Jan 30, 2021

Don’t Know Why You Had a Stroke? Maybe The Following News Will Help.

didn't drink in excess, or smoke, or have diabetes, or have high cholesterol, or high blood pressure, or obesity, the 
main reasons why people have a stroke. I'll get to point, eventually. But first, some background.

Congenital Protein C or S deficiency is an inherited disorder. This means it is passed down through families. Congenital means it is present at birth.

The disorder causes abnormal blood clotting. One in 300 people has one normal gene and one faulty gene for protein C deficiency. Protein S deficiency is much less common and occurs in about 1 in 20,000 people. But overall, it's frequent, considering there are about 330 million in the US alone.

If you have this condition, either deficiencies of S and C, you are more likely to develop blood clots. The symptoms are the same as for deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and include:

Pain or tenderness in the affected area
Redness or swelling in the affected area
Warm around affected area

The diagnosis during the first year, when I was in the dreaded Bacharach Rehabilitation Hospital in Pomona, New Jersey, the doctor said I had a Heparin reaction, known as Heparin Allergy (that is a misnomer since it's not an allergy at all in the most practical sense) that caused my stroke. Another doctor a few years later said he couldn't give me a reason. The fifth hematologist gave me the information: I had crummy genes that produced deficiencies in Proteins C and S from most likely my mother and father. And now you know.

Medscape's Mohammad Muhsin Chisti, MD, says, "Protein S is a vitamin K–dependent anticoagulant protein that was first discovered in Seattle, Washington, in 1979 and arbitrarily named after that city. The major function of protein S is as a cofactor to facilitate the action of activated protein C.

"Protein S deficiency may be hereditary or acquired; the latter is usually due to hepatic disease or a vitamin K deficiency. Protein S deficiency usually manifests clinically as venous thromboembolism (VTE)." Stroke, in other words.

The National Institutes for Health (NIH) says, "Protein S functions as a cofactor of activated Protein C. Its deficiency is a rare condition and can lead to deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism or stroke. Protein S deficiency manifests as an autosomal dominant trait." [Explanation needed: To have an autosomal recessive disorder, you inherit two mutated genes, one from each parent. These disorders are usually passed on by two carriers.]

But the good news is there's a test for Protein S and C deficiencies, and who wouldn't want to know! A family member who shall remain nameless heard of my research into Protein S and C deficiencies, but he allowed the doctor to talk him out of it like the ostrich-head-in-the-sand approach.

If you really knew of those Protein S and C deficiencies, wouldn't you change your lifestyle a bit, like cut out all the causes mentioned in the very first paragraph?

As I wrote in Northwest Brain Network newsletter recently:
Stroke is an event usually caused by rupture of a blood vessel or blockage by a clot, resulting in the lack of supply of oxygen and nutrients, and damage to the brain tissue. Even if you are not a candidate for stroke, or don't know why you had one, this news might help you. 

Deficiency of Proteins C and/or S can lead to bleeding, but the good news is there is a test you may consider if you develop a blood clot and have a family member who is healthy with a deficiency of one or both of these natural anticoagulants. Testing healthy relatives of people with a natural anticoagulant deficiency of C and S has advantages which may include increased awareness of the risk factors for and symptoms of blood clots.

Recognizing the symptoms of a
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) or Pulmonary Embolism (PE) allows for prompt treatment to minimize the risk of lasting side effects. It is important to work with your doctor to understand your individual risk, preventive strategies including not smoking, lowering your weight, and achieving cholesterol and blood pressure in the safe range, and therapeutic options in the event of a DVT or PE from deficiencies of Protein C and S.

Dec 25, 2020

A Stroke Survivor’s Thoughts About Happy New Year? Meh.

For those of you who know what meh is and if you think this is a negative post, it is. But please read on anyway. 

After four years of Trump and the pandemic coming near the end of his single-term administration when you just wanted to scream "enough despicable Trump and his know-nothing  offshoots  already," and working at home with the kids running hither and yon inside your house because the virus is lurking in corners we don't even know about yet, and massive unemployment that isn't going to get better anytime soon, it is my belief that a portion of Americans aren't going to cheer in the new year like in years past. 

Meh is defined as lacking interest or enthusiasm. And that defines me. So I have 5 New Year's resolutions, in no particular order, rather than my customary 10, because meh-ness has overtaken me. 

