Welcome to my Friday Feature, in which my Quick Take Tuesday
guests regale us with tasty and tantalizing morsels of their work.
Feast your eyes on today’s excerpt… From Tokyo to toilette slippers....Please click on this link from author Wendy Tokunaga!
My son, post-op, at 3 months in his "first bedroom". Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
This is my second interview with a pediatric specialist. In this case, the doctor is a neonatologist. That is a pediatrician who does an extra 3-year post-residency fellowship in order to specialize in the intensive care of newborns. Neonatologists care for newborns that are hospitalized due to complications of prematurity as well as full term babies needing critical care, such as those born with serious birth defects needing surgery, such as my son.
On delivering babies early:
Some percentage of babies born at any age will have problems. The more premature a baby is, the more likely the problems. The most common problem is respiratory distress syndrome (RDS). This is a condition where the lungs lack a chemical called surfactant. Near term babies (35+ weeks) with RDS can be some of the sickest babies we take care of. Many of these babies will need to go on a mechanical respirator and some of them will need extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), which is very similar to heart/lung bypass. Most hospitals don’t have the capability to take care of these patients. A typical community hospital has a level 1 neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), which probably does not even have a respirator for a baby and/or the people qualified to operate it.
Inducing a 44-year-old multipara woman carrying a 35-week Down syndrome fetus:
In order to justify an induction at 35 weeks, there has to be a significant risk to the mother’s or baby’s health. Down’s syndrome in itself is not such a reason. There are tests to evaluate lung maturity. They require an amniocentesis, which carries its own risks and are far from 100% accurate.
Sarah Palin states she began leaking amniotic fluid in Dallas 24 hours before she delivered and flew for 8 of those:
Aside from the mess associated with leaking amniotic fluid (was she wearing an adult diaper to catch the fluid? There can be a lot of it), medically, it makes no sense. The longer that the membranes are ruptured, the higher the risk of infection to the mother and fetus. The risk rises more rapidly after 24 hours and mothers ruptured that long should be monitored in a hospital and probably should be given IV antibiotics. Any doctor who tells her patient with ruptured membranes that it’s ok to travel for 10 hours better have good malpractice insurance. Once the membranes rupture, the onset of labor can happen at any time. A woman who has had several children will often have a shorter labor and can deliver shortly after labor begins. This is variable, of course, but who would want to take this risk?
What would happen to a baby born on an airplane:
If a baby was born on an airplane, the odds that someone knows what to do are fairly small and the equipment to handle a delivery will certainly not be available. Most doctors who aren’t in OB/Gyn or Pediatrics haven’t been to a delivery since medical school. They would probably do fine if the mother and baby had no real problems, but in the case of premature baby, possibly infected, possibly with a heart defect and known to have Down’s syndrome, many things could go wrong. At best, the plane would have to make an emergency landing and the mother/baby taken to the nearest hospital.
Delivering in small hospital without NICU:
For a full term baby with no known problems, this is fine because most babies and mothers do well. The equipment and personnel to resuscitate a baby would be there and the baby could be stabilized and transported to hospital with a higher level of care. However, when there are known problems with the baby, it makes no sense to take unnecessary risks that the baby will need immediate intervention that cannot be provided in community hospital.
Delivery of a Ds baby by a Family Practitioner:
This, I have no problem with. A family practitioner (FP) who routinely does deliveries can handle this, as long as there is an OB/GYN back up in case a C-section is needed. Keep in mind that an FP could also help with the resuscitation of a sick baby, but that would divert him/her from the care of the mother and someone’s care would be compromised. Often, there is a pediatrician on call, but they may not be immediately available and would likely get there after the baby had already delivered. Again, this is fine for most cases, but when there are known issues with the baby, it makes no sense.
Down syndrome heart defects :
About half of babies with Down’s syndrome will have a heart defect. Many of these do not cause immediate problems, but will usually need surgical correction in the first year of life and need to be watched closely in the hospital before discharge to determine the timing of follow-up. Of course, this is not true of all heart defects and some will need immediate intervention from a cardiologist and pediatric cardiac surgeon. Not all congenital heart defects can be detected on prenatal ultrasound and it is recommended that all babies with Down’s syndrome have an early evaluation by a pediatric cardiologist. While this can be done in some community hospitals, it isn’t always easy.
There is another condition that occurs more often in babies with Down’s syndrome called persistent pulmonary hypertension (PPHN). This cannot be predicted prenatally and can be very serious. In this condition, the blood vessels in the baby’s lungs are constricted and very little blood flows through the lungs. This means that the baby has a hard time getting oxygen into their blood even if they are breathing normally. The usual treatment ranges from small amounts of supplemental oxygen, above concentration of oxygen in the air, delivered via an oxygen tent or nasal canula, to a mechanical respirator, to ECMO (heart-lung bypass, described above). This is more often associated with premature babies, but can happen at any age.
Photo of Trig seemingly with a nasal canula for oxygen:
If Trig required a nasal canula, there are many possible reasons. The most common would be “delayed transition” where he simply needed some support while he cleared fluid from his lungs. This could be exaggerated in a baby with low muscle tone due to Down’s syndrome. This generally gets better over time, but this is care that is over and above the capability of a level 1 NICU in a community hospital. He could also have some PPHN as I described above or even some RDS due to prematurity.
Taking a 3-day-old newborn to work:
Babies in general are very susceptible to infection. A baby with a heart defect and/or lung disease could get very ill if they get an upper respiratory infection. It is not recommended that newborns be taken out where they could be exposed to people who are sick.
The feeding issues associated with Down’s syndrome are usually related to the low muscle tone. Swallowing and breathing are two things we take for granted in a baby. In a premature and/or Down’s syndrome baby, they may not be able to do this right away and may need a feeding tube for a period of time. Often, the cardiac surgeons want a baby to gain weight before they operate on a heart defect. The heart defect can also make it harder for the baby to gain weight with a normal food intake. Oral feedings are often supplemented by tube feedings in these babies.
Down’s syndrome can affect almost any system in the body. They have an increased incidence of intestinal blockages, needing surgery shortly after birth. They can also have abnormalities of the blood. They can have low platelet counts (platelets are the cells in the blood that are involved in forming clots) and have a higher incidence of neonatal leukemia.
The media and the “Spiral of Silence”:
This is out of my area of expertise, but I can say this: Until recently, there was a line of respect for public figures that the media was not willing to cross. A politician’s children were generally off-limits for criticism and that probably explains the silence. However, it seems like everything is fair game these days.
Trig and Trisomy G:
I have never heard Down’s syndrome called “Trisomy G”. A quick Google search tells me that the Merck Manual has that name, but I’ve never heard it mentioned by anyone. We either call it Down’s syndrome or Trisomy 21, as the baby will have three copies of chromosome 21, instead of the usual two.
What a parent names their child is their decision. I’ve seen some crazy names over the years and Trig (Trisomy G?) is no big deal. What would you do if your parents named you “Shi’thead” or “Chlamydia”? Once we had a teen mother try to name her baby “Diarrhea” but we convinced her it wasn’t a good idea. My favorite baby name was pronounced “An-yae” but it was spelled “Etienne”. Apparently, the mother took the wrong name off her Etienne-Aigner purse when filling out the birth certificate. As we often say, “You need a license to drive a car, but not to have a baby.”
