Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Mysterious Hum Heard 'Round the World

As a medical suspense author I'm always looking for unique phenomenon to write about. Evidently, in Taos, NM and other parts of the world (Bristol, England and Largs, Scotland) there is a hum that can only be heard by a small portion of the population.

It is so significant, that it has been scientifically investigated, but no source has been found. 

What is known about the hum:

1. Only 2% of the population living in these areas can hear the sound. Generally, they are between the ages of 55-70. Perhaps this is due to the structural changes that happen to our ears as we age making them more susceptible to the sound. Evidently, it can be loud enough to rattle some people's teeth. 

2. People who hear it are referred to as "hummers" or "hearers". And it has driven virtually every one of them to the point of despair. Wow, that's pretty powerful.  

3. The sound is heard mostly at night. 

4. People who hear the humming also complain of headaches, nausea, dizziness, nosebleeds and difficulty sleeping.

5. Researchers say the hum is real but generally unexplained. 

6. Sufferers resort to using white noise to cover up the humming. 

Suspected reasons for the hum-- all unproven:

1. The earth's crust is thinner in Taos. Evidently, very thin. There are also several volcanoes in the area and the theory is the magma flowing under the crust is causing the humming noise. 

2. A space ship (yes, this is a theory) crashed into a mountain and is now causing the noise underground.

3. Low-frequency electromagnetic radiation.

4. Tinnitus, which is a medical condition, that causes ringing in the ears. Testing of these people show they have normal hearing.

5. Earth tremors activated by ocean waves. 

6. Military Experiments.

7. Submarine communications. 

8. Insert your own nefarious reason here . . . 

I'm including some videos that discuss this phenomenon. One is a recording of the hum-- though I don't know if it is an actual recording or a manufactured one to resemble what people have heard. 

What do you think could be the cause of this mysterious humming sound? 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Coming Up!

Hello Redwood's Fans!

Today, I'm traveling back from the annual ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) conference. This year, it was hosted in St. Louis. Hopefully, next week I'll have some exciting stuff to report and here's keeping my fingers crossed that I didn't get pressed into medical service by some medical emergency (which has happened before!)

For you this week . . .

Tuesday: Did you know there's a mysterious humming noise in certain parts of the world heard by a small portion of the population? We'll take a closer look at this phenomenon.

Thursday: Just how long does it take for a DNA test to be done for a criminal case? Author and forensic expert Amryn Cross stops by for details.

Have a GREAT week!


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Are You Ready for Flu Season?

Rarely, I take time out on this blog to discuss regular health issues I find important. I am a proponent of vaccines. I've seen non-immunized children suffer the effects of illnesses that they could have been protected against.

While doing an on-line education program for my nursing job, I came across some very valuable statistics that I wanted to share with you. I don't have an author of the CEU but the company is called CHEX and the module is called Influenza Introduction (v.6.14). The information in this post comes directly from that program to give credit where it's due.

Did you know that pediatric influenza deaths numbered 830 between the years of 2004 and 2012? Does that surprise you? It surprised me and I work in the healthcare field. When flu season hits, we test for Flu A and Flu B. What's the difference? Flu A is capable of infecting animals like wild birds. Flu A is also responsible for the majority of deaths in the pediatric category (78%). Flu B is only found in humans and is less likely to cause pandemics. There is also Flu C but infection is usually mild and well tolerated. It is not thought to cause pandemics either.

Of the pediatric deaths mentioned above the mean age was seven. Thirty-five percent died before hospital admission and 43% had no high risk complication (something like asthma.) The majority of deaths were among children who had not been immunized.

The flu vaccine is not perfect. It's effective in about 60% of cases or has a moderate rate of effectiveness.

The benefits of getting a flu vaccine are decreased illness, decreased unnecessary use of antibiotics, decreased incidence of hospitalizations and decreased deaths.

