Throwback Thursday: That’s Not How Science Works: Vaccination Edition –

Throwback Thursday, where, essentially I post old writing samples, essays and short stories that I dig up from my pile of hoarded papers and school assignments or from the depths of my computer. So everyone can see how my writing has changed/improved over the years.


 

Childhood vaccinations have been preventing disease and saving lives of children for over a century. Yet only in recent decades has vaccination become a question, a choice, rather than a must. The root of the vaccine debate lies in the question of personal freedom versus the effect on those around us of not vaccinating. Parents should have to vaccinate their children, because the benefits of doing so far outweigh any potential risks. Many of these perceived risks are fictional, so the fear they cause is unfounded.

Orange-County, California has one of the highest personal exemptions rates in the country, at nearly 9% of kids being unvaccinated. This county has also had the most deaths from the measles outbreak that originated in Disneyland. “Rhett Krawitt is in remission…vulnerable to infection and unable to be vaccinated, turning him into an unwitting symbol of the need for herd immunity” (Schulten, New York Times). Rhett is just one example. Herd immunity is if 95% of a population is vaccinated or otherwise immune. The remaining 5%, those with immune disorders or other conditions making them unable to be vaccinated, will be protected because the disease will not be able to develop. When immunization rates drop too low, diseases can sneak in and cause an epidemic like the one seen with the measles. One reason people don’t vaccinate is because they think the disease is nearly eradicated already and there is no need; however, that only stands true when we vaccinate.

One of the greatest misconceptions about vaccines that lead to personal exemptions is the false notion that “vaccines cause autism”. To be clear, they don’t. The rumor that they do was based upon falsified research that has since been retracted and disproven. The side effects of vaccines are almost always mild, ranging from a fever to a rash, only in rare cases. Only the DTaP vaccine has a more common, severe side effect. One in a million cases can suffer paralysis or brain damage (CDC website). Even so, the risk you run in not getting the vaccine, which is to protect infants from whooping cough, diphtheria, and tetanus, is far worse than these rare risks.

Many people choose not to vaccinate because it is their “personal freedom” or because they “don’t want to overburden their child’s immune system”; however, people should have to vaccinate their children because the risks posed to both individuals and society by not doing so far outweighs the rare case of adverse effects from vaccination. As Dr. Snyder said to the Boston Globe “It’s a common theme that we see parents questioning scientific facts in the same way they would debate a political topic.” We shouldn’t let them.

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Throwback Thursday: Karyotype Letter – 2014

Throwback Thursday, where, essentially I post old writing samples, essays and short stories that I dig up from my pile of hoarded papers and school assignments or from the depths of my computer. So everyone can see how my writing has changed/improved over the years.

For this particular assignment, we drew chromosomes from a hat to write about the disorder a trisomy of that chromosome would cause.

I originally drew 21 but everyone else reveled, saying it was unfair since I wouldn’t have to research it (my sister has Down’s Syndrome – also known as trisomy 21) so I traded with my best friend for trisomy 15. All the science here is as accurate as a 14 year old could get.


 

Dear Soon-to-be Parents,

I have finished reviewing your child’s karyotype, and I regret to inform you that I found a genetic abnormality.  As you know all human beings have 46 chromosomes. In your son’s case he has 47 chromosomes, an extra chromosome, the 15th to be precise. This is also called trisomy 15. This additional chromosome can cause one of two genetic syndromes.  Trisomy 15 can cause either Prader-Willi’s syndrome (PWS) or Angelman’s Syndrome (AS). PWS occurs when the extra chromosome comes from the mother. AS occurs when the extra chromosome comes from the father. Unfortunately a karyotype does not tell us where the extra chromosome came from and thus I cannot tell you which disorder your son will be born with. Both syndromes also result in miscarriages, but at this stage in pregnancy that is highly unlikely.  As you are entering the third trimester, an abortion is also not a viable option so I would like to take this opportunity to provide some education and prognosis so you can help your son grow and develop to the best of his potential.

Some common symptoms to both disorders are: delayed growth and development, mental retardation, hypotonia (weak muscle tone), and characteristic facial features. The severance of these symptoms varies from child to child.. Chromosome 15 codes genetic information used largely by the brain, specifically in muscle movements, as well as, eye and skin color. The maternal chromosome is usually the most active, thus, with Angelman’s syndrome, the extra paternal chromosome manifests in certain symptoms. Angelman’s causes developmental delays, especially physically. Fine motor skills are underdeveloped and they have short attention spans. Those with Angelman’s frequently exhibit hypopigmentation, which causes their skin, eyes, and hair to be significantly lighter than the parents’.  Children with Angelman’s generally have poor verbal skills, though their non-verbal communication is generally better than their peers. They are described as “excessively happy and always smiling”. Children with Angelman’s can live independent, happy lives with the proper assistance and care. They live well into adulthood and can have children of their own, though it is hereditary.

