Apr 27, 2014

The Yin and the Yang of Vaccinations and Strokes

Vaccines have been hurrah-ed as one of medicine's top success stories which have eliminated a host of dastardly diseases in the US. And stroke in childhood is very rare, affecting about 6 in 100,000 per year, according to the National Stroke Association. So what's the connection between vaccinations and strokes? It all comes down to the ying and the yang.

The Yin

In an article entitled “Vaccine-induced strokes on the rise among young people,” published by Natural News, Heidi Stevenson writes that vaccinations are “the elephant in the room” when it comes to a factor for so many younger people getting strokes.

In October 2007, the American Academy of Neurology published a report and found that “between the years of 1993 and 2005, the stroke rate among individuals under the age of 55 increased by more than 44 percent.” Many health professionals said lack of exercise and poor dietary habits might play a factor as well. But vaccines might contribute, too, says Stevenson, with causing seizures and strokes in the young as well.

"A range of neurological disorders [is] associated with vaccines, including macrophagic myofasciitis, encephalopathy, epilepsy, convulsions, Guillain-Barre syndrome, nerve deafness, blindness, paralysis, sudden infant death syndrome, and of course, autism," writes Stevenson. "Now that the earliest recipients of mass vaccination programs are entering middle age, why should we be surprised to find that they're more likely to suffer from another indication of brain damage, stroke?"

A Canadian doctor, Andrew Moulden, who has been in practice for close to 30 years, uncovered the truth before Stevenson. Dr. Moulden discovered that in 2001, vaccines can promote microvascular strokes in some people. Though the news never came to light and was never published in any medical journals, vaccines cause the body's immune system to reject vaccines which prompts a huge release of white blood cells.

And this influx of white blood cells, says Dr Moulden, “are too large to enter the bloodstream, surround capillaries, and actually clog and/or collapse them, leading to what are essentially micro-strokes. As a result, these blockages prevent smaller red blood cells from effectively delivering oxygen to the organs [ie, the brain, for example] near these capillaries.”

Says Stevenson, “What should be clear by now is that vaccines are taking a severe toll on people's brains. The cost both to the individuals, whose lives are affected by strokes, and to society as a whole, which loses productiveness and is burdened with their care, is massive."

The Yang

In an article entitled Vaccines reduce risk of strokes in children, children who received some, few or no vaccines were nearly “seven times more likely to have a stroke than kids who had all or most of their recommended shots,” according to Dr. Heather Fullerton, a professor of neurology and pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco, and presented the findings of the study at the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference in San Diego.

“Pediatric strokes are rare,” says Dr. Fullerton. And to bolster her argument, Fullerton says research has shown that infections greatly increase a child's risk of stroke, partly by causing a temporary increase in the blood clotting.
"The exciting thing about this [Fullerton] study is that with vaccination, it might prevent these strokes from happening," neurologist M. Shazam Hussain says, director of the stroke center at the Cleveland Clinic.

Robert Brown, the Mayo Clinic College's chair of neurology, called the study's findings "remarkable. To lower the risk of stroke is noteworthy. And while strokes in children are rare, these are precious young children who are having these strokes, which affect them throughout their long, long lives."

Leaders of the international study, Vascular effects of Infection in Pediatric Stroke, or VIPS, interviewed the parents or guardians of 310 children who had a stroke with 289 children who hadn't. The children, who were around 7 or 8 years old, were from 40 centers on five continents, and is the most renowned study on pediatric stroke funded by the National Institutes of Health. The study concludes that children who received some, few or no routine vaccinations were almost seven times as likely to have a stroke than those receiving all or most vaccines. 

So what do you do as parents? Vaccinate or not? If the National Institutes of Health and other studies are valid, and my guess is they are, with children who received "some, few or no routine vaccinations were almost seven times as likely to have a stroke," how could you  not?

As with everything, there are laws. According to the Yale Journal of Health Policy, Law, and Ethics, the federal government recommends that all children between birth and age eighteen years receive seventy doses of sixteen vaccines.  Of these recommended vaccines, the majority of states require between thirty and forty-five vaccine doses for children to be able to attend school. Forty-seven states require preschool-age children to receive three doses of the hepatitis B vaccine to attend public school. The federal government recommends that infants receive their first dose of the hepatitis B vaccine shortly after birth, while they are in the hospital. 

