Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Have a Heart

Heart transfers have been part of the medical scene for a good chunk of my life.
Donated hearts, along with other organs, used to be (and still are) ‘harvested’ from a donor, packed in ice and rushed to the recipient. But the waiting list is loooong, and many people die while waiting for a new heart.
Australian doctors have harvested a heart from the recently deceased - 20 minutes or less - placed the heart in a special fluid, resuscitated it, and kept it beating until it was placed in the recipient patient.
They have done this 3 times. The first 2 recipients were doing well, the most recent patient was still in intensive care after the surgery. The doctors stated that with this process, with the heart actively beating right up until placed in the new body, they know the heart is good, that it hasn’t deteriorated past the point of use.
When I mentioned this article to my husband, he made some comment about, ‘Dr Frankenstein must be living in Australia these days.’ Always ready to see the funny side.
I found this report a bit creepy, when I first read it. But after further reflection, it dawned on me that all donated hearts come from dead people. Nobody has a spare one they can donate while still alive. If anything, the brain dead person who is still breathing and heart is still pumping through artificial stimulation is slightly closer to being alive than the gruesomely decapitated person from the car accident that just happened on Interstate 2 (for example). So the idea lost its creepiness.
In the old method, the heart dies as soon as it is removed, and it remains dead until it is sewn into the new person and jolted back to life. In the new method, the heart still dies, but it is resuscitated and nourished until time to sew it in the new person. The patient still gets a formerly-dead heart, but it hasn’t been ‘dead’ for as long.
Okay, I was wrong. Thinking about it like that makes both ways creepy. But it works, and if it saves more lives without costing any extra lives, then I’m all for it.
I still think the ideal thing to do would be to take some cells from the patient who needs a new organ, put those cells in a nutrient bath and coax them into growing a new heart/liver/whatever for that patient. I would think that would avoid rejection, too. Maybe they’ll get to that, some day.

While I’m waiting, I’m making a list of the parts I’d like grown for me. Let’s see, both knees, right shoulder, pancreas, gall bladder... Since I’m making a list, is there anything you’d like to order?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Tractor Beams!

Hey, remember the tractor beam used in every Star Trek version, in Star Wars, in - heck - probably hundreds of science fiction movies? Well, they are here!
I read about it a couple days ago. Scientists have figured out how to move things either towards them or away from them using a circular laser. They called it as a doughnut laser, because the middle was empty (of laser light).
With less than 400 words in the article, there wasn’t a lot of information for me to gather, but it also involves putting tiny (microscopic) hollow glass beads coated in gold in the ‘hole’ of the doughnut. Heat from the laser light transfers to the gold of the beads and creates hot spots. When air molecules hit the hot spot, they bounce and speed off, and the bead recoils in the opposite direction. By careful manipulation of the laser’s polarization, the tractor beam operator can decide if the item they’ve grabbed is pulled closer or pushed away.
Okay, Scotty, push that missile away from us and make it fast!
I kinna doo it, Cap’t! There isna enough molecules in space to make that kind o’ tractor beam work!
Yes, I was excited about this announcement until that bit of reality crashed the party. Then I reread the article.
It turns out that what they’ve managed to beam around their lab is an item 2 mm in diameter, which is pretty small. And they moved it not quite 8 inches. Well, it’s a start.

Not sure how they’re going to overcome that ‘not enough molecules in space’ problem, though.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Old Dog

You know that ancient saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks?” I am here to tell you that either a) it isn’t true, or b) I’m not old yet. I have been painting walls since I was 10, or thereabouts, but painting my office has managed to teach me a few things I hadn’t thought about. It’s also kept me too occupied and distracted to do any research into science things to talk about, so that will be next week, I hope.
1. Since my family was poor, I was instructed to “make that paint go as far as you can!” That means there are always streaks in my first coat to show where the paint brush went back and forth. Try as I might, I could not stop doing that, probably because I was trying to paint the entire room with 2 pints of different colors of paint, not a gallon of 1 color. A 2nd coat was absolutely necessary. And when I looked at my finished 1st wall, the streaks were not horribly noticeable, but in the proper light, I could still see some. The 2nd coat needs to be applied with the paint brush going at an angle to the strokes of the 1st coat. Those streaks disappear so much easier! Lesson learned: If your first attempt at a project doesn’t produce the result you want, try approaching it from a different angle.
2. I was taught to always tape around the wood trim, etc., that you don’t want painted. It doesn’t do me much good to carefully tape up the woodwork when the last person who painted this room didn’t bother. (Now, how am I supposed to get those bits of 25+ year-old splotches of white paint off the dark, dark wood?) Lesson learned: Always do your best, so as not to be ‘That Guy’ that makes more work for someone else.
3. The door of this room sits in a corner, in a small ‘alcove’ that’s barely larger than the door. The section of ‘wall’ to either side of the doorway is narrower than the paint brush I was using. In this case, an artist’s brush reached that area much easier than the brush I used on the rest of the room. Lesson learned: Get the proper tool.
So, even doing mundane things like painting a room can provide you with a few ‘learning’ moments. I love to learn, so I try to make the most of those moments.