As for Prader-Willi’s syndrome, an extra maternal copy is activated. Common symptoms include: extreme, insatiable appetite (polyphagia), delayed to no pubescent growth (hypogonadism), extremely weak muscles, and hormone imbalances. People with this condition typically find it hard to reproduce. They have distinct facial characteristics, including: thin upper lips, almond shaped eyes, lighter skin, and a downturned mouth. Joints are usually loosely extended and sex organs are slow in development. As with Angelman’s, children with Prader-Willi’s have trouble learning and speaking. Due to their insatiable hunger, they are prone to huger pains, and obesity. This can cause severe sleeping and behavioral problems. Nearly all with Prader-Willi’s live well into adulthood, but many rely on drug therapy to suppress the worst of the symptoms. Both disorders are linked to having a lower than average intelligence.

You may be wondering how this could have happened to your son, wondering how he ended up with three chromosome 15s instead of two. You may want to blame each other. Well don’t. It is just as likely to come from the father than the mother, and vise-versa. It isn’t either of your faults; it is a result of non-disjunction. Non-disjunction is, to put it simply, when in meiosis, the chromosomes that should separate, don’t. Usually, replicated chromosomes split, so each haploid cell/gamete has one copy. Non-disjunction can occur equally in males and females. When non-disjunction occurs, both copies of a chromosome enter one cell, and none enter the other. If this occurs in Meiosis I, then there is a 50% chance of a monosomy (having one copy of a chromosome) and 50% chance of a trisomy (having 3 copies, which is what happened to your son). If non-disjunction happens in meiosis II, then there is a 50% chance of a “normal” baby, 25% chance of monosomy, and 25% chance of trisomy. It is not your fault, and you are not the only parents to go through this, your son is not the only one with this disorder (which ever it may be). About 1 in 1000 pregnancies have chromosomal disorders. And while there isn’t a cure, there are ways to help your son.

Treatments for both Angelman’s and Prader-Willi’s are similar. One noticeable difference is that children with Prader-Willi’s require more hormone and drug treatments. Hormone treatments are used to help the child develop normally, and to trigger puberty if it does not occur naturally. Drug treatments are also used to treat the hunger pains. Many children follow special diets that are “low in calories but high in proteins, fiber, and various essential nutrients” so that they do not become obese. Other treatments for Prader-Willi’s are the same as those for Angelman’s; they focus mainly on making the symptoms caused by the disease manageable.

Early Intervention is the key to minimizing the effects and increasing your son’s chances of success.  Early Intervention programs provide children a mix of speech, occupational, and physical therapies, among other things. This starts in infancy and can help a child with these disorders to develop skills similar to their “normal” peers. This therapies can help a child with a developmental disability reach milestones sooner than they would on their own. Children who go through early intervention are more capable and show less extreme symptoms than those that don’t. Children with chromosomal disorders often require more specialized learning environments than public school can offer, there are special schools these children can attend to aid their education. Here in south Florida, schools such as “The Learning Experience” are specifically for taking care of those children with special needs. And while these schools can be expensive, scholarships and other programs are available such as the McKay Voucher here in Florida. Feel free to contact me, or any of my co-workers for additional information. And remember, your son is special. He’s going to need a little extra help, but he’ll love you the same as any other baby.

Best Wishes,
Dr. Samantha B. (Last name redacted)

 

Throwback Thursday: Vicaria Blanca – 2013

Throwback Thursday, where, essentially I post old writing samples, essays and short stories that I dig up from my pile of hoarded papers and school assignments or from the depths of my computer. So everyone can see how my writing has changed/improved over the years.


 

Ever been in history class and found it weird that people didn’t have medicine all those years ago, and died from common diseases? You’d think that they form of medicine didn’t work, but actually, some of those methods are still used today, and some people think they work better the usual run of the mill medicine we all use! The elder I interviewed for this project on the use of plants, as medicine was my grandfather, Jose Rios. He was born and raised in Cuba, where he met my grandmother and had his three children, my uncle, my mother, and aunt. They moved to Miami, Florida when he was forty years old in 1980, and has been here ever since. He speaks primarily Spanish and can understand English, though when he speaks it, it’s heavily accented and usually has butchered grammar. He is now 72, and he cares for my younger sister and me after school everyday.

