Sep 8, 2016

Wheelchair racer Josh George will have hands full at Rio Paralympics

If the Olympics captivated you with inspiring stories last month in Rio de Janeiro -- such as runners Abbey D'Agostino and Nikki Hamblin falling and helping each other up to complete the women's 5,000 meters -- prepare for many more awesome, inspiring athletes this month at the Paralympics. These athletes picked themselves up from far worse falls yet became great examples to everyone: just keep going.
Consider five-time Paralympic medalist Josh George, who will compete in an astounding five events in Rio, his fourth Games. George fell out of a 12-story window when he was 4 years old. While he punctured his lungs and was paralyzed from his mid-chest down, he survived the 120-foot fall, perhaps an indication of his physical and mental strength. "I stuck the landing," he said with a laugh.
"I landed straight up and down on my feet in these short, little bushes next to the building, That's what really saved me," George added. "The combination of landing on my feet and in those bushes and the fact that when you're 4, your bones still aren't fully formed so they still have a little give to them. They absorbed enough for me to survive."
George, 32, has a great sense of humor and outlook on life, along with a love of sports. Despite needing a wheelchair to get around, he grew up playing basketball and tennis, swimming, racing track and more. His parents made sure that he used sports to continue moving forward.
"I give my parents all the credit in the world," he said. "They could not have handled the situation any better. They were amazing. They took it all in stride. They never looked at me as disabled. I was just as able as anybody else in their eyes, and that's how they treated me. I just had to use the wheelchair instead of walking."
The athletic activity turned out to be more than just fun and games for George.
"Sports created seeds of creative problem solving," he said, "to be able to find opportunities to maximize my potential. And it carried over in life. Once you learn how to recognize opportunities and once you learn how to utilize different tools to accomplish your goals, it gives you confidence in your ability to approach problems in your future and know you'll be able to figure out a solution."
After playing wheelchair basketball at the University of Illinois, George has concentrated on track, an endeavor in which he has won five Paralympic medals, including gold in the 100 meters and silver in the 800 at the 2008 Beijing Games. In Rio, where the festivities start with Wednesday's opening ceremony, he will compete in the 400, 800, 1,500, 5,000 and marathon wheelchair races.
"I'm going to have my hands full," he said.
His hands also will be on the improving carbon-fiber wheelchairs that he says help racers put their power into forward momentum. "It doesn't necessarily make you faster, but it makes you more efficient," he said.
That efficiency helps especially over longer distances, such as the marathon. Wheelchair racers complete marathons considerably faster than runners -- George's personal best is 1 hour, 22 minutes, 55 seconds -- though uphill portions can be more grueling since the racers are relying on nothing but arm strength. Going downhill is much faster, with some reaching speeds of 40 mph, but that also leads to potential crashes.
"It's exciting," George said, "but sometimes you end up with your stomach in your throat."
It all makes the race as compelling as the regular marathon, and perhaps more so. It is like watching the combination of a running and cycling race.
Wheelchair racing is growing in attention and popularity. George says that when people see him arrive in an airport with his wheelchair now, they will ask him whether he will be racing in the city marathon. He usually is, having won eight marathons in Chicago, Los Angeles, London and the Twin Cities.
George also writes -- he studied journalism at Illinois -- and you can follow his experiences in Rio at He also is running a campaign called "Maximize Your Potential" that urges everyone to achieve their highest goals.
They can see that is possible in the Paralympics, which George hopes people will watch so they can witness how great the athleticism is -- especially in the United States.
"We have an interesting relationship with disability," George said of Americans. "It's very much a medical model where we think it's people who are broken or injured or old. And that's far from the case. We all have a different disability, but we're not really overcoming that disability. The overcoming part has come and gone. The struggle has come and gone. We are all out there now to maximize our abilities as an athlete and compete for a gold medal in the same sense the Olympians are."
Paralympians have picked themselves up. And now they are providing the same exciting thrills and inspiration as Olympians.

