Sunday, May 25, 2014

A Sunday Walk

Early this Sunday morning I set out to take a walk around our new neighborhood for a light exercise and to see what's there. (click on any picture to enlarge it.)

Started my walk on the river walk below our window, and crossed the bridge.

Not much traffic on a Sunday morning.  Our Apt building on the left; Veterans' Auditorium (link) on the right. 

The river walk was uipgraded in the 90's, and survived the 2008 flood reasonably intact.

The footings for the current bridge were originally laid about 100 years ago.
The city was founded here because the riverbed was rocky, and could be crossed
on foot or wagon during times of low-normal flow.

The Vets Memorial reopened only recently (link), after extensive renovation after the flood (link)
Note the bridges that I walked this morning and the entire island
were totally underwater during the flood!
The old bank (the original part in the foreground) (link) was designed by Louis Sullivan
and is now an Italian Restaurant.  New Condos east of the bank and across from the
 new river amphitheater are almost finished.

The trees have just about finished their blossoming, but new flowers are appearing elsewhere.

This trail through Cedar Rapids connects with the Cedar Valley Trail (link)
Improvements in the landscaping are underway.

An old warehouse under conversion to urban lofts.

Doors for exiting to the side street after the performance at the Paramount Theater

In addition to some mid-century ugly, there are some really nice preserved old buildings in the downtown.
Not that old, but attractive.

The Blue Strawberry - my favorite downtown coffee shop
- and only 1  1/2 blocks from our apartment building!

The Blue Strawberry

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Turning Away from Medical Science

It has been a long seven months since I last posted on this blog. There are many reasons , but it basically comes down to the intensity of other things going on in my life and, to a lesser extent, a willingness to create short Facebook postings rather than take the time to create a meaningful blog post.  Selling a house, buying a house, un-buying a house, and medical issues have all been demanding attention, while I continue to work through New Year's Eve. Come New Year's Day, I will be officially retired!

Religious extremist, most recently the Taliban in Pakistan and the Sudan, have been threating, even killing, health workers trying to vaccinate the population.  There is now a resurgence of polio in these locals, not surprising as there is now a large, unprotected population.  There should be a lesson here for those concerned about (and preaching against) vaccinating their children or themselves.

I was spurred to return with a post on this blog by a recent visit to a building that at one time served as a hospital to indigents and to members of the old Poor Farm in Flagstaff Arizona.  It was the iron lung pictured below that struck something deep within me. The eradication of polio happened during my youth, but my children's generation has never known the fear of contracting polio, so perhaps a reminder is in order.

 "iron lung." 
The afficted patient lies on a "Cookie Tray" from which he/she is moved in and out from the top, with a seal around their neck; the bellows at the bottom (seen here) moves in and out, contracting and expanding the lungs with cyclic low/normal air pressure within the chamber, thus providing breathing for the patient.

Polio, or more correctly "poliomyelitis," is a virus that at one time was widespread throughout the world.  It is also called "infantile paralysis", since about one percent of people who contract the virus will have the form that affects the central nervous system and cause paralysis of one or more extremities, or even affect the nervous system to a degree that it will prevent the muscles of respiration working.  At this point, the only effective therapy was placement within an "iron lung."  This treatment would occasionally have to be long-term, even life-long.   (The last patient who was in an iron lung died in 2008, after living 56 years within the device.)

Because of the potential for paralysis, areas or locales with known polio infections were avoided by the rest of the population. I remember on one of our annual family drives from Texas to Virginia to visit relatives, my parents took a very long, inconvenient detour to avoid driving through a town with known polio cases.

Now, here is the point, the suffering and fear caused by polio has been mostly eradicated from the world by mass vaccination.  After Salk, et al developed the vaccine giving protection, there was no need for a publicity campaign to get people vaccinated, EVERYONE was demanding it.  My entire school was vaccinated in a single day.  The same thing happened around the world. Countries that could not afford the vaccine were provided sufficient amounts, for free, that allowed their entire population to be immunized, in a successful, worldwide effort and cooperation that rarely occurs. In the 90's elimination of polio from the world seemed at hand, but politics, and armed conflict have reversed that optimism, with a 2013 outbreak in Syria, and documented cases in several African countries. 

There is a critical point in the penetration of vaccination through a population at which the virus can no longer find sufficient host, and it will then disappear from that region or country. We have managed get a penetration of vaccination for the childhood diseases of measles, mumps, whooping cough, etc. to an extent that such infections had, until recently been quite rare. Unfortunately due to the easy spread if misinformation via the internet, a significant number of parents have been refusing to vaccinate their children, and this is threatening to allow one or more viruses to explode through an unvaccinated population, again causing fear and misery. Recent outbreaks of measles and whooping cough in affluent California are prime examples.  If you get into a discussion about this, remember to bring up polio and bring some practical history to the table.