SALK, SABIN, AND THE RACE AGAINST POLIO

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Today is Jonas Salk’s birthday. If he were alive, he would be 100 today. But conquering polio was not only about Dr. Salk.

9a6c4875-d872-44f1-a031-df088f1930adAs polio ravaged patients worldwide, two gifted American researchers developed distinct vaccines against it. Then the question was: Which one to use?

By Gilbert King
Smithsonian.com
April 3, 2012

They were two young Jewish men who grew up just a few years apart in the New York area during the Great Depression. Though both were both drawn to the study of medicine and did not know each other at the time, their names would be linked in a heroic struggle that played out on the front pages of newspapers around the world.

In the end, both Albert Sabin and Jonas Salk could rightfully claim credit for one of humanity’s greatest accomplishments—the near-eradication of polio in the 20th century. And yet debate still echoes  over whose method is best suited for the mass vaccination needed to finish the job: Salk’s injected, dead-virus vaccine or Sabin’s oral, live-virus version

In the first half of the 20th century, Americans lived in fear of the incurable paralytic poliomyelitis (polio) disease, which they barely understood and knew not how to contain. That the disease led to some kind of infection in the central nervous system that crippled so many children, and even a president (Franklin D. Roosevelt) was alarming enough.

But the psychological trauma that followed a neighborhood outbreak resonated. Under the mistaken belief that poor sanitary conditions during the “polio season” of summer increased exposure to the virus, people resorted to measures that had been used to combat the spread of influenza or the plague. Areas were quarantined, schools and movie theaters were closed, windows were sealed shut in the heat of summer, public swimming pools were abandoned, and draft inductions were suspended.

Worse, many hospitals refused to admit patients who were believed to have contracted polio, and the afflicted were forced to rely on home care by doctors and nurses who could do little more than fit children for braces and crutches. In its early stages, polio paralyzed some patients’ chest muscles; if they were fortunate, they would be placed in an “iron lung,” a tank respirator with vacuum pumps pressurized to pull air in and out of the lungs. The iron lungs saved lives, but became an intimidating visual reminder of polio’s often devastating effects.

Source: www.smithsonianmag.com

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LIFE’S GRAND SLAM – A WALK-OFF HOME RUN

Grand Slam

The World Series starts tonight! In your own life, what would be the equivalent of a walk-off home run? (For the baseball-averse, that’s a last-minute, back-against-the-wall play that guarantees a dramatic victory.)


We are baseball fans, so when you mention baseball and walk-off home run in one breath, David Ortiz rises before my eyes. I know the Sox aren’t in it this year, but it’s been an interesting baseball season with last year’s first place Sox become this year’s solidly last place Sox. How did they do that? How do you take a winning team and become the biggest losers in just one year? Without major lineup changes or something weird happening with the owners? I don’t get it.

Go Royals.

Back to earth. At this point, my walk-off home run would be a multi-faceted project involved a magic remedy to alleviate arthritis, regenerate missing body parts and internal organs, and winning a big payout on a lottery ticket which I suppose I’d to actually buy, something I keep forgetting do. I used to buy tickets, but during the past year, I never seem to have cash when I am someplace that sells tickets.

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These days, I’d be a happy camper if I could get a night’s sleep and wake free from pain. One day a week. To have the calcification of my spine stop getting worse, even if it won’t get better. To have enough money to buy an all-wheel drive vehicle to get me out of the driveway when it snows.

Mind you, I’m not unhappy. Despite everything, I find life engaging, entertaining, amusing, satisfying. Fun. I’ve had to find new things to enjoy, but everyone has to adapt. We change, the world changes. Unless you want to be one of the people who sits around griping about the “good old days” and how nothing is as like it used to be, we all have to find new stuff to enjoy and new ways to do it. It merely takes some determination … and creativity.

SEPTEMBER AT RIVER BEND – AND PLEASE GET A FLU SHOT

I was very organized. I’ve wanted to get over to River Bend for a few weeks, but life kept taking us in other directions. Today, though, I knew we’d make it because we needed to go to CVS … and it’s just around the corner from the farm. It’s flu shot time. Last year, we got sidetracked. Not only did both of us get the flu, but we both got pneumonia. I had to delay my heart surgery twice because you really can’t have heart surgery when you’re coughing so hard you’re afraid your heart will propel itself out of your chest.

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And we made another mistake too. Not only did we get our flu shots late — the beginning of November — but we went to the doctor’s office to get them. It was already flu season by then. There were at least two people with heavy coughs in the waiting room. One of them firmly declared she didn’t need a mask because she wasn’t sick. “It just allergies,” she explained. I winced every time she coughed.

