Sunday, August 26, 2012

EXTREME Body Parts: Part 4

The most popular feature of the MedFriendly Blog is back: the world's most extreme body parts. If you have not seen this interesting feature, see the original article, part 2, and part 3. Without further ado, here is part 4.

1. World's Largest Hand: This is the hand of Lui Hua, who suffers from a condition known as macrodactyly. This rare condition is defined as abnormally large fingers or toes from birth due to overgrowth of underlying bone and soft tissue. The left thumb was 10.2 inches and the index finger was close to 12 inches. In July 2007, he underwent radical surgery to have 11-pounds of flesh removed.

2. Most Fingers and Toes: Another abnormal condition that can affect the fingers and toes is polydactylism. There are two people known to have 25 fingers and toes (Pranamya Menaria, Devendra Harne). Devendra is shown below:

3. World's Largest Female Beard: This is Vivian Wheeler, a woman born as a hermaphrodite. The longest hair was 11 inches and 27.9 centimeters.

4. World's Longest Eyebrow Hair: This record goes to Frank Ames from Saranac, NY, who has a 3.7 inch eyebrow hair.

5. The World's Largest Tongue: The world's longest tongue belongs to Steven Taylor from England. It measures 9.8 cm (3.86 cm). For the female record for the longest tongue, see here.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Ten Ways to Avoid the Death of Your Baby or Child

There is nothing sadder than the death of a child. Some deaths, such as due to pediatric cancer, are unavoidable. But other deaths are avoidable as shown by these recent examples in the news:

1. August 2012: A baby in Utah was killed after his father straddled him between himself and a gas tank while riding a motorcycle too fast, losing control, and throwing the baby off the vehicle.

Lesson: Never ever allow a baby to ride with you on a motorcycle.

2. August 2012: A baby in Indiana died after falling asleep on his grandmother’s chest.

Lesson: Allowing a baby to fall asleep on your chest can be deadly because the baby can die from accidental suffocation since they are primarily nose breathers.  This is why doctors recommend always lying babies on their backs in a crib and not keeping other items in the crib (including blankets and pillows) when the bay is sleeping.

3. August 2012: Eight children across the U.S. died when left unattended inside hot vehicles.

Lesson: Look before you lock! Never leave a child unattended in a car, especially in hot temperatures with the windows closed.

4. August 2012: A two-year-old child died in Utah after falling out of a three story window, tumbling through the window screen.

Lesson: If you have small children, keep the bottom aspect of windows locked (even if a screen is in place because children can easily rip through it) and only open the top part of the window (if out of the child's reach) for fresh air.

5. August 2012: An eight-year-old child died in Toronto when his father reversed his car and backed into him.

Lesson: Never reverse your car when your child is behind you. Know where they are at all times. Preferably have the child in the car before reversing or make sure the child stands to the side of the vehicle while reversing.

6. August 2012: A three-year-old child died in Atlanta when playing in a shallow area of water in a park. There was a shallow drop off to a deep area, where the boy fell in. No one in the area could swim well to save the child, including the parents.

Lesson: Even in shallow areas, small children should not be in the water without close physical assistance and supervision. Children can fall and drown in just a few inches of water.

7. August 2012: Making the point I made in the lesson above, a 11-month-old child died after being placed in the bathtub with her 4-yearold sister by her father. The father then fell asleep on the couch.

Lesson: Again, children should not be left unsupervised by adults in the water, even a bathtub lightly filled with water. Also, young children should not be left to supervise other young children, which is what sounds like may have happened here.

8. July 2012: A one- year-old child dies in San Antonio, Texas, when trying to climb furniture, causing the dresser to tip, resulting in a 32-inch television crushing him to death.

Lesson:  Don’t let your children climb furniture, particularly furniture that can easily tip over.

9. April 2012: A 6-year-old boy from Connecticut died when he was pulled into a wood chipper while placing wood inside the machine. He was helping his father on a landscaping job when his father turned his back.

Lesson: Don’t let your children place items into a wood chipper and never turn your back if your child happens to be near power tools.

10. April 2012: A 2-month-old boy in South Carolina was killed after being dismembered by the family dog while the mother was away and the father slept.

Lesson: Do not leave small children unattended with animals, particularly dogs. Even dog breeds you would not expect to be violent sometimes can be. The dog in this case was a retriever.

