There are lots of reasons people don’t get flu shots.
Reason #1: Because one time, their second cousin’s Grandma’s mailman got the flu from the flu shot. As UNMC’s infectious disease specialist Dr. Mark Rupp will tell you, this is one of many flu shot fables. Consider Dr. Rupp one of these guys:
Well, there just might be something that can help with that. Two years ago, a group of UNMC pediatricians and psychologists from the Munroe-Meyer Institute published a study in Pediatrics about the “cough trick.”
Basically, they showed that if a child coughs just as the needle goes into his or her arm, it doesn’t hurt as much. Researchers weren’t sure if it worked because of the distraction factor or if the act of coughing somehow affected pain sensation.
I decided to test this theory out, you know, in the name of science. That, and I had to get my flu shot anyway.
Thankfully, a co-worker of mine also needed to get her flu shot and offered to take my picture while I attempted the cough trick technique.
When we arrived at the lower Storz Pavillion, the line looked longer than the one for the ladies restroom at a Celine Dion concert, but before we knew it, we were at the front. Without even trying, I’d worn something to which my arm was easily accessible, an important thing to remember on flu shot day.
The College of Nursing student scanned my badge, counted to three and stuck the needle in just as I coughed and my co-worker snapped this picture.
Honestly, the coughing part did distract me. But so did having my photo taken during my flu shot and thus looking like a dork.
In conclusion, it doesn’t hurt (pun intended) to give the cough trick a try.
Researchers at UNMC like to tout the odd jobs they held before they became academic elites. Forklift operator. Punk rocker.
James Haorah, Ph.D., associate professor in the department of pharmacology and experimental neuroscience, was a buffalo herder.
In the remote Ukhrul district (you can’t even find his home village, Khamasom, on Google maps) of northeast India, he was a full-fledged cowboy when he was just a little kid.
The places they’d go …
“It’s a very sweet memory,” Dr. Haorah said.
He’d take the herd through the jungle overnight. Picture him at 8 or 9 riding the biggest buffalo, commanding the herd. “Go this side or go that side,” Dr. Haorah said. “Just whistle it. They understand.”
One night he was in thick forest, a little boy, alone. All of a sudden, in the darkness, the herd started moving. Something was out there. A tiger?
Afraid, defiant, the boy wielded a torch and a knife. But the herd circled its young, and the big buffaloes wouldn’t let him out.
“They were protecting me,” he said.
Sure enough, the next morning, his dad, a hunter, came across tiger tracks. And then the carcass of a young buffalo, eaten.
And that’s when Dr. Haorah’s dad did something that just wasn’t done. “That’s when he got so very mad that he challenged the tiger,” Dr. Haorah said.
He yelled out, to the jungle: “He was saying, Why do you come and eat my baby buffalo? If you want to attack me, just come to me face to face. That’s it. Let’s fight it out.”
“As a young kid …” Dr. Haorah said. Seeing that …
But then the frightening episode turned into a fatherly memory. Don’t worry, his dad said. He won’t hurt you.
His dad was always saying that if you were wrong in life, a pinprick could kill you. But if you do the right thing, if you are a good person, not even a bullet can kill you.
Not even a tiger.
Now, he lives a world away, and there are no tigers in the night. But his father is still with him, in those words. At all times, he tries to remember: “Whatever I do, do it in the right way. And not in the wrong way.
“If I’m on the wrong side,” Dr. Haorah said, “that’s where I’m going to fall.”
In case you were wondering whether Living Anatomy might have any relevance beyond medicine and academics, Robert Binhammer, Ph.D., offers up a real-life lesson in CSI.
Anatomy can easily tell investigators the difference between homicide and suicide, Dr. Binhammer said. You see, strangling results in fracture of the hyoid bone, while hanging does not. The broken hyoid will be noticed in the autopsy.
So, you know – if you were thinking of turning to a life of crime, don’t.
“Word to the wise,” Dr. Binhammer said.
