Dec 20 2011

Medical Mondays: Amnesia & Amoeba

Ask The Book Doctor!    

This week’s questions come from stories in the news this past week.

If you’re a writer or a fan of books, TV shows, or movies–or even a news junkie–and have a medical-themed question you’d like to see answered in this weekly column, check out the submission guidelines at the bottom!

 

Q. A recent article in the newspaper featured a British man who, after getting stung by a wasp, had a severe allergic reaction that put him in a coma for week and when he woke up, he lost 20 years of his memory. Can you really get amnesia from an insect bite?

 

A. If the wasp sting caused a cardiac arrest or severe shock, yes, indirectly. And it could be severe or fatal. But the period of memory loss is highly suspect for being psychosomatic, not real.

 

Q. I suffer with allergy and sinus issues and have regularly used a Neti Pot, which my physician recommended, as did Dr. Oz on TV. I just read that two people in Louisiana died after being infected with “brain-eating amoeba” from the water used in their treatment. How frightening! Should I be worried? I live in a large city and thought my water was safe? Why are there amoebas in the water and what can I do to protect myself?

Neti Pot for Nasal Cleansing Photo Credit: Aikhan from de.wikipedia.org

 

A. You must be sure you use pure water in the Neti Pot. Distilled, boiled, or reverse osmosis (RO) water is the best. Naegleria fowleri, the amoeba in question, is normally not a problem to have in drinking water as your digestive system is used to processing many impurities. However, your nose is not equipped to do this. I personally saw a case of this amoebic infection in a young woman who, while water skiing on a stagnant bay, fell face first into the water. There are only about 3-4 cases each year in the US, so it is, fortunately, very rare since it is almost always fatal.

 

 

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Attention writers and readers! If you need quick insight/advice on a medical condition that affects a character or impacts a storyline, or are curious about a medical story in the news, please email your question to fritz@fritzstrobl.net. I’ll post two answers here every week!

Due the volume of requests received, I am unable to provide personal responses. Questions should pertain to characters or stories you’re writing, books you’re reading, TV shows/movies you’re watching, or health issues in the news. If you have a question about a personal health issue, please contact your doctor.

 

Dec 13 2011

Medical Mondays: A is for Apple . . . and Arsenic

Ask The Book Doctor!

This week’s questions come from recent headlines and stories in the news.

Remember, if you’re a writer or a fan of books, TV shows, or movies–or even a news junkie–and have a medical-themed question you’d like to see answered in this weekly column, check out the submission guidelines at the bottom!

 

 

Photo Credit: Fesenberg5000

Q. As the mother of active and thirsty preschooler, I was frightened to hear about recent reports that apple juice—one of the most popular choice of juices for young children—contains arsenic. What impact will this have on my child who has consumed apple juice regularly for years? Melanie J.

A. Arsenic is in a group of toxic materials that we call “heavy metals.” It can cause both nerve and brain damage. The nerve damage is often reversible. It is a curious fact that bottled water is given much less testing than city water despite selling at a premium! Similarly, although certain impurities are checked in juice, not everything can be.

A hundred years ago, before the development of other antibiotics, arsenic was used to treat syphilis and was generally effective. So obviously, at some level, it does no grave damage.

Unless your child is showing signs of learning or other problems, I would not be overly concerned. That said, I’d avoid the apple juice until this issue is sorted out.

 

Photo Credit: Healing Resources

Q. I recently read about a young man rendered brain dead after an overdose of pain killers who was later given to moments of awareness upon being administered the insomnia drug, Ambien. How is this possible? Wouldn’t a drug like this, used to induce sleep, have the opposite effect? Stephen R.

A. In neurology, we have to be open minded (no pun intended!). The brain is the most complex organ in the body by far. Not designed by man, its function is still more mystery than it is known fact. Neurons don’t synapse (connect) to other neurons physically; rather, they stop just short of touching. They “talk” to each other by discharging a neurotransmitter (chemical) that then causes a reaction in the second neuron. There are a number of these chemicals that we know about, but almost certainly more that we don’t. In this case, and perhaps 10% of what is called “minimally conscious” or vegetative, improvement will be seen. On rare occasions, it can be dramatic.