Ruffled ear defect:
I don’t know much about this. Generally, when a ear is deformed by the baby’s position in the womb, it will return to a normal shape after a few weeks. Rarely, some splinting is needed to re-shape the ear. This is not the case for developmental abnormalities of the ear. When an ear is malformed, surgical correction is needed to give the ear a normal appearance.
Downs and age:
The incidence of giving birth to a baby with Down’s syndrome rises with the age of the mother. It can be as high as 1 in 60 for a mother in her mid-40s. However, any mother of any age can have a baby with Down’s syndrome. It does happen in teenage mothers, but their risk is more like 1 in 1250.
Has a mother ever hidden her teenage daughter’s pregnancy and birth? Of course, I’m sure this happens all the time. The daughter has the baby and they announce to the world that the mother had another baby. It saves them from difficult questions and possibly shame. I can imagine if a mother is a political figure and an advocate of abstinence-only education, she would not want her teenage daughter getting pregnant and having a baby in the public eye. It could be the end of her political career, or at least her credibility.
I remember hearing that Bristol Palin was out of school for about 6 months due to “mononucleosis”. While mono can make a teenager quite sick, the timing certainly is suspicious and the length of time out is much longer than most cases of mono would last.
My son, 2 weeks old, neonatal intensive care. The incidence of his complication was 1 in 2,000 live births.
In response to the first pediatric specialist interview I conducted about this mystery, I received two insightful, intelligent, and delightful comments from a reader named “V”. She agreed to share her math skills with us on a broader scale by allowing me to post her work here. As someone who can barely add, I am intrigued by V’s work. And as someone who wants to embrace all possibilities in this sordid tale, I welcome this wonderful way of analyzing the data. Take it away, V.:
One question that has come up several times, in one form or another, has been: what are the odds? I thought it might be interesting to look at various independent data points that we seem to have in Sarah’s story, and assign odds to them, and then apply a little math, in order to determine how likely her story actually is. This is going to be chock full of assumptions and I’m sure the rest of you will have plenty to contribute to make the math better.
Data point/assumption 1: Trig is a Down syndrome baby. As many have noted, an older woman is much more likely than a younger woman to have a DS baby. On the other hand, a younger woman is much more likely to produce a baby. 80% of all DS babies are born to women under 35. So we’ll give Sarah a 20% chance of being Trig’s mom here (I know that this could be refined, either using conditional probability, which for various reasons I don’t want to apply, or better data regarding the probabilities, which I don’t have). But I think it’s important to remember that it’s simply a lot harder for women in their forties to produce babies at all (especially when they may have had their tubes seared shut, or when they’re grown-ups who should really understand birth control).
Data point/assumption 2: Sarah did not appear pregnant until her 7th month (unlike her daughter Bristol, who not only looked pregnant in the one picture which I saw of her, but mysteriously disappeared for the relevant period). I think this is rather unlikely – but there seem to be instances of it happening, even with women who have been pregnant before. So I’m assigning a 10% chance here, which I actually think is rather generous to Sarah, given how extremely odd the photos are. We’re down to 0.2 x 0.1 = 0.02 – a 2% chance that the child is hers.
Data point/assumption 3: Sarah did not tell anyone she was pregnant before then. Well, if she were faking it, she certainly wouldn’t tell anyone. However, I can imagine other reasons for not telling anyone. First, she had an important position, and she might not want to reduce her work effectiveness with a pregnancy. Second, knowing that it was a DS baby makes it less of an occasion of joy, especially if there is a chance that the baby won’t survive. So I’m not going to count this either for her or against her. We’re still at 2%.
Data point/assumption 4: Sarah did not behave pregnant before then, being seen drinking coffee and with no evidence of going to the doctor for extra visits. It’s possible that with a baby with Ds, that she saw no point in taking care of her body for him. On the other hand I think it’s odd that no one ever mentioned any behavior that would make them think, at least retroactively – Of course! Preggers! Especially as her appointments would have been generally visible to everyone on her staff, or at least there would have been occasions when people would wonder, hey, where was she Friday afternoon? Whereas poor Bristol apparently had a car accident in front of an OBGYN office. So again, being very generous to Sarah (and rather hard on everyone around her) I’m going to say 75%. We go from 0.02 x 0.75 = 0.015, or 1.5%
Data point/assumption 5: The flight attendants during Sarah’s wild ride claim that they did not notice that she was pregnant. Not just not 8 months pregnant, but pregnant at all! Now, if she was showing as much as she was in the Gusty photo, this seems really unlikely. Or if she took off an empathy belly, of course she wouldn’t appear pregnant either. However, I feel compelled to suggest another possibility: they noticed that she was pregnant but let her fly anyway, and then later, to protect themselves, said they didn’t notice anything. So on this point I’m not quite sure what to think – how to assess the odds. I’ll give it 50%, but additional input would be appreciated. That gets us down to .015 x 0.5 = 0.0075 or 0.75% (not 75%, but one hundredth of that)
Data point/assumption 6: the rest of the wild ride. Although I think it’s extremely peculiar, I’ll listen to the medical opinion you’ve presented here, and not go up or down. Still 0.75
Data point/assumption 7: Internet scrubbing. Many folks have mentioned that after the selection of Sarah as McCain’s VP candidate, pictures of Sarah disappeared, and that even kids’ computers and Myspace accounts were scrubbed. Although I could believe that the kids probably had indiscreet remarks on drugs and drinking, I can’t understand deleting general photos of Sarah. Something to hide? Sure looks like it, especially when you think that the McCain campaign would generally be interested in showing more
rather than less
of the photogenic Sarah officiating as governor … we’ll reduce her probability of telling the truth here by 50%. So that’s 0.0075 x 0.5 = 0.00375 or 0.375%
Data point/assumption 8: the letter from CBJ. This is a difficult item to assess. CBJ’s letter certainly indicates that Sarah gave birth to Trig. So for Sarah’s story to be false, CBJ would have to have lied. How likely is that? I have no idea. There are strange aspects to CBJ’s letter and behavior. Why on earth would she have OK’d the ride back from Texas? Heck, I can’t understand why she OK’d the ride TO Texas! Why was CBJ’s letter released on the eve of the election and not well before? Is it possible that there was a great deal of pressure on her? I’m sure that the letter was scrutinized by the McCain-Palin team – was she forced to say something which wasn’t true? Why did she need a lawyer when responding to questions from the ADN? This is all extremely odd, and it’s not as if we’ve never heard of unethical doctors, so I have some real doubts about CBJ. On the other hand, I must say that if Sarah was not pregnant, and all CBJ did was to lie about it, I actually respect her more. She did no medical harm in this situation and actually protected her patient’s privacy – probably ethically to her more important than telling the truth to the public. However, because I want to give her all benefits of doubts, I will double the chances that Sarah is telling the truth. So now it’s 0.00375 x 2 = 0.0075 or 0.75%
Data point/assumption 9: no release of a birth certificate. This I can’t understand at all. If Sarah is
the mother, releasing the birth certificate would effectively quash all rumors. The only reason not to release it, other than Sarah not being the mother, would be if Todd were not the father – which I think is really unlikely. So here I have to give Sarah a 25% of telling the truth (generous to Sarah on my part): 0.0075 x 0.25 = 0.001875, or 0.1875%.