Monday, August 13, 2012

How Jogging Can Kill You

It continues to amaze me how some people jog for health benefits while simultaneously placing their bodies (and those of others) in peril. Not that I have anything against jogging, and have done it myself innumerable times, but I have to shake my head when I see people jogging on busy roadways with 55 to 65-mph speed limits, not paying attention to their surroundings, jogging in extreme heat or cold, not wearing reflective gear at night, jogging first thing in the morning in poor visibility,  or jogging with the flow of traffic  (meaning they have no way to see if a driver may be veering off the road towards them so they can at least try to get out of the way).  It’s as if some people think that the very act of jogging insulates them from being harmed along the way.  It doesn’t.

I pointed the perils of exercising dangerously in a November 2011 blog entry. Unfortunately, deaths from jogging continue to mount. So, it’s time for an update to try and bring some more awareness to this issue and hopefully prevent needless deaths or injuries related to jogging. Remember, all of these people went out for a jog to live longer and they wound up getting killed in the process. It’s a sad and terrible irony.

1. August 2012: A man in British Columbia died while jogging on the side of a highway after jumping a barrier and landing on the rocks below.  The jogger tried to get out of the way of a truck approaching him from behind, leaped over the concrete barrier at the end of the highway, and fell down the steep 30-foor drop on the other side. 

2. August 2012: A 21-year-old woman was critically injured in Corpus Christi, Texas, after running across a street (she was not on a cross walk) and being struck by someone driving an SUV.

3. July 2012: An experienced runner died in England while jogging and accidentally running into a low-hanging high voltage cable.

4. July 2012: A teenage jogger in England died while listening to his headphones and not hearing an approaching freight train which killed him.

5. July 2012: A 20-year old jogger is killed on Rte 507 in Pennsylvania while she is struck from behind by a pick-up truck. 

6. July 2012: A jogger in La Quinta, California was hospitalized with moderate injuries after being struck by a motorist who suffered some type of medical emergency while driving and went into cardiac arrest.

7. July 2012: A 22-year-old woman jogging in an atmospheric temperature of 113 degrees in Arizona collapsed and died. She was dehydrated and her body temperature was 109 degrees.

8. July 2012: An 84-year-old man jogging in Hempstead, New York, was critically injured around 7:45 am after being hit by someone backing out of their driveway with a Jeep.

9. July 2012: A 21-year-old woman in New York was critically injured after being struck by a driver who fled from the scene.

10. March 2012: In England, a 52-year-old jogger was killed by a truck driver driving dangerously.

I have not even included all of the cases of women who have been physically and/or sexually assaulted while jogging alone on jogging trails, often late at night.  Please use common sense while jogging and if you know a jogger, please pass this on.  Whenever you jog next to fast-moving vehicles, you are putting your life (and the lives of people in the car) in jeopardy. But wherever you job, you have to be aware of your surroundings, which includes the weather, to stay safe.

How Too Much Exercise Can Harm You and Your Heart

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

A Psychological Profile of Wade Michael Page: The Sikh Shootings

Only a few weeks after the mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado, the U.S. experienced yet another mass shooting in a public place, this time a Sikh worship center in Wisconsin. As has been profiled here in the cases of movie theater shooter, James Holmes, and school shooter, T.J. Lane, the people who commit these crimes have often lost their connection to society and become recluses. When crimes like this occur, it is common to hear discussions of the need for improved gun legislation to prevent crimes like this from occurring again. While improved gun legislation may help, there needs to be a greater discussion of ways to reduce such crimes by preventing people from developing the mindset that they need to take revenge against society by mass killings of random people (or any people for that matter).

The shooter in the Wisconsin killings was Wade Michael Page, who has now been widely identified by the media as a white supremacist.  It is important to keep in mind that Page was not born as a white supremacist just like alleged Canadian Icepick killer, Luka Rocco Magnotta, was not born evil. After all, Wade’s step-mother, Laura Page, recalled him as being “precious child” who was “kind and gentle and loving” and who loved to do normal child activities such as playing with his dog and camping.  Early childhood pictures show someone who appeared to be happy and normal.

Although I, and any other sensible person, unequivocally condemns Wade’s actions, an important issue for society is to determine how and when someone transforms from a happy normal child to a reclusive member of society who goes on a mass shooting rampage. The reality is that the transition is usually not one that occurs over night, but typically results from years of negative life experiences combined with poor coping resources and vulnerability to extremist influences. In the case of Wade Page, his step-mother has said that she has “no idea” where he changed. However, the early history provides some answers of how the process of social alienation unfolded. None of these factors alone are sufficient to explain a mass shooting rampage, but putting them together can sometimes culminate in a tragic event.

