Happiness is about having fun

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Happiness is usually described asa mental or emotional state of well being characterized by positive or pleasant  emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy”. 1

Happiness is of such fundamental importance to the human condition that ” Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness  were deemed to be unalienable rights by the United States Declaration of Independence.

Life to me is in between being born and dying. A baby is born innocent and free from all the prejudices. We are not born angry, jealous, or for that matter, vindictive. But we are born happy and completely equal to each other. The baby is mostly gurgling, cooing and smiling without a care in the world and definitely not worried about religious, gender, monetary or political intolerance or in equality. So happiness is one behavior which is not learned and yet that is something we forget as we grow into adulthood.

Why would we choose to adopt the ways of the world by being angry, abusive, jealous, revengeful and petty in our behavior. These are what I call as learned traits. Some of us are better at holding on to happiness and others just simply forget it.

What gives us happiness as we grow older? It is different for everyone as we constantly strive to achieve it. For some, it can be as simple as being able to eat three meals a day, having or not having children, getting married (or not), having a car, house and all the materialistic things you can think of. For others it is about helping others, donations and of course having a meaningful existence. Neither thought process is wrong nor right. But they are really not the true meaning of happiness because they are all attached to a carrot which needs to be obtained to get your happiness.

To me, happiness is about having fun. Yes just pure solid fun in which we can enjoy nature, go for a walk/run, dance, sing, or find the inner baby in us. If you do something for a reason (be it good or bad) then that is not happiness. It is not about helping or destroying people. It is about you the person and the simple act of finding that action which reflexively gives you intense pleasure.

For now as we celebrate International day of happiness on March 20th as declared by United Nations think of something which will give you happiness and try to incorporate it in your daily routine. Go find your inner happiness while listening to this song from Pharrell Williams- Happy.

Ebola has arrived in USA

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Just saying the word “Ebola” is enough to start a conversation with heated view points and get everyone in a tizzy. It seems we are not in control. The hospitals, government, Wall street, and of course CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) appear to be scrambling. The global disease which until a few weeks back was somewhere in a place called Liberia, Africa is very much a reality and in fact it has arrived in USA.

The alarming thing is that we now have evidence of spread in our soil with two health care workers who have tested positive for Ebola after taking care of a patient who brought the disease from Liberia.

Yes we will likely have more people die of car crashes, flu, heart attacks, diabetes, falls and any cause other than Ebola. But there is no reason to die from this disease because it is not inherent to USA. Even one person getting infected and dying of Ebola in USA is one too many.

In this day and age of globalization it is inevitable we had to get infected. It just happened to be sooner rather than later.

We cannot hide from this disease, however we definitely should not panic.

The let down for CDC has been that it depended on the local health agencies and health care workers to be responsible about following the guidelines which have been set by them. On paper the guidelines are perfect and if everything is followed as it is written nothing will go wrong. But when we add the human factor, it does not always go so smooth. Yes mistakes were made but the best thing we can do now is to learn from our mistakes. This is not the time to waste our energy on playing the blame game or even pointing fingers at each other.

Let us get a fresh start. Hospitals should become extra vigilant and increase the training. CDC monitors the situation more closely and offers quick and efficient help to the health care agencies. We need to all work together to take control of this dreaded disease “Ebola” both in USA and globally.

Flying the Skies- Smoke free and Peanut/Nut Free

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Life Saving Drug for Allergy Anaphylaxis

Life Saving Drug for Allergy Anaphylaxis

What will it take to get peanut/nut free flights? While equating cigarette smoking to peanut allergy is not necessarily an apple to orange comparison, they are both fatal. There is no points to guess which one is immediately fatal and which one an eventual fatality.

While everyone knew that smoking was harmful to our health it was quite a struggle to have smoke free flights (1). It took almost two decades for it to happen from the moment smoking was first identified by U.S. Surgeon general in 1964 as being responsible for increased mortality and diseases.  The Federal Aviation Act of 1988 signed by President Ronald Reagan made short duration flights smoke free. It was not until 2000 when President Clinton finally signed the Reform act to a law in which all the flights to and from USA were finally smoke free (2). However sometimes even now the smoking population continues to defy the law. In 2013 a family of smokers caused a costly diversion when they could not stop smoking (3)

Peanuts and tree nut allergy individuals and their families quality of life is compromised because of the constant worry of impending exposure and a drastic immediate result of death. It is way more than an inconvenience. The smoking family is slowly killing themselves and others around them, which also totally unacceptable.