This is all very rough, but it ends up with Sarah having a less than 2 out 1000 chance of being Trig’s biological mother.
An interesting exercise for an afternoon – thanks for reading! UPDATE: Gryphen
reminds me that he did a post on The Odds
last year. It's a great read, as always, and free of numbers, which means I can wrap my tiny brain around it! Check it out!
And thank YOU, “V” for sharing your skills and time with us. Math wizards, weigh in!
The first time I bathed my son. One week old. Neonatal Intensive care. His bulletin board in the background.
The French were right: The more things change, the more they stay the same. The “Spiral of Silence” that Professor Brad Scharlott
wrote about in this draft of an academic paper examining the media and the Sarah Palin birth rumors, has begun to spiral again. Only it’s downward, and it’s not pretty.
This time, the media is not so much debunking the rumors and laying them to rest. Instead it is turning in on itself with outlets out-arguing and out-shaming themselves. Bloggers pressing for answers. Reporters turning on bloggers. Just when Professor Scharlott and I think we can forge ahead with our conversation about the actions of major news outlets in 2008, reports came out last week that reporters quaking in their shoes once saw the then governor’s pregnant belly.
The formidableAndrew Sullivan
has weighed in on this new evidence. The incomparable Joe McGinniss
has as well. Both linked to my earlier interview with a specialist in the field of pediatrics (read the interview and figure out what he does. It’s not that hard. And they don’t get any more specialized than him.) I appreciate their guts and due diligence.
The immortal Immoral Minority’s Gryphen
says the story still stinks like foul fish and I have to agree. So, Brad, let’s talk shop: LN:
“Make it stop,” cried one reporter who now says she thought the governor was pregnant, in part because her friends in another city saw Mrs. Palin sweating on a treadmill. And that’s what I say now because I’ve just read about a reporter swearing he shooed people out of her office and then begged her not to get mad at him. Tell me I am dreaming. BS:
You’re not dreaming. Well, that reporter is Wesley Loy, the one I praised in our last edition as having “a lot of guts” for writing in March 2008 that Palin “simply does not look pregnant.” The scene you describe above comes from his recovered memory, three years after the fact, in which Palin seemingly convinced him she was with child. So if a hard-nosed, call-it-like-it-is guy like Loy suggests he thought she was really preggers, that seals the deal, right?
But wait. I wrote to Juneau newsman Gregg Erickson in September 2008 asking about the alleged hoax. He wrote back that in the summer of 2008, he and his wife had offices next to Loy’s, and that they “especially enjoyed Wesley's accounts of his pursuit the ‘Grandma Governor fakes birth’ story.”
Huh? If Palin, by lifting her shirt and revealing her fabric-covered belly, convinced Loy sometime that spring that there was no hoax, why was he investigating the hoax that summer? After Loy took a buyout from the Anchorage Daily News, I understand he became a freelancer and a blogger.
And Julia O’Malley, still with the Anchorage Daily News, wrote the “Make.It.Stop.” story, in which she virtually called me an idiot. Indeed, everything coming out of the Daily News these days seems to have a strong pro-Palin spin. These are tough times, especially for newspapers, and the Daily News gets over half a million dollars a year from the state of Alaska for advertising and other services. And while Palin is no longer the governor, many of her friends, whom she put in high-level state positions, are still around.
So could the Palin crowd be orchestrating something like reporters’ recovered memories and attack-dog articles? Does a polar bear eat moose in the woods? I simply don’t know. LN:
I am stuck on this fact that a reporter is saying he actually apologized to Mrs. Palin behind closed doors asking her to not get mad at him, before she lifted her shirt to prove she was pregnant. Scrape me off the floor because not only can I not fathom a reporter ever doing this, I’d be too ashamed to ever admit it. And no matter what the truth in this whole ordeal, she had him right there. He was mincemeat. Am I right? BS:
I’ve never been a woman, but a couple of folks posting at blog sites have said that the above scenario sounds like a woman wrote it. I don’t know the first thing about Loy – maybe he is good at getting in touch with his feminine side. But my reaction as a journalist is like yours – it seems like a very strange scene.
But I don’t want to seem snarky. Palin was the governor. And she was also beautiful and charismatic. To be honest, I have no idea how I would have reacted when I was a young reporter faced with a situation like that – but I might have been every bit as deferential. I’m guessing the scene happened exactly as Loy described it, and he was just overawed by her presence. Loy should just be thankful it wasn’t her gender that was being questioned. BS:
Your turn Laura. Can you picture a circumstance where you would write a “Make.It.Stop.” piece like O’Malley’s, effectively telling journalists that further investigation of a potential presidential candidate should be off-limits, because you absolutely know
the truth and have revealed it? LN:
Never. Yawn. Next question.
Seriously. Years ago, I worked with a very famous TV journalist in London and New York. Every time I went in to his office, he had his hands in his pants. Deep down. Fiddling with his shirt, I suppose, if I want to be charitable. Things like that happened often in the news business to young women. The sexism was rampant. So, had there been a weird story then that the man had no private parts, say, would I have said that no, that I was pretty sure there was something there to fiddle with? I’m sure I would have been discreet had that question been raised (he was a notorious philanderer.) Later, if someone asked, would I change my story about his fiddling with his pants and with other women? No. I experienced what I experienced. I wouldn’t adapt the story to fit the current agenda.
Same goes for my experience with Rush Limbaugh. We worked at the same all-news station in Sacramento. My experience was that he was a gentleman. He was always nice to me and had a good sense of humor. He’d often invite me on his show to debate issues. He called me a "flaming lib in the newsroom!" All these years later, with all that’s been said about him, would I change my story just because I disagree with his politics? No. I experienced Rush the way I did. It’s bogus to adapt to the current discussion rather than hold to our original truth. BS:
Joe McGinniss recently asked this in his blog: “Is it purely coincidence that so many are suddenly so intent on insisting that there are no legitimate questions to be asked?” What’s your answer? LN:
One must tread carefully, Obi Wan. Influence talks. Absolute influence talks absolutely. If reporters reported the story correctly, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
Remember what you just said: Young reporters are more timid. They can be overwhelmed by the power brokers. I would probably have been as well, though to be honest, I overcame a lot of fear by compensating with fierce reporting. I could just get in their face
But I want to point out one more thing. Powerful people have media people. Those media people do not, I repeat, do NOT leave the room because a green reporter tells them to. (again, scrape me off the floor). I’ve had them place their tape recorders next to mine for the interview. I’ve had them try to redirect the conversation. I’ve even had them sit directly behind me and click, click, click away on their laptops to log the entire interview, almost as if in an attempt to unnerve me! I’ve been pressured, leaned on, harassed, schmoozed and offered bribes.
Brad, anything is possible. Anything.
If you're just joining me, thank you for visiting. My posts about Sarah Palin are marked as such in the side bar. Several new ones are almost ready. And my interview with the doctor is a short scroll down.
