Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Vaccines Can Save Kids Who Can’t Get Them

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measles vaccine hypodermic needle

My conversation with the school nurse at the start of every academic year ends with me say this: If anybody comes down with chickenpox, call me immediately -- it could save my daughter's life.

Chickenpox – deadly?

Most adults remember chickenpox as an irritating childhood rite of passage. No one ever died from excessive itching, right? I didn't, though I still bear a small, circular scar on my right cheek from my fingers getting the best of me during my bout. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics, however, show that before development of a vaccine in the mid-1990s, chickenpox killed more than 100 children annually and hospitalized over 10,000 for complications, including pneumonia, meningitis and encephalitis. The more severe consequences tended to happen to those with underlying health issues, such as a comprised autoimmune system.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Sledding – It’s Been Downhill All the Way

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When the frosty flakes start to stick, most children rush outside to build snowmen, toss snowballs or flap their arms and legs for snow angels. Mine grab a bowl and spoon to make a meal. Yo, kids—they are “frosty flakes” not “Frosted Flakes.” Once sufficiently stuffed (or intestinally hypothermic), my offspring then often head for the garage to dig out their sleds.

For me, growing up among the rocks and trees of North Stamford meant only being able to venture out to our pre-shoveled driveway or the backyard for a zip downhill on an ancient wooden Speedaway with half-rusted runners. However, one moonless January evening after dusk, I learned metal TV trays provided a superior riding speed and distance when I promptly rocketed up and over a wire fence and into our mucky backyard pond.

My children have more (and drier) options, provided they can stop our Labrador retriever from chewing on their foam Snow Boogie boards like they were Milk-Bone burritos. Within a short trudge of our home is the Sterling Farms Golf Course, which I understand from longtime residents in my neighborhood was an even shorter trudge way back in the day before use of wire-cutters was deemed poor civic etiquette. The most obvious choices here are the long, wide fast rides from the sixth green and the seventh tee box. However, we sometimes just avoided the crowds by staying on the short but steep side-to-side approach to the ninth green. Note I wrote “side-to-side.” Sledding lengthwise down the 350-yard ninth fairway is a breathtaking ride until you discover the neck-breaking cliff behind the tee box. Don’t ask how I know. When the need for speed wasn’t so great when my kids were young, we’d stay on the gentle slope of the eighteenth fairway. I wish my tee shots would adhere to such a smooth path.

One great sledding venue still unknown to my kids, but familiar to my wife and me is Cummings Park. When we were young, single and (don’t tell the priest who married us) living in sin in a downtown condo in the 1990s, we took more than a few trips down the 60-degree hill overlooking the playgrounds. Our rides—cheap plastic roll-up sheet-sleds purchased from the old Caldor store at Summer and Broad streets. Those offered good speed, lousy control, and worse cushioning for your, um, bottom line. Trust us.

NOTE: This article first appeared in Stamford Magazine.


My Uncool Past