Thought balloon: “Excuse me, you germ-ridden hag … that deep, hacking cough is no damned allergy.”

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It was already too late by the time the nurse insisted she cover up. Garry and I got our shots, but it takes about 2 weeks to develop immunity from the vaccine. It was less than 48 hours before we were both sick. I slipped seamlessly and promptly into pneumonia and stayed sick for the next 4 weeks. Garry took longer to develop pneumonia, but he eventually got there too.

Not making the same mistake this year.

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Getting flu vaccine at CVS was quick, easy, pleasant. The nurse was cheerful, friendly, and competent. We didn’t have to sit in a waiting room full of sick people. The shots were paid for by Medicare — without the “office visit” charge the doctor charged — a full $100 less than last year.

We were in and out in about 45 minutes, including a little bit of shopping we had to do.

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I recommend everyone get a flu shot. The rumor that you can get the flu from the vaccine is untrue, a classic urban legend. The flu is serious stuff. It frequently leads to pneumonia and other secondary infections. Unless you have a month to spend miserable and sick, get a flu shot soon. Before you get sick.

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River Bend Farm is part of the Blackstone Valley National Corridor, one of many parks along the Blackstone River. While there’s a bit of color showing now, the rich reds, orange, and yellow-gold of true autumn haven’t quite arrived. But close. Very close.

There is more color in the woods behind my house than along the river today. Usually, you see color first where there’s water.

So … autumn’s not here yet. But it’s on its way. You can smell it on the breeze, feel it in the crispness of the air. And see it in the bright yellow foliage.

NEED TO KNOW (NCIS, 2012) AND MY PACEMAKER

EPISODE: Need to Know (2012) – SHORT SYNOPSIS:

Alan Katzenbach, a lawyer, waits for Gibbs with his client, a chief petty officer named Leland Wiley. Wiley was busted for drugs and wants to trade his info — which he says is about national security. It concerns Agah Bayar, the arms dealer. Gibbs is interested. Wiley comes over to talk, but grabs his heart and drops to the ground.

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Gibbs comes for the update from Ducky. Turns out, Wiley had top security clearance and his workstation is locked down. They haven’t been able to connect him to Bayar yet.

Abby calls Gibbs to the lab. She tells him Wiley’s pacemaker was linked into a computer to monitor it. Someone hacked in and jacked his heart rate up to 400 beats per minute.

“Somebody murdered Wiley by remote control,” she says.


What does this have to do with me?

Well, glad you asked. This episode so intrigued the heart surgery team at Beth Israel Deaconess in Boston (where I had all that heart surgery last March), that they decided to find out if it really could be done. One of the people that performed the experiment was my surgeon.

They did it. My surgeon did point out as far as they could tell, to actually hack a pacemaker you had to be no more than a couple of feet from it. Nonetheless, they made the manufacturer change the programming.

In theory, nobody can hack my pacemaker.

I find this comforting. Garry finds it disturbing and I suppose I can see where he’s coming from. He doesn’t like thinking about the mechanical and electronic stuff that keeps me alive. It would creep me out too, but I’m a bit of a geek.

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I find the technology sufficiently interesting to overcome its inherent creepiness. It is creepy. However, it doesn’t matter. No matter how I feel about it, I’ve got this thing in my chest. It keeps my heart beating. If my heart beat on its own, I wouldn’t need the pacemaker.

Every time I go for a pacemaker checkup, they use a little machine and briefly stop the pacemaker to see if my heart will beat without it. My heart stops beating. Talk about creepy. It is a very unpleasant — and indescribable — sensation. Anyone with a pacemaker knows what I mean.

The blue tooth remote functions still work. They are (in theory) more secure than they were a couple of years ago, before the NCIS episode aired and the guys got curious about it. Remote functionality is important. After all, I might need a tune-up. Blue tooth lets my doctor access my pacemaker from … how far? I don’t actually know. A considerable distance, whatever that is.

Garry — again — doesn’t want to know about it. I pointed out if someone murders me, this is potentially important evidence. He would still rather not think about it.

So there we are. Too creepy?

I can feel my pacemaker. It sits on my left shoulder. The outline is visible. I can feel the wires, the connections through my skin. I find it impossible to ignore. I might as well find it interesting. It’s part of me, after all.

ON THE ADVICE OF MY SPIRITUAL GUIDE …

Warning: This is a rerun — with editing — but it so precisely fits the requirements of today’s Daily Prompt: Discussion Enders, I could not resists doing a little revision and posting it. I quite like this little post. It makes me laugh every time I read it so maybe you will laugh too. We all need a laugh.