Thank you to Andrew Sullivan
and Joe McGinniss
, two of the world's finest journalists, for linking to my interview with this MD.
To clarify an important point: "Pediatric specialist" is a term that the doctor wished to use in order to not further identify his sub-speciality. I agreed to do so. He is NOT a pediatrician. He is NOT an OB/GYN. With all the nut jobs out there in the world, I was content to let him choose the moniker "specialist". He actually has many, many more years of training than a medical doctor. If you read his words carefully, you can probably discern his speciality. It's not that hard!
If you never have to meet a doctor in his shoes, consider yourself very lucky. This man speaks from 30 years of experience in the trenches, treating horrific things in pediatrics that most people can't imagine (though I can because I volunteered in an inner-city NICU for five years and saw some pretty unspeakable things myself.) This doctor is eminently qualified to speak about Down syndrome, or I would never have asked his opinion. I've been a reporter for 25 years. I don't seek out unsound sources. Nor am I unfamiliar with pediatric medicine and its many sub-specialities: My son has endured 15 surgeries in all, one of them lasting seven full hours. He lived in neonatal intensive care for three months.
I admittedly interviewed the doctor with preconceptions. He answered me with no regard for what I, or anyone else, wants to hear. My job as a reporter was to listen to the doctor and print what he said. Whether or not I agreed.
Thank you for reading. And welcome to the conversation!
Quick Take Tuesday, a blog of tasteful, yet shameless, self-promotion involving an author or someone of equal social standing. I ask two questions, and then my guest turns the table and asks me two questions, as long as they don’t involve pounds or pant size.
Today my guest is WENDY TOKUNAGA,
San Francisco-based author of the novels Love in Translation and Midori by Moonlight,
both published by St. Martin’s Press, and the new Kindle non-fiction e-book, Marriage in Translation: Foreign Wife, Japanese Husband,
which is a collection of interviews with 14 Western women who talk candidly about the challenges in making cross-cultural marriages work and the joys and frustrations of adapting to another culture. She also teaches writing classes for Stanford University’s Online Writer’s Studio and has her own manuscript consulting business. She dotes on her lovely cat Meow and is married to Osaka-born surfer dude Manabu Tokunaga. Q)
Konnichiwa! I should also add that you are a cat lady like me. But I’m not so sure that you’re as bat shit crazy as I am. Maybe that’s because you live on the other side of the Bay, just a few blocks from the ocean and are a successful and highly paid author of several beautiful books. And might I add, a karaoke singer! A)
Highly paid author? Ahem. I think my husband would beg to differ with you there. Yes, I’m a karaoke singer of some reknown—LOL—but mainly with Japanese songs. I also like to sing jazz, bossa-nova and cool pop (Nancy Sinatra, anyone?) with my husband on keyboards. But am I a cat lady? Mmmm. I was just talking about this the other day. Why is it that when a woman simply enjoys the company of her cat (or cats, as I assume is the case with you), she is automatically dubbed a “crazy cat lady?” It’s such a stigma. When I’m out shopping with my husband and I want to buy a cute dishtowel or mug with a cat on it, he tells me that I shouldn’t, that I’m in danger of becoming one of those nutty feline-hoarding, cat-sweater-wearing old biddies. Do I hear the same thing about men and their cats or men and their dogs? Nooooo. I’m not sure what to do about this. I guess raising consciousness about this important issue through QTT
is enough for the time being. Q)
You and I met and bonded at a writers’ conference because we both called bullshit on a famous writer who gave the most disingenuous speech about her success as an author and failure as a human being. There’s a lot out there that’s hard to digest right now about the publishing industry. What’s your take on it? A)
Yes, I remember that speech well. It was difficult to suppress my look of astonishment when everyone else seemed to be in tears as they rose to give said author a standing ovation. Oh, well.
As for the publishing industry, as someone who just released an e-book on Kindle
, I have to say that I’m not one of the doom-and-gloomers. I actually am excited to be living in a time of such change. There are downsides and upsides to all of this and a lot of it mirrors what’s gone on in the recording industry. I think it’s likely that more and more people will do some or all of their reading on e-readers or i-Phones or iPads, but I don’t think tangible books will disappear. I also don’t envision libraries going away, but they will change a lot. The same with independent bookstores. They might become more like community gathering places with more computers and accessories for people to use, perhaps, than books. I have faith that there are a lot of creative people out there who will take on these challenges and turn them into amazing entities we can’t even foresee.
I also embrace social media. I love Twitter
and the way these sites have allowed me to interact and network with readers and writers from all over the world, whom I never would have otherwise met. I think traditional publishers will still exist, but they will have to make some changes, and self-publishing and indie-publishing will also be in the mix. I guess I’m a good example. I just published my own e-book, but my latest novel, about a congressman’s sex scandal of some 20 years ago and the effect it still has today on his wife and two grown daughters, is with my literary agent and we’re about to try and pitch it to editors at publishing houses. Will it sell? I don’t know. It’s always been a tough business and it’s getting tougher. On the other hand, people are still buying books and novelists are still getting book deals.
The sky isn’t falling, at least not from where I sit. In fact, it’s a big, beautiful and intact sky that is full of possibilities if you can think a little bit outside the box. //BUZZER NOISE AND SOUND OF TABLE BEING TURNED// Q)
Okay, your turn, Laura
. I know you’ve confessed to being a major foodie or at least that you LOVE to eat out like I do (and we should get together for lunch sometime!). And no, this question has nothing to do with dress size or caloric intake. I can’t name one favorite restaurant because I like way too many of them (though I’ll say that I’m currently loving Café Claude in San Francisco), but I’ll put you on the spot. What and where is your favorite place to eat out and why is it your favorite? A)
You know, the food scene has exploded in Oakland. It’s all happening right here where they said there was “no there.” James Syhabout, Daniel Patterson
…from Jack London Square to Uptown, Piedmont avenue, Rockridge. Whether it’s a taqueria or a multi-course meal you’re after, Oakland is the new Brooklyn. Tastebuds are exploding like firecrackers over here and if you’re a new chef on the scene, you’d better bring your A Game. But there are two new places I’m dying to try in SF: Michael and Lindsay Tusk just opened the new Quince & Cotogna
and it looks gorgeous. And Michael Mina
is now in the old Aqua space. It’s all so hip and happening, they might not let me in the door. And of course, just like my protagonist in Finding Clarity,
I have nothing to wear. And it was the outfit she donned for the big party that got her in real trouble and really set in motion the events that unraveled the entire story! Who knew dining out could be so much fun? Q)
I know that you’re a very successful non-fiction writer who has written for many of the top magazines and journals. But you are also writing a mystery! What are the differences in mindset when you write fiction versus non-fiction? And which is more fun? A)
I always called being a reporter “having a license to snoop.” Assignments were an entrée into incredible worlds, places I’d never otherwise go, be that a ghetto, backstage at a rock concert, on the trail with a politician, or cruising in a cop car. When I was young and starting out, my roommates worked in banking and they wore suits and had very stable jobs. I never knew what was up from one day to the next. But one thing I was certain of: I disliked dull stories and loved exciting ones. Environmental stories were my least favorite. Strikes were okay because they were basic (get both sides, don’t take sides) but crimes stories, now crime
stories were my first love. Really. One minute I was covering Joe Biden on the campaign trail and the next I was looking down at a body covered in lime rotting in the heat. And you know which one I found more interesting? Guess. I just loved how linear the crime stories were. They flowed, they were comprised of pieces. There was mystery, or not, as the case sometimes was. That’s why I loved them. And that’s why I love piecing together my own Murder at the Mailbox, my first Clari Drake mystery
following Finding Clarity (where I just so happen to have almost 10,000 reads of the first chapters on Scribd!) //BUZZER NOISE AND SOUND OF AMAZINGLY LOUD APPLAUSE//
Thank you for joining me on Quick Take Tuesday,
author, wife, cat-liker, Karaoke singer and bullshit detector, Wendy Tokunaga!
