5-8-10

The comments are so cheery, it’s worth every minute writing my daily blog.

Status:  8.5/10.  They decided to give me two more bags of platelets, and they’ll keep supplementing me until my own bone marrow picks up its responsibility.  I decided I had had enough of the middle of the night transfusion business, and insisted they wait until morning (I figure I actually hold all the cards here).  Feel much better today after 6 hours of sleep.  Noted a good deal of hair coming out in the shower this morning; looks like it’s time for the ultimate buzz cut.  Luckily, I have a large collection of baseball caps. 

Events: Lab values continue to look good, and still escaping any infection.  It would great to get through this nadir in white cell coverage without one.  Had a wonderful visit from good friend Chris Thompson, bringing with him the most amazing and eclectic collection of books and magazines – such good fun.  Chris and Sara’s daughter Ali goes to school with Rachel, and we were fortunate to be their host parents.  Enjoy going out with them because it’s always just full of laughs at the absurdities of life.  Cousin Judy Golding came down from Philadelphia, her Mom and Lisa’s Mom were sisters.  I had actually met Judy when she worked at the American Lung Association before I had started dating Lisa – some things were meant to be. She was here when Rachel, Ethan, and Lisa came up to celebrate Rachel’s birthday, complete with opening presents, blowing out the candles, and cake.  Good to have a little normality in with the insanity of everything else. 

Comments:  Bill Schaffner’s hilarious comments about the piranhas of Nashville (always thought the piranhas in Nashville were the slick music producers) brought to mind young Drew Barrymore’s teasing line from E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial, “Alligators in the sewers,” and for me one of the most memorable episodes in my medical reporting career.

   In the spring of 1985, Chicago and the Midwest suffered, what I believe is still to this day, the largest outbreak of salmonella food poisoning in the nation’s history.  The Hill Farms dairy, which produced 1 ½ million lbs of milk daily, had inadvertently leaked unpasteurized milk into their pasteurized milk output.  In effect, distributing to tens of thousands of grocery stores, millions of cartons of prepackaged, contaminated milk.  A bioterrorist couldn’t have done it better.

   No one of course knew this as the cause when thousands of people started showing up at emergency rooms and doctors’ offices, but the medical detectives from the CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service were called in to figure it out and stop the epidemic.  Solving these types of food-borne outbreaks is bread and butter to an EIS officer and the first thing you were taught during your training in Atlanta.  Having been an EIS officer just 5 years before, I knew exactly what steps they’d be taking and who would be running the investigation (for a medical reporter trying to scoop the competition and be the one-stop shop for news on the #1 story in the city, this was pure gold).

   As story unfolded, every reporter and anchor was out in the field trying to uncover any tidbit to put them on the news as the lead in each broadcast.   It’s amazing to watch the killer instinct of a reporter in search of an Emmy.  One afternoon, one of the female anchors came bursting into the newsroom screaming, “I’ve got it, I’ve got it.”  She’s waving a videotape that she and her cameramen had just shot, as if she had found the missing 18 1/2 minutes (for those of you too young to get the reference, see “Nixon, Watergate, recorded tape”).

   She’s running around yelling, “I’ve caught them.”  What had she caught?  Video of the company workers pouring the contaminated milk into the sewers.  As she passed by my desk, I made the mistake of commenting on the situation by saying, “So?”  She looked at me as though I were the village idiot and said, “Are you stupid?”  I just looked at her blankly.  She took a deep and decidedly exasperated breath and yelled loud enough for the entire newsroom to hear, “There’s salmonella in the sewers!”

   I’ve always wanted to use that as the title of a book I intended to write.  I refrained from the logical response that I couldn’t think of a better place to pour contaminated milk, or that several hundred thousand sick Chicagoans were doing their best to put their salmonella in the sewers.  But in one of those great moments when you actually come back with a quick repartee instead of later saying you wished you had thought of it at the time, I said, “Gosh, with all the stuff in Chicago sewers, I don’t know if those salmonella are going to survive.”  You cannot in your wildest dreams imagine the complete look of contempt I received.  I still remember it as one of my best days in the news.

   The news here is good. Looking forward to another night’s sleep (nothing like a winning streak).  Hope you’re on one as well.

Love,

-Bruce

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8 Responses to “”

  1. Hope Dan Says:

    Bruce, I love you, think of you not only every time i wash my hands.
    Want some more baseball caps? We have a collection here too.
    We want to see a picture of you without one on!
    On the eve of Mother’s Day, I want to say.” I am so glad to be your Mother”

  2. Henry Miller Says:

    Your story about the dense news anchor in Chicago reminds me of a story. . . In 2000, NBC news correspondent Norah O’Donnell (http://www.strangepolitics.com/images/content/108246.jpg, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norah_O'Donnell) was a Media Fellow here at the Hoover Institution, (Media Fellows spend a week in residence, affording them and Hoover’s permanent fellows an opportunity to get acquainted.)

    Norah, who was then in her mid-20s, was taking a break from covering Al Gore’s campaign for the Dem nomination for president. His major competitor was Sen. Bill Bradley (D-NJ). A bunch of us were sitting around over coffee discussing the political campaigns and Norah kept remarking on how “buff” Gore was — he had lost weight, was working out, etc. Finally, in a burst of enthusiasm, Norah offered, “People think Gore is a nerd; what he should do is gather the press and challenge Bradley to one-on-one basketball on the Senate court.” [For those of you too young to remember, Bradley was a All-America at Princeton and played professional basketball for the New York Knicks.]

    Don’t you think that’s at least as dumb as the Chicago anchor who was waving the tape?

  3. Jill Stewart Says:

    Great backstory on the infamous salmonella outbreak.

    The hair grows back, but in the meantime, guys look a lot better in those caps.

    Thinking of you…Love, Jill

  4. wendy Says:

    Bald is in…but those glasses…well, you may need to change them to be really cool….

  5. wendy Says:

    I thought this was funny- one of my dialysis patients has always reported he’s great, no problems, and thus has little need for assistance or interventions. Doctor makes rounds, she asks how he’s doing and if he needs anything. He says great, no I”m doing fine, don’t need anything. Recently, I’ve noticed something’s a bit off when I pusued details. I addressed this with the rounding doctor and stated that I think there’s something seriously wrong with the patient’s memory or cognitive function. And I asked how well she knew the patient. She said, “I know he wears a toupe!”
    Careful about what you put on your balding head!

  6. Hildy Says:

    We’re thinking about you — and sending you our best wishes!! Much love, Hildy, Rich, Sam and Brady P.S. I spoke with your Mom a few nights ago and she sounds exactly the same — we talked about you!!!

  7. Joe Robertson Says:

    Bruce, how wonderful to find a literate journalist who knows that the word is “normality” and NOT “normalcy” (wasn’t it Warren G Harding who came up with that construction, shortly after admitting he liked to go into the woods alone to “floviate”?). As for the 18 1/2 minutes, I am not sure whether I am proud to have instantly recognized the reference or disappointed to be old enough to have instantly recognized the reference.

    I am certainly NOT disappointed to read the positive attitude in your blog – keep it up . . . for a very, very long time!

    GO BRUCE!

    All our best from France,
    Joe, Catherine, Claire and Antoine Robertson

  8. Tom Linden Says:

    I loved that salmonella story. Keep ’em laughing, Bruce.

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