors to help these people 

Next posting will discuss UNOS United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) the private, non-profit organization that manages the nation’s organ transplant system under contract with the federal government

North Korea’s Underground Nuclear Testing

Several months ago what was initially reported by major news sources such as CNN, ABC and NBC that an earthquake had rocked North Korea was actually underground nuclear testing which is contrary to the Treaty for the Non-Proliferation of Weapons. Therefore, potential disaster looms as the North Korean government continues to push nuclear weapons. Kim Jong UN and his government have persistently threatened the United States and South Korea governments. In a move to proclaim their superiority and position they have repeatedly claimed their missiles could reach the shores of the United States. In addition recent satellite photos showed North Korea may have been sealing the tunnel into a mountainside where a nuclear device could be exploded further emphasizing the serious nature of this situation. North Korea says U.S. hostility and the threat of American troops in South Korea are principal reasons behind its nuclear drive. The U.S. stations about 28,500 troops in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. Further the North Korean government also says it has the sovereign right to launch rockets to send satellites into orbit under a space development program. However, the U. S. poses that the December launch was actually a disguised test of banned missile technology. Nuclear threats coming from North Korea are not new for Pyongyang’s two previous nuclear tests, in 2006 and 2009, both occurred after it was struck with increased sanctions for similar rocket launches. The U.S., South Korea and other countries have urged North Korea to abandon its nuclear test plans or face serious consequences. In a show of force directed at North Korea, South Korean and U.S. troops have commenced naval drills recently amid signs that Pyongyang will soon carry out a threat to conduct its third atomic test.
With the international community wanting nuclear testing abandoned, diplomats are meeting to find ways to persuade North Korea to scrap its nuclear test plans. New U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his South Korean counterpart Kim Sung-hwan have held recent telephone conversations agreeing to sternly deal with any possible nuclear provocation by North Korea, according to Seoul’s Foreign Ministry. As recently reported, South Korea has also sent its top nuclear negotiator to China, the North’s main ally and aid benefactor, to talk with the North Korean government.
Taking the necessary steps to defend against possible North Korean ballistic missile launches, the Department of Defense released a statement that the U.S. military is sending a land-based missile defense system to Guam to defend against possible North Korean ballistic missile launches. Further, the statement said the missiles, a truck-mounted launcher, and radar and target acquisition systems will be deployed in the very near future indicating weeks. U.S. Defense officials have informed CNN that Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is expected to announce this week that the Pentagon is enhancing the nation’s ability to defend itself from a nuclear missile attack by North Korea. It is expected that Hagel will announce deployment of up to 14 additional ground-based interceptors on the West Coast, according to official statements released.