16 March 2011


A word on iodine... after talking to a thyroid surgeon. What I didn't know is that, for various reasons (including reactors releasing radioactive iodine), thyroid cancer is the most common neoplastic sequela of nuclear explosion/accidents (Chernobyl...). You can't prevent leukemia or lymphoma, obviously. But if you give supersaturated potassium iodide (SSKI), it...supersaturates iodine receptors on the thyroid, blocking immediate uptake of radioactive isotopes. And iodine has a pretty short half-life, so those go away within...not too long. Other isotopes, though...are around much longer.
And apparently Homeland Security has stockpiles of SSKI at various undisclosed locations in the US in the case of such a disaster.
And iodized salt, in general, is a major public health advance/success of the 20th century.

Iodized salt poster! N'djamena, Chad

13 March 2011

Fluid balance

Nature is generally more impressive in poorer countries. Cause and effect.
Insult to injury to injury to injury. It's like tropical diseases that are almost impossible to eradicate in vectors. It's like cultural staple foods that decrease iodine uptake and are almost devoid of nutrients. It's like the balance of climate change falling where farming and subsistence depend entirely on climate and predictability.

In the city where I grew up, tornadoes only strike on the south side of town. The bad ones, anyway. (With the exception of one recent instance). Always. And that’s the poor side of town. Living to the north of that, after a number of years, I learned to not really worry during the watches that sometimes turned into warnings. Basically, we'd always be okay. It's a lulling, a complacency.

And so somehow it’s more marking, and there’s more news (or that’s my current perception) when this happens to a richer country. It’s more of a shock, so to speak - because when insult does get added to injury to injury - the magnitude, at a point, is no longer imaginable. Maybe.
Then again, tragedy is always tragedy.
And no matter where something happens, it's the poorer, less advantaged, less resourced, more dependent-on -the-natural-movements-of-the-earth that is the most devastated.
And the fact that the US was worried about the coast of California is…well, if something thousands of miles away could have a visible, tangible, destructive effect... it just shows how small so many of the things we’re capable of doing really are. Any of the things

03 March 2011

Happy 50th, Peace Corps

(50 years total for Peace Corps. 49, continuous, in Cameroon)
My stock answer when people ask me what was Peace Corps like?: Best thing I ever did.
It continues to be true.
And it’s the group I’m proudest to be a part of – I saw someone else said that, with regards to this anniversary. Still true. Clich├ęd. True. I was strongly considering extending for a third year, and, if my MCAT scores hadn’t been about to expire, I might have. I’m one of the luckiest ones – a year and a half after leaving, I had the opportunity to go back. And it was paid for. (research project – see Cameroon posts from summer 2009). I’m one of the luckiest ones – I got to go back and see several of my projects still in motion, growing, and significantly stronger and better than when I had left, thanks to the volunteers who came after me.

I remember my Peace Corps interview, beginning of senior year of college. I remember the recruiter who had been in Mali, raising chickens. She asked me how I would deal without electricity, without any amenities, without anyone from my culture near me. I said I thought that I could do it, but I didn’t know. Peace Corps challenges you in ways that nothing else does. Nothing can exactly prepare you for it. Nothing can tell you if you’ll be able to, if you’ll be happy, if things will work out. There are millions of unknown and unseen factors.