The age old question is why some people still get the flu despite being immunized. Chances are they were exposed shortly before the vaccine or in the two weeks before they had immunity from the vaccine. They could have gotten a virus that wasn't covered by the vaccine or they didn't get an adequate immune response after the shot. I have a personal friend who doesn't mount an immune response when she gets normal immunizations.

No vaccine is perfect but, personally, I don't like the risks of not immunizing my children every year for the flu.

What about you? Will you be getting your flu shot this year?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

HIPAA and Identity Thefts

Did you know pediatric medical records are being targeted by identity thefts?

I recently attended a staff meeting where our hospital's privacy officer gave a talk.

I've blogged a lot here about HIPAA. You can check out some of those posts below.

What he said that was interesting was that identity thefts are targeting pediatric medical records because they have all the info they need and are "clean" meaning no problems with credit.

Generally, a child's credit score isn't checked until they are 18 so the thieves have years and years to use their information for nefarious reasons. He recommended parents check their child's credit rating every year to make sure their identity hadn't been stolen.

Think he's off target? Here's a news article from March, 2011 that discusses exactly what he's concerned about.

To read more about HIPAA pitfalls when writing fiction-- check out the following links.

HIPAA and Law Enforcement




Have you ever been the victim of identity theft?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Up and Coming

Hello Redwood's Fans!
Yes, fall is definitely in the air! I. Am. Loving it! However, I do have one concern. There seems to be a shortage of new pumpkin spice treats this year. I mean, last year there was pumpkin spice M&M's and this year I haven't seen any new candy to try. If you've seen some fun pumpkin spice treats-- please, let me know!

The past few weeks have seen some powerful posts here at Redwood's. Sparking quite a few comments was the post dealing with the Kelli Stapleton case. This mother allegedly tried to kill her autistic daughter by lighting two charcoal grills on fire inside a van. 

One thing I want to say here, I don't mind an opinion that differs from my own. In fact, I welcome it. However, I won't publish harsh/crude comments that are left anonymously. If you have a strong opinion that is different from mine-- then please explain your side respectfully with your name and I'll approve it. 

For you this week . . . 

Tuesday: What types of medical records do you think identity thieves are targeting and why? 

Thursday: Are you ready for flu season? Some surprising statistics about pediatric deaths among those who didn't get the flu vaccine. 

Have a GREAT week!


Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Survivor's Side of Suicide: Part 2/2

Today, we're concluding author Julie Cantrell's post on what it's like living through a loved committing suicide.

You can find Part I here.

Welcome back, Julie.

When Robin Williams passed away, the world was abuzz weighing the controversial issues of mental illness, depression, and suicide.

While some people were unable to extend kindness or understanding, proving we have a long way to go in our culture’s recognition of chemical imbalances, the international conversation gave me hope. It proved that people are finally willing to say the word SUICIDE out loud, without the hushed whispers and back corner gossip.

Putting this word on equal footing with all the other words in our vernacular is important. It lessens the sting.

I consider this progress, and I am optimistic the forward momentum will continue.

It is time.

I write this blog today for several reasons:

§  One, I am proud to have been the sister to an amazingly bright spirit who left this world too soon and whose memory I want to keep alive.

§  Two, I want to increase understanding and support for the millions of people struggling with chemical imbalances.

§  Three, I want to offer support and empathy to all who have lost a loved one to suicide and encourage you to speak out loud to honor their spirit and to educate those on the other side.

§  Four, and most importantly, I have a very important message for anyone struggling with depression.

One week after my brother died, we received notice that he had landed the career opportunity he wanted with the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. That job may have been enough to offer him the key to that cell, the something to cling to, the reason for reason. Maybe, if he could have stuck it out one more week, he would still be alive today. Seven days, and he may have had hope again.

Today, when I see someone struggling for hope, looking for a signal, a reason, proof that their life matters and that the pain will indeed end, I think of my brother and that phone call that came one week too late.
If you are struggling with depression, please remember... you are in this world for a reason. You have a very important journey you must complete. You were born to accomplish something, something only you know. You will suffer, you will hurt, you will feel hopeless and alone at times. But you are not in that space forever. Keep walking, keep moving forward, and you will find your way through in time.