Is it realistic to even conceive that such a thing is possible in which peanuts/ tree nuts will stop being served on flights? We have seen a rapid increase in allergies over the past decade. Per data from Food Allergy and Research Education (FARE) it is estimated that up to 15 million Americans have food allergies, and it affects 1 in every 13 children. For those who look at everything in monetary terms the economic cost of children’s food allergies is $25 billion per year (4).  These statistics deal with all food allergies. The eight major food allergens are Peanuts, tree nuts, Milk, Shellfish, Eggs, Soy, Wheat, Fish and Shellfish.  Usually the allergies to milk, eggs, soy and wheat are outgrown by 16 years of age. The allergies to peanuts,tree nuts, shellfish and fish are generally lifelong and yes there is no cure. Hence the emphasis on Peanuts/tree nut free flights. Avoidance is the only way to ensure that someone with life threatening allergy does not get exposed.

One may ask why not Shellfish/ fish free flights? Well as those people who travel frequently know, there are not that many flights which serve fishes of any kind because fish is an expensive food even though it is healthier than other items on the airplane menu. The fish foods do not emit dust or particles in the air as do peanut bags when they are all opened in a closed plane environment by the passengers.

So we come back to Nut free flights. Perhaps we need a bigger population pool of nut allergic people to justify this change in our flying habits. Maybe we need to be just as persistent as those who made the smoke free flights possible. It is to be expected that a fierce fighting with education would have to be done for ignorance and uninformed to make it happen.

For those who believe that food allergic population are big whiners and babies and they just need to grow up! After all there are those of us who have severe chronic conditions and we live with those everyday. If we started to cater to everyone then we would never get anything done. Well- chronic conditions have treatment options. Avoidance is the only treatment for food allergy anaphylaxis.

Use of epinephrine both a life saving measure and the only line of treatment. Once it is used the person needs to be in a hospital care setting within a few minutes where they can be monitored for a relapse and control of the allergic reaction.

Being enclosed in a plane thousands of miles above ground with no possibility of escape and God forbid some one develops a reaction. The only recourse is to have an emergency landing. Recently United airlines flight from Dublin, Ireland to Houston,Texas,USA had to have an emergency landing in Dublin because a four-year old child developed allergic reaction to cashew nut (5).  Luckily for the child there was an allergist on board. Think of the financial ramifications for airplane company and passengers. Lets not forget the emotional, psychological and physical trauma sustained by everyone connected with that flight. No matter how nonchalant, “cool” or “strong” you may be  – the experience is rather humbling and it will affect you at the sublimal level.

The rapidity with which food allergies are developing is alarming. However, the answer to why the allergies are increasing is nowhere close to being answered.  Until it is figured out or there is a magical potion to treat those with allergies  avoidance of the food allergens is the only way to go. As a community is it too much to ask to help each other in any which way that it can be done? May be that is the question which needs to be answered that are we willing to step up and help each other?

The cigarette lobby was very strong and it still is. Yet the skies, restaurants, public places and workplaces have smoke free skies, restaurants, and workplaces.

The peanut/nut lobby is also quite strong. We need to persevere and work together to make the skies nut free. The work has started with petitions being signed to create safe flights for those with food allergies (No Nut Traveler.com). However the journey has just begun and there is a long way to go. For the sake of those with food allergies hope that the end comes sooner than later.

I am a licensed physician and a Forensic Pathologist by profession who does postmortem examinations everyday to determine cause and manner of death. I usually deal with unnatural deaths in our community. Some days I see cases in which I ask myself the question, if only such and such had not happened would the person have been alive today? Sometimes it is not so clear because death is a very complex event.

A food allergy death is definitely one of those deaths in which the question is –  if only the person had not been exposed to the allergen,  could they have lived? Sadly the answer is always a big vehement YES.

A smoker does not start out by wanting to become addicted to smoking and eventually dying from the tobacco related diseases. But it happens, because he/she has  to bear his/her own cross. There are so many programs in place to help the smokers give up the habit while also discouraging the behavior by creating prohibitive laws. One of those was for smoke free skies.

