Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Zika Humanitarian Challenge for the "People's Pope"


The Secular Spectrum: The Zika Humanitarian Challenge for the "People's Pope"

I have to admit that I had trouble keeping my eyes off the drama of the extremely disordered microcephalic son sitting next to his aging father, who had taken him to the idyllic Ferndell to enjoy the beauty and peace of this popular corner of Griffith Park.

We were out of sight of the father, but as I sipped my iced tea on that hot day, I kept sneaking glances at his son. I'm not proud of that, but I had never seen a microcephalic before. And his behavior was so strangely fascinating, in a heart-rending way. He kept davening his torso as he kicked his legs back and forth and moaned loudly.

Even if he didn't have the distinctively sloping head of a microcephalic, you would know there was something terribly wrong with him.

As we prepared to leave Ferndell, I sneaked one last glance at the pair. I noticed a wheelchair parked a few feet away. I felt sadness overwhelm me, as I imagined what pain his loving parents had gone through since his birth.
A photo taken on the day we watched this heart-rending scene in Ferndell.
This scene will play out for thousands--perhaps tens of thousands--of dirt poor Latin American families whose moment of joy has--or will soon be--robbed because their babies were born with microcephaly. All because their mothers were bitten by a mosquito during their pregnancy.

It a tragedy that could be prevented by a simple policy change from the so-called people's pope, one that would prevent so much suffering of the poor on his home continent.

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Coma Girl

Coma Girl

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In July of 2013, I fell into a six-week coma and nearly died. When I awoke from the coma, I could barely lift my head. It has been a hard road to recovery. The doctors advised my loved ones to give up all hope for my full recovery, but while they were shining lights in my eyes to gauge my level of consciousness, I was telling them grumpily to leave me alone because I was trying to get back to sleep...in my coma-dream. I was experiencing covert cognition, and the coma-dream was my version of a near-death experience. I'm a skeptic, so I saw surreal images instead of spirits or dead loved ones. According to my research, as many as one in five people with consciousness disorders have covert cognition.

Not a miracle recovery, but a miracle of modern medicine

In 2013 I fell into a six-week coma and nearly died after I contracted legionella. The Legionnaire's disease was in turn triggered by immunosuppression caused by the prednisone I was taking for my rare autoimmune disease, dermatomyositis.

I suffered a series of strokes on both sides of my brain when the sepsis caused my blood pressure to plummet. I fell into a deep coma. My kidneys and lungs began to fail, as my body was began dying one organ at a time. My doctors told my loved ones to give up hope for my full recovery. They expected me to die, and even if I somehow lived, I would remain a vegetable or at best left so hopelessly brain-damaged that I would never be same. But unbeknownst to them, while they were shining lights in my eyes and shaking their heads, I was telling them in my coma-dream--my secular version of a near-death experience--to leave me alone because I was trying to get back to sleep. I was experiencing what is known as covert cognition, the subject of my Skeptical Inquirer article "Covert Cognition: My So-Called Near-Death Experience," which appeared in their July/August issue.

But it wasn't a miracle--despite what so many continue to believe--that I recovered so fully. I owe my life not to God, but the miracles of modern medicine, as well as the nature of the watershed-area brain damage I suffered, as I detailed in my article and in this blog.