When you hit bottom, please remember this: You are loved. You are never alone. You were born with everything you need to survive this journey. You matter. And once you are on the other side, as you will soon be, then, you will look back with wiser eyes, the eyes of a survivor. You will know your soul survived the stretching season. And you will move through the world with greater empathy and understanding, a gift like none other. For you, sensitive one, are the blessed. And we need you here. In this life.

Be brave. Wage war. Hold fast to the light inside of you.

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

This post will be shared across multiple platforms for National Suicide Prevention Week. Learn more about suicide prevention by visiting: http://www.suicidology.org/

Julie Cantrell is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Into the Free, which won Christy Awards for Best Debut Novel and for Book of the Year 2013. Cantrell has served as editor-in-chief of the Southern Literary Review and is a recipient of the Mississippi Arts Commission Literary Fellowship. She and her family live in Mississippi, where they operate Valley House Farm. Her new novel, WhenMountains Move, hit shelves September 1, 2013.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Survivor's Side of Suicide: Part 1/2

I'm honored to have friend and NYT's bestselling author Julie Cantrell here this week with a poignant post about her brother's suicide.

Suicide seems to have come to the forefront with the death of Robin Williams but suicide is ever present. Last week was Suicide Awareness Week and I'm willing to do what I can (as a mother, nurse and author) to help raise awareness.

Thank you, Julie, for these words.

Suicide is one ugly word. It’s the kind of word that swings heavy from lips. The kind that is whispered, and stilted, never sung.

As an author, I build my life around words. Every word has worth. Even those words we are not supposed to say.

But suicide is the one word I do not like. I wish there was no need for such a word in our world. Especially since 1997, when my teen brother ended his own life two months before his high school graduation.

It is one thing to be on the other side of suicide, where you may offer prayer or casseroles or even a hug. It is another thing entirely to be on the side of the survivor, after a loved one puts a gun to the head or a rope to the neck or a blade to the vein.

That dark depth of despair is no easy channel to navigate because unlike every other form of death, this one was intentional. This one could have been prevented. This one carries immeasurable sting.

The what-ifs and but whys and I wonders never cease. They haunt all hours, whether moonlit or shine.

And the stares don’t stop either, the constant conversation that hangs silently between friends — at the grocery store, or in the church pews, or at the birthday party. No one says it, but they are thinking… That poor mother, how does she stand it? Or – That poor child, knowing his father took his own life.

What people on that side of suicide don’t understand is that we, the survivors left in the wake, are barely keeping our heads above water. We don’t want pity, or sympathy, or stares. We don’t want whispers, or questions, or help. We want one thing only. We want our loved ones back.
And there’s one simple way you can give this to us.

Talk about the people we loved and lost. Don’t dance around us as if their ghost is in the way. Acknowledge the lives they lived. Recognize the light they once shined. Laugh about the fun you once had together.

There’s nothing you can tell us — no detail too small, no memory too harsh — that will hurt us. We crave it all. We are hungry for any piece of time travel you offer. Bring us back, to that space, when the one we loved was in the here and now.
Suicide is something most of us struggle to understand. It is difficult to rationalize the selfish part of such an act. How could someone not care about the pain they would throw on their loved ones? How could someone not be strong enough to stay alive?

But here’s the truth: suicide was not the cause of my brother’s death. Depression was the cause of his death. And depression is a beast unlike any other. It is an illness we still struggle to cure, despite all the therapeutic and pharmaceutical intervention available today.

Sometimes, even with all the help in the world, a person cannot see through the pain. They cannot imagine a better day ahead. They see only more hurt. And when I say hurt, I mean suffering. Blood-zapping, brain-numbing, soul-bursting agony.

Imagine this: you wake every day as a prisoner. You are trapped in a cell with no freedom in your future. You are tortured — physically, emotionally, psychologically. The anguish never stops. Just when you think you cannot survive another blow, it comes again. More pain.