When I interviewed him, he told me he uses Vicaria Blanca (White Vicaria) to treat pink eye, and other problems. He’s been using it since he was a child, when his grandmother used it on him and taught him how to use it. He told me that to use it, you boil the flower bowling in water, into a type of tea looking liquid, greenish-yellow in color. You then use it as eye drops or wet a napkin with it and hold it on the eye. He’s been using it for over 50 years and says it’s worked for him every time. He says he prefers to use this then over the counter eye drops because it has the natural vitamins and has less chemicals, which makes it good to use on small children and adults.

Based on the research done by the University of Florida Herbarium, Vicaria Blanca is useful for treating eye infections. Based on a study in 1995, the drops made from boiling the flower in water does help your vision. And according to Wikipedia, Vicaria Blanca, a type of Madagascar Periwinkle commonly found in tropical and sub-tropical regions, has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat many things, including: diabetes, malaria, Hodgkin’s disease, and well as some extracted substances used to treat leukemia. On the other side however, if ingested orally, it can be fatal and if not, it causes hallucinations. So, if used on children, it should under supervision.

What I’ve learned from this, is that plants can be used as medicine just as they did thousands of years ago, and that, though I hadn’t known it, my grandfather has been using it on me since I was an infant. It seems odd that people would still use these things, but they do, I’ve also learned that they still use poisonous plants…at least people don’t poison themselves anymore!

Throwback Thursday: Research – BioTech Product

Throwback Thursday, where, essentially I post old writing samples, essays and short stories that I dig up from my pile of hoarded papers and school assignments or from the depths of my computer. So everyone can see how my writing has changed/improved over the years.


 

Ibuprofen is an over the counter medication, in the category of NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug) used to treat pain, cramps, fever, and to reduce inflammation. It usually comes in the form of a pill, but does come in liquid form, usually for children. It was developed as a safer alternative to aspirin (though its use has been linked to increased chances of liver and heart diseases). It is manufactured by various companies, under brand names such as “Advil”, “Nurofen”, and “Moltrin”. Some specific companies include: Bayer Healthcare, Johnson and Johnson, and Pfizer Inc.

Ibuprofen is a synthesized compound. The process begins with a compound called “2-methylpropylbenzene” and through a six step process of adding and removing various molecules (a process which has since been reduced in what is called “green” synthesis), you end up with Ibuprofen. The original method was called the “Boot Process” after the company with the original patent, but now the “Hoechst Process” is used (this would be that new “green synthesis”). With the Hoechst process, the original
2-methylpropylbenzene is still used, then a H2 catalyst is added and then a CO catalyst is added. Through this, the proper molecules are added and removed to form Ibuprofen.

Ibuprofen was first developed and patented by the Boot Pure Drug Company in the UK. The research team was led by Stewart Adams. Ibuprofen became available as an over the counter medication in America in 1974 when the American Upjohn Company was given permission to market it as Motrin. Later, the Boots Company also sold it in America under the name Rufen.

Throwback Thursday: Gene Therapy Treated Disease – Hemophilia B

Throwback Thursday, where, essentially I post old writing samples, essays and short stories that I dig up from my pile of hoarded papers and school assignments or from the depths of my computer. So everyone can see how my writing has changed/improved over the years.


 

Hemophilia is a genetic, X-linked disorder that causes a lack of clotting factors in the blood, which leads to prolonged bleeding, and can lead to serious health issues with internal bleeding. Surgery can be necessary, and in some cases is common when bleeds in joints occur, and it can be life threatening. Hemophilia A and B, because they are X-linked are more prevalent in males. Hemophilia C though, is autosomal, and is roughly equally prevalent in men and women.

Normal treatments for hemophilia include clotting factor injections, physical therapy, and vaccinations. Recently (2012), breakthroughs have come through in using gene therapy to treat hemophilia B patients. In the study done by American and British researchers at the University College London (UCL), the gene for clotting factor IX (FIX) was inserted using an Adeno-Associated Virus (AAV) as a vector. This is the ideal vector for treating hemophilia because AAV effects liver cells, which is where the clotting factors are produced, and it does not tend to illicit immune responses in patients. By inserting the non-defective gene for FIX via the vector, patients could, if the gene therapy is successful, produce their own clotting factor, and be effectively cured of their hemophilia, which was unheard of before.

The gene therapy is still being researched, but seems promising. Of the six patients in the study, four ceased to need injections of clotting factors, and 2 needed greatly reduced amounts of injections with less frequency. The main worries of the drug therapy is the long-term effects of tampering with the human genome and, with this specific case, the longevity of the treatment. Liver cells have a short life span and regenerate slowly, which will affect the long-term viability of the treatment.