Every state and its requirements for immunizations are listed at http://www.immunize.org/states.

A nonpartisan, nonprofit website, http://vaccines.procon.org, presents facts, studies, and pro and con statements on questions related to whether or not vaccines should be required for children. In its Did You Know segment, it offers these statements:

Did You Know?

  1. All 50 states require vaccinations for children entering public schools even though no mandatory federal vaccination laws exist. All 50 states issue medical exemptions, 48 states (excluding Mississippi and West Virginia) permit religious exemptions, and 20 states allow an exemption for philosophical reasons.
  2. Over 5,500 cases alleging a causal relationship between vaccinations and autism have been filed under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program in the US Court of Federal Claims between 2001 and 2009.
  3. The US Court of Federal Claims Office of Special Masters, between 1988 and 2009, has awarded compensation to 1,322 families whose children suffered brain damage from vaccines.
  4. About 30,000 cases of adverse reactions to vaccines have been reported annually to the federal government since 1990, with 13% classified as serious, meaning associated with permanent disability, hospitalization, life-threatening illness, or death.
  5. According to a 2003 report by researchers at the Pediatric Academic Society, childhood vaccinations in the US prevent about 10.5 million cases of infectious illness and 33,000 deaths per year.

There's really no choice. How can you not?

Apr 13, 2014

Beware, Fat People! A Stroke Might Be A-Comin'!

People are so touchy now-a-days. You have to say things “PC”, aka politically correct. You say the wrong word to describe them--fat, stupid, lazy, even if that description matches, and bingo! They won't talk to you, sometimes maybe never again. But the difference between me and them is now, I don't care. And as a result, some people don't like me. With the stroke, I have no filters—altogether.

It's a dichotomy, I realize now. A long time ago, when I was little, I did mind if anybody called me chubby, which I was, until about seventh grade when I got self-conscious, right on schedule. But “PC,” the expression, wasn't in yet. Clothes used to come in regular and chubby sizes. I took a chubby size all the way through elementary school. I didn't know any different because I had a fat brood—my immediate family, uncles, aunts, cousins, fat people whatever way I turned. The truth is, I loved to eat because I didn't know any better. Eating a lot used to equate to love. But what the hell?

The fat that I once had doesn't have any bearing on the stroke I now have, or does it? But if you're overweight, morbidly obese, chubby, pleasantly plump—call it what you want—you may be in trouble.

The National Stroke Association says that obesity can put stress on the whole circulatory system. And a recent Harvard University study found that you could cut your stroke risk by
30 percent by eating five daily servings of fruits and vegetables instead of fries, chips, alcohol, and soda. Citrus fruits, broccoli, and cauliflower are noted as particularly helpful. It may be their higher concentrations of potassium, folic acid, and fiber are the clues.

And an escalating number of children are obese. That's why there are cases of stroke in younger individuals, too—even babies (see my articles in my blog, http://stroketales.blogspot.com/2012_12_09_archive.html and http://stroketales.blogspot.com/2013_04_06_archive.html).

The American Heart Association (AHA) “recommends at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day for kids.” The AHA also “recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity a week.” If you're fat, you can make time. You just don't want to. You're a creature of the fat habit.

Michelle Obama gets serious when it comes to fat, er, fit kids. That is her mission. http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2014/04/05/students-fed-up-with-michelle-obamas-school-lunch-overhaul-menu-item-snapshots-spell-out-why/. Of course, they object. They would rather stuff themselves with fatty foods rather than eat healthy. I don't like to blame the parents, but who else can I blame? Instilling good eating habits is tough when you're passing Mickey D's and it's easier than packing lunch. Really? That's bullshit.

Individuals who are obese have a greater chance of succumbing to sleep disordered breathing, known as sleep apnea. And those with sleep apnea have a greater risk of stroke.

Ok. Need more evidence? A new study by researchers at Columbia University says that people with abdominal obesity are at higher risk of ischemic stroke, the most usual kind of stroke, caused by blockage of a blood vessel in the brain.