You try to ignore the ache. You cannot. You try to numb the hurt. You cannot. You try to rise above the pain. You cannot. The brutality persists. And you see no end to it.

If you knew you had to endure only one more round of abuse, or one more month, or even a year, or longer — If there was an end in view, you could be strong enough to handle it. You could take whatever is thrown at you because you want, more than anything else, to live.

You are a sensitive soul and you have so much left in you to give. You want only to love and be loved. But the cell has you trapped. You have tried everything. There is no end to the insufferable situation.

A person with depression becomes suicidal when they finally give up all hope. When they accept that nothing they do, no matter how long they survive, no matter how many medications or prayers or therapists they turn to, the pain will never end.

Can you imagine the pain you would have to be in to take your own life? Can you imagine the fear of a suicidal person (regardless of faith), daring to face the unknown because even the possibility of eternal hellfire or permanent purgatory or absolute absence seems less scary than another day in this world?

We'll conclude with Part II on Thursday.


Julie Cantrell is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Into the Free, which won Christy Awards for Best Debut Novel and for Book of the Year 2013. Cantrell has served as editor-in-chief of the Southern Literary Review and is a recipient of the Mississippi Arts Commission Literary Fellowship. She and her family live in Mississippi, where they operate Valley House Farm. Her new novel, WhenMountains Move, hit shelves September 1, 2013.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Enterovirus 68

Hello Redwood's Fans!

How has your week been? Mine? Busy at work. Are we seeing the dreaded Enterovirus 68? Why yes, yes we are.

To be honest with you, I just clued into this in the last week. For those of you who might be new to the blog (yea, new readers!), I work as a pediatric ER nurse in a pediatric dedicated urgent care/ER for my real job.

What we noticed was a heavy amount of respiratory related illnesses hitting earlier than ususal. The unit was very busy and we had quite a few admissions for children who needed oxygen with mild-moderate respiratory distress. 

It's not unusual for the fall/winter to bring out viral illnesses. RSV and influenza are normal players but they usually don't get off the bench until late November or December at the earliest. This is why we encourage people to get flu shots in October. So they have the requisite two weeks or so to build immunity. 

So, in September, when patient visits picked up precipitously-- we were like, "What is going on?" 

Enterovirus 68. That's what was going on.

Enterovirus is not new. It comes out to play this time of year. It usually causes mild fever and upper respiratory illness. Enterovirus 68 is just a little more potent. It is a virus so only symptomatic support will help. Meaning, if your oxygen level is low, we give you oxygen. In my experience, it is exacerbating asthma. A small subgroup of patients can also develop respiratory distress over the course of 6-12 hours from onset of illness. 

What should you do

1. Good hand washing is the best prevention. Stand six feet away from people who are coughing.
2. If your child develops a cold with fever, keep an eye of them for signs of respiratory distress and a few other things. If you see these, then seek medical evaluation as soon as possible. 
  • Consistently breathing fast.
  • Skin tugging with each breath (between the ribs, above the clavicles, above the sternum).
  • Pulling with their belly with each breath.
  • Nostrils flaring with each breath.
  • Color changes. Looking pale or blue.
  • Not drinking fluids.
  • Peeing significantly less than normal.
3. Encourage fluids. Don't worry so much about them eating solids but they must drink and be peeing. 

Be assured that though kids are getting admitted to the hospital, most are coming through the illness with flying colors. There haven't been any deaths, thus far, related to this virus. 

For you this week. 

I'm honored to have friend and author Julie Cantrell stop by to post this week about surviving her brother's suicide. Suicide prevention week was last week and I'm honored to help spread her words for hope and healing.

Have a great week. 


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Author Question: X-linked Disorders

Carol Asks:

I have a female character, about 20 years old, who was adopted in a closed adoption. Her biological mother now has a son. He's likely in his teens but may be younger. I'm not really sure yet if it matters unless it affects the answer to this question.

