Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Tuesday without Alana

Maya now has the high fever for 5 days virus that Chris had last week. Her temperature got up to 103.8 yesterday. After school Riley began complaining of a headache that made him cry. He skipped hockey and went home and lay on the couch watching TV. Chris, the only healthy one, had already forgotten how miserable he felt just a few days ago and proceeded to be very loud and irritating. He got angry while playing video games on the computer and became beligerent when Mom dragged him away from the computer. He kicked and screamed all the way to his room where he yelled at me through the closed door. Let's just say he has lost all TV, movie, and computer games for the rest of the week.
Tuesdays without Alana. No salame sandwiches. No juicy gossip over strong coffee. No one to paint my toenails and Maya's fingernails. Just work, work, work.
Last Tuesday I vacuumed almost the whole house. Yesterday I printed half my blog, from June to December, 2008. I was printing the other half when I got greedy and put too much paper in the printer. Now there's a paper jam that I can't seem to find. I also consulted with Epidemiology in Anchorage about a potential case of TB in a child from another country.
This is more involved than it sounds. I will spare you all the gory medical details but the short version is, I'm working with school nurses both here and in San Diego and the Public Health Department to get records showing she doesn't have active TB before we subject her to nasty procedures like a bronchoscope down her trachea and a 4 drug regimen for a year to treat multidrug resistant TB.
If all this talk about TB is fascinating you instead of grossing you out, I recommend a book called Mountains Beyond Mountains, by Tracy Kidder. It is about a doctor named Paul Farmer who started clinics in Haiti to help some of the poorest people in the world. He is the world's leading expert in infectious disease, especially ones that prey on poor people, like Tuberculosis and HIV. He graduated from medical school with both an MD and a PhD in medical anthropology, while taking his classes by correspondence. Starting in his first year of Harvard Medical School at the age of 24, he would show up on campus the first day of school, buy his books, and head back to Haiti to continue his work. Then he'd fly back at the end of the semester to take his finals. He was already brilliant and so passionate about his work that there was nothing his professors could do to reign in their most eccentric student. They must have realized they were in the prescence of a demigod and were smart enough to stay out of his way.
Since then, he has started programs all over the world to help the poorest people fight poverty and disease. He doesn't charge them for health care or medication. Knowing the body cannot heal itself without the most essential ingredients, he gives them food, clean water and money to get back and forth from clinic to home. He sometimes walked 20 miles one way to visit patients in remote villages.
He reformed TB programs in Russian prisons. Before Paul Farmer, a prison sentence in Russia was a death sentence. If those prisoners were released, they would go home and infect their families and the whole community. He now has clinics in South America and Africa as well. The volunteer organization that funds his work is called Partners in Health. For more information about Partners in Health, go to
The second most important book in the past decade is Three Cups of Tea by David Oliver Relin. It is about a man named Greg Mortenson, a mountaineer and ER nurse. On one of his expeditions when he failed to summit K-2, the second highest peak in the Himalayas, he got lost and wandered into a remote village where he was nursed back to health by the local villagers. When he asked them what he could do to repay them, they answered: "Our children need a school." He began fundraising and got enough money to build a school. But when he showed up at the village with all the supplies in a rented truck, he realized they could not get across the yak hair foot bridge. So first he had to build a bridge.
He has been building bridges between the Middle East and the West ever since. Building schools all over remote mountain villages of Pakistan and Afghanistan where girls would otherwise never get an education, and the only other option for boys would be extremist schools for boys, funded by the Taliban. The organization that supports Greg's work is called Central Asia Institute. They have a program where school children can participate by collecting pennies. For more information about Pennies for Peace, go to


Kelshel said...

I'll write more later on your blog, but I wanted to point out that we are only 4° warmer than Alaska!

Stevens Family said...

Sorry to hear your family has been sick. no fun at all!