Oak Harbor Library Blog

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Why here? Multiple Sclerosis in the Pacific Northwest

According to the Greater Washington Chapter of the National MS Society, the Pacific Northwest has one of the highest incidence rates of Multiple Sclerosis in the world. No one knows exactly what causes Multiple Sclerosis, or why it’s so prevalent in our part of the world. MS is a chronic, unpredictable neurological disease which is not contagious, not directly inherited, and at least for now, not curable.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke describes multiple sclerosis as a nervous system disease that affects the brain and spinal cord. It damages the myelin sheath, the material that surrounds and protects nerve cells. This damage slows down or blocks messages between the brain and the body, leading to the symptoms of MS. These can include vision problems, muscle weakness, trouble with coordination and balance, sensations such as numbness or "pins and needles" and memory problems.
During an MS attack, inflammation occurs in areas of the central nervous system in random patches called plaques. This process is followed by destruction of myelin, the fatty covering that insulates nerve cell fibers in the brain and spinal cord. Myelin facilitates the smooth, high-speed transmission of electrochemical messages between the brain, the spinal cord, and the rest of the body; when it is damaged, neurological transmission of messages may be slowed or blocked completely, leading to diminished or lost function. The name "multiple sclerosis" signifies both the number (multiple) and condition (sclerosis, from the Greek term for scarring or hardening) of the demyelinated areas in the central nervous system.
No one knows what causes MS, but it is thought to be an autoimmune disease. Multiple sclerosis affects woman more than men, and often begins between the ages of 20 and 40. Usually, the disease is mild, but some people lose the ability to write, speak or walk. There is no cure for MS, but medicines and treatments may slow it down and help control symptoms. I know from personal experience that one of the most important things is a support group, friends and caregivers who can help with the daily tasks and also provide emotional support and love.
Mary C

More information is available online at MedlinePlus - or check out the following titles from the Sno-Isle Libraries collection:
Living well : 21 days to transform your life, supercharge your health, and feel spectacular by Montel Williams with William Doyle. New American Library, 2008.
Multiple sclerosis : new hope and practical advice for people with MS and their families by Louis J. Rosner and Shelley Ross. Rev. and updated ed. Simon & Schuster, 2008.
Managing the symptoms of multiple sclerosis by Randall T. Schapiro. 5th ed. Demos Medical Pub., 2007.
I've heard the vultures singing : field notes on poetry, illness, and nature by Lucia Perillo.
Trinity University Press, 2007.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Who's your Mama, Obama?

Alternatively described as Barack Obama's white mother from Kansas, or the woman who was "more worried about paying her medical bills than getting well," or even "a single parent who had to go on food stamps at one point," Stanley Ann Dunham (named for her father) was much, much more. She was a smart and hard-working nonconformist, a woman ahead of her time, willing to take risks to do the things that were important to her. According to a coworker quoted in the New York Times on March 14/08, "She was not concerned about what society would say about working women, single women, women marrying outside their culture, women who were fearless and who dreamed big."

Born in Kansas but raised in the west, Ann moved with her family to California and Washington state and graduated from Mercer Island High School in 1960. She met her first husband, Barack Obama's father, while attending University of Hawaii. At that time inter-racial marriages were not only very uncommon, but even illegal in some states. When her first marriage ended and Barack's father went off to Harvard for graduate school, Ann married again, this time to a student from Indonesia. When his visa was revoked, she returned to Jakarta with him. She loved Indonesia and made a full life for herself and her children there, becoming a consultant for the US Agency for International Development and setting up village credit programs. Later, she joined Indonesia's oldest bank to work on what is described as the world's largest microfinance program, providing services for the poor. David McCauley, an environmental economist at the Asian Development Bank in Manila, describes how "visitors flowed constantly through her Ford Foundation office in downtown Jakarta and through her house in a neighborhood to the south, where papaya and banana trees grew in the front yard and Javanese dishes like opor ayam were served for dinner. Her guests were leaders in the Indonesian human rights movement, people from women's organizations, representatives of community groups doing grass-roots development."