We don’t know how this happens, but it is, at times, how progress is made in medicine. Ambien (zolpidem) affects the part of the brain that modulates sleep and wakefulness. With damaged connections, then are many possibilities as to why it might work. The original case was actually misprescribed. But remember—penicillin resulted from a botched experiment too.

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Attention writers and readers! If you need quick insight/advice on a medical condition that affects a character or impacts a storyline, or curious about a medical story in the news, please email your question to fritz@fritzstrobl.net. I’ll post two answers here every week!

Due the volume of requests received, I am unable to provide personal responses. Questions should pertain to characters or stories you’re writing, books you’re reading, TV shows/movies you’re watching, or health issues in the news. If you have a question about a personal health issue, please contact your doctor.

 

 

Nov 28 2011

Medical Mondays: Diabetic Neuropathy & Gluten Sensitivity

Ask The Book Doctor!

If you’re a writer or a fan of books, TV shows, or movies and have a medical-themed question you’d like to see answered in this weekly column, check out the submission guidelines at the bottom!

 

Q. I’m working on a novel and my main character is a middle-aged police detective who is diabetic. Family members who are diabetic often complain about getting pains in their feet and I figure that since crafty detective work entails being on one’s feet, I’d like to know more about how to integrate these symptoms into my character’s life. Can you tell me more about what causes this type of foot pain and how it is alleviated? Karen B.

A. Diabetes is the single largest identifiable cause of peripheral neuropathy. Sufferers generally complain of numbness and burning because the nerve endings–usually in the feet–don’t work as well. Modernmedications for alleviating the pain include gabapentin and pregabalin. Your character would likely walk with his feet a bit further apart and be somewhat unstable in the dark because he would have trouble feeling his feet.

 

Q. As the holiday season is upon us, I’ve seen an overwhelming amount of information on TV and in magazines dedicated to gluten free cooking and products for those sensitive to wheat. I don’t recall this being a health issue over the last 30 years, but it suddenly seems like more and more people have wheat allergies today. What’s this all about? Jeffrey S.

A. Gluten sensitivity has been recognized only in recent times. Once thought to be interchangeable with celiac disease, a spectrum of diseases has been identified in which gluten sensitivity is a factor. In addition to the obvious gastrointestinal symptoms, there may be more distant effects, including some that are neurological. Estimates vary, but 5-10% of Americans may be affected. Why are we often allergic to food? We can create antibodies to anything, including to ourselves, such as in autoimmune disease. One theory is that the wheat we eat today is much different than the grain our ancestors consumed. So, although wheat may be nutritious and more productive per acre, it may not be without side effects.

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Attention writers! If you’re working on a book, script, or article and need quick insight or advice on a medical condition that affects a character or impacts a storyline, please email your question to fritz@fritzstrobl.net. I’ll post answers to two questions every Monday on this blog!

Due the volume of requests received, I am not able to provide personal responses. Questions should pertain to characters or stories you’re writing, books you’re reading, TV shows/movies you’re watching, or health issues in the news. If you have a question about a personal health issue, please contact your doctor.

Nov 21 2011

Medical Mondays: Trichinosis and Morgellons Syndrome

Ask The Book Doctor!

Another question from fans of ITW’s “The Big Thrill” along with a contribution from a reader of this blog (thanks!). If you’re a writer or a fan of books, TV shows, or movies and have a medical-themed question you’d like to see answered in this weekly column, check out the submission guidelines at the bottom of this column!

 

Q. I understand that pigs are engineered so well to collect, absorb, and harbor poisons, toxins, and pollutants that they can kill and eat poisonous snakes with their venom without harming themselves. Additionally, I hear they harbor trichinella spirella roundworms, which can cause debilitating trichinosis and can survive temperatures close to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, and the AIDS-like heat resistant porcine endogenous retroviruses. Are there any studies confirming the danger to human health by consuming pork? Could a deadly poison be manufactured from the hodgepodge of toxins found in pigs and then after giving a human the deadly concoction can the fatality be attributed to eating pork? Elvis S.

Trichinella LifeCycle, Courtesy of CDC.

