February 28, 2017

Medical miracles and Back from the Brink

Miraculous recovery attributed to Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati

In 2011, Kevin Becker fell from the second floor of a house he shared with a couple of college roommates, fracturing his skull in five places and damaging every lobe of his brain. After an emergency operation he lay stable but unresponsive for nine days. The doctors thought he wouldn’t live; and if he did he would suffer from gross cognitive deficits.

A week after his injury, the doctors were talking of putting him into a medically induced coma, a last-ditch effort. Days later he opened his eyes, and was soon speaking, standing, and walking normally.  Less than three weeks after his injury he was wheeled to the door of the hospital, where he stood up, slung his bag over his shoulder, and walked to the car … tossing a football with his brother.

Infant Who Survived in 1920s Sideshow Incubator Dies at 96

 Lucille Horn
Lucille Horn in 2015

Lucille Conlin Horn weighed barely two pounds when she was born, a perilous size for any infant, especially in 1920. Doctors told her parents to hold off on a funeral for her twin sister who had died at birth, expecting she too would soon be gone.  But her life spanned nearly a century after her parents put their faith in a sideshow doctor at Coney Island who put babies on display in incubators to fund his research to keep them alive.

Horn was among thousands of premature babies who were treated in the early 20th century by Dr. Martin Couney. He was a pioneer in the use of incubators who sought acceptance for the technology by showing it off on carnival midways, fairs and other public venues. He never accepted money from their parents, but instead charged oglers admission to see the tiny infants struggling for life.

 Sideshow Incubators

Couney, who died in 1950 and is viewed today as a pioneer in neonatology, estimated that he successfully kept alive about 7,500 of the 8,500 children that were taken to his "baby farm" at the Coney Island boardwalk. They remained there until the early 1940s, when the incubators became widely used in hospitals.

Touching moment little boy battling meningitis awoke from a two-week coma with a big grin for his mom

Pierce Robinson, 21 months, started having seizures earlier this month before being rushed into the ICU.  The little boy has been fighting meningitis at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston and was brought out of a 12 day induced coma last week

Pierce, hooked up to heart monitors and a breathing tube, managed to smile at his parents as his mother sang 'itsy bitsy spider crawled up the waterspout'.  He will undergo therapy so he can learn to walk, talk and eat again on his own


Snowboarder escapes avalanche and captures the terrifying video on his helmet cam.

Snowboarder Greg Hugunin dropped into Marmot Mountain in Hatcher's Pass January 2, 2015 with a false sense of security about the stability of the snow pack. Soon after he heard a crack and saw a minor avalanche behind him.  He escaped death because he was wearing a recent birthday present, an avalanche airbag backpack which appears to have helped push the stricken snowboarder to the surface.

Brother Skis Off Cliff To Save Brother In Avalanche.  A GoPro camera captures the dramatic rescue.

The ‘human miracles’ whose bodies remain a mystery to doctors

A man who swims naked in Arctic seas, a girl born with her heart on the outside of her chest, a boy with unbreakable bones. Incredible but true – and just a few of the one-in-a-million cases helping to educate scientists and aid medical research to benefit millions of people, a groundbreaking BBC2 series has revealed. 

Incredible Medicine meets dozens of ‘human miracles’ who have survived crippling diagnoses or live with severe deformities or whose bodies remain a mystery to doctors. Like Wim Hof who claims his ability to withstand freezing conditions is due to 'meditation' and breathing techniques, enabling him to control his body’s autonomous hormonal responses. 

The 57-year-old Hof, who is able to spend nearly two hours in an ice bath and emerge unharmed, was tested by researchers at Radboud University Medical Centre in the Netherlands as part of research into the treatment of autoimmune diseases. Hof was injected with endotoxin, a substance that tricks the body into thinking it is under bacterial attack.

