Discovery Channel in Siberia

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Yakutsk Preparations

The executive producer stuffed $5,000 in my pocket and $5,000 in the senior producer’s pocket.

“Never get caught in the same place, never negotiate together.”

– Got it.

“Use it only to bribe, everything else use your cards.  We don’t know what you’re getting into, but we only have one shot.”

I was on assignment for Discovery Channel and being sent to the coldest province in Siberia.  We were in search of an ever moving target in the wilderness, a railroad being constructed on permafrost.  The idea was this track theoretically had the potential to connect London to Moscow to DC, if a tunnel were ever built through the Bering straight.  Our job was to film the heck out of the extreme rail construction in action, in February, in untamed Siberia.

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Even at the beginning of our trip, at a time of great determination, it seemed like a…

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The Value of Vitamins

I didn’t grow up taking vitamins. I was the girl who’d be at a friend’s house for a sleepover and when offered a Flintstone multivitamin think I was getting some kind of magical candy. Why didn’t mom buy me those chalky treats? Maybe the same reason I never got to pack Mondo fruit drink in my lunch. Growing up in the suburbs we weren’t early adopters of the granola wave – so fish oil, Saint-John’s wort, b-complex were irrelevant. PB&J all the way to graduation.

When I went away to college, mom worried about my health especially since I have always been kinda prone to illness. My brothers called me ‘sickly’. She would tell me I need to take vitamins and when I got sick she said I wasn’t taking enough vitamins. Although the suburbs weren’t the first places to open health conscious superstores – we did have Costco! This is where mom began to purchase wholesale bottles of 500 multivitamins for me to take to school. I didn’t mind, they were gummies and after a Friday night – I’m sure my body could use some extra vitamins, right? No, I took them because they made me feel better in my mind but did I need them and did they really help?

As my years of college went on, I became more skeptical of things l saw, heard, read etc – thank you society! It’s when I first read The Creative Destruction of Medicine By Eric Topol did my suspicions about vitamins become confirmed. In the US, Americans are paying more than $30 billion per year on vitamins, supplements and herbs and $60 billion worldwide. The problem with vitamins is there has been virtually no randomized studies completed. To date the only randomized, rigorous study has been on glucosamine. Glucosamine is a supplement that has evidential proof of it’s positive effect on people with arthritis in their knees.

Did you know there are more than 50,000 dietary supplements in the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database?

After reading that book a year ago, I kept my thoughts about vitamins mostly to myself. In my head when I was with someone at the local drugstore, I thought: sure you can buy those vitamins, I’m not the one getting scammed. As I was reading through the news this week I saw that WebMD published an article about why people take multivitamins and it took me back to Dr. Topol’s questions. Published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, a survey was taken of nearly 12,000 adults to examine why they take multivitamins. From the study they found that 45 percent took them because they believed it would improve their health despite the lack of scientific evidence that they improve health or prevent disease. You can read the entire article here.

Look I’m not saying stop taking your vitamins… because if they aren’t hurting you then what’s the big deal right? But I think Samatha Heller, clinical nutrition coordinator at the Center for Cancer Care at Griffin Hospital brings up a valid statement.

“I wish that portion of the $30 billion spent on dietary supplements was spent on healthy foods and gym memberships.”

Well at least they still taste good, kind of like Mondo.

Photo credit: selva / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

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A Medical Mystery From the ER

If you get shot – with bullets – Atlanta may help your chances of survival and recovery.   The city has one of the best trauma departments in the United States, and throughout the Atlanta area, there are specialtyImage hospitals specializing in pediatric care, cancer and spinal cord injuries, etc. Within these healthcare facilities there are also the stories you only get to hear from the insiders. Here is one of them:

A 29 year old male gets dropped off at local Atlanta hospital Sunday afternoon by a friend.

His symptoms include not being able to walk (wow that sounds serious) and difficulty controlling arm movements and other motor skills. 

With normal hospital protocol they first have the young man fill out a general information packet before they get started on the screenings. He responds very honestly about his drinking habits and habitual marijuana use (but includes no additional comments).

