Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Enough meandering-

As Jean's condition progressed the ivory tower savants at University of Oregon followed by the University of Washington were able to treat the symptoms but appeared to be at a loss to come up with the underlying condition that gave rise to the problem.

Again our neighbor and friend in Walla Walla, Dr. McClellen, solicited his friend Dr. Hendricks to intervene.

Herb Hendricks specialized in rehab and sports medicine. Operating the rehab facility in the hospital he frequently checked in on Jean when she was an in patient. He became aware of a frequent complaint of a pain in her back.

He invited her to do a series of tests with a device that located sources of pain. From the results of the test, he drew a map on her back pinpointing the most responding area.

Back to the U of W Hospital. Dr. Kelly, chief of neurosurgery looked at the map. A session with the flouroscope confirmed his "Aha".

The problem was a syringomylia. This is a cyst formed in the spinal cord known as a syrinx that expands and elongates over time and presses against the spinal cord causing a weakness in the extremities. This is often due to a congenital abnormality of the brain called a chiara 1 malformation.

The treatment of choice was to take a bit of muscle and place it over the entrance to the cyst. This is mycroscopic surgery of the most complex nature.

Actually, when the gurney arrived to take Jean to the operating room, she refused to go. She turned to me and said, '" I don't think I want to do this." She then asked what I thought she should do. As her closest advisor and rock of stability I responded that it was her call.

Dr. Kelly came to the room and spoke again of the risks of the procedure and avered that he didn't blame her for being reluctant and explained the downsides of not doing the surgery. He told her that the operating team was assembled and would await her decision. About twenty minutes later he came back and she consented to go ahead.

The operation was only partialy successful. The patch was gingerly put in place at the base of the brain but subsequent scans showed that there was not a perfect seal and some spinal fluid was still seeping into the cyst.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

George Koval

George Koval may not be a household name. In fact the CIA and FBI kept it buried for many years due to their embarasment . An article in yesterday's New York Times as the obituary of this Russian who spent his early years in the U.S., spoke American English without accent was able to as a non com with a false identity get assigned to the Manhattan Project working on the original atomic bomb during WWII. Later he was employed as a nuclear physicist at Los Alamos all the while transmitting secret information back to his Soviet handlers.

The thing that got me was Koval was identified as a "secular Jew". His parents had come to the U.S. when Koval was an infant as a fund raiser for the enclave at Birobidzan.

Birobidzan was to be a Jewish area in the Soviet. Jews from various parts of Russia would resettle their and persue their lives as an ethnic minority free from the pograms and prejudices of the greater Russian society. Many Jews from the U.S. emigrated to help "Uncle Joe" Stalin establish the working man's paradise.

Also funds were solicited in every Jewish community. This caused a bit of a problem for me.
Rummaging through some of my grandfather M's things I found a receipt for a membership contribution to Friends of Biorodizan. Intrigued, I did some research and discovered that this was one of many scams the new Soviet government used during the 1920's to harvest hard currencies for the regime.

When I received my army commision in 1951, there was a long list of organizations that I was to certify that not only I had not belonged but that I didn't know of anyone who had belonged. Of course Friends was one of them.

It took about two seconds for me to decide I was not going to betray my poor old deceased grandfather.

The other memory this article invoked was a conversation with my normally very laid back father.

This was a time after the execution of the Rosenbergs when protests were made asking for their exoneration. I mentioned this and also recalled that in my San Francisco days a Rabbi friend was chaplain to Alcatraz. He reported an encounter with inmate Sobel, part of the Rosenberg- Fuchs gang that passed nuclear secrets on to the Soviets.

Sobel maintained that they were doing the world a service creating a counterbalance to America's monoply on nuclear power and the punishments meted out by the courts deprived humanity the use of their brilliant minds.

Without a moments thought my dad who spent his first sixteen years in Russia countered, "For any Jew who would spy for Russia execution was too easy a punishment."'