He should have developed a fever and flu-like symptoms but did not, so researchers concluded that there may be truth to his claims about his ability to suppress his automatic immune response. Scientists hope that by studying his methods they may be able to discover new treatments for diseases such as asthma, rheumatoid arthritis and eczem.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:35 AM | Permalink

"Awareness of our mortality may be a major driver of civilization"

A sceptic ponders death in Climbing Mount Immortality: Death, Cognition and the Making of Civilization

In his book Immortality: The Quest to Live Forever and How It Drives Civilization (Crown, 2012), British philosopher and Financial Times essayist Stephen Cave calls this the Mortality Paradox. “Death therefore presents itself as both inevitable and impossible,” Cave suggests. We see it all around us, and yet “it involves the end of consciousness, and we cannot consciously simulate what it is like to not be conscious.”
Legacy is the driving force behind works of art, music, literature, science, culture, architecture and other artifacts of civilization. How? Because of something called Terror Management Theory. Awareness of one’s mortality focuses the mind to create and produce to avoid the terror that comes from confronting the mortality paradox that would otherwise, in the words of the theory’s proponents—psychologists Sheldon Solomon, Jeff Greenberg and Tom Pyszczynski—reduce people to “twitching blobs of biological protoplasm completely perfused with anxiety and unable to effectively respond to the demands of their immediate surroundings.”
Given the improbability of the first three immortality narratives, making a difference in the world in the form of a legacy that changes lives for the better is the highest we can climb up Mount Immortality, but on a clear day you can see forever.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:28 AM | Permalink

February 24, 2017

The Phone of the Wind

Dealing With Grief: Japanese Phone Booth Connects The Living And The Dead by Krissy Howard

Called "the phone of the wind," this device allows Japanese mourners to leave messages for those who died in the 2011 earthquake.

 Phone Of Wind2

Positioned atop a grassy hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean, a phone booth in Otsuchi, Japan allows living people to call their dead relatives and loved ones. Called the “phone of the wind,” the disconnected rotary phone positioned inside a glass booth allows callers to send verbal messages to those they’ve lost, which the wind then carries away....Some enter in search of answers, others to express their longing. Many call just to check in, assuring their loved ones that they and those left behind are doing well.
After the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, which claimed the lives of more than 800 Otsuchi residents, the phone booth became a popular destination for residents and travelers from afar and has since welcomed more than 10,000 visitors in its nearly six years standing.

The value in telephoning the dead by Chris Kavanagh

The so-called ‘wind phone’ (kaze no denwa) is comprised of a simple disconnected rotary phone which is located in a white phone booth that overlooks the Pacific ocean.  The phone is owned by a 70 year old gardener named Itaru Sasaki who had installed the phone in his garden prior to the disaster in order to give him a private space to help him cope with the loss of his cousin....

The phone-booth was featured in a documentary by the Japanese public broadcaster NHK during the five year memorial of the tsunami and they managed to get permission from both the visitors and Sasaki to record and broadcast some of the conversations that people were having in the booth.  These recordings, with English translations, make up the bulk of a segment on This American Life called Really Long Distance by Miki Meek which you can listen to at the link.

A poignant point that is raised repeatedly is just how mundane most of the conversations are, with people relating events from their daily life and, in stereotypical Japanese fashion, reassuring the dead that they are working hard and telling them not to worry.

The author of the piece Chris Kavangh, an atheist, continues

....when listening to this segment it is impossible to ignore just how much power a simple disconnected phone line is providing to people who are suffering terribly and how it manages to help them process their grief precisely because of the unconventional, irrational scenario that it represents. Everyone visiting the phone-booth understands that it houses just an old rotary phone with a disconnected phone-line, but this knowledge does not prevent them from instilling their one way conversation with deep personal meanings....

There is no exploitative religious authority here, just a kind hearted gardener, and no dogmatic doctrines, just a vague belief that the dead persist and that it is worth interacting with them. I can’t honestly agree with anyone who would argue that our world would be better off without these kind of ‘delusions’ existing.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:41 PM | Permalink

February 23, 2017

More Bizarre deaths

I do not mean to make light of the unspeakable loss that their families and friends experience in this intermittent series, but only to emphasize that death can come to anyone unexpectedly which is why we should always be prepared.  None of these people knew when they woke up that this would be their last day alive.

May they all rest in peace.

