The Casualties Of Agent Orange

I’m a Baby-boomer. Born in 1960, I grew-up during the Vietnam conflict. Members of my family served in that undeclared war. I remember the tears shed for those who were leaving … and for those who were lost. And I remember the tension … the protests … the disclosure of the Pentagon Papers. I would use the term “turmoil”, but the era was more than that. It was also a time of rude awakening. One of the worst being the true impact of Agent Orange.

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For those who aren’t certain what Agent Orange actually is, I’ll add a little background on the subject. Agent Orange was a powerful herbicide used by the United States military, in Vietnam. It contained significant amounts of a dioxin known as TCDD. We now know that it was the most dangerous of all dioxins used at the time. Approximately 20M gallons were sprayed over Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in a decade (1961-1971). Many of those who came in contact with it suffered severe consequences, i.e. various forms of cancer, birth defects, type 2 diabetes, ischemic heart disease, chloracne, damaged immune systems, neurological problems, etc. It became a health issue not only for veterans, but their children and even their grandchildren. Consider this fact: The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., displays the names of over 58,000 U.S. servicemen and women who died in that war. What it doesn’t mention is the 2.8M veterans who served and later died from exposure to Agent Orange. They too are casualties.

There were no tests to confirm if a patient had been exposed to Agent Orange. So the Veterans Administration looked at where he or she served and when they served, to determine if the patient’s condition was the result of exposure. While the method may sound unconventional, it is the norm when dealing with a “presumptive disease”.

Since 1978, the Agent Orange Registry has been an ongoing program administered by the VA for veterans who qualify and are willing to participate. These veterans receive a free medical exam, lab tests and referrals if necessary. Disability compensation is also available to veterans with some types of cancer. To learn more about these benefits, you can contact the Department of Veterans Affairs by phone at 1-800-749-8387, or online at    https://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/agentorange/.

To borrow a line from a Billy Ray Cyrus tune, “… All Gave Some, Some Gave All.” And some are still paying the price, over four decades after they served this nation. May God bless them.

 

Reference Links:

https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/dioxins/index.cfm

https://www.history.com/topics/vietnam-war/agent-orange-1

https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/agent-orange-and-cancer.html

https://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/agentorange/conditions/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/nicolefisher/2018/05/28/the-shocking-health-effects-of-agent-orange-now-a-legacy-of-military-death/#7652311c21c6

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/dioxins-and-their-effects-on-human-health

https://www.warhistoryonline.com/war-articles/agent-orange-american.html

https://www.google.com/search?q=lyrics+some+gave+all&rlz=1CAZBMY_enUS683US685&oq=lyrics+some+gave+all&aqs=chrome..69i57j0l5.6971j0j8&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

*Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

 

 

 

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Living With Parkinson’s

For millions who live with a chronic illness, it’s easy to recall life before the diagnosis. It’s equally easy to remember the day that the diagnosis was given — falling like a ton of bricks over them. Those living with Parkinson’s Disease understand this. They’ve been there. In fact, for many living with Parkinson’s, there were little if any symptoms in the beginning. But as the disorder progressed, their symptoms worsened. And there was no denying the obvious … something was wrong.

Parkinson’s Disease is caused when nerve cells, called neurons, break down or die in the brain. This loss of neurons leads to abnormal brain activity and many of the symptoms associated with Parkinson’s, i.e. slowed movement, tremors, speech changes, behavioral changes, rigid muscles, sleep disruption, impaired balance, etc. The exact cause of Parkinson’s Disease is unknown. However, research has proven that genetics and environment can play a role. And age is a clear risk factor.

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At present, there is no known cure for Parkinson’s. But there are interesting strides being made in medical research. In August of 2018, a clinical trial began treating Parkinson’s patients with stem cells. This trial, conducted at Kyoto University in Japan, is the first of its kind in the world. It follows a highly successful restoration of brain cell function via stem cells, in animal subjects, in 2017.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, it’s essential that you manage your disease. Though no special diet is required, healthy eating is always beneficial. Try to plan a period of rest, in your day. It will help offset fatigue. Avoid a heavy schedule. This will help minimize stress. Avoid extreme physical activity. If you need help, ask a family member or friend to pitch in. Patients with chronic illnesses, like Parkinson’s, need a good support system to lean on. Find yours. Talk to them. Take your medication as directed. Keep those appointments with your doctor and/or therapists. Simple, commonsense remedies, i.e. massage, warm baths, heating pads, etc., help immensely. So, don’t ignore them. Try them. You might be pleasantly surprised. 

Living with Parkinson’s, as with most chronic illnesses, involves change. The more that you are willing to adapt, the easier it will be to manage and live with your disease. Yes, there will be tough times. But, with an optimistic approach and a feasible game-plan, there can be good times as well. Go for it!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/parkinsons-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20376055

http://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2018/worlds-first-clinical-trial-treat-parkinsons-disease-stem-cells/

https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/parkinsons-disease

https://www.webmd.com/parkinsons-disease/guide/parkinsons-daily-activities#4

https://www.michaeljfox.org/foundation/news-detail.php?cdc-selects-parkinson-as-one-of-the-first-diseases-included-in-new-database

*Photo by Sandra Ahn Mode on Unsplash.