The biological mother discovers that her son has some sort of disease that is carried by women but only affects men. The biological mother then seeks out seeks out my character. Bio mom didn't know if the adopted child was a boy or a girl and wanted to let the child know that either she could be a carrier or he could be affected, depending on gender, of course.
Ideally, I'd like something that is sufficiently serious [not like... color blindness] to warrant seeking out the adopted child, but not deadly in childhood especially but also prefer it to be something that could go unnoticed until adulthood and then managed, even if not cured.

Does that make sense? Is there anything that fits the bill?

I found the wiki on X-linked chromosomes, but so much of it looks like Greek to me.
Jordyn Says:

You were off to a great start researching X-linked disorders. These are disorders carried on the X chromosome and therefore passed along from the mother to her child.  
I sat down with a doctor friend and we came up with two possibilities of X-linked disorders that would present later in life but are fairly serious enough to warrent a biological parent hunting them down.

They are:
1. McLeod Syndrome (this might be your best option).

As stated from the link: McLeod neuroacanthocytosis syndrome is a primarily neurological disorder that occurs almost exclusively in males. This disorder affects movement in many parts of the body. People with this condition also have abnormal star-shaped red blood cells (acanthocytosis). This condition is one of a group of disorders called neuroacanthocytoses that involve neurological problems and abnormal red blood cells.

The signs and symptoms of McLeod neuroacanthocytosis syndrome usually begin in mid-adulthood. Behavioral changes, such as lack of self-restraint, the inability to take care of oneself, anxiety, depression, and changes in personality may be the first signs of this condition. While these behavioral changes are typically not progressive, the movement problems and intellectual impairments that are characteristic of this condition tend to worsen with age.
2. XMEN Disease

XMEN Disease might take a while to diagnose and put you closer into the time frame of your question. It might be discovered after the child presents with frequent infections.

Hope this helps and good luck!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Killing Autism: The Case of Kelli Stapleton

Normally, I would put this post under Parents Behaving Badly, but the case of Kelli Stapleton makes this not so easy and may shed light more on a dysfunctional mental healthcare system than of a mother callously wanting her autistic daughter out of her life.

One thing I've learned from my years of pediatric nursing is that child abuse/child homicide is a multifaceted issue. Families under stress with limited resources can bring a violent component into the household as a way of managing tension. In no way am I justifying this as appropriate behavior but I can also understand how some people make these choices.

Kelli Stapleton is accused of trying to kill her autistic daughter, Issy, in a murder/suicide attempt by lighting two charcoal grills inside a van. The pair were found unconscious but both have survived.

Kelli's husband, in this People piece, says he'll never forgive her for her alleged actions.

If her actions prove true, then she should be punished, but perhaps this is a case where forgiveness and mercy should be given out in spades.

Autistic kids can be violent. But the services available to help families deal with these children are paltry at best. Even before the Sep, 2013 event, Kelli Stapleton had been on local news the previous March discussing her plight at the hands of her violent daughter. You can watch the video below which details how violent Kelli's daughter had become.

In one instance, Kelli had been beaten unconscious during one of Issy's violent outbursts. She was desperate to find mental health services in her community. Finally, she did find a residential facility that agreed to take Issy's case to the tune of $800.00/day. Part of the news piece below states the family was looking for additional financial support to keep her in residential treatment for six months. While in treatment, the residential staff determined that her outbursts were a result of her hearing the word "no" and she used violence to get to the person or thing she wanted.

What parents is not going to occasionally say no?

I've worked with families of autistic children. It is no easy road. I would never justify this mother's alleged actions but I can also understand someone coming to the end of their rope in a situation like this and perhaps making a choice out of desperation when there seems to be little light in hopes of continued community support.

I think what we need to consider is how paltry and ineffective our mental healthcare system is and what the repercussions of that can be.

Kellie Stapleton's trial is set to start this September.

What do you think? If Kelli Stapleton is convicted of these charges, are they understandable or unforgivable?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Up and Coming

Hello Redwood's Fans!

How are you? Has autumn started where you're at yet? I. Cannot. Wait. I am ready for all things pumpkiny and scary. Caramel apples. All the holidays. The leaves changing color.