As they move him into a testing room the doctors begin to run the standard neurology tests- MRI, CT scan, an X-ray to make sure spine is okay, blood work… everything seems to come back normal. The man is obviously upset and concerned that he is unable to walk but the doctors have no explanation after the initial screens. 

Why are his all his tests fine but something seems to be going wrong neurologically?

Monday morning the man is still at the hospital in a room laying down, obviously. He can’t walk – remember? A staff member goes to check on the the man and he is visiting with friends. Before the staff begin talking with him, he asks his friends to leave. Following protocol the staff members ask if he takes any prescription medications – he answered no. This isn’t a surprise to the staff as many young people do not take any medications. 

After a few more minutes of questioning – the young man blurts out he was taking Maximum Impact on Saturday night and lost feelings in legs but tried to sleep it off. But when he woke Sunday and his condition was not resolved he asked a friend to drop him off at the ER. 

Hold up Maximum Impact? What’s that? I was wondering the same thing (the power of Google) It’s a VCR cleaner… wait a second VCRs don’t even exist anymore.

Well Maximum Impact is in fact real and is available through your choice of party websites or shops. Okay so VCR head cleaner is ethyl chloride, a colorless flammable gas. It can be sniffed straight from the canister, soaked on a cloth and huffed or inhaled from a plastic bag. So what’s the point of doing it? Intoxication or enhancement of sexual pleasure. 

The most common symptom of use with this inhalant is central nervous system depression. It was previously used for general anesthesia but was discontinued due to high incidence of eradicate heartbeat. Although there is not much research about the abuse of ethyl chloride patients can suffer from dizziness, lower extremity motor, nerve damage, and lack of muscle coordination. (as well as death)

Luckily for him, this man’s symptoms were resolved after several days and he was discharged from the hospital. With new wildly unanticipated challenges, lucky for him too that Atlanta is adequately prepared for the growing trauma demand.   

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A Motorcycle in Nepal with Maoists

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(part 1 of 2)

The Nepalese countryside is absolutely beautiful, so when I entered Kathmandu’s pseudo-hippie and touristy vibe, I wasn’t impressed.  My first and only thought was how do I get back to the jungle?  And that set in motion the most thoughtless trade in my life – my passport and a small amount of rupees to rent a motorcycle.  Allegedly I’d get the passport back when I returned the bike.  Next step was figuring out where to go.  I had struck a conversation with a Nepalese souvenir dealer the day before, a university student, and went back and asked if he could shut down for the day and be my guide in getting us out of here.

Chakra was slim and his head came up to my chest.  The guy who rented me the motorcycle only had one helmet, a black XL.  We rotated who got to wear it and when it was his…

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Goodbye Year of the Dragon

2012 is over and I figured what better way to start back my blog than a reflection of the past year. Of course it will be a list because that’s what everyone else does…

  1. I don’t care if they are or aren’t genetically modified – I will buy cuties. I have tried oranges, clementines, tangerines – they just can’t stand up to those little sweet, delicious cuties. They don’t have seeds and are easy to peel – which is very important when working in a office where your co-workers can see you spitting your seeds and dropping peels on the ground around your desk.
  2. Rihanna wins 2012 music video of the year. I have yet to see a Rihanna video I don’t like – even though I don’t agree with her personal life choices she makes a damn sexy video. exhibit A: 
  3. From the wise Teresa Guidice – blood is thicker than water. Truth.
  4. Making friends is more difficult than dating. Not that I’m well-versed in either but growing up you are forced to be friends with your class mates, your sports team, and being around people exactly your age. No one has to be your friend anymore but don’t get me wrong I’m cool with my 3 friends- we have a good time.
  5. The best way to get through a break up is to listen to country music. I’m sorry if I can have a beer with Jesus or if I’m not a 10 then I’m a 9.9 then you are lyrical genius. It’s a great reminder things could always be worse.

**honorable mention – buying pajama jeans is a serious investment, which you will not regret.

So hello 2013 – let us see what the year of the snake has to offer.

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