Despite this, gene therapy is a promising treatment to hemophilia, among other diseases, and as research continues and techniques improve, it may prove to be a real cure.

Throwback Thursday: Vaccination Speech – 2016

(I wrote this for school, and I feel very strongly about it. Found it in my files and figured why not post it. Everything is true save the the “credentials” I am a teenage girl not a doctor or parent, that was just part of the assignment, as was the Orange county presentation thing, I presented to my class, the rest is true though.)


 

Welcome parents of the Orange County PTSA. We are here tonight because you are concerned for the wellbeing of your children and the safety of the vaccinations they may receive, and I am here, not only as a fellow parent, but also as a pediatrician, to assure you that vaccinations are not only safe, but vital to your children’s health.
Now, there are a lot of fear mongering, though utterly false, rumors about vaccines. The prevailing one being that they cause autism. This has been entirely disproven by many, most notably the CDC. This rumor started with falsified research by a scientist named Andrew Wakefield, who has since been discredited. Wakefield published an article in 1998 claiming to have found a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. The article has since been retracted along with many of Wakefield’s other works, and Wakefield has faced legal action, including the revocation of his medical license. Though this study was discredited over 18 years ago, it is still regarded as fact by those unaware of its origin. Inconceivably, Wakefield continues to advocate for his “vaccines cause autism” standpoint to this day, most notably by his recent releasing of a documentary entitled Vaxxed, sharing his experience with the MMR controversy.
I implore you to disregard this nonsense and get your children the MMR vaccine, despite Wakefield’s claims, it doesn’t give them autism, but it does protect them from the measles, mumps, and rubella, all of which can be fatal and were nearly eradicated in this country until a few years ago.
This brings me to the concept of herd immunity. You see, when a certain amount of the population is vaccinated, it not only protects the vaccinated individuals from the disease but those around them as well, such as immunocompromised adults and infants whose immune systems are so weak they cannot process the vaccine; this protection of unvaccinated individuals is herd immunity, though for herd immunity to be effective 90-95% of the population must be vaccinated or otherwise immune to the disease being inoculated against.
Herd immunity can’t stop every infection, but it does slow the spread of a contagion to a select few, mostly those who have not been vaccinated, rather than causing an epidemic, which is a widespread occurrence of a disease at once. With the rise of vaccination exemptions, herd immunity drops, and suddenly previously manageable diseases can spread like wildfire and cause epidemics like the recent measles epidemic originating from Disneyland here in Anaheim, California.
Many of you may be concerned about the chemicals in vaccines. You may have heard that vaccines contain mercury. But, the mercury in vaccines is only in trace amounts, used as a preservative of the inactive virus to not only make the vaccine last longer, but to decrease the use of live virus vaccines which run a much higher risk of infecting your child. The very thing that frightens you is the very thing that makes the vaccines safer. Long gone are the days of experimentally giving our children cowpox to prevent the infection of smallpox (both of which are caused by the rubella virus). We have the vaccine, its developed, tested, and safe. The only thing you have to worry about is when you’re going to bring the kids in for their shots. Birthday months are most common; a shot and a check up are a lot more pleasant than contracting chickenpox or the measles.
Measles is a disease we can vaccinate for, but can also be fatal. In this day and age, in this country, our children shouldn’t be dying of this disease because parents are frightened of vaccines. Yes, your child may be frightened; yes you may have reservations about vaccinations and their chemicals how they relate with your religious views.
So, let me tell you this, the chemicals are harmless, and even the Amish, who do without most modern convenience, allow for modern health care, including vaccines, there are no excuses. Educate yourself to assuage your fears. Yes, there are occasional side effects. Yes, children cry, kick and scream bloody murder at the sight of a shot. But in trying to protect your children, you are doing more harm than good. If they can be, vaccinate your children, you have no real excuse not to. A crying child is better than a dead one.

On Wisdom Teeth Removal

To start with, I’m sorry for any incoherency in this blog post. I got my wisdom teeth out at 8am, it is currently 5pm, I woke up an hour ago thats how tired and stupid painkillers and pain made me.

Sorry in advance.

This will have some talk of medical procedures and pain, as well as a picture of the nasty bruise the IV left me (though no gore of teeth removal or blood), just as a warning in case that triggers you. You might not want to read this.

If you want to read more about wisdom teeth removal in general, and about my experience so you know what to expect when you get your own removed, then keep reading.

 

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Obligatory shame picture. I didn’t do anything funny enough to record though, I was sedated not given laughing gas. My face isn’t outwardly swollen, but on the inside…ow, I can barely close my mouth and my jaw is aching.