The origin of food allergies is unclear. They are genetic, environmental or due to completely different causes, which have yet to be identified.  It is not an easy task to navigate through life with food allergies and each person has to deal with it all by themselves. However making skies friendly towards the food allergens will at least make sure that the fatality does not happen 30,000 feet above ground.

References:

1. Should smoking be banned on planes? Article The Telegraph May15 1981

2. Smokefree Transportation Chronology January 2005

3.Family of smokers on airplane forces costly diversion CBC New Feb 3rd 2013

4. Food Allergy Facts from Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE)

5.Allergist Calls for Change After Saving Girls Life During In-flight reaction from Allergic Living 2014

6. No Nut Traveler

But Why? Malaysian Airlines Crashes.

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Horrific plane crash- Malaysian Airlines

Horrific plane crash- Malaysian Airlines

A horrific plane crash and even more horrifying sequence of events.

Anytime a plane crashes we as human beings feel collective pain for those who died and those who they left behind. This is purely from the perspective of those caring sensitive people who are not directly related to anyone on the crashes planes.
We all go through various stages of grief. Initial stage is total shock. Then trying to understand what happened and could it have been avoided or prevented. Most of the time we can’t ever answer that question at that moment because the investigation takes so much time. Maybe that is for the best because I am not quite sure what we would do if we had to deal with grief and the fact that the crash should not have actually happened. All those souls died senselessly. The third stage is becoming immune to the constant media coverage. The last stage is to just simply get on with our life with a little bit of ourself dying and attributing that to part of growing up.

Recently our capacity to deal with how we view crashes has totally changed.

The first Malaysian airlines MH370 crash is a big void. We do not know what to do with it because it just disappeared and that is just so unacceptable in this day and age of constant connectivity and instant results. Since we can’t understand it we can not grieve for it and consequently never recover from it.

The second Malaysian airlines MH17 crash is multiple why’s. First is why Malaysian airlines again when we have yet to grieve for the first crash. Second is the brutal conscious cause of the crash associated with blame game of multiple allegations, bickerings and pointing fingers from the world leaders. What are we going to do? We lost about 300 passengers and crew. We just can’t grieve for them because nothing makes sense. Does anyone even care for those who died. Did their lives mean anything or Is it more important right now to determine how the crash happened. Remember the initial stage was to remember those who died and then came the cause of the crash. Doing it in reverse is painful and mind numbing. To make it worse the geopolitical environment of the crash region is making it difficult to recover bodies for purposes of closure.

The loved ones of the deceased of the second crash are going through the most difficult time of their life and in fact will continue to do so for generations to come. The relatives of the first crash have nothing and this is also something which will haunt them for generations.

9How do we make sense of it?Do we need to or do we care to? I believe we need to and should care to make sense of these for our own sanity if we believe in humanity.

Humanity is taking a dangerous turn and we have constant exposure to it everyday with media coverage of atrocities, rapes, and total disregard to human life around the globe. We do the same in our own personal life also by being callous and totally insensitive to each other. Is it a pattern we are developing. What kind of world do we want to leave for our next generation? A good one I hope.

 

Something so totally wrong

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Death of three teenagers- it makes no sense. Killing of youth is never condonable. I am no expert about the issues of Israel region. However, I do know it is quite complex and has been for many years. But no matter what the issues and no matter what the perceived crime.  It will never make sense to have teenagers killed so senselessly- – especially when they are our next generation.

The news has become brazen with global issues such as multiple killings and rapes of young girls and women in India, abductions of girls in Nigeria, unrest in Ukraine, and terror in Iraq. The local issues are equally frightening and include ladies found in suitcases, children left in hot cars, and multiple mass shootings.

What is the point of all this? The message being conveyed is simple- it is a message of hate, terror and pure evil.

Something is so totally wrong that it has become quite reprehensible. Is it something we can forgive?

Not really because our core is shaken and our soul is crying.

It brings us back to what we would like our next generation to be? We want it to take us forward, carry us through this evil, survive and live.

For that to happen we will need to remain sensitive to our surroundings and go through every grief like our own. Feel it and react to it. However, we should not let hatred consume us because that is what will continue to make us choose the deadly path every single time.