Do you have a favorite autumn thing you enjoy?

For you this week:

Tuesday: The case of Kelli Stapleton who is accused of trying to kill her autistic daughter. Is this a potential case of a parent behaving badly or does it speak to something wrong with our mental health care system.

Thursday: Author question regarding X-linked disorders.

Have a great week!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Forensic Question: Differentiating Twin Murder Suspects

Sarah asks:
If you have identical twins who are both suspects in a murder, how could you tell them apart?
Amryn says:
Identical twins are a hot topic in forensic DNA. Up until now, it’s been thought that identical twins have identical DNA and therefore are the perfect twist to a murder mystery. We’re finding out now that’s not necessarily true.
Strictly from a DNA perspective, research is showing that even twins have small minute differences in their DNA called SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms.) These aren’t routinely tested for in forensics because they’re pretty cutting edge, but such testing could be done (likely by a private lab) if the need arose.
Another option would be generating an antibody profile. When we’re born, we have an antibody profile like our mother. But beginning at birth and until the age of two, our antibody profile is evolving. It’s pretty much set in stone by the age of two and (as far as we know) doesn’t change throughout life. These antibodies are slightly different than the ones you make to fight off disease, but the important part is that they’re unique. Even identical twins will have different antibody profiles. This testing is new and is beginning to be used in conjunction with DNA testing.
Of course, this all depends on what type of evidence is found at a crime scene. Antibody profiling might be useful if some type of body fluid is found (i.e. blood, saliva, tears, sweat, etc.) but not so much with skin cells or hair. And, of course, even identical twins should have different fingerprints, so in a case such as this, DNA evidence might not be as strong as some other possible links.
If you’re interested in learning a bit more about antibody profiling, check out this article: http://www.americanlawyeracademy.com/antibody-profiling-forensic-evidence
Amryn Cross is a full-time forensic scientist and author of romantic suspense novels. Her first novel, Learning to Die, will be released in September. In her spare time, she enjoys college football, reading, watching movies, and researching her next novel. You can connect with Amryn via her website, Twitter and Facebook.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Problem with TNT's The Last Ship

There's nothing like a good TV show about a virus running amok especially with the largest Ebola outbreak EVER in history happening to make it even more realistic.

I'll update you with the story line if you're not familiar with the show. Be warned, this post will contain spoilers.

A deadly virus is wiping out much of the earth's population. It's swift, but supposedly not airborne, which may present the first issue with the theory behind the show.

One U.S. Navy vessel was sent to Antarctica under the guise of military exercises. On board, a research scientist tagged along and spent a lot of time on the ice. It was only later disclosed that she was trying to find the "primordial strain" to help her develop a vaccine. She was able to find the strain needed. What her mission truly entailed was developing a vaccine for the disease. Essentially, the crew has had to stay away from civilization until this was developed.

It's actually a very good set-up. Of course, what generally trips a show up is those pesky medical details and I want to highlight the biggest violation here today.

Of course, this research scientist develops a vaccine but she needs to test it out before she can truly say it works. Six volunteers are picked from the crew that meet certain age, race, and gender requirements.

First, this group of six gets the vaccine and then fairly immediately-- gets dosed with the pathogen.


What's misleading here is the time it takes for a person to develop immunity. It's never mere minutes. Generally, it takes weeks to months. The flu vaccine (which I hope all of your are planning on getting) takes about two weeks for immunity. This link from the CDC states it takes 4-5 weeks for seroconversion for the MMR vaccine.

Needless to say, it's unrealistic to portray a vaccine working in mere moments. This is also the reason for multiples injections-- some people gain immunity only after a couple of doses. You can read more about that from the above link.

The kicker is-- I actually don't think it would have destroyed their story line in any way. There's plenty of drama to be had with a deadly virus killing off the majority of the world's population. Whoever owns the cure, rules the world.

Overall, I liked this show but there wasn't a need to cheat on the medical details.