1.  I'll finish my third book--fiction, this time. I said that last year and started to "finish" countless times, but I started over in 2020-- countless times. Now, I know the path.

2.  I won't let my frustrations irritate me like I did in the past. Getting my sock on with the heel on top, or having someone finish my sentence for me, or responding to a customer service rep three times with my birth date--it's all gone where I used to purposely kick anything that was near me.

3.  I'll keep doing my exercises, albeit every time I fell in the past, my recovery would take at least two weeks, setting me behind the goal I set for myself. But now I'm in a transport chair so I don't fall anymore. Yet.

4.  I'll watch Poldark--I've already seen it 12 times in a row--until I can know the lines just before they're said. (Shut up! That's my relaxation to get me thinking about #1 on this list). 

5.  I'm getting used to the new normal because it's going to be around for I-don't-know-how-many years. I remember my mask upon leaving and stay at least 6 feet apart in the line at Trader Joe's which is my only destination. I get excited when multiple avocados come in a tiny bag of their own.  And I am obsessed with the depiction of the coronavirus. Something so evil shouldn't be so attractive. 
What a life I now have.

I feel about the new year like I feel about most things now. Meh. But I'll force myself to wish you, my faithful readers, a happy new year. 

Dec 4, 2020

Be Honest, Caregiver: Serious Profession or Work-Shy Pastime?

Some of you have caregivers who are spouses, family, friends, and if they're good spouses, family, friends, they'd offer the world to see you thrive. I'm not talking about them. I'm talking about hired caregivers who only work for you to make caregiving into a living, caregivers who only work to meet the mortgage or the rent or some other bills that need to get paid. 

Let's look at this logically. Caregiving is one of the few professions where you can--poof!--just become one, training be damned. For the decent ones, I've had, in the eleven years since my stroke, over thirty caregivers, virtually genuflecting to them all to not have them quit.

I fired five of them. They are the following:

  • I've had a caregiver who was on drugs (I saw cocaine in a plastic baggie, lying among her possessions which she brought to work and acted like a schizophrenic with her disorganized thinking, delusions, and hallucinations); 
  • and caregiver who didn't ask if she could bring her children, and then she did (they were rambunctious twin 6-year-old boys who whined about lunch for hours, which I bought for them just to stop moaning), 
  • and the caregiver who would yell at me in sort of dark, comedic fashion and laugh as if she was committing elder abuse (I didn't think that's funny); 
  • and a caregiver who went on eating her strawberry salad while we we were out shopping after I fell off the smooth, glass-like chair (people around me got up to assist me while the caregiver continued picking at her strawberry salad)
  • and finally, a caregiver who eagerly wanted to work, and then, a week later, told me she had diarrhea constantly and couldn't work anymore (did the diarrhea just start a week ago? I wonder)

Then in January 2020, eleven years later, I achieved the impossible: a caregiver that was a registered nurse at a prominent hospital who retired from her job and was continuing to look for ways to help people. I hired her and was jubilant until one day a month ago, she said she was offered a full-time job to work with a woman who had Alzheimer's, and twice the money I was paying her. I encouraged her to take the job because I couldn't even come close to the family that was offering so much.

She helped me interview new caregivers and I chose two. One was state-certified, meaning she had training on the process of becoming a caregiver, the first for me ever. The other was a seminary student.

"You could always trust a seminary student," the nurse said.

I just shrugged, thinking about all those priests who did the unthinkable. 

But she, too, turned out fine and she demonstrated to be a good person. They've been working since the retired nurse wanted to take the other job. 

So if you don't like your caregiver, there's more to be had, if they're not your spouse, family, friends. Otherwise, you're sort of stuck between a rock and, well, another rock. 

Oct 29, 2020

Alcohol and Stroke, or Was My Grandfather Pickled and Other Stuff

My grandfather came from Austria, the home of Schnapps, which he drank at every opportune time, 
some a week long, of the Jewish holiday regimen. And some after Saturday services. And some before bed. I mean, it was constant. Coming from the German word "obst" meaning fruit, Schnapps was his favorite beverage, and here, as an immigrant, he put cherry or apricot preserves in the Schnapps just as they did "back home."

