Category Archives: Health

I Want To See

When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”

Mark 10:47 and 51  

My friend Esther sorts and packs recycled eyeglasses once a week. She volunteers for the Lions Club, a service organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the blind and visually impaired. Distributing some twenty million pairs of glasses annually to those who otherwise wouldn’t have access to them is only one part of the club’s global vision initiative.

Lion’s Club members know developing nations are disproportionately affected by eye problems for a variety of reasons including environmental ones. Tibet has one of the highest rates of cataracts because of soot and pathogens from the dusty environment and overexposure to UV rays.

Doctor checking children for trachoma in rural Ghana – Photo from FHI 360 a non-profit human development organization

Trachoma another eye disease rampant in developing countries could be eliminated by addressing environmental concerns like the inaccessibility of clean water and lack of proper sanitation facilities. The World Health Organization believes that with support and intervention 80% of the world’s vision problems would be avoidable.

The Healing of a Blind Man by Duccio di Buoninsegna- 1308

The Bible passages I quoted at the beginning of this post are from a story about a blind man named Bartimaeus.  Bartimaeus knows Jesus is nearby and calls out to him for help. Bartimaeus makes me think about the people around the world calling out for help with their vision difficulties.  Jesus restored sight to Bartimaeus. Our world has the resources to prevent blindness and improve the quality of life for almost all of the visually challenged in the human family.  

There are more than a hundred charitable organizations focused on hearing and answering the voices of those who are saying just as Bartimaeus did, “I want to see again”.  How can we help?

Read about an amazing project my cousin Dr. Stephen Fransen established in Nicaragua to help people whose sight has been compromised by retinal diseases

Read about a modern-day miracle worker who is doing the same thing Jesus did in Nicholas Kristoff’s column in the New York Times

3 Comments

Filed under Health, Religion

An Important Letter

Yesterday our daughter-in-law Karen Leis sent an important letter to the premier of Saskatchewan.  Karen is the province’s representative on the board of directors of the Canadian Paediatric Society. In her letter, she expresses her concern about a cluster of suicides in a Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation community near Loon Lake, about 360 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon. There have been three suicides among young people there in a three week period and eight suicide attempts.  Karen notes that the Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation is sadly not the only community to experience the pain of youth suicide. 

On behalf of the Canadian Paediatric Society, Karen urges Premier Scott Moe to collaborate with Indigenous communities and their elders to address issues of poverty, racism and substance abuse. Karen cites these as the root causes of the current mental health and suicide crisis.  She says a long term strategy to provide young people in Indigenous communities with effective, culturally appropriate and accessible mental health care services is imperative. Karen ends her letter by asking the premier to take action as soon as possible. 

Of course, the Saskatchewan story on this issue is not unique to that province, as the moving testimony at a special meeting of the chiefs of the Assembly of First Nations earlier this week illustrated. National Chief Perry Bellegarde said action must be taken to stop Indigenous children and teens nationwide from feeling so hopeless they harm themselves.  

Karen’s letter on behalf of Canada’s paediatricians provides important support to the voices of the Assembly of First Nations on this pressing issue. It should inspire us all to speak out and take action in our own areas of influence, because as Karen notes so insightfully, the health of our children and young people is a key indicator of the health of our entire society. 

Other posts…………

Art That Makes You Feel Sick

Leave a comment

Filed under Childhood, Health

A Recipe Book That Brings Back Memories

My aunt has been downsizing for a move and during the process, she found this recipe book I gave her for Christmas one year. I made the recipe books with my grade three class. We put them together as a fundraiser for the Junior Red Cross. I was curious about the Junior Red Cross and found out it was an international organization for kids that operated in conjunction with the Red Cross from 1919 to 1980.

Initially, they raised funds for nurseries for war orphans but during the late 1950s and early 1960s when my grade three class was involved, much of the money Canadian school children raised went to the Crippled Children’s Fund to pay for medical treatment for children in each province with physical disabilities. Remember this was a time when the polio vaccine was just starting to be used and there was no universal health care. My grade three teacher Mrs Kihn had obviously enrolled our class in the charitable efforts of the Junior Red Cross and selling our recipe books was a fundraiser. I can’t recall how much we charged for each book but I certainly remember making them. It was a long tedious process.