Post Polio Litaff, Association A.C _APPLAC Mexico

CPAP machines don’t prevent heart attacks, strokes in some sleep apnea sufferers

More than 25 million Americans have obstructive sleep apnea, a dangerous disorder that causes sufferers to briefly stop breathing while they sleep, sometimes many times each night. The condition, caused by throat muscles that relax and block the airway, has been linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, strokes and Type 2 diabetes.
The standard treatment, using the continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, machine, keeps the airway open by pumping a stream of air through the nostrils as a person sleeps. The biggest problem with the therapy is noncompliance; many people find the air mask and hose uncomfortable and give up on the machine.
But a large study published Sunday raises a serious new issue: For people with existing cardiovascular disease and moderate to severe sleep apnea, CPAP doesn’t prevent heart attacks, strokes, hospitalizations or deaths any better than sleeping without the machine.
The finding surprised scientists from two Australian research institutes who conducted the research, because previous examinations have shown that CPAP seemed to have a positive impact on those problems.
In earlier studies, “the epidemiological data is very strong and the biomarker data is very strong,” said Craig S. Anderson, a professor of stroke neurology at the George Institute for Global Health in Sydney, and one of the leaders of the new study. So too is observational research on subjects who use CPAP machines, he said.
Virend Somers, a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., who was not involved in the research, called the new study “a very important paper” because it provides the first large, randomized, controlled look at CPAP benefits that were only previously assumed.
CPAP is far from worthless, according to the new research, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine and presented at a cardiology conference in Rome Sunday. The five-year study of people in seven countries confirmed that the pump reduced the daytime sleepiness that plagues sleep apnea patients, with corresponding improvements in mood, quality of life and work productivity. It also reduced sufferers’ anxiety and depression somewhat.
When the researchers divided the paticipants into two roughly equal groups, they found that CPAP had no impact on heart attacks and strokes, nor from deaths from any cause or hospitalization for heart failure, unstable angina and other reasons.
It’s not clear why that might be, Anderson said. One possibility raised in both the study and an accompanying editorial is that the CPAP group was able to wear the masks only about 3.3 hours per night, a duration that is consistent with CPAP users in the real world. That may not be enough time to affect the frequency of these cardiovascular events. Or it may be that cardiovascular disease is too difficult to modify in this way once it develops, Anderson said.
Somers, the Alice Sheets Marriott professor of medicine and  a consultant in cardiovascular disease at the Mayo Clinic, said he would like to know whether better adherence to the CPAP regimen might convey more long-term benefits. It’s unknown whether the adrenaline and blood pressure surges that come with taking off the mask and returning to an apneic state in the middle of the night are as harmful as sleep apnea itself, he said.
Although the researchers didn’t look at it, Anderson said it is probably safe to assume that sleep apnea sufferers who don’t have preexisting cardiovascular conditions would show similar results. But more research on that is needed, he said. Somers agreed.
However, he pointed out that patients who are most sleepy during the day were excluded from the study, because of the danger that they would be randomized to the group that wasn’t receiving CPAP and could hurt themselves or others in car accidents or in other ways. While it would be a difficult study to accomplish, Somers said, it could be important to know whether CPAP protects sleepy patients from cardiovascular events.

Post Polio Litaff, Association A.C _APPLAC Mexico

Polio Vaccine What You Need to Know

Why get vaccinated?
Vaccination can protect people from polio. Polio is a disease caused by a virus. It is spread mainly by person-to-person contact. It can also be spread by consuming food or drinks that are contaminated with the feces of an infected person.
Most people infected with polio have no symptoms, and many recover without complications. But sometimes people who get polio develop paralysis (cannot move their arms or legs). Polio can result in permanent disability. Polio can also cause death, usually by paralyzing the muscles used for breathing.
Polio used to be very common in the United States. It paralyzed and killed thousands of people every year before polio vaccine was introduced in 1955.  There is no cure for polio infection, but it can be prevented by vaccination.
Polio has been eliminated from the United States. But it still occurs in other parts of the world. It would only take one person infected with polio coming from another country to bring the disease back here if we were not protected by vaccination. If the effort to eliminate the disease from the world is successful, some day we won’t need polio vaccine. Until then, we need to keep getting our children vaccinated.

Polio vaccine

Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV) can prevent polio.
Most people should get IPV when they are children. Doses of IPV are usually given at 2, 4, 6 to 18 months, and 4 to 6 years of age.
The schedule might be different for some children (including those traveling to certain countries and those who receive IPV as part of a combination vaccine). Your health care provider can give you more information.
Most adults do not need IPV because they were already vaccinated against polio as children. But some adults are at higher risk and should consider polio vaccination, including:
  • people traveling to certain parts of the world,
  • laboratory workers who might handle polio virus, and
  • health care workers treating patients who could have polio.
These higher-risk adults may need 1 to 3 doses of IPV, depending on how many doses they have had in the past.
There are no known risks to getting IPV at the same time as other vaccines.

Some people should not get this vaccine

Tell the person who is giving the vaccine:
  • If the person getting the vaccine has any severe, life-threatening allergies.
    If you ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction after a dose of IPV, or have a severe allergy to any part of this vaccine, you may be advised not to get vaccinated. Ask your health care provider if you want information about vaccine components.
  • If the person getting the vaccine is not feeling well.
    If you have a mild illness, such as a cold, you can probably get the vaccine today. If you are moderately or severely ill, you should probably wait until you recover. Your doctor can advise you.

Risks of a vaccine reaction

With any medicine, including vaccines, there is a chance of side effects. These are usually mild and go away on their own, but serious reactions are also possible.
Some people who get IPV get a sore spot where the shot was given. IPV has not been known to cause serious problems, and most people do not have any problems with it.
Other problems that could happen after this vaccine:
  • People sometimes faint after a medical procedure, including vaccination. Sitting or lying down for about 15 minutes can help prevent fainting and injuries caused by a fall. Tell your provider if you feel dizzy, or have vision changes or ringing in the ears.
  • Some people get shoulder pain that can be more severe and longer-lasting than the more routine soreness that can follow injections. This happens very rarely.
  • Any medication can cause a severe allergic reaction. Such reactions from a vaccine are very rare, estimated at about 1 in a million doses, and would happen within a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccination.
As with any medicine, there is a very remote chance of a vaccine causing a serious injury or death.
The safety of vaccines is always being monitored. For more information, visit the vaccine safety site.