Barack Obama's mother has been described as informal and intense, humorous and hardheaded. She taught her son the importance of honesty, straight talk, independent judgment. In her May 11, 2008 column, Dreams from his Mother (The Everett Herald), Ellen Goodman quotes Nancy Barry, former head of Women's World Banking, who knew Ann well. Ms. Barry expressed bewilderment at the way Obama's mother has been reduced to a stick figure, describing her as "stubborn, hard core, decisive, convincing, deep-thinking, and rigorous in her analysis."

"She gave us a very broad understanding of the world," Obama's sister Ms. Soetoro-Ng, is quoted as saying. "She hated bigotry. She was very determined to be remembered for a life of service and thought that service was really the true measure of a life."

You can read more about Stanley Ann Dunham Obama Soetoro by searching online newspapers at Newsstand on the Sno-Isle Libraries web site. You will need your library card to access the online database.

Recommended reading:

Janny Scott. The Free-Spirited Wanderer Who Shaped Obama's Path; New York Times. (Late Edition (East Coast)). New York, N.Y.: Mar 14, 2008. pg. A.1

Ellen Goodman, Dreams from his mother. The Herald. Everett, Wash.: May 11, 2008, p. B.1

p.s. My own grandmother was named Hulbert, for her father, also desperate for a boy. Later, when a son was finally born, he was named Hulbert, too! Mary C

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Midwives have great hands...

...and they know how to sit on them.
Whidbey Reads 2008 featured a fascinating discussion with a panel of midwifery professionals last week. On the panel, and pictured left to right, were Leah Black, CNM, ANRP, a nurse-midwife who works in a hospital setting; Patricia Rowen, LM; and Cynthia Jaffe, LM, both direct-entry midwives; and April Bolding, PT, CCE, CD, a professional doula with a background in physical therapy.
Cynthia delivers virtually all of the babies born at home on Whidbey Island and is greatly loved and revered by local residents. Our thanks go to all four panelists, who explained the different aspects of their jobs and spoke candidly about the history of midwifery in this country. In terms of cost-effectiveness and quality of care, midwives cannot be beat. However, the medical community (and the community in general) still has a long way to go in terms of acceptance. We seem to be going backwards instead of forwards in terms of empowering women to have the birth they choose and giving them the resources they need to honor those choices.

On Whidbey Island fully 1/3 of all hospital births are done by cesarean - under normal circumstances the number should be no more than 5-10%. One explanation is that many women who have had a previous cesarian are not given the opportunity to try a vaginal birth - they are considered too high risk for a small community. Cesarean rates have climbed to 32 percent in Seattle, too, an all-time high on par with the rest of the nation, and an increase of more than 50 percent in a decade. While a direct link has not been proven, infant and maternal deaths are rising, too. Birth is also political -- insurance regulation, hospital protocols, legal anxiety and hectic lives all complicate the issues. Insurance doesn't reimburse as much for midwives as for doctors; learning how to give birth takes time; Cesarean births are convenient for schedules; high-tech births fuel a big business in drugs and medical equipment.

Interested in reading more about this fascinating subject? Try the following:

Pregnancy, childbirth, and the newborn : the complete guide / Penny Simkin, Janet Whalley, Ann Keppler. Expanded and updated, 2001

The birth partner : a complete guide to childbirth for dads, doulas, and other labor companions / Penny Simkin. 3rd ed., 2008.

Simple guide to having a baby / Janet Whalley, Penny Simkin, Ann Keppler. 2005.

Pushed : the painful truth about childbirth and modern maternity care / Jennifer Block. 2007

Born in the USA : how a broken maternity system must be fixed to put mothers and infants first / Marsden Wagner. 2007.

Spiritual midwifery / Ina May Gaskin. 4th ed. 2002.

Also, an excellent article about doula and author Penny Simkin in the March 23/08 edition of Pacific Magazine (available online via our web site at http://www.sno-isle.org/ - click on research tools, newsstand, then Washington Newspapers for a link to Washington's daily and non-daily newspapers, business journals, college newspapers, and alternative presses).
Mary C @ the Library