We put two little balls of plasticine on our desks and stuck a pencil in each one. Then we slid first the back cover, and then each of the forty-five pages of the book and the front cover one by one over the pencils which had been placed exactly the right distance apart. When we were done our teacher carefully slid the compiled recipe books off the pencils and inserted the plastic rings to hold them together. I think we each made five books to sell and let me tell you it took a long time. We had obviously brought recipes from home that our mothers had written out and sent along with us to school. At age eight I’d certainly never made sweet and sour spareribs and I am sure little Herby Peters who went on to become the managing partner of a large Winnipeg law firm had never made date cake. Our teacher Mrs Kihn must have typed all those recipes onto mimeograph sheets and copied them all on an old Gestetner machine. Then she will have cut them apart with a paper cutter and punched holes in each sheet. A laborious task indeed! And there were forty children in our class who each made five recipe books. That’s 200 hundred recipe books Mrs. Kihn prepared for us to put together. 

My grade three class at the Kornelson School in Steinbach. I am second from the left in the second last row and Herby is in the middle of the girls in the back row. 

Mrs Kihn went to great lengths to help her students become civic-minded young people who were motivated to help others. I don’t think I fully appreciated that when I was sliding all those pages over the pencils on the second floor of the old Kornelson School in Steinbach.  Now I do!

Other posts………

My Polio Vaccines

Kornelson School Memories

Duck and Cover

1 Comment

Filed under Childhood, Education, Health

Life Saving Vaccines- Good News – Part 12

It’s true!

Other Good News Stories

Leave a comment

Filed under good news, Health

Does Your City Need A Butt Blitz?

Did you know that cigarette butts are responsible for around 40% of the litter in the Canadian cities? A recent CBC story describes a campaign the city of Hamilton has started to try to encourage smokers to discard their cigarette butts properly. New garbage receptacles with eye-catching designs placed in many strategic spots will hopefully mean more cigarettes get tossed into them rather than tossed onto roadways, sidewalks, and flowerbeds. Hamilton also hosted a ‘butt blitz’ this past April where volunteers combed the city picking up discarded cigarette butts. I think we might need a butt blitz here in Winnipeg too. Yesterday morning we went to a friendly coffee shop we like to frequent. Just before going inside I noticed all these cigarette butts near the curb in the coffee shop parking lot.  Yuck!  Not exactly the thing to whet your appetite for the tasty baking inside the coffee shop. When we got back home I photographed a couple of reminders like this in the flower beds outside our condo. The beds are planted and lovingly tended by a volunteer gardener in our building. She has had to pick endless cigarette butts out of the flower beds so each one is now adorned with one of these signs she has made.  

Not only are the butts unsightly they contain plastics that are not biodegradable and their chemicals can be harmful to birds who pick them up and ingest them, and also to marine life when the chemicals from the cigarettes seep into waterways. 

When I visited Lisbon a couple of years ago I thought it was terrible the way cigarette butts lined the beautiful cobblestone designs of the streets.  But we have a cigarette littering problem right here in Canada too and right here in Winnipeg.  There are laws against littering but they don’t seem to be working when it comes to cigarette butts. Perhaps Winnipeg can follow Hamilton’s lead and find ways to get cigarette litter out of our public places. 

Other posts………

Too Much Smoking

Cleaning Up My Neighborhood

Sitting is the New Smoking

2 Comments

Filed under Health, Nature, Winnipeg

My Polio Vaccines- Dad’s Treasures Part 6

 

 

One of the interesting treasures I found while helping my father downsize for a move was this copy of my polio vaccinations.  Currently, children are vaccinated for polio at ages two months, four months, 6-18 months and at ages 4-6.  So why did I receive only three vaccinations and all within a few months of each other when I was four years old?  

Dr. Jonas Salk administering a vaccine

That’s because the polio vaccine was only discovered by Jonas Salk in 1953, the year I was born.  The vaccine needed to be tested and it was only in April of 1955 that the government approved the administration of the vaccination to all six to nine-year-olds. I wasn’t old enough to get it then.