Please come back and fill me up, so to speak, with some of your work for my Friday Feature!
Holding my son in the neonatal intensive care nursery at one month. The orange flag in the background is the "crash cart."
This story of the birth of Trig Palin has intrigued me for the reasons I have stated in earlier posts. I had a high-risk pregnancy and a complicated delivery by a very careful and skilled surgeon (OB) in an urban hospital a mile from the children’s hospital where my son lived for the first few months of his life. I’ve written extensively about our experiences.
On the other hand, there is no clear, consistent account of Sarah Palin’s putative pregnancy and Trig Palin’s birth, while there is a lot of speculation about what was right, wrong, risky and/or foolish. Or true.
I spoke at length with a pediatric specialist who has worked in the field for 30 years, including Level 3 Neonatal Intensive Care Units. I was curious about his take on the stories and rumors. He spoke honestly, gently and without regard for what I or anyone else might want to hear.
Read his comments carefully. There is one section that some people might find difficult to read. It is blunt, but illustrative of how he knows all that he knows about cardiac anomalies in Down syndrome children.
I am presenting this informally. Take away from this conversation what you will. And if you have follow up questions that are reasonable for me to ask him, I’d be glad to.
On delivering babies early:
There’s a lot going on in the OB and medical safety literature right now about pushing back from this culture of “I’m gonna have my kid when I’m gonna have my kid”, rather than “I’m gonna have my kid when he’s ready”.
Your OB was ahead of the game, or it was far enough back in years. No more “let’s time our delivery because this is good for me, or because I want my kid born on 1/1/11”. Clearly kids who are born prematurely have significant issues globally, even though that doesn’t mean every single one does. On average kids who are born early have more problems - even if that’s at 37 or 38 weeks. So there’s been increasing pushback on this culture of “I want it done my way.”
Inducing a 44-year-old multipara woman carrying a 35-week Down syndrome fetus:
What could explain her being induced? Unless there was a problem with the fetus itself there would be no reason to do this. And I don’t know of anything related to Downs that would push you to go in that direction
Sarah Palin states she began leaking amniotic fluid in Dallas 24 hours before she delivered:
Leaking fluid is a relative indication that labor needs to be induced because of risk of infection. You don’t want that to go on for long period of time. The situation is more difficult than just putting the mother on bed rest. You can put her on antibiotics but that won’t prevent infection. And the fetus can be more severely impacted by that kind of infection. They might push to deliver because of that.
Flying 10 hours while leaking amniotic fluid:
That’s an issue. Why fly? If you’re leaking fluid you ought to go to the most reasonably near facility that can deal appropriately with your condition. Getting on an airplane when you might go into precipitous labor at any period of time seems unwise. If she’s leaking fluid she can go (into labor) anytime. Doesn’t have to leak for hours. And in an airplane you don’t have access to anything. Best of circumstances you have half an hour before the plane can be on the ground and that’s if you’re flying over an airport.
So why would she take that risk if she didn’t have to? In some sense it’s judgment call. If she wasn’t who she was would anyone say anything about it? Anybody would want to deliver close to home. For her, privacy invasion would be more likely at an out of town hospital. Is there risk? Yes, but relative to a delivery in rural Alaska?
If not leaking fluid, why induce at 35 weeks:
If Palin wasn’t leaking fluid? Unless there was something going on with fetus you’re not aware of, it’s probably not a good idea to induce labor.
Delivering in small hospital without NICU:
But by itself, this is not a problem, no. Downs babies may have things wrong with them, but as I recall there’s not really anything that you would expect to cause an immediate risk to health. So they may have heart defects and that sort of thing. But they tend to be relatively stable during first month of life.
Emergencies certainly happen and a diagnosis might not be made in advance. . But if someone just walked into hospital to deliver, it might be safer for them to deliver there than transport the mom - especially in a place like Alaska where transport can be hit-or-miss anywhere. You may say that you’re going to move them because of some health issue. But you may find that risk of transportation is more than risk of delivering.
But in terms of planning ahead to deliver this way, does it reach the level of being egregious? That would be hard to say without having a lot more information. The circumstances all seem kind of strange. If you’re concerned about the kid why do you deliver where the kid won’t have access to the appropriate level of care? And if kid is not having problems why are you delivering at all?
Now if you have all the resources of a possible candidate for the Vice Presidential nominee of the Republican party, you might want to go farther. People are funny. They don’t always make rational choices. Quite possible she simply wanted to be closer to home rather than in some place where she would be covered by media all the time.
Clearly the kid didn’t have problems. So did she put the kid at more risk by doing what she did? Possibly. But the difference would have been at the margin at best. Any normal hospital with routine OB work would be fine. You wouldn’t want to go to a place that doesn’t have an OB service or delivered one baby a week. But a place that was set up to do things was probably fine.
Delivery of a Ds baby by a Family Practitioner:
When you live in an urban area, you’re not used to this. But there are a lot a places where family practitioners do most of the deliveries. And having a Board Cert OB available is not necessarily easy. I was delivered by my family practitioner.
Down syndrome heart defects at birth:
They can have heart defects but they are the type of defects that don’t usually require emergency intervention. They need to be assessed and potentially followed but that doesn’t mean they have to have a pediatric cardiologist waiting for them.
The way things work now, there are ultrasounds that are the size of your iPhone, so if you have a technician who knows what they are doing or can work with a cardiologist over the phone, they wouldn’t even necessarily have to be in the same state. That’s not 4 or 5 years ago, but now. If they had a responsibly competent, well-trained technician it might very well be able to do the echo on site and just transmit it to whomever to evaluate. If the quality was bad or something was question, they might call the kid in and repeat it on site.
Ds heart defects in general:
Thirty-five years ago it was the pioneering days of pediatric cardiac surgery. They did a lot of heart surgery on Downs kids for 2 reasons: At the time they didn’t consider it a loss if they lost the kids. And because it was hard to kill them. They survived. In some sense they were hardy. The surgeons were experimenting at the time. That’s one of the favorite aphorisms of a pediatric cardiac surgeon at the time: He’d lose a kid on the table, and look at the cardiac surgery Fellow and say, “it was all experimental anyway” and walk away. That’s a long time ago. But that’s the way it was. The survival rates seemed to be higher for the Downs kids than the other kids with heart problems. So having a Downs kid in a regional hospital with a sort of normal ability for OB and routine nursery care is probably not that out of the question.