 

I am going to start this by saying that this is by no means the worst surgery I’ve ever had. Getting your tonsils out hurts about a billion times more. I could tell you horror stories about that week. (Open wounds in your throat + lemonade, no pain with ever top that ever)

But that doesn’t mean that wisdom teeth removal is enjoyable exactly. Still hurts, and is still irritating as all hell.

Up until now, I have removed teeth in four ways:

  1. Wiggled it until it fell out on its own.
  2. (For molars) Bit down on an airhead as hard as I could (when the tooth was loose) and opened by mouth slowly to find the tooth out and no bleeding (sugar stops bleeding and airheads are sugar, I did this for every molar, don’t know why it works, it just does.)
  3. Pulled out two teeth with the “string tied to a doorknob” trick. Yeah, that isn’t pleasant.
  4. And I lost my first tooth by biting into a pizza pocket. *Shrugs*

 

While I could tell you many a story for all of these things, but they aren’t the matter at hand, because none of them work for wisdom teeth.

Wisdom teeth are extra teeth that are ancestors needed when they had bigger skulls but now we don’t because we don’t have room in our mouths. Some people don’t have any. Some people have 1, or 2, or 3, or if your very unlucky, 4.

I was marginally lucky. I have one on the bottom left that was already coming out and stabbing me and one on the top right that was no where near out yet and I think thats why that one hurts more, they had to go deeper into my jaw. Whole thing from paperwork to leaving took a little over an hour so it wasn’t that bad. My dad drove me home and I slept, again. Painkillers will do that to you. We also learned I was allergic to one of the painkillers, so that was fun.

Because I was sedated, I don’t remember much. I remember the struggle of putting in the IV, they stabbed my right arm once, right hand three times, and finally after much searching had to put it in my left wrist, the wrist being the most painful spot for an IV the the left being more inconvenient for the doctor. I have “deep, narrow, twisted, veins”, or so I’ve been told. Like, wow.

 

The bruises hurt, but not much compared to my face. After they got the IV in, they started the sedation. I had a choice between local anesthesia with nitrous oxide (laughing gas) during which I could be conscious or sedation during which I’d still be breathing on my own (unlike anesthesia) but it wouldn’t be really awake. I chose sedation, I know myself, if I was conscious I would have punched the doctor. They hooked me up to a heart monitor and stuff because even though its routine it is still surgery. After that, I remember closing my eyes as they put a breathing thing on my nose and a little while later the nurse opening my mouth to put something to keep it open in it. I also remember hearing/feeling my jaw pop, but that was apparently them cracking my tooth to get it out, they did a pretty good job if I didn’t notice.

When I got up, I was all sorts of out of it. Didn’t remember moving to a cot or getting ice packs but there I was. Mostly I was thirsty, you are allowed to drink anything before surgery and my mouth had been open for an hour, you can imagine. Initially the bottom tooth hurt more, because the right side of my face and tongue were still completely numb, and while bottom left hurts when I move my jaw, at a base level, the top right hurts a lot more, probably because I stretched that muscle, or because they had to go deeper into my jaw, I’m not sure, but it feels like a migraine in my jaw, Thats the best way I can describe it.

I was given painkillers though, and anti-infammatory meds, and antibiotics. So I’ll be fine in a few days. Until then I’m living off milkshakes, mashed potatoes, pudding, and mac and cheese. And following the no straw rule, because I’d prefer not to mess up the stitches. I go back next week to get those removed.

I do know that the wisdom teeth removal has left holes in my jaw and while I’ll be fine in a week, the tissue of my jaw will take a few months to regenerate bone to fill the space, which is pretty cool.

I’m talking more about my experience rather than the actual science because I am very clearly more qualified to talk about one more than the other.

So, if you have to get your wisdom teeth out, ask your doctor about the actual medicine behind it, but really, while it does hurt, and it is annoying, its not the worst pain in the world, and it hurts a hell of a lot less then slowly getting stabbed in the jaw and cheek by a tooth growing where it shouldn’t. A weeks discomfort is worth not messing up the rest of your teeth.

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Message to one of my best friends from today.

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My little cousin sent me this when she emailed me to feel better. She’s so cute.

More Information:

Healing Timeline

Why Remove Wisdom Teeth

After Removal Care Tips

 

If you guys have any questions about wisdom teeth pain, feel free to ask!

This is part informative, part me being bored and wanting to rant because everything hurts. I have a pool party on sunday, but I won’t be able to swim because swimming+painkillers is how you drown and die.