Polio epidemics had caused many deaths over the centuries. Just between 1949 and 1954 nearly 11,000 people in Canada were left paralyzed by polio. In 1953, the year I was born there were nearly 9,000 cases and some 500 deaths in Canada.

People with polio in iron lungs

The incidence of polio in Winnipeg was higher in 1953 than had been previously seen anywhere else in the world.  Close to a hundred people in the city were in iron lungs because their breathing muscles were paralyzed. The 1953 epidemic was the most serious the country had experienced since a national epidemic in 1918. 

By 1956 it was clear that children who had received the polio vaccine during the previous year were much less likely to get polio or experience paralysis than those who hadn’t been vaccinated.  Although not every province decided to go ahead with vaccinating more children, thankfully the province of Manitoba did as the official notice above indicates.

Photo from the Manitoba archives showing St. Matthews Church where I had my vaccinations

That’s why in 1957 at age four I received the potentially life-saving vaccine. My mother had to take me to the St. Matthew’s Church in Winnipeg for the shots.

This photo was taken at Easter in 1957 the year my sister and I had our first polio vaccinations

I imagine my sister who was sixteen months younger than I was also had the vaccinations. 

I just read recently that thanks largely to the efforts of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation polio is now on the verge of being eradicated throughout the world. 

Other posts…….

Vaccinations Aren’t Just For Babies

Another Shameful Chapter in Canadian History

My Mother’s Friends

2 Comments

Filed under Childhood, Family, Health, Winnipeg

I Wasn’t Planning To Read This Book

I ordered the book Slow Medicine because someone recommended it for our church library and I am the church librarian. Before I put the book on the shelves I leafed through it and found myself stopping to read an intriguing account of how the author of the book Dr. Victoria Sweet saved a man’s life on a trek through Nepal by pulling a stubborn thorn out of his leg.  

I sat down and started the book from the beginning. I was totally drawn in by one interesting story after another about Dr. Sweet’s patients.  Victoria Sweet is a great believer in modern ‘fast medicine’ and appreciates the way new medical technologies and treatments save lives. But she wants to make the point that there is also a place for more measured, holistic, thoughtful, and simpler approaches to medicine. She calls it ‘slow medicine.’ 

Victoria basically walks us through her career as a physician in Slow Medicine and introduces us to the fascinating patients who taught her the importance of slow medicine- the value of listening to patients, observing them carefully, getting to know their families, histories and living situations, and being open to “out of the box” thinking. 

For example, she tells the story of a young boy who kept coming in with one ear infection after another.  It was only when she visited his farm home and realized he was swimming regularly in a stagnant pond containing animal waste that she understood why the ear infections kept recurring.  

Only after meeting a woman’s mother and discovering she had a rare skin disease at a fairly advanced stage was Dr. Sweet able to diagnose the daughter’s similar condition. Dr. Sweet says what made all the difference was the fact she stayed late at the hospital one night and met her patient’s mother who always only came to visit her daughter after finishing work. 

In another story, a man had terrible headaches.  Victoria took many, many hours to read carefully through the man’s mountain of medical records and eventually she found a clue in a previous doctor’s notes, that helped provide a remedy for the headaches.  

When a patient’s asthma seemed uncontrollable Victoria finally asked a respected Chinese healer to see her. Sure enough, the healer’s traditional medicines worked.  

I finished reading Slow Medicine in a park last Thursday. The perfect place to slowly savor its stories.

Slow Medicine makes the point that in a doctor’s haste to diagnose and treat he or she may not take the time to try different approaches, to find out about their patient’s home environment, to carefully go through their medical history and to really ‘see’ their patients and all the factors that might influence their condition.  

Victoria Sweet is an excellent writer and her book is NOTHING like a medical textbook.  It really is very interesting and engaging. I wasn’t planning to read this book but I’m glad I did. 

Other posts……..

Dad’s Medical Bag

Writing as a Healing Art

Being Mortal

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Health