Taking a 3-day-old newborn to work:
I would say if the kid was born at 40 weeks and was otherwise normal, I still wouldn’t take him to work. I find it crazy when I walk into Safeway and see a kid who’s a couple of weeks old at best out with in public exposed to who-knows-who with who-knows-what potentially infectious respiratory problems. Why would you do that if you had a choice? It seems showy.
I’m constantly telling people the most dangerous place for your kid is the back seat of your car. If there is no one available to take the kid at home and you had to go to work, that’s one thing. But how many moms with newborns have to make that choice in the first place? You going to go Walmart to work with the kid and have them under the cash register? No, people find someone to leave the baby home with.
It’s a different society up there in Alaska. It’s a frontier mentality. And people do things that we would consider out of place down here but might not be up there.
Downs kids tend to be pudgy. If they’re preemies, if they’re developmentally at 35 weeks, they may have some problems feeding. But feeding is variable. It’s not related to the Downs but to the gestational age. The kids born at that age in the nursery are there mostly because they don’t feed well and they want to make sure they are feeding enough and gaining weight. Some quite conceivably go home that day.
Photo of Trig seemingly with a nasal canula for oxygen:
He may have had an RSV infection or bronchiolitis and needed extra oxygen. It makes you wonder what the source of the picture is. If they are on oxygen they are not at home. The other part of that is that some of the cardiac conditions, and I’m no expert, are in some sense oxygen sensitive. So that if you maintain your level of oxygenation, you prevent their circulation from screwing itself up. There are oxygen sensors in your circulatory system and blood vessels will expand or contract based on what they are seeing and maybe a little extra oxygen was to prevent an adverse reaction from happening. That’s before a heart defect is fixed.
Downs kids can have ventricular septal defects, and a lot of those are what are called muscular, and over time they functionally close if not anatomically close. And the atrial septal defects as well. There are two types of ASD’s and one closes spontaneously because it’s a physiologic opening, meaning it’s there to function during gestation so its supposed to be there. They don’t always close the way they are supposed to and they take time to seal. And if they seal you don’t have to do anything with them. So he may never have needed surgery.
If I were writing for the New York Times and I was the editor, I would say, it’s a waste of time, in that you can probably make something of this if you want to, but there’s really nothing of any great import here. If you’re working for People Magazine, then let’s throw this one out here and sell a few more copies.
There’s not much substance here. The kids doing okay now as far as we know, I think. So while the decisions may not have been 100% in line with conventional thinking, they weren’t so far off line that the kid has suffered any significant problems.
There’s really not a whole lot to it. It’s a mom in the public eye trying to make decisions that seem appropriate to her. It’s easy to second guess. But I’m not sure a lot of other people would have done it differently, or she might have had she not been in public eye. Having other kids certainly would help in the sense that she would be more comfortable taking a kid home. She’s been there before. If she’s saying, “he’s my kid and I’m going to treat him as normal kid,” then why not?
This is within the bounds of normal. We have parents and patients all the time that do things different from what we recommend. But as long as they are not putting their kid at risk, there’s a limit to how much steering you can do. If I think a kid has cancer and I’ll push that. But if the lump has been there 6 months and hasn’t changed and mom isn’t concerned, then I’ll say ‘come back later’.
Trig and Trisomy G:
I don’t remember hearing that about Trisomy G. I remember a kid I knew when I was 10 years old who parents named Twig Snodgrass. I’m not joking. And of course there’s the famous Ima Hogg. Trig? Hmmm. So? We see a lot worse names than that. There was a baby named Meconium in the nursery. I’m not kidding. The mom liked the sound of the word. You know how psychotic parents can be.
Ruffled ear defect:
That kind of surgery isn’t going to get done by someone in the boondocks in Alaska. If the ear was crushed in the uterus it can look really weird and 4 or 5 months it can look perfectly normal. Kids heads look weird when they come out too, especially if there’s been a prolonged labor. And over time they straighten themselves out and look pretty good. How much of this is artifact from the picture itself? The lighting or shadows or who knows what. And if it looks like the opening of ear canal is farther forward? Is it the ear canal or a shadow?
An ear defect does not necessarily have to do with Downs.
I find the woman distasteful to say the least. But there are more important things to worry about with her than this. There is no flag for me here. In a lot of ways she is a modern woman. And not in the sense that she is looking out for women’s rights but rather that she is making decisions for herself and family and the public be damned. If you have a question about it, that’s too bad.
As a doctor, I would have no ethical quandaries about this.
It just seems like people trying to make something out of, not necessarily nothing, but certainly something that wouldn’t be at all a question if she wasn’t who she was. Would Child Protective Services be looking for her because she got on an airplane? Probably not. When you’re in the public eye people will question anything you do. Obama has the same problem. No matter what he says or does, people will disagree. It has nothing do with him. It has to do with we want to make noise.
There are far worse things going on and people being far more abusive to their kids than this is anywhere near. So from the perspective of someone who has seen parents neglectful to the point of abusive, this is nothing. There are moms who have 5 or 6 kids in foster care and the next thing you know there’s another 30-week preemie in the nursery for the State to spend a million dollars on. There are good moms and other moms. And when do you tell a mom they can’t have another kid? It’s America and we don’t do that. It’ may not be in the kid’s best interest to be had by that mom. But the fundamental basis of America is liberty.
Downs and age:
Downs kids are far more likely in older parents. So, the chance that the teenager had a Downs baby? It’s possible but probably less than 5%. Teenagers might have more babies, but on the basis of the babies they have, how many have Downs? It’s much smaller.
She’s weird in some ways. But she’s not that weird. To do things like fake a pregnancy. Those kinds of people don’t get through a nomination process because there would be too many flags. Because it’s not that they do one thing that’s weird. There would be a history. There’s politically weird and then there’s outrageous behavior. Did she baptize her kids in local stream in middle of winter? Did she have the kid at home? No. Politically I don’t like her. But she’s not that weird.
Welcome to my Friday Feature, in which my Quick Take Tuesday guests regale us with tasty and tantalizing morsels of their work. Feast your eyes on today’s excerpt…
Murder Is A Family Business by Heather Haven
The Not-So-Perfect Storm
I tried to focus my mind on Mr. Portor Wyler, said perpetrator, and the singular reason for all my misery. I kept coming back to this burning question: Why the hell is a Palo Alto real estate mogul driving 42-miles roundtrip two to three times a week to a beat-up, San Francisco warehouse on the waterfront?
After that, I had an even better one: What the hell am I doing here? Oh, yeah. Thanks, Mom.
My name is Liana Alvarez. It’s Lee to my friends, but never to my mother. I am a thirty-four year old half-Latina and half-WASP PI. The latter, aforesaid relatives, drip with blue blood and blue chips and have been Bay Area fixtures for generations. Regarding the kindred Mexican half of me, they either immigrated to the good old US of A or still live in Vera Cruz, where they fish the sea. How my mother and father ever got together is something I’ve been meaning to ask Cupid for some time.