Schnapps is any of various strong, dry, distilled liquors commonly with a fruit flavor, and has high alcohol levels of 30% or higher, but my grandfather never got drunk, or maybe he was always drunk and my young eyes couldn't see it because that's how he was all the time. Though despite his choice of "diet," he was healthy and lived until 96. Go figure. 

But not everybody is so lucky. Alcohol in steady and huge amounts contribute to stroke risk, and now I know why. Aside from high blood pressure (the most prevalent), diabetes, and atrial fibrillation, all factors in stroke risk, excessive drinking can cause liver damage, and stop the liver from making substances that help your blood to clot. This factor can increase your risk of having a stroke caused by bleeding in your brain, thus a hemorrhagic stroke or, by some interpretations, an aneurysm. 

By the way, in 49 of the 50 states, and the District of Columbia, the legal limit for driving under the influence of alcohol is 0.08. In Utah, the legal BAC limit is 0.05. Commercial drivers have a limit of 0.04. Any detectable blood alcohol content is a violation for individuals under the age of 21.

    The Dietary Guidelines recommend that if alcohol is consumed, it should be in moderation—up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men—and only with adults of legal drinking age.

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration lists these effects on driving at different blood alcohol content levels:

    • 0.02 BAC: You are likely to feel relaxed and have some loss of judgment. You aren't able to quickly track the movements of other vehicles, pedestrians, or animals. You lose some of your ability to do two things at once, so you are more likely to be distracted.
    • 0.05 BAC: You begin to exhibit loss of small-muscle control, such as being able to focus your eyes, and you can have lowered alertness. You have even worse ability to track moving objects. Your ability to steer is degraded. If an emergency situation develops, such as needing to brake quickly or maneuver around an unexpected blockage, you are likely to have a poorer response.
    • 0.08 BAC: You will usually exhibit poor muscle coordination, loss of balance, slower reaction time, slurred speech, loss of acuity in vision and hearing, difficulty in detecting danger, and impaired judgment, self-control, reasoning, and memory. When driving, you have difficulty with speed control and recognizing and reacting to signals and emergency situations. You have an increased risk of injuries in general, and particularly those related to driving a vehicle.
    • 0.10 BAC: At this level, you will have further deterioration of your abilities. It will be hard to maintain lane position and to brake when needed.
    • 0.15 BAC: You will have poor muscle control and ability to balance. You are likely to vomit. You will have significant problems in controlling your vehicle and paying attention to your driving and what is happening around you.
    With the holiday season just around the corner, and if they like you, have a care and keep your family and friends happy by not having a stroke from excessive drinking. Luck surely came to my grandfather. 

    Sep 24, 2020

    Hey, You're Not Stupid, You're Just Naive: The Really Talented Scammers and Their Victims

    (Blog preface: I promised you The Tales of a Stroke Patient and More blog so this is where "and More" comes into play).

    I like to browse the Internet to see what's new, now that I'm a "shut in" more than I used to be because of the pandemic. I could spend two hours on a slow day just looking around. But then I'm done for the day. But scammers, those people trying to get your personal information, live on the Internet. The scammers come up with all the ways to make you and your money part. After all, they are greedy and live out their motto: It's never enough.

    Those people who are the scammers' victims aren't stupid. They're naive, babes in the woods so to speak, about how powerful the Internet is in conniving schemes that we call scams. The victims of the scams come in all ages and genders, but they usually target the over 50 crowd because they might not be so knowledgeable with the vast powers of the Internet.

    In the era of the pandemic, scams have soared because many people only go out for essentials and are working (if they haven't lost the job) from home.  

    Here's 5 scams that come to mind.

    Online Dating Scams

    Like most people who are caught in this giant net, most scammers are overseas, so prosecution gets to be an ugly and costly mess. Male scammers are often based in West Africa, while the female scammers are mostly from the eastern parts of Europe, research tells me.

    A study recently said that people in America lost $143 million in 2018 paid by them for love that never happened. The scammers string people along, sometimes years, with broken promises that seemed real, of one sort or another. "My brother just died and I can't meet you this month," or "I have COVID-19," giving an unsuspecting victim the idea that this is really not a good time.

    This from England: "There are millions of singles online in the UK, seeking what we all look for: love, companionship and a long-term future. I met my gorgeous husband through online dating, and during the ten years I worked for Match.com, we successfully paired-up over 160 singles every day." [Maybe she took that job because after "millions of singles," she would come up--eventually--for the right mate for her.]