The first clearly relevant negative event identified in Page’s life is that his mother died from lupus in 1985 (age 13). This is difficult for any child to deal with and Page was reportedly devastated.  His father re-married when he was  10-years-old and at that point his mother and step-mother shared joint custody of him.  It is likely that the divorce was difficult for him as well. He reportedly did not get along with his father. His father and step-mother later moved from Colorado to Texas, leaving him behind in Colorado to split time living with his aunt and grandmother while attending school. While he reportedly developed a close bond with the latter, we now have a child whose parents divorced, whose biological mother is dead , and whose father and step-mother moved away from him.  Essentially, his childhood was marked by tragedy and an unstable home life. His school grades are unknown but it would not be unusual for a child with this type of history to have academic struggles.

It seems that Page lacked focus and direction as a teenager because according to his step-mother he claimed that this was what joining the army at age 20 provided him.  He did this after moving in with his father and step-mother after H.S. and trying to work in a convenience store. Whatever discipline he learned in the military was not sufficient because he had continued alcohol-related problems, which likely reflected a maladaptive way to cope with stress. Specifically, at a pool bar in 1994, he kicked large holes in sheetrock with his boots, and was charged with criminal mischief.  He was demoted and discharged from the army in 1998, reportedly for showing up drunk.  He was demoted and discharged from the army in 1998, reportedly for showing up drunk.  He was not allowed to re-enlist and received a general discharge, which is a level below an honorable discharge.  He was also arrested for a DUI in 1999, the same year his mother and step-mother divorced.

It is at this point that his family began to lose contact with him and he began a new chapter in his life…joining the white power movement in 2000. He had reportedly expressed white supremacist views in the military and was covered with tattoos by 1995, some of which identified his views. One example is his tattoo of the Celtic cross on his left arm with the number 14 inside of it. The Celtic cross is a symbol of a German Neo-Nazi  group and the #14 reflects the number of words in the white supremacist rallying slogan.
By 2000, it seems that Wade tried but failed to fit in with society through normal routes. He no longer had a biological mother, was disconnected from many in his family, had been rejected by the military by his behaviors, and sought a way to feel connected to something else. In Page’s case, the white power movement provided that sense of family and meaning, just like a gang provides the same for many inner city youth from broken households. 

Overall, Wade Page was not happy with society, which he has referred to as sick and hypocritical in a previous interview about his heavy metal band, End Apathy. He began the group in 2005. The name of the band arose from his desire to enact change and served as a way to direct his anger.  He was also the member of a band called Definite Hate. His music helped vent his feelings of anger and frustration.  People outside of his group were referred to as “dirt people.” With such views, non-whites become dehumanized and a mindset develops that allows one to commit a heinous mass murder.

However, even within his own sub-culture, Page could not fit in. A girlfriend reportedly cheated on him with a band member, resulting in the band dismembering about a year ago. In early June 2012, a girlfriend reportedly broke up with him and he moved out of his residence with her. A friend described him as emotionally upset and hurt.  He was fired from multiple jobs (e.g., truck driver, parts coordinator) over the years, once because he did not want to take direction from a female co-worker.  He lost his house in February 2012 when the bank seized it after a foreclosure.

Essentially, Wade Page seems to be a person who grew up in the face of tragedy and instability, tried to fit in society but failed, identified with the white supremacist subculture but had a falling out there as well. His life had fallen apart and he took out his anger on the society he disliked, focusing on those he had completely dehumanized. He may have been planning his rampage for a few weeks because when he moved out, he lived alone and rarely left his residence. He did not return a call from his father three weeks before the shooting. He barely made eye contact with people and did not want to be engaged. He was blasting aggressive music from his radio, which was likely channeling his anger. He was avoiding human connections perhaps because he did not want to have any such feelings should they interfere with his plans. Of course, this is speculative, but clearly, he was angry and upset at the time.  While people recognized he was acting strange, no one felt concerned enough to contact police.