However, I digress. Back to Portor Wyler or, rather, his wife, Yvette Wyler. It was because of her I was in possession of a cold, wet butt, although I’m not supposed to use language like that because Mom would be scandalized. She has this idea she raised me to be a lady and swears her big mistake was letting me read Dashiell Hammett when I was an impressionable thirteen year old.
My mother is Lila Hamilton Alvarez, of the blue blood part of the family, and CEO of Discretionary Inquiries, Inc. She’s my boss. Yvette Wyler has been a friend of my mother’s since Hector was a pup, so when Mrs. Wyler came crying to her, Mom thought we should be the ones to find out what was going on. That didn’t seem like a good enough reason for me to be where I was, assigned to a job so distasteful no self-respecting gumshoe I hung out with would touch it, but there you have it. Leave it to my mother to lay a guilt trip on me at one of my more vulnerable times. I don’t know who I was more annoyed with, Mom or me.
Furthermore, I had no idea what my intelligent, savvy, and glamorous mother had in common with this former school buddy, who had the personality of ragweed and a face reminiscent of a Shar-Pei dog I knew once. Whenever I brought the subject up to Mom, I got claptrap about “loyalty” and “friends being friends.” So naturally, my reaction to the woman made me aware of possible character flaws on my part. I mean, here Mrs. Wyler was, one of my mother’s life-long chums, and I was just waiting for her to bark.
But the long and short of it was pals they were. Discretionary Inquiries, Inc. was on the job, and I was currently freezing my aforementioned butt off because of it; thank you so much.
In which I continue my dialogue with Dr. Bradford Scharlott,
tenured professor of communications and journalism at Northern Kentucky University. He wrote an academic paper entitled “Palin, the Press and the Fake Pregnancy Rumor: Did a Spiral of Silence Shut down the Story?”
It was released and circulated widely last week to the interest and consternation of Sarah Palin followers everywhere.
This appears to be the first time an academician has publicly examined the role of the U.S. press in covering, or not, the controversy that continues to surround Mrs. Palin and the baby, Trig Palin, born only months before her candidacy for vice president. And that is what has made me want to do a story on a story about a story.
(And at the bottom of this interview, I’ll post a photo of me holding my son in the Children’s Hospital NICU at 3 days old. With a few additional thoughts.) LN: Brad
, in your paper you quote a blogger who asserted Mrs. Palin was not the birth mother of Trig only days after her selection as John McCain’s running mate. That blogger
quoted the Anchorage newspaper as having reported on rumors to that effect almost six months earlier…rumors that were apparently “long simmering” about this. And yet another Alaskan reporter shut that down. And when you tried to contact a reporter about the confusion, he shut you
down. Who can make any sense of this?BS:
Gregg Erickson, a Juneau-based newsman, told the internet-poster ArcXIX that the press had pursued the hoax rumor and it proved “baseless” – that is different from saying the rumor was untrue. I believe he meant that Wesley Loy, an Anchorage Daily News reporter, had investigated the matter the previous summer and had failed to find affirmative proof of a hoax. There still is no affirmative proof of a hoax, just a ton of circumstantial evidence. That doesn’t mean there was no hoax – simply that, if there was one, it has worked well so far.
I tried to contact Wesley Loy, as you note, and he did not respond. (Recall that he is the reporter who wrote that Palin “simply does not look pregnant” when she announced the pregnancy – which took a lot of guts.) There is nothing unusual about the fact that he would not respond to my email. At the time I tried, he was probably getting contacted by lots of reporters and would have had no particular reason to want to talk to a professor in Kentucky who contacted him out of the blue. Remember that Palin was not only the governor, which gave her great power, she also had a reputation for being viciously vindictive. Even a reporter who felt certain a hoax had taken place had to be very careful of what he said. Loy is no longer with the newspaper; he was offered a buyout and took it.
Erickson and Loy were the only reporters I tried to contact back then. I wasn’t planning on doing anything with the information. I was just curious – professionally curious. LN:
But you also said that the McCain camp felt the need to respond to the rumor that Mrs. Palin did not give birth to Trig Palin, even though none of the mainstream press in the Lower 48 picked up the story. The campaign did this by saying Bristol Palin was pregnant. You then write: “It seemed strange and needless. A birth certificate would have settled the matter, as would a statement from the hospital or from the doctor who delivered the child.” Had that happened, you and I would likely not be discussing this today. So, what’s your theory on why that didn’t
Why didn’t Sarah Palin offer documentary proof she’s the mother? There would seem to be two possible answers, and they are not mutually exclusive: 1) she’s not the birth mother; and 2) she’s mentally unbalanced. BS
, you’re a mother. If someone doubted your birth story, would you simply ignore the matter, or would you prove your maternity with a birth certificate or other documentary evidence such as medical records? LN:
Once when I was working for CBS Radio in San Francisco, this nasty little woman who worked in the newsroom began spreading a rumor that I had been a biology major in college but never ended up graduating. She said I was a college drop out. Not only can I barely spell biology, let alone would I ever major in it, but I in fact have two degrees, both a bachelor’s and a master’s. I quashed that stupid rumor fast by chewing her out across the newsroom, as everyone ducked their heads! Had I needed to trot out my framed degrees, I would have. The rumor was so crazy, baseless, and insulting, I didn’t want it to fester.
Were I running for top office in the United States and a crazy rumor came up that I either endangered my child’s life, committed a fraud or lied through my teeth about the birth, I would quash that even faster by yelling even louder. For my child’s dignity, if not mine.
But, would I stand in front of a bank of cameras and wave my innocent child’s birth certificate around? I can see not doing that. Would I offer up all
my medical records? Likely, no. But what would
be appropriate is to have a pool camera and reporter view the certificate and talk to my doctor. Especially if this were causing my running mate any embarrassment! Or, I would have the campaign arrange for me to be on 60 Minutes, maybe even have my doctor laugh off the rumors with Leslie Stahl, and then show me in some beautifully quiet, peaceful, loving moments with my most precious offspring. I would leave no doubt, no doubt,
in anyone’s mind that I gave birth to this baby. To leave doubt is to foment mystery. To leave doubt would demean my intelligence and viability as a leader. The right person speaking in front of the right camera able to back up the facts to the right reporter, would be all that it takes.
Anyone would do the same thing. Unless of course, they wouldn’t. And the question remains: why not? BS:
As a former reporter yourself, can you identify with the reporters who covered the campaign and totally gave Palin a pass on the birth hoax rumor? If so, why? LN:
Hey, d’you hear the one about the third rate burglars who broke in to that apartment building in Washington one weekend? Well these two Metro reporters read about it on the police blotter, and the next thing you know, the president is resigning in disgrace. baduum tssshhh.
Sounds like the start to a joke, right? Whatever happened to gum shoe reporters who meet people in parking garages? Who ask tough questions and demand honest answers?
A few years ago I was working on a story for The New York Times. I had written proof that someone allegedly tried to extort money from a man I was reporting on. It was relevant to the story, but I double-checked with the editor overseeing the story. She said to put it in. When I tried to get the people involved to respond, they went insane. They threatened me. They threatened the Times. The woman herself stalked me and ended up in my driveway. Later, in a conversation with the editor who wanted me to pursue this line of questioning, even though it was becoming more and more tangential to the story, I explained how this woman was really harassing me. “If you’re afraid, hang up and dial 9-1-1.” That was this New York Times’ editor’s response to me about something that had happened a few days before: “Hang up and dial 9-1-1.”