    But this, too: "The losses can be huge—financially, and emotionally. The average scam victim loses £10,000, but the mental scars can last a lifetime. As “Nancy”, a 47-year-old single Mum from Yorkshire, who lost over £300,000 to an online-dating scam, told the BBC: 'Somebody's got inside your head, and they've just brutalised you emotionally. In some ways, I'm not sure I'll ever recover'. Most online-dating scammers live and operate abroad, so they are hard to prosecute". 

    Look at the grammar. If it's a scam from people "overseas," non-native speaker of English, given that they're not blown away by the person's model-like looks, often use the language incorrectly with possible spelling mistakes, overuse of capital letters, and incorrect sentence order.

    Online-dating scammers will charm the pants off of you (a rather crude pun, but it's true). They'll flatter you without knowing you and some people [is it you, for example?] get all hot and bothered about it, ready to take the plunge.

    But here's the thing! If they ask you for money, delete them forever from your Trash bin. 

    Job Offer Scams

    Posturing as recruiters, these scammers use fake though 
    irresistible job opportunities to entice people.

    It might begin with a text, an email, or a brazen phone call from someone claiming to be a recruiter from a well-known company like Google or Facebook who saw your resume and claiming they are interested in you for hire.  

    Don't fall into this trap because in the end, you'll have to pay to get hired, and when you go to the job on your first day, you weren't hired at all. Call a real recruiters and learn for yourself that the process doesn't work this way. 

    All recruiters have established a relationship with one big company or a ton of companies because if they find a person that's suitable for hire, the recruiters get paid a commission. That's how it works. The phony recruiter will probably ask you for money that will be automatically deducted from your account, and you might give it, but remember: The employers pay recruiters, not you. 

    Travel Scams

    Travel scams usually start with an email, offering you and fantastic stay in a fabulous, sometimes exotic, spot for typically 5 to 7 days. It might come with an expiration date that's soon, so you would rush to make a decision. Scammers don't want you to think about this ideal vacation too much because thinking too much brings about thoughts that it may be a scam! 

    The problems with these scams are threefold: 
    1. You might have to sit for a multi-day lecture about timeshares and deal with the pressure experienced salesmen put on you.
    2. You might be paying for just the room when you're told on arrival that you have to pay additionally for "extras."
    3. You might end up in a bad part of the city where you have overpaid for the room and where you won't venture out at night.

    Usually, you have to pay upfront or put down a hefty deposit that is non-refundable. You never know what life is going to throw your way so decline the offer. 

    Tech Support Online Scams

    According to a Washington Post, “Nearly half of all cellphone calls next year will come from scammers," so we need to protect ourselves from vile actions.

    Scammers use various social engineering techniques to fool likely victims into giving their personal information. Sometimes, they try to persuade victims into paying for protection that never comes.

    These technical geniuses, if you have given them any information, throw around high-tech buzzwords that offers trust and confidence in the unsuspecting victim, so much so they can take over your computer and transfer money to their bank account if you give them your i.d. and password. 


    Online Shopping or Auctions Scams

    We are not talking about big name companies like Amazon, IKEA, or Wayfair from which I have purchased items with quality customer service departments.

    I'm talking about a scammer who will set up a website just to steal money and sell a product, and offer you an inferior item in its place or, at times, nothing at all. They may also sell a product just to get your credit card or bank account details.

    An online auction scam revolves around a scammer saying that you have a second chance to buy something on which you bid because the winner has changed his or her mind. The scammer will request for payment outside of the auction site’s tight payment location. If you give them your money, it will be lost and the actual auction site is not responsible.

    From phrases.org re: too good to be true: 

    "This cautious view is undoubtedly even older than its first expression in English, in the sixteenth century. Nevertheless, it has been repeated in the same form ever since, with only slight variations as Mark Twain's, "It's too good for true, honey, it's too good for true" (Huckleberry Finn, 1884). 

    So ask yourself, "Is the offer too good to be true?" first, and therein you'll find the answer.

    Sep 5, 2020

    Holy Crap! Brushing Your Teeth Definitely Has a Connection to Stroke!