What if there is a serious reaction?

What should I look for?
  • Look for anything that concerns you, such as signs of a severe allergic reaction, very high fever, or unusual behavior.
    Signs of a severe allergic reaction can include hives, swelling of the face and throat, difficulty breathing, a fast heartbeat, dizziness, and weakness. These would usually start a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccination.
What should I do?
  • If you think it is a severe allergic reaction or other emergency that can’t wait, call 9-1-1 or get to the nearest hospital. Otherwise, call your clinic.
    Afterward, the reaction should be reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). Your doctor should file this report, or you can do it yourself through the VAERS website, or by calling 1-800-822-7967.
VAERS does not give medical advice.

The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program

The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) is a federal program that was created to compensate people who may have been injured by certain vaccines.
Persons who believe they may have been injured by a vaccine can learn about the program and about filing a claim by calling 1-800-338-2382 or visiting the VICP website.  There is a time limit to file a claim for compensation.

How can I learn more?

  • Ask your healthcare provider. He or she can give you the vaccine package insert or suggest other sources of information.
  • Call your local or state health department.
  • Contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

Post Polio Litaff, Association A.C _APPLAC Mexico

Sep 7, 2016

Barrie Smith: Something a little different but important nonetheless

This subject of this article is a little different but one I have become involved with recently.
Last year I was invited to chair the setting up of a new trust called "The Ethel Gray Charitable Trust". 
This was completed and now operational with four trustees plus one co-opted from the TDHB.
Ethel Gray was a busy nurse in the Stratford hospital and in 1948 contacted poliomyelitis (polio), was put into an iron lung but did not survive. 
Our trust's main aim is to encourage all parents to have their children immunised at the appropriate times.
On April the 29 the Taranaki Daily News printed a half page story on the setting up of our trust so this aspect has been covered well.
The polio epidemic of the 1940s, then again in the 1950s, was dramatic for our population with thousands being affected, including a number of deaths.
In my later primary school days then early high school period I recall vividly the scourge of polio.
I remember one of my classmates with a pea stick of a leg!
Also schools closed down and there were travel restrictions between the North and South Island.
A few days ago I was given a number of documents and photos of a very courageous lady called Betty Northcott (nee Jones) born in Stratford in 1935.
It was her story which has inspired and motivated me to touch on this subject.
Betty was struck down with polio soon after her daughter Susanne was born. Then when only five months old Susanne also contacted polio, affecting one of her legs.
You can't imagine the trauma of being separated but family and friends rallied around and helped out.
Betty spent 27 years of her life in and out of the iron lung, either in hospital or in a motor home her husband had converted from an old bus, as they had decided to visit places they had not been to.
Betty would spend at least seven hours per day in the iron lung. 
This is an incredible story of survival, guts, courage and sheer determination to live.
From an article in the Sunday Nation paper some years ago, let me quote what Betty said: "The importance of vaccination is carefully stressed. People think that because polio has not been around for twenty years it's gone away but the bug is still around and everyone should be vaccinated".
Betty passed away on the 17 July 1996.
Betty's story is incredible but there is simply not enough room to print more of it in this article.
However below I will give my email address if you wish to inquire. 
Last year we saw the Taranaki post-polio group go into recess, but before doing so they decided to print a book called "We can do anything", which describes polio survivors so well.
People who were struck down with polio and survived showed such an inner strength and all just wanted to get on with their lives, handicapped or not.
Betty was right about vaccinations as there is not just the polio risk but many other disease risks that remain to New Zealanders, especially our young.
One of these is whooping cough that has recently been described by Dr Jarman of the TDHB as a worry for Taranaki folk.
We've had two children under six months old and 37 cases of folk, with an average age of 27, affected so far this year.
He goes on to say that whooping cough is very dangerous to infants but worse it is very contagious.
Please, please check with your GP to make sure you and your children's vaccinations are up to date.
For pregnant mothers and all children, vaccinations are free.
It is a concern to our Ethel Gray Trustees that we still have parents out in our Taranaki communities who are shunning vaccinating their children for a whole range of diseases.
Coverage figures for immunisation fluctuate but the Ministry of Health target is 95 per cent to stop the spread of these diseases in our community.
Unfortunately Taranaki often lags behind the national average. 
Yes it may be your right to say no, but if you are one of those parents who don't believe in vaccinations please check the facts as they speak for themselves.
We trustees simply don't understand why any parent would want to put their children or themselves at risk.
I'm sure if your family had been affected by polio you may feel quite different about this horrible disease, as the example shows.
If further information is required on the book "we can do anything" or Betty's story please contact me on
 - Stuff

Post Polio Litaff, Association A.C _APPLAC Mexico

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