As a society, we need to do everything possible to maintain stable families and living situations for children. In cases of divorce and/or death of a parent(s) we need better societal resources in place to help children cope, which includes mental health outreach and community outreach programs to reduce feelings of isolation and reclusiveness (for adults and children). There should be a more rigorous follow-up of people discharged from the military for conduct problems, particularly if they are known to be reclusive or engage in hateful activities. There is no way to prevent all cases of mass violence, but when I look back at Walter Page’s history, I cannot help but think that his life (and by extension the lives of the people he killed) did not need to turn out this way.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Stupid Diets: Infesting Yourself with Tapeworms

It’s amazing the types of things people will try to do to lose weight without dieting or exercising. On this blog, one of biggest scams to reduce obesity was previously covered.  However, one of the more unusual obesity “treatments” is found in an old ad stating that you could eat sanitized jar-packed tapeworms (beef tapeworms).

The ad specifically claims there are no ill effects, that they are easy to swallow, and hey, no exercise or dieting required!  Ads like this were common in the United States between 1900 and 1920. However, these were the days before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) so it is not clear is whether the companies advertising tapeworms actually put them in the product.  In other words, it could have been false advertising.

Despite the claims, it is not safe to ingest tapeworms, as is detailed in the extensive MedFriendly entry on tapeworms. These worms can grow up to 30-feet in length and can cause various signs and symptoms of illness. If someone ingested tapeworms to lose weight, it could result in weight loss (1 to 2 pounds a week) but this is due to harmful side effects (e.g., diarrhea), interference with digestion due to substances secreted by the tapeworm, and the tapeworm absorbing many of the calories consumed  (which is why people could continue to eat what they want). The main problem though is that tapeworm infestation could result in blockage of the intestines and death.  A related complication is tapeworm infestation of the brain, known as neurocysticercosis (click link for pictures). Tapeworms can also infest the spine, liver, and eye. They can also cause cysts, malnutrition, and stomach swelling (the latter of which defeats the purpose of weight loss).  Of note, pork tapeworms are even more dangerous than beef tapeworms.

Many people reading this who are pet owners are already aware of the dangers of tapeworms because you try to keep them away from your pets.  Tapeworm infestation in pets and humans is treated with specific medications designed to kill the worms.  In people who use tapeworms for weight loss, once the tapeworm is killed the weight returns because no lifestyle changes have taken place.  There is no guarantee, incidentally, that the tapeworms will easily be destroyed with medication.

Contrary to some rumors, famous opera singer Mary Callas did not lose 80-pounds from tapeworms or die from tapeworm dieting. In fact, she attributed her weight loss to a regular diet of salad and chicken. While Callas had been afflicted with tapeworms, this was because she sometimes ate raw meat, which is prone to tapeworm contamination.

These days, it is illegal to import or sell tapeworms in the U.S. and the FDA has banned tapeworms for dietary purposes due to the dangers the pose. There are places in Mexico where people can pay about $1200 to $1500 to infest themselves with beef tapeworms, supposedly identified microscopically.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Cord Blood To The Rescue

As science continues to evolve, there have been a number of advancements that help treat certain medical conditions. Behind a large number of medical advancements is a substance that is often overlooked or misunderstood: cord blood.

If people will learn more about this important resource, it has the potential to change the medical industry. What exactly is cord blood and why is it important in the medical field?

What is Cord Blood?

Cord blood is blood is taken out of the umbilical cord shortly after a child is born. The cord blood is different from regular blood, and it has a number of substances inside it that make it a natural disease fighter.

Medical Benefits

Cord blood has an impressive variety of different medical uses. The stem cells from the cord blood can be taken and used to treat more than 80 different life-threatening diseases. A number of different types of leukemia can be treated with cord blood. Stem cell disorders can be treated, as well as several plasma and immune system deficiencies.

One of the reasons that cord blood is so attractive is because it can be taken without any risk to the baby or to the mother. It can then be stored in a cord blood bank, so that it is available at any time in the future for any family member who needs it. Another nice feature of using cord blood is that the blood types do not have to be a perfect match in order to use it. This means that anyone in your family should be able to use it without having to worry about matching up perfectly with the source.

Using cord blood also comes with a lower risk of viral infections compared to other types of transplants. Many of the common viruses and infections that come with transfusions do not apply with cord blood.

Cord blood is also commonly used in the area of scientific research. With the help of cord blood, scientists have developed cures to many different diseases, and they are working on more every day.

If you are thinking about whether or not to store the cord blood of your child, consider all of the potential ways that it could be used at some point in the future. It could save your life, the lives of your kids, or the lives of family members who need help at some point.

The entry above is a guest blog entry.