    When I started to research oral care--brushing and flossing--for stroke, I found advice all over the world. But first a little background on how I
    was reacting to oral care when I had the stroke and even after, until I read the literature on mouth hygiene

    I didn't think oral care mattered, and because I was so f'ed up from the stroke, I tended not to brush my teeth and floss if fatigue had already set in. It happened 11 years ago, random times, at least twice a month, until this research began to sink in. Now I think different and so might you, in post-stroke care and even in pre-stroke care of, as the Urban Dictionary says, that pie hole!

    In the U.S., a Finnish-inspired study published by the Journal of the American Heart Association found that bacteria commonly seen in parts of the mouth migrated to the brains of people who had an ischemic stroke between 2013 and 2017. 

    With an ischemic stroke, caused by a blockage in a blood vessel in the brain, 59 people in the study had streptococci normally found in the mouth that can inspire infections in the bloodstream. 

    The research professor in the Department of Oral Medicine at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, Dr. Peter B. Lockhart, said, "We now know that bacteria exist throughout the body, including in the blood," [previously thought to be sterile]. 

    In the reverse, Web MD says, in an article by Karen Pallarito, says, "Adults with gum disease may be twice as likely as people with healthy gums to suffer a stroke." I was stunned. 

    In a recent study, it was 1.9 times, 2.1 times and 2.2 times higher for people with mild, moderate and severe gum disease, respectively. The conclusion? People who neglect their teeth are also less likely to go to the doctor for any type of medical risk. They simply don't want to know. 

    In the European Stroke Journal, there appears to be an association between poor oral hygiene and increased risk of aspiration pneumonia – a leading cause of mortality post-stroke. 

    "Oral care tends to be of poor quality and delegated to the least qualified members of the caring team. Nursing staff often work in a pressured environment where other aspects of clinical care take priority." From a social perspective, with bad breath, one is more likely to be overlooked. 

    In the European Union, the cost of dental care is expected to go up significantly. So people would be more likely to skip the dentist's office, especially for older people with a fixed income. 

    For example, in the UK stroke is the third most common cause of death and ranks #1 in people with severe disability. Stroke costs the National Health Service (NHS) as well as the economy 7 billion a year. So we're talking a lot of people.

    In a recent study, the UK found these patients who often experience depression, anxiety, and fatigue to be less compliant with oral hygiene needs. Stroke, the study went on to say, sometimes results in confusion and the inability to recognise a toothbrush or floss in the early months.

    The National Clinical Guidelines for Stroke in Australia emphasize the need for mouth hygiene following a stroke and the need for staff to be cognizant of the fact. Managing oral health post stroke is necessary, the guidelines go on to say, "and there is a need for an appropriate integrated oral care service in Australia."

    In Japan, a recent study found that tooth loss was related to stroke including not only ischemic but also hemorrhagic ones as well. 

    "It may be concluded that the association between stroke and tooth loss can be explained by common stroke risk factors associated with lifestyle such as hypertension, diabetes, smoking and alcohol intake." 

    In addition, the key issue addressed in this study is determining whether dental treatment for tooth loss can be associated in preventing a second and more recurrent strokes. The jury is still out on that one. But with fewer teeth and ignoring dental visits, my mind is made up. What else can it be! 

    To conclude, watch this video to know my opinion! It might have been created before you were born! The 50s jingle goes like this: 


    Aug 22, 2020

    Bird and Rodent Droppings in Your Food? It Happens More Often Than Not, But FDA to the Rescue

    I was speaking to a friend the other day and she said, "I like to scour the Internet and I came across an article that would turn your stomach!" 

    I have enough problems with the stroke, and don't relish another problem.

    "Oh?" I said. "What was it about?"

    "It was about a company called Cali Rice Valley Inc. that had bacterial and toxin formation called Bacillus cereus for lack of the proper temperature for storage of its rice and wheat noodles."

    "Tell me more," I said, keeping my knowledge to my myself for the time being.

    "It was gross. I also read that they disregarded allergens like color additives and there was condensation from the fixtures and pipes that dripped onto food surfaces. The FDA [Food and Drug Administration] investigators also found workers sneezing over the food.

    "The investigators also found that dropped noodles on the floor were hastily picked up and added to the conveyor belt as if nothing had happened. And the worst thing was they found bird and rodent droppings that would get mixed into the food. There was more."