Mother-of-three, 34, dies while sliding on a homemade zip line with her boyfriend when a tree holding it in place uprooted and fell on top of them in the remote Oregon wilderness

The accident took place on Saturday, but her boyfriend Joshua Jackson made the 911 call at 6 am on Sunday morning.
Tami McVay, 34 and the mother of three, was pronounced dead at the scene.  Jackson, 38, escaped major injury but was arrested on an outstanding warrant in connection with a 2012 conviction for fourth-degree assault....The couple took a trail near the Nehalem River, normally used by experienced hikers. ....They were so far along that rescuers used all-terrain vehicles and had to hike two miles to reach them.

Indian snake rescue volunteer DIES when cobra he saved bites him when he tries to give it a kiss

Sealed with a hiss.

Woman is found dead, six hours after her arm got stuck in a clothing donation drop-off bin along a rural highway

Judith Permar, 56, of Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania, got her arm stuck in a collection bin at 2am on Sunday after the step stool she was using collapsed. Permar was found more than six hours later.

Father and son killed in head-on crash with each other

Jeff Brasher, 50, and his 22-year-old son Austin Brasher, died early Saturday morning.  The elder Brasher was driving a 2006 Ford pickup truck on his way to work, and his son, driving a 2004 Chevrolet pickup, was on his way home.  The collision happened when one of the trucks crossed over into the wrong lane.  Neither were wearing seat-belts.

Sarah Joshua, 66, was watching TV on her couch when a stolen SUV crashed into her Florida home and killed her.

Her 43-year-old nephew was in another part of the home and wasn't injured.  The stolen Lincoln Navigator barreled through Joshua's home, leaving a gaping hole in the wall and piles of debris in its wake. The driver fled the scene on foot after SUV came to a stop in backyard

Woman dies after falling off the escalator inside the World Trade Center Oculus while she was reaching to grab her twin sister's hat 

Or was Jenny Santos, 29, a beloved rowing instructor, 'playing around', laying prone on the handrail and 'pretending to fly'?  In any event, she fell off, hit her head on the marble floor and died shortly thereafter.

Video game player mysterious dies in middle of day-long Twitch livestream

Brian Vigneault, who was known to his friends and fans as Poshybrid online, intended to run a 24-hour livestream of himself playing games as part of a challenge to raise money for the Make A Wish Foundation. But 22 hours into the stream, Mr Vigneault went for a cigarette and didn't return to the computer. Fans later discovered that he had collapsed and died while away from the video.

Man, 82, believed to be the oldest EMT in South Carolina, dies in a car crash on the way to his brother's funeral

Ryan Still, 82, was driving with a friend and grandson to his younger brother Rodney's funeral in South Carolina when he missed his exit.  He tried to make a U-turn and was struck by a van, and later died from his injuries

In New Zealand when the flood gates of the Aratiatia Dam were opened, rushing water streamed out. Four women became stranded on a rock in the middle of the now raging Waikato river where they had been swimming. Two tourists watched as the student and three friends tried to scramble to safety.  Three were rescued, but Rachael Louise De Jong, 21, was washed away and drowned.

Driver dies after his semi-truck is blown off the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel by 40mph winds into the frigid waters below

Winds up to 40mph are believed to have blown a truck off Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel Thursday. Truck driver Joseph Chen, 47, survived the initial plunge and was spotted on top of truck cab.A Navy helicopter rushed to his rescue, but he died en route to the hospital.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:03 AM | Permalink

February 15, 2017

Undertakers gatecrash funeral and walk off with corpse

Undertakers gatecrash funeral and walk off with the CORPSE because bereaved family failed to pay their fees 

This is the shocking moment two undertakers at a cemetery remove a dead body from its coffin and hold it hostage over an unpaid debt. The chilling scenes, allegedly in Greater Accra in Ghana, took place because the bereaved family failed to pay for the services of the mortuary men.  It is claimed the amount owed was 150 Ghanaian Cedi - roughly £27.
 Undertakers Grab Corpse At Funeral
The drama begins with the two men standing over the open coffin while hundreds of onlookers rush over to see what is happening.The angry undertakers shout at the crowd while trying to loosen the dead man's body from its surroundings. Immediately after, the clip shows an empty coffin with the two men carrying the corpse on their shoulders.

This being the Daily Mail, the headline begins ...When are you coffin up the cash?
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:43 PM | Permalink