As the years have crept by, I have given up a lot of stuff, most of which (it turns out), I didn’t need in the first place. I gave up worrying. I gave up working. I gave up on the lottery, even though I still occasionally buy a ticket (just in case).

I gave up wanting a new car, expecting old friends to call (some of them don’t remember me any more — some don’t remember themselves). I’ve stopped hoping Hollywood will make movies I like, though occasionally they release something I love (like “Quartet,” a movie Dustin Hoffman directed in 2012). I’ve stopped trying to adopt new music and most new television shows.

I’ve renounced trying to figure out what’s going on with the Red Sox.

Some stuff gave me up. Some people gave up on me Other things, I gave up more or less voluntarily. In the end it works out to the same result.

When anyone asked me how or why I have given up whatever it was, I tell them it was for religious reasons.

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No one ever asks me what I mean by that. But just so you know, here’s my secret … obviously a secret no more …

I don’t mean anything at all by it. It’s just a way to end a conversation. No one wants to offend me by asking for the details of my religious beliefs. Who knows? They might turn out to be embarrassing or merely bizarre. Thus my all-purpose answer to everyone is “on religious grounds,” “for religious reasons,” or “my spiritual adviser required it.”

What power these words hold. They can make pretty much any conversation vanish without having to tell someone to shut up. It works on everyone except those who really know me. They will raise one or more eyebrows, and fall over laughing.

It’s very similar to (but different than) my all-purpose answer to “How are you?” With the biggest, broadest, fake smile I can muster and with heartfelt enthusiasm, I say: “I’m FINE!” 99.9% of the time, this does the job. Give it a test drive yourself. If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.

Because I’m fine. For religious reasons.

ON RELIGIOUS GROUNDS

As the years have crept by, I have given up a lot of stuff, most of which (it turns out), I didn’t need in the first place.

I gave up worrying. I gave up working. I gave up on the lottery, even though I still occasionally buy a ticket (just in case).

I gave up wanting a new car, expecting old friends to call (some of them don’t remember me any more — some don’t remember themselves). I’ve stopped hoping Hollywood will produce movies I like, though sometimes, much to my delight and surprise, they release something I like a lot (remind me to tell you about “Quartet,” the movie Dustin Hoffman directed last year). I’ve stopped trying to like new music and most television shows.

Some stuff gave me up. Other things I gave up voluntarily, but in the end it comes out the same.

When anyone asked me how or why I have given up whatever it was, I tell them it was on religious grounds.

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No one has yet asked me what I mean by that. But just so you, my faithful readers, know the secret …

I don’t mean anything at all by it. It’s just a way to end a conversation. Since no one wants to offend me by asking about my religious beliefs, I can make pretty much any conversation go away without having to tell someone to shut up. It works on everyone except those who really know me. They will raise one or more eyebrows, and fall over laughing.

It’s very similar to (but different than) my all-purpose answer to “How are you?” With the biggest, broadest, fake smile I can muster and with heartfelt enthusiasm, I say: “I’m FINE!”

99.9% of the time, this does the job. Give it a test drive yourself. If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.

I’m fine. For religious reasons.

LITTLE WIRES – A DRAMA-FREE SOLUTION

selfie in gray teeYesterday, out popped two little wires that have been working their way through the healing scar of my pacemaker.

The first time this happened, it was one wire poking through next to the much bigger scar down the middle of my sternum. I pulled it out with a pair of tweezers. Quite a long piece. Very thin. Sharp. The moment I pulled it out, it stopped bothering me. The hole closed instantly and healed up in hours. Crisis averted.

Then everyone yelled at me for doing something stupid. I tried to explain the wire was loose and came out far easier than an eyebrow hair. I didn’t have to tug, just guide it out. It wasn’t attached to anything. Just a stray wire left behind by surgeons.

Now, I had to make a choice about the new pair of wires. These were very close to the pacemaker. For obvious reasons, I didn’t want to find myself with my heart in my hand.

On the other hand, I didn’t feel like making an appointment with a surgeon — requiring Garry to defer his trip to New York — then driving 140 miles, round trip. All of this so a surgeon can take a pair of tweezers (just like mine) and pull out the wires.

Or worse, decide to open me up just to see what’s going on. I’ve had enough of that, so no, thanks.

Screw it, says I.

I picked up my trusty tweezers, grabbed the wire and gently removed it. No pressure. It was less than a quarter of an inch long. The second piece was even smaller.

My pacemaker is still in place. My heart continues to beat. Those spiky, itchy, annoying little wires are gone.

Call me stupid if you want, but I can’t bring myself to make an epic drama out of a tiny piece of wire.