    "Stop," I replied. "There's an easier way to get all the information to update you on recalled food and drugs and supplements and much more."

    I got her attention, and I hope yours!

    First, a brief history. The FDA came about in 1848 and is the oldest consumer protection agency in the US federal government. It was originally monitoring agricultural products, but since then, has expanded to other foods, drugs, supplements, cosmetics, and much more. 

    As the literature states, "The FDA has changed along with social, economic, political and legal changes in the United States. Examining the history of these changes illuminates the evolving role that FDA has played in promoting public health and offers lessons to consider as we evaluate current regulatory challenges."

    Just click on this link:  https://updates.fda.gov/subscriptionmanagement

    Enter your email address and click Submit.

    You will be presented with a checklist of well over a hundred different items that the FDA investigates. 

    Check the ones that interest you and they will appear in your Inbox when a something is recalled or updated. 

    It's that easy to keep you and your family and friends safe. 

    Aug 10, 2020

    6 Bad Patterns That You Might Have Developed During the Pandemic

    Have these 6 changes come to you? I won't offer advice (that's a turn-off), but the 6 things and knowledge about them should make you want to change!
    1. ALCOHOL

    But do people drink more during the pandemic?

    The World Health Organization (WHO) and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) have issued warnings to people to avoid excessive drinking, saying it may increase 
    COVID-19 severity and even susceptibility.

    Yale Medicine's website that for the week ending May 2, total alcohol sales in the U.S. were increased by more than 32% (probably more now) compared to the same week a year ago. 

    When asked about any positive effects alcohol has in the pandemic, David Fiellin, MD, director of the Yale Program in Addiction Medicine, says a definite no. 

    "In general, because we know that alcohol has a negative impact on the lungs and the immune system, we believe it will be associated with more severe cases of COVID-19 disease,” Dr. Fiellin says.  “Alcohol can damage the intestinal lining, which then allows bacteria to enter the body more easily. That can ‘rev up’ the inflammatory response, which is also a big part of COVID-19 disease.”  
    There's that. Thus, SARS-CoV-2 virus particles could have easier access to the lungs if those cells aren’t working properly, 
    Aah, "high everything" comfort foods. They are emotionally soothing, but we tend to eat more of them in stress situations. They make us feel good that improves mood and well being.  
    But sugar and carbs slow down the immune system, and these comfort foods lead to a combination where the brain says  "gimme more" to crave during periods of stress.  Now that you know, you're able to act and maybe resist. 
    The Wall Street Journal website says, "Many shoppers have favored fresh and specialty brands over Big Food’s processed products in recent years, while others have opted for cheaper store brands. Now, the world’s largest makers of packaged foods say frozen pizza, pasta sauce, and mac and cheese are rising in favor as consumers in lockdown eat at home."
    Social media can be a welcome distraction if it's not about the rise in COVID. If it comes to a point where social media becomes addictive (like picking up your phone first before really, really having to pee), you need to change your course.
    It's bad for your mental health, and blue light exposure emitted by your phone can disrupt sleep patterns and lower your immune function.
    By now, close to 8 months later, the pandemic may ravish your energy and motivation. Moving around and physical exercise, in your own safe home can do wonders.
    The idea is increase your heart rate, and this in turn will increase blood flow to your brain and muscles. 
    You can do this--moving around and exercise--even while you're standing at the sink washing dishes. March in place, or move side to side, or squat lightly. Exercise doesn't have to be hard. It just needs to be consistent and added. Put on some music to get you going.
    Staying at home was novel for most people in the first few weeks, but eight months? You probably want to go back to work or find another job. Either way, for millions of Americans, by now, this state of things probably makes you feel useless and  off track now that you're unemployed or cut back in hours. 
    Sleeping less, skipping meals or overeating, forgetting to take medicines or supplements, seeing no plan for living or living well? There's no better time to see your personal care physician (PCP) and get help. 
    We're all seeking something that will get our heads on straight, but for each person, it's different.  What works for some may not apply to you. And you may disappoint yourself if you compare what you did to your pre-COVID standards. The best you can do is aim for less or more everyday. Less (or no) alcohol, comfort foods, and social media, more exercise, to make you able to do the best for yourself. 
    Remember, if you mess up one day, start the next day. We all--everyone of us--fuck up sometimes. Humans are like that. 