How about you? Any tidbits you’ve learned recently while doing something mundane?

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Let Me Check My Schedule

Do you have a schedule? I think most people have a schedule they more or less follow. I had one for the greater part of my working life. It got tweaked if I changed jobs or got a promotion, but it mostly looked something like:
Get up at a certain time in order to arrive at work on time
Have a lunch break
Go home and prepare/eat supper
Spend the evening on family activities, housework, hobbies and/or writing
Go to bed in order to get up in the morning.
Weekends - or whatever days off I had - did not follow this schedule, and often felt scattered, unfocused or even wasted. That did not mean I was ready to give up my time off, of course.
Now that I’m ‘retired’ from my day job, I am looking for the perfect schedule to follow. In the meantime, I have a rough schedule for when I’m at home: get up, breakfast & pills, write, lunch, housework, business, prepare & eat supper/take pills, tv & hobbies, take my last pill, extra time on the computer, go to bed.
Okay, it’s not that different from when I was working, but this schedule includes those pills, which are far more than a multi-vitamin, these days. It works most days, unless I can’t wake up, every joint aches and my brain doesn’t work. Weekends take more effort to remember those pills, because we usually have errands to run, extra chores, or go out for a movie.
Then we have vacations, when I might be away from home as much as a month, and mini-vacations where we go to a convention. Somehow, it becomes a major undertaking to remember those pills, see that I eat somewhat regularly and get some ‘me’ time to keep the stress level down. The less I can follow a schedule, the worse things get. I start sleeping more. I have trouble waking. I forget my pills or to watch my blood sugar.
And then I have a hard time recovering once I get home. It might take me several days to get myself organized and ‘on schedule’ again. Con-i-tis.
People are creatures of habit. I certainly am. Doesn’t mean I want to give up conventions or vacations.

What happens when you ‘fall off’ your schedule?

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


A few weeks back, I read an article on how stress makes us sick. I spotted the article right after I'd made yet another trip to my doc to complain of aches, pains, stiffness and low-grade nausea. And he gave me what I thought was his automatic response - "It's stress." But then I read this article, which gave me something to think about.
Stress triggers the immune system. The immune system starts its repairs by causing inflammation around the injury. When there is no particular injury, only stress, that inflammation can occur anywhere and everywhere. So that explains why I need extra sleep and have more aches and pains after a convention or a tight deadline or when I don't seem to get anything on my to-do list done.
As an introvert, spending 3 days surrounded by other people at a convention is a big stressor. I sometimes retreat to a solitary place to recharge my batteries, but maybe what I'm really doing is trying to tamp down my stress. A looming deadline can be a whole heap of stress. A missed deadline effects my professional reputation, and could effect my earnings. Yikes!
The article said that people who have an active 'emotion center' have more issues with stress-itis than those who don't. No, I don't cry over every little thing that doesn't go my way, but I do have active emotions. I have worked hard to develop resiliency when receiving rejections of my work. But if my husband says something that I perceive as negative, my mood goes into a tailspin. Stress. Inflammation. Aches, pain, stiffness.
Happily, simply changing my reaction can help me release the stress and avoid the related illnesses. Keeping my mind on things not related to my situation, recognizing and labeling my negative emotions, even venting will help. I've been trying to do that, these past few weeks, and all in all, I think I've been feeling better. Yes, I've had some bad days, but not as many as before.

What stresses you out? How do you react to it?