A Sorrell Center auditorium full of M1′s was a bit taken aback by this, first thing on a Thursday morning. But by now we have realized that Living Anatomy with Dr. Binhammer is not your average college class. It is, as someone said when we came in, “Where we palpate and touch each other.”
Dr. Binhammer demonstrates first, on a couple of student volunteers. The image is huge, up on the big screen.
“Why did he take his shirt off?” someone said of the young man at the front of the room. “I don’t want to be up there with my shirt off.”
But Dr. Binhammer is trying to show us something. “You can find it if you sing a high note,” he said. “I’m going to ask you to do that.” And the young man did. And there it was.
“Singing a high note narrows the interval between the cricoid and thyroid cartilages and that interval is the site for emergency airway,” Dr. Binhammer would later explain. “So it’s a way to ensure that one has found the correct interval in your partner.”
Of course, you would not ask someone to sing a high note in an emergency, Dr. Binhammer noted.
Then the students all pair off, and try it on each other.
Apparently, if you’re going to be a doctor, shyness is out, immediately. Living Anatomy sees to that. Reach out and touch someone.
“It does help,” said Gordon Todd, Ph.D.
Tao Li, M.D., couldn’t believe his luck. He’d gone to the Student Life Center, to get his picture taken, for his UNMC ID badge. And there, also getting her ID, was a beautiful girl. And she smiled at him.
That smile! Had another woman in the history of the world ever smiled like that?
“It’s really a sunshine smile,” he said the other day, dreamily, looking over at her and seeing that smile again.
He couldn’t believe his luck.
He’d gone and married that girl.
Tao (Dr. Li, but since this is a blog about falling in love, we will call him Tao) and Minghui Chen had each come from China. Their hometowns are about three hours apart by train. They never would have met, if they hadn’t been at UNMC, getting their ID badges, on their first days as Ph.D. students in 2009.
(Tao studies public health. Minghui, neuroscience.)
It wasn’t long after that first encounter that they ran into each other in the Sorrell Center.
She walked past him, walked on for a while, then turned. She said hello, and flashed that grin again.
“That’s the magic moment, I think,” Tao said.
Why did she smile at him?
“I don’t know,” she said. “He impressed me. I feel that he’s kind of special.”
But it took him a while to get the hint. It wasn’t till about a year later (they had different circles of friends) that they had their first “official” date: “One-zero, one-zero, one-zero,” he said. “That’s August 10, 2010.”
Minghui rolled her eyes: “Oct. 10,” she said.
They laughed, the way only newlyweds do.
And while it took Tao a while to get that he was supposed to make his move, when he did he wasn’t shy about doing so. Showing up to that first date, he announced he was there to meet his “girlfriend.” That’s extremely bold, in Chinese culture. But somehow, his boldness put an extra charge in the air.
And it turned out, “Very quickly,” Tao said, “we know we are the right ones for each other.”
So they were headed that way anyway. But when Tao went on an exchange program to Taiwan this past summer, they were apart for two months. And when he came back?
No more waiting. That was it.
They’d been Skyping with each other’s parents, and so on a 10-day trip to China, they had a wedding in Tao’s hometown and two receptions in Minghui’s. But when they came back, they wanted to make it official in America. They wanted a wedding in Omaha, the hometown they now shared, where they met, and lived, and loved.
So they started planning their Omaha wedding: “People told us that usually American people will spend a whole year getting ready,” Tao said.
So, how long did they spend?
“Two weeks,” Minghui said.
“So we Googled a lot about how American weddings should be like,” Tao said. “And Dr. Audrey Paulman gave us a lot, a lot, a lot of ideas and suggestions.”
They chose colors, and vows. They wanted a sand unity ceremony.
“My advisor’s son played violin for us,” Tao said.
They got a minister from their Bible study group, and they sent out invitations with a week to go. They hoped, with everyone’s busy UNMC schedules, a few people might show up. Instead, everyone did.
It was beautiful. And when it was over, they went outside to surprises: “They decorated my car in a very American way,” Tao said.