    Jul 15, 2020

    Visual Deficit of Any Kind or Just Fatigue from Stroke or Other Brain Injury? OrCam Read to the Rescue!

    I was tired after 9 hours from multiple projects and the devastating stroke when, pre-coronavirus pandemic, I went to a famous vegetarian restaurant with a person I was going to interview, which also served vegans (of which I am one). I was told they had excellent food (first-rate grub is not at all uncommon for Portland) and we were seated when the server handed us the menus. 

    My anxiety kicked in when I saw the printed menu. Though the lighting wasn't dim, the items were too small to read and my double vision went off from fatigue, both of which made for impossible reading. 

    It was a small place, and I could have asked him to read the menu to me, but it was embarrassing and awkward. I closed the menu as if I read it, and so did my interviewee, motioned the waiter that we were ready to order, and asked the server instead, "I'll have that dish with tofu," upon which, being confused about which dish I meant, he rattled off several dishes with tofu, and I chose one.

    Almost the actual size 
    Enter OrCam Read (albeit six months later), the magnificent marvel which is five inched long, less than an inch wide, who reads anything to you from the printed page. It is totally portable, and you could zero in to only part of the document, like for a newspaper or read the whole page of a book. I got one on a loan to write this blog post because my heart is with stroke and other brain injury survivors whose after-effects, except for the lucky ones, include visual deficits. 

    The two founders are: Prof. Amnon Shashua holds the Sachs chair in computer science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and his field of expertise is computer vision and machine learning, and Ziv Aviram who holds a B.Sc. in Industrial Engineering and Management from Ben-Gurion University. They both have a healthy history in safer ways to observe the environment, and that led to OrCam Read

    Impressive indeed. But I wanted more. I sometimes, to this day, have double vision. 

    The instructions say, "OrCam Read is a personal AI [Artificial Intelligence] -driven device for people who have mild or low vision, reading difficulties, including dyslexia and reading fatigue, and anyone who is consistently exposed to large amounts of text – at work or school, or for leisure."

    Aside from the restaurant where I would have used OrCam Read, it doesn't need WiFi so no disruptions for pilots on airplanes or captains on ships. One could even use it to read books for enjoyment or serious stuff like final exams. The battery in constant use lasts about four hours.

    Not only does OrCam Read have screen selection, but there's a laser pointer, too, if you want people to read a chart or bullet points during a presentation. 

    OrCam Read features:
    • 13-megapixel camera in front
    • Built-in speaker
    • Only 4 buttons
    Plus – increases volume or rate of speech
    Minus – decreases volume or rate of speech
    • Bluetooth connectivity

    2 reading options
    Capture a block of text with a box-shaped laser beam
    Choose where to start reading with an arrow-shaped laser beam
    • No need to scan text or follow a line, all you have to do is hold the device in front of the text, push a button, and the text is read aloud instantly
    • No internet connectivity is required and there is no connectivity to the cloud

    1 year warranty

    Oded Tsin, the Business Development Manager for OrCam, said, "Once you press the trigger button, the first button next to the +, the laser guidance will appear. You can keep holding the trigger button and aim toward the script. Once you will release it, the device will capture the image and read to you. 

    "If you want to switch between the two laser options, you will double click the trigger button same way you double click a computer mouse." 

    So OrCam Read couldn't be easier. I tried it a bunch of times with the loaner. I used it to read a book for an hour and it took the stress of double vision out of the mix. I used OrCam Read to read a printed newsletter from Stroke Awareness Oregon and it did a perfect job. I even used OrCam Read to read an invitation to a baby shower! It's a sure bet that it will work every time. 

    Now for the cost for which you can pay it out according to your needs: $1990 and it's not covered by any type of insurance (though it ought to be). Perhaps your organization can buy OrCam Read to share among those with visual deficits.

    I want to thank Oded Tsin and also Chris Braswell, Area Sales Manager with OrCam, for letting me try the OrCam Read device.

    For more information about OrCam Read, please click here and enter your contact information:  

    Post-note: In case you were wondering, I received no compensation for promoting OrCam Read. So why OrCam Read? I've dedicated the rest of my life to helping stroke and other brain injury survivors and, with many having visual deficits, they're among the ones that will benefit the most from this extraordinary device. Now you have the answer...in case you were wondering.