People assume that the editors and managers in charge of stories for the MSM are necessarily wise, prudent or compassionate. Some of them really are. Most are great mentors and sharp professionals and I’m grateful for the guys I’ve worked for there. But some are also checked-out, like this woman. They make poor decisions, or bad calls. So too do reporters who get on a list-serve and decide a rumor is icky and that it’s their job to protect the candidate’s family from embarrassment. Imagine if Woodward and Bernstein felt Trisha and Julie’s feelings were more important than this incredible and incredulous story? How possible was it that Richard Nixon was somehow connected to a bunch of guys who bungled a burglary? Thankfully, two unknown Metro reporters thought it their jobs to find out.
The problem with the Palin baby story is this: if it’s a hoax, and I emphasis the word if,
it is the perfect one. Almost like the perfect crime. Because it involves medicine and there is no way anyone can prove it to be false. True? Yes. But false, no, because every one of these facts is protected by law. The facts behind this are under lock and key. The only good thing about all of this that I can see is that the child about whom this story has unfolded will never be able to cognitively comprehend the nuances of what is being surmised or said.
But whether a mother or a reporter: Why would I want that question to be left in the air? Why? That’s the question. Forget follow the money. The question is: who benefits from this controversy continuing?
This is me holding my son for the first time. He was 3 days old and living at a children’s hospital. I was finally released from the birth hospital nearby. He was born at 36 and 5/7 weeks and weighed 5 pounds 14 ounces. Here, his weight had dropped to 5.9 pounds. There was no fat on him anywhere! He was jaundiced in this photo, which can present as a ruddy, red look, rather than a sickly yellow look, though he never went under the bili lights for it. The condition resolved itself. He was breathing room air (I discussed how we prepared his lungs for birth in an earlier post.) He received his nourishment in the form of hyperal (hyper alimentation) through a deep line in his scalp. That is a suctioning tube taped to his nose. Again, just some perspective.
Quick Take Tuesday, a blog of tasteful, yet shameless, self-promotion involving an author or someone of equal social standing. I ask two questions, and then my guest turns the table and asks me two questions, as long as they don’t involve pounds or pant size.
Today’s guest is: Heather Haven, author of the Alvarez Murder Mystery Series
with the forthcoming book: Murder is a Family Business
I love me a sassy protagonist. And yours is Latina with blue blood. What a riot! That’s like spreading mayonnaise on a burrito! And I’ll bet she can’t help but get into trouble while staying classy the entire time. Tell me all. A)
Your description of Lee Alvarez is right on the nose! The daughter of a deceased Mexican immigrant father who made good, and a Palo Alto, Never-Had-A-Bad-Hair-Day blue blood mother, Lee is not your typical protagonist. She may take her burrito with mayo, but she likes salsa on her French fries. This is a woman who has a lot of things going for her and a few things she’s working on. Not perfect, but striving. Lee loves her family, Kate Spade handbags, a good joke, and would have liked to have become a ballet dancing. Unfortunately, as a mediocre ballerina at best, she consoles herself with being a crackerjack PI for the family business, Discretionary Inquiries. Like the rest of us, Lee has her limitations and deals, with the help of a wicked sense of humor and the occasional Milky Way bar. Throughout her adventures, Lee has strong familial support, even though this group is often one pain in her jazzercised derriere. For me, the series had to include two important elements: the recently immigrated, which is one of America’s natural resources, and the family unit. Hence, the Alvarez Family Murder Mystery Series, a family of detectives, was born. Olé! Q)
I love your theatrical background and the fact that you worked on costumes on Broadway for years. But better still, you were born in a three-ring-circus. Now tell me everything and nobody gets hurt! A)
I like to say I was born ON
a trunk at Ringling Brothers Circus, in that my father was the head elephant trainer. I have pictures of me when I was barely three years old holding onto a harness and riding the head of a baby elephant. Whenever I did that, my father flanked one side of the elephant and my mother walked along the other side holding onto me. I, of course, was happy and fearless. I still remember it. My mother was a featured performer in her own right, doing tricks with the elephants, plus working the web and trapeze. I guess it was only natural for me to have a career in show business with a beginning like that. I studied drama at the University of Miami on a costume scholarship and headed off to NYC. There I discovered I didn’t really like the life of an actor, in that you travel a lot. Basically, be careful what you wish for; you may get it. So I put my costume expertise to good use and worked backstage on Broadway in wardrobe for ten steady and Manhattan-based years. I continued to write during that time, comedy acts for performers, stage plays, ads, commercials, short stories, all that good stuff. It was fun! //BUZZER NOISE AND SOUND OF TABLE BEING TURNED// Q)
Okay, your turn, Laura
. Let’s talk about your protagonist, Clari. The opening paragraph of Finding Clarity
is very funny and enticing. One of the sentences on the first page, “Now that I am 45, it’s safe to say that back in my twenties I existed on an age appropriately shallow plane,” is character revealing and oh, so true! However, I wonder at how much of your personal experience as a reporter is in this book. For instance, I found the description of the very pregnant Clari’s ghastly exit from the reporting game poignant, but it also struck me her fellow workers were insensitive, at best, and cruel, at worst. Did you experience anything like that in your career in news casting? A)
The two stories in the opening chapter did actually happen to me when I was a reporter. Only the “fire” story when Clari is pregnant did not happen when I was pregnant. The pole part of the story, yes, the public humiliation, no. I made that up for this story. I recall someone asking me about a famous Bay Area anchorwoman and whether she was nice. “I’m sure someone thinks so,” was my reply. Let’s face it, it’s not a nice business. Everyone wants to be a star. Everyone thinks they are curing cancer. Some of the nastiest, stupidest people you’ll ever want to meet work in newsrooms. And yet I’m still friends with the nicest, funniest ones. You know when you’re on the mean streets or up in the mountains surrounded by wildfires, you’d better like and trust the people you work with. Q)
We both are East Coast transplants, you and I. My writing, or at least my intent, has changed since I came out to the Bay Area. Now that you live in Berkeley, California, how does it color your writing? A)
For so long, I worked in the news business and so precision, laboring over words and meaning have been what colored my writing most. And then one I realized that I had been collecting in my head and in notebooks, phrases, descriptions of people, anecdotes, all these events over the years and realized how really wild and free Berkeley can be. And yet at the same time, there is this really wealthy, white elite that in theory at least, isn’t supposed to exist. No one really talks about that
side of The People’s Republic. People have said to me, “That’s not really Berkeley.” And I realized that it is one side of Berkeley that really intrigues me, and how fun it would be to expose and explore it in my fiction. I hope people fall in love with Clari Drake and Finding Clarity as much as I have! //BUZZER NOISE AND SOUND OF INCREDIBLY LOUD APPLAUSE//
Thank you for joining me on Quick Take Tuesday
, Heather Haven,
author and funny lady who sprouted from a circus trunk and worked on Broadway costumes for years. Talk about bookends to life! Please come back and fill me up, so to speak, with some of your work for Feature Friday