A’s Medical “Fact” of the Day

My sister A, a second-year med school student, occasionally contributes Medical Facts of the Day. Today’s is less gory than usual, which is nice because it means that salmon post I’ve got all geared up to go can bookend what you see below. Without further ado…

I Like Ike… and Rat Poison 

The year was 1955. Dwight D. Eisenhower was vacationing with the in-laws in Denver, Colorado, enjoying some golf when he started experiencing some angina. Later that evening, his crushing substernal chest pain intensified, and he was rushed to the nearest hospital. The coronary artery supplying the anterior portion of Ike’s heart, called the Left Anterior Descending or “Widow-maker’s artery” had been blocked by a ruptured atherosclerotic plaque, causing oxygen deprivation of his heart tissue.

In present times, “crushing substernal chestpain,” the telltale sign of a heart attack, is immediately worked up with an EKG and blood tests for cardiac enzymes, and patients are given sublingual aspirin, heparin, oxygen, morphine, and thrombolytics, and placed on secondary prophylaxis with Coumadin. But back in the day, treatment wasn’t so established. Ike was given oxygen, morphine, and heparin, and lay in bed sick for days at enormous risk of suffering from subsequent MI and death.

Wasn’t there something more we could do for this VIP??? Everyone was wondering. Everyone who knew, that is, since his illness was kept secret from the nation. His doctor, Dr. Paul Dudley White, the “Father of American Cardiology” suggested a new treatment – warfarin. Warfarin had been used as rat poison, where in application it led to thinning of the blood and hemorrhage in rodents. There had been very little research done on human subjects, but the drug’s anti-thrombotic effects seemed promising.

So Dr. White gave rat poison to the president. And the president lived, running for another term of presidency just a year later. Warfarin is now routinely used for patients at risk of thromboembolic disease, thanks to Dr. White, Ike, and any rats injured along the way.

Stay tuned for more Presidents in Medicine. Next up: Honest Abe the…Syphilitic?
(Side note: If you like Lincoln, Chris Sarandon, and history, check out Hour 3 of the PBS series God in America. Vested interests are present here.)
Photo credit: Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-104961

The Amish

Did you tune in for The Amish documentary on PBS’s American Experience last night?  It’s a beautiful, thoughtful film – the visuals are breathtaking, the score is lovely, the stories make you weep, and you learn without fully realizing how much information you’re absorbing.  It was pretty neat to work under the same roof with most of the production team, watching as they toiled to get access, find the stories, shoot, edit, and craft the film. Kudos to them and the crew.

Miss the premiere? You can watch it online at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/amish/.

Would love to hear what you think about it!

Childhood Music Archives

When Ace of Base was getting big, I was still popping in cassette tapes while my peers rocked those flashy compact discs. No big deal, because in late 1992, our household finally got its first CD: Supertramp’s Classics, Vol. 9.  As good as Buddha, Malin, Jenny, Joker and “The Sign” are, they don’t hold a sputtering candle to “Crime of the Century” or “Give a Little Bit” or a dozen other Supertramp songs. If you haven’t listened to them lately, please put them on and enjoy a few tunes. Enjoy them just like this happy crowd:


It’s not difficult to claim superiority for Supertramp over Ace of Base, but really our musical tastes weren’t/aren’t that well informed. My family’s early collection also contained “The Bodyguard” soundtrack, Green Day’s “Dookie,” and a regularly spun Ghostbusters II record. Regularly. Ghostbusters II. I don’t think we ever even saw the movie, so I’m not sure how we ended up with the record but there it was wedged between “Mousercise” and “Kukla, Fran and Ollie.”

Mousercise really should have its own dedicated post. We had great whirling dervish dance parties in footed pajamas to that record. Any other children of the 80s that know what I’m talking about?


I Feel a Surge of Deep Satisfaction

It feels like the type of late Saturday afternoon when, in the early 2000s when most of us weren’t away at school, my sisters and I would be gathered in and around the kitchen, doing homework, helping mom with dinner, or just dwelling in the in-between dusky time that precedes dinner. First one downstairs would claim the warmest spot in the house, which was on the side counter by the heater vent.  Inevitably someone would commandeer the CD player, and depending on who, we’d hear 90s favorites or Disney show tunes or classical, or perhaps the Gladiator soundtrack. Dad would pad in quietly from wherever he had been reading about the time-space continuum, slippers and plaid and slightly wrinkled khakis, and burst into song if the mood struck. Mom would get hiccupy giggles, and we’d all join in the chorus.  A very pretty picture indeed, though one that more often than not dissolved into an argument between one or more sisters that could persist through half of dinner but resolve itself by washing dishes time.

We still have some of these afternoons, on the rare holiday when everyone is home, but not often enough in my opinion. So in honor of those times, I’ve assembled a likely playlist. Sisters, enjoy!










Cross-eyed and Dizzy


When you marry Murphy’s Law and technology during a power outage, you arrive at the byte-bloody, sync-spastic scene of my last month of work. After tromping through the weeds of mixed frame rates, incorporating new, untested pieces of equipment in film shoots, setting up dual editing systems, and stumbling into a very unwanted murk of audio drift, my eyes are sinking back into my skull and maybe starting to cross a little. Probably the eyes of my colleagues as well, who shared in the technology apocalypse.


In times like this, it’s worth remembering the things about your job that you cherish. Because while the audio was drifting, I got to listen to a sharp and funny 99 year old recount his recollections of playing in big bands in the 1930s, and how he was able to keep warm during the Great Depression winters in Michigan by nicking coal off freight trains. While the frames were mixing, I was able to break bread with a crew of lively and compassionate people, gaining new political insights and life lessons from their conversations. Before the files needed transcoding, I got to see the sun rise, a sky of black tar to pink to blue, three days in a row. (Perhaps not a tremendous feat in the dead of winter but I was up early enough to be awake enough to appreciate it). I got to film in some very cool places. And I came home from a work trip into the Mr’s loving arms plus sparkling new grout in the shower – a gift not unappreciated given how long it’s been needed and the fact that I didn’t have to spend a single second on it.  Yes, it’s been a very good month too.

So when your eyes start to cross, remember the good stuff. And maybe listen to some Dizzy, preferably with Muppets.

The Outlaw Album

It seems to be the theme of 2012 – “better late than never” – but over a year after sitting slack-jawed through the cold, mournful film that is Winter’s Bone, I cracked into Daniel Woodrell’s written works.  Suffice to say he’s quickly shooting up to the top ranks of my favorite author list. It’s dark stuff, The Outlaw Album, and for someone who favors unending heavy tomes of historical fiction mixed with some Roald Dahl and the occasional chick lit, I was bit dismayed that the first of his writing I checked out from the library was a slim book of short stories. But they pack a serious, creepy punch. And if you are wondering how a punch can be serious, just picture a wizened but strong clenched fist, dirt under the gnawed fingernails, with spiderwebs.  They are exactly those types of stories.

So go get the book (thanks Boston Public Library – you are the main reason I’m lukewarm-ingly happy to pay state taxes), make sure your room is chilly enough to warrant a blanket and dark enough to need a lamp, and read this with a mug of warm, milky tea.  You could also read it on your private beach in St. John and be totally immersed while earning my contempt, but if we’re going to set the perfect reading environment, get thee to some northern environ and snuggle up.

I’m semi-inspired to check out another film based off of Woodrell’s book Woe to the Devil, if only to see the casting spectacle that includes Skeet Ulrich, Tobey Maguire (blech), and…Jewel?? Seems a little cheeseball, based on the trailer. Probably a scenario of book trumping movie, as is so woefully often the case. Would love to know if anyone has seen it and if it’s worth a view…