Space Germs

space cards 0120

Space Germs, as the Pat’s crew learned a little while back when we sat down to play the card game Alien Hotshots, freeze all the action. Everything gets put on hold, and players are all required to put in another card. Unless someone has a 4. Fours are “germ-proof.” Today I am wishing my hand had a 4 in it.

Yes, I am sad to report that I am still sick, although my fever broke yesterday evening and I have already gotten more accomplished this morning than I did all of yesterday, unless you’d like to consider a Dr. Pimple Popper marathon a quality use of one’s time. (For the uninitiated, Dr. Sandra Lee is a Southern California dermatologist whose patients are filmed as she removes, slices into or “pops” any number of skin anomalies. Kara and Lynn think it’s incredibly gross.)

On the subject of serious germs, germs that can generally be stopped by an easily grasped 4 card, CBS told me this morning that a pediatrician who posted a pro-vaccination video on Tik Tok, whatever that might be, has since been subjected to what she calls “a tsunami” of hate.

It turns out Stanford University (which I saw on Lynn’s oral surgeon’s undergrad diploma is still officially Leland Stanford Junior University) has an “Internet Observatory,” where they train high-powered telescopes on our new social mores. (Okay, probably no telescopes involved, but that would be cool if there were.)

And what the woman from the Internet Observatory said is, once something gets out on the Internet, like a ton of misinformation and fear-mongering about vaccines, it’s impossible to pull that genie back into the bottle. As Samoa learned the hard way a few months ago.

Samoa, not to be confused with American Samoa, first learned of measles the hard way, back in the 1890s when it was brought to the island(s?). The Samoans were a population of 34,500 back then; within four months, 1,000 of them, half adults, were dead.

When vaccines became available, Samoa, like much of the world, took advantage, the memory of rampant death and sickness close at hand. In 2013 (I don’t know why Wikipedia picks that year), 90 percent of one-year-old Samoans received their mumps measles rubella (MMR) vaccination.

And then in 2018, two island babies died after being vaccinated. There was a ready, if horrible, explanation: the nurses administering the vaccines had mistakenly mixed the MMR powder with expired anesthetic. Tragic, but not a failure of vaccination.

This did not stop the anti-vaxxers, who are not content to keep their own children from vaccines but seem to be on a mission to banish all vaccines from the face of the Earth for the good of no order at all, and by 2019 the vaccination rate in Samoa had dropped to 34 percent.

Which was fine, I suppose, until one person on one of 80,000 annual flights from New Zealand to Samoa packed measles along with them, much as a steamer had 136 years previously.

And now, instead of two dead babies through one awful mistake, 79 people, almost all of them children, are dead because of misinformation and fear-mongering. Just under 3 percent of the population, which now numbers 200,000, had measles by the end of December.

The government implemented mandatory vaccinations, the righteousness of the anti-vaxxers be damned, and before the new year 94 percent of Samoans were once again vaccinated. And hopefully a little wiser about who to listen to, as they watch 20 percent of their infant population deal with the fall-out from a misinformation campaign that seems far more tragic than one mistake by nurses.

Despite the uproar from the loud and misinformed, the pediatrician here in the United States who posted her pro-vaccination message is not backing down. She has a message, backed by science, and she is taking it toe-to-toe with those we really need to refer to as uneducated, possibly superstitious. More power to her and her 4 card, I say.

Now, in the realm of not-quite vaccination but science as magic, I have a friend with cystic fibrosis who may be on the precipice of a huge change in her life, all brought about by a pill.

My friend, who I’m going to call Jane, even though that’s not her name, was told by doctors that she’d be dead by age 15 of her disease. Happily, she has exceeded that prediction by more than double, but to do so she takes 14 medications a day.

Within a week she is expecting to receive a new medication that will hopefully render the rest of them unnecessary, because what this one pill, which she will take for the rest of her life, does is convince her body that the defective gene that causes the cystic fibrosis is actually not defective but normal.

It turns out, I could have read about this for myself in the Washington Post back in October, had I been paying more attention. But isn’t that astounding? This pill, which I gather is a combination of three medications, is going to trick Jane’s body into thinking she doesn’t have cystic fibrosis.

But while Jane expects to receive the medication this next week, she thinks it may be a month before she works up to taking it. That’s because her doctors have warned her that her body will begin to purge itself of all the built-up crud in her lungs, possibly her digestive tract — the outset is not a pleasant prospect.

And Jane wants to stay here in Gunnison and keep working through this purging, if she can, even though her doctors (and I voted with them) are urging her to go to Denver. She sees medical professionals at National Jewish, which is one of the country’s foremost pulmonary hospitals.

Jane is a lovely young woman who has never asked for any consideration for herself because of her disease. But if this could give her a chance at a longer, healthier life . . . well, sometimes science isn’t all bad despite what the internet might tell you. It’s the 4-card of the cystic fibrosis world, and I hope Jane opts to play it sooner rather than later, and that she does so under the watchful eye of her doctors.

In the meantime, I’ve trying everything I can to dredge up a 4 for myself — zinc, Airborne, steam showers (my repair has worked through two steams of indeterminate length — let’s hear it for self-reliance), some awful concoction of herbs called “Rapid Rescue,” rest and plenty of episodes of Dr. Pimple Popper. If that isn’t a curative, I can’t imagine what would be.


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