Most of the weight loss articles mention BMI, or body mass index. I'll tell you a simple way to tell if you're overweight if you haven't seen the fat already or you need further proof. The National Institute for Health, aka NIH, has a meter located at http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines/obesity/BMI/bmicalc.htm. When you give your height in feet and inches and your weight in pounds to the NIH, it gives you guidelines for where you are in the BMI range:
  • Underweight = 18 and below
  • Normal weight = 18.5–24.9
  • Overweight = 25–29.9
  • Obesity = BMI of 30 or greater
So I did it. I found out, thinking I was normal weight, that I fall into the normal weight range, just by a smidgeon. I tried another scale, this one from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/bmi/adult_bmi/english_bmi_calculator/results_overweight.html. Same result. I was shocked. Just a smidgeon? Seriously?

And one more thing. Being overweight and having a stroke is just too much at times. When I gorge, I watch myself over the next few days. It's like you can tell you've gained weight without a scale to remind you. It's the extra pounds that add to the baggage you have to lug around in the first place.

I could fool those old-time types on the Boardwalk and at county fairs that could guess my weight and give me a prize if they were crazy off the mark. I think that old saying is true, for me at least: "You carry your weight well." And that expression needs to be addressed.

Apr 3, 2014

Empathy and Sympathy: There's a Difference

I have a confession to make. I'm nosey, probably because I used to be a reporter. I listen in on everything—a cell phone call, restaurant chatter, a conversation between folks sitting on a bench. Then my imagination takes over and I think I'm a reporter again, creating all sorts of scenarios for why the talk happened in the first place. That process keeps my mind sharp, or as sharp as it can be for someone with a brain injury from my stroke.

One time, I was listening in a restaurant to two college students having coffee in the next booth, discussing the project that they were tasked to accomplish: the difference between empathy and sympathy.

“I need an “A” on this project,” the one girl said, “in order to appease my parents. They said if a get all "A's," they would buy me a car.”

“I should get an 'A,' too, in order to stay in school,” the other one lamented.

I couldn't help it, now that I have no filters of any kind since my stroke. I got the attention of one of the girls and said, “Empathy and sympathy? I could help you with that.”

I, who was having a grilled cheese bagel and tea, and my friend, who was eating a Reuben sandwich--corned beef, swiss cheese, cole slaw, and Russian dressing—and a Coke, slid over to make room for the girls who now came to join us, bringing their coffee in tow.

I thought they were desperate to know because one girl had a car at stake and the other would be in deep doo-doo if she failed the course. And they were just too young to know the difference. I proceeded to tell them, and they had their paper and pens ready to take notes.

“Empathy is comprehending what others are feeling because you were in their shoes yourself or have the ability to put yourself in their shoes. Sympathy is providing comfort when some life-changing event occurs to others.

“Empathy and sympathy are both feelings. You can send somebody a sympathy card and forget it. It's just an act of kindness, often impersonal. But with empathy, you get right to the heart of the matter, with thoughts of experiencing the situation yourself.”

And then, I showed some pictures which I had saved from my lecture long ago.



Even though they were years younger than me, around 50 years or so my junior, they were smart enough to comprehend.

One of the girls, who was promised a car if she achieved all "A's" asked, "So empathy is harder than sympathy."

"That's right," I replied. "Empathy is harder, and it's more helpful but less common; sympathy is less helpful but more common."

I told them a story of what happened to me in the hospital when I had my stroke.

"Somebody who will remain nameless sent me a sympathy card that said, 'Sorry to hear of your loss.' I felt like I had died. But I didn't. She should have sent a 'get well' or 'thinking of you' card. So sympathy cards should be carefully selected, for mainly death in the family or friendship circle. Sending a sympathy card to a stroke survivor is wrong, mainly because they survived."

I was starting to lose their attention with my story, true though it was. I went on with more detail and their pens were poised once again.

"Empathy can apply to lots more things than death, like getting caught in the rain without an umbrella when you're going to someplace important, losing lots of weight, or changing a tire on a busy highway. If you experienced any of those things, then you know what you're talking about when you say, 'I know how you feel.' And empathy can apply to good things, too."

The girl who had to get an "A" in the project to not bomb out yawned loudly. And then she yawned again. The "car" girl wasn't far behind, but she stifled the yawn out of respect for me. 

We had an appointment coming up and had to leave, and the girls stood to let us by and soon took their new seats once again.

"Thank you," the girls said in unison.

"It was my pleasure," I said. And it was. I was the professor again and I felt great. On the way out, I said, "I'm glad I had the opportunity to teach those girls."

My friend said, "I know how you feel. I'm happy for you." She was practicing empathy. And she was a professor, too.