And there was a horse-drawn carriage, to ride off into their new lives together. There they were, so great together; man and wife. The lucky guy and the sweet girl, who met getting their ID badges in their first days as Ph.D. students at UNMC.
UNMC has had a menagerie.
“We’ve had a variety of animals on campus,” said UNMC security officer John Ingraham. “We’ve had turkeys. Deer. We’ve of course had raccoons.”
“Skunks. Possum. We’ve had ducks.”
But none of that compares to the time Joel Schuldt stared down the snake.
It was kind of an autumn day. A little cool, but not cold. It was nice, actually.
Security got a call. There was a snake crawling out from under a car.
“OK, a snake,” Ingraham said. “I’m thinking of a garter snake. Ooh.
“People get freaked out about snakes.”
So they went down there, looked at the car. Nothing there.
“So, I don’t know,” Ingraham said.
Twenty minutes later, another call.
Again, no snake.
“All of a sudden we see this head come down from the wheel well,” Ingraham said.
The head looked around. “And it starts … this thing, it keeps coming and coming.”
And coming. It had to have been six feet long.
Why in the world was there a 6-foot snake in the parking lot at UNMC?
They theory was, it hitched a ride on a car from Plattsmouth, from down in the country.
“They think it climbed up on the A-frame of the car. And as the engine cooled it was looking for a place to warm up, and came out then,” Ingraham said.
It was a black rat snake. A constrictor. Its name tells you what it eats. They are found all over, but locally, mostly in Nebraska’s southeastern corner.
In Iowa, it’s a protected species.
“Joel (Schuldt), the other supervisor, he stepped on it to keep it,” Ingraham said.
Then: “We call the Humane Society.”
Schuldt held the snake there. The snake countered by wrapping itself around Joel’s leg.
“And we wait and wait and wait,” Ingraham said.
At last, the Humane Society arrived. The guy came over: What have you got there?
A big snake, they said.
“Ooh!” the Humane Society guy shrieked. “I hate snakes!”
Are you kidding me?
The security guys told Humane Society guy he wasn’t leaving without it.
He got a special snake tool. They unwrapped the snake from Joel’s leg. They put it in a bag, and the guy took it away. Which was good.
“Joel is not necessarily a big fan of snakes either,” Ingraham said.
Well, you know. Definitely not anymore.
Today I’d like to introduce my blog family to one of my actual family members.
Meet my Aunt Donna.
Aunt Donna has Multiple Sclerosis, or MS for short.
We’ve been close all my life. She’s my Godmother, my seamstress and was my pen pal all through college (yes, we wrote actual letters). Over the years, whenever I would ask how’s she was doing, she never complained, but just said:
“Just stiff today, Nic…just stiff.”
Because of her ability to focus on the positive, I’d never really given MS much thought.
I was living in Okoboji for the summer when she and another aunt, along with my mom, came to visit me. As I ushered them into the non-handicap accessible house where I lived, I noticed it was taking a while. Donna needed to scale three steps to get into the house. Even with my mom on one side and my aunt on the other, those three steps seemed like Mt. Everest. Try as she might, Aunt Donna could not get her “stupid foot” (her words, not mine) to respond to what her brain was trying to tell it. I stood back and watched this unfold. It made me so angry. Why wouldn’t her foot listen? MS can be cruel.
Other than getting the word out about these things, the only other way I know how to fight is to give. So every fall, I pledge a small dollar amount of each paycheck to the local chapter of the MS Society through the United Way.
I think we forget that when we give to United Way organizations, we are really giving to the human beings who need their services.
As of Tuesday afternoon, we are about $18,000 short of our $148,000 goal as a campus and less than half of employees had participated in the United Way drive. Thanks to Chuck Brown, you’ve been humored with memes to encourage you to participate, whether that means a donation or not. Today, I’m encouraging you to participate not because it’s so easy it’s laughable, but because it really does make a difference. To people.
People like Aunt Donna.