A. Pigs are interesting creatures. Wild pigs can eat snakes but are not immune to the venom. Smaller pigs will die from snakebites, but a 1500-pound pig is so massive that there simply is not enough venom to kill it. Trichinella spiralis is the most common of the eight roundworm species in the United States and most prevalent in pigs. Heating to 145 degrees kills all forms of trichinella instantly. So, when cooking pork, an internal cooking temperature of 165 degrees for at least 15 seconds is recommended. On the other hand, although freezing kills T. spiralis, it will not kill T. nativa, found in the Arctic in polar bears and other wild game occasionally brought back by hunters (a warning to Arctic hunters–polar bear liver is toxic!). Fortunately, mild trichinosis in most people is harmless and asymptomatic. But if, after eating pork, you experience severe gastro-intestinal issues that last more than three days or sudden swelling, particularly around the eyes, contact your doctor.

Q. Where do you think Morgellons syndrome originated from? Deb D.

A. Morgellons syndrome has not yet been accepted as a real disease. The term was coined to refer to something that Centers for Disease Control (CDC) refers to as “unexplained dermopathy.” Those purported to have it generally complain of disfiguring sores and crawling sensations on and under the skin. The CDC is currently investigating whether Morgellons should be classified as new disease.

As to its origins, Morgellons was discovered and named by Mary Leitao, a medical lab technician, whose son developed unexplained sores that contained different colored fibers. When doctors were unable to diagnose the condition, she founded the Morgellons Research Foundation, which was fostered by other self-identified sufferers.

Some physicians, as well as the Mayo Clinic, which conducted a study, concluded that Morgellons was simply a form of delusional parasitosis, a form of psychosis exhibited by patients who are convinced that there are parasites crawling on or below their skin, when, in fact, they may be imaginary. The Morgellons Research Foundation itself has not yet been able to pinpoint the source of the condition and its symptoms. This is still being researched and studied.

Medical doctors did not invent the human body and are challenged and intrigued when new or unique clusters of symptoms arise. As with any “new” condition, there can be many misdiagnoses, consideration given towards mental illness, or other conclusions that leave physicians simply baffled. The door remains open on this one for now.

Attention writers! If you’re working on a book, script, or article and need quick insight or advice on a medical condition that affects a character or impacts a storyline, please email your question to fritz@fritzstrobl.net. I’ll post answers to two questions every Monday on this blog!

Due the volume of requests received, I am not able to provide personal responses. Questions should pertain to characters or stories you’re writing, books you’re reading, TV shows/movies you’re watching, or health issues in the news. If you have a question about a personal health issue, please contact your doctor.


 

Nov 14 2011

Medical Mondays: Dengue Fever & Autonomic Nervous System

Ask The Book Doctor!

Today, I’ll be answering questions posed to me via The Big Thrill–the International Thriller Writers online newsletter. If you’re a writer or a fan of books, TV shows, or movies and have a medical-themed question you’d like to see answered in this weekly column, check out submission guidelines at the bottom of this column! 

 

Q. How common is dengue fever becoming and is it something to worry about living in South Florida? Susan P.

A. Dengue fever, also called “breakbone fever,” is a viral illness characterized by high fever, headache, rash, muscle, and joint pain. It is spread by mosquitoes, but has not been seen in American mosquitoes since the 1930s. It is most common in tropical areas of SE Asia and Africa. Although 100 million people get dengue fever yearly worldwide, only 25,000 die. It is estimated that 80% of those infected have mild or no symptoms. (By comparison, seasonal influenza in the US kills about 30,000 per year.) There have been a few recent cases of dengue fever in the Florida Keys, but like the other cases noted in the state, they were likely acquired outside the United States. No American recently diagnosed with this condition has died when treated by a doctor, so the risk is very low, although some suffer hemorrhage or shock. Common sense precautions are always advised, so if you (or anyone around you) exhibit these symptoms, it’s best to consult with a doctor.

Q. Which system of the body is responsible for regulating the activity of all body systems? Dennis M.

A. The brain, specifically the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS), gets the credit since the brain is the body’s main computer and the other systems are linked to it, such as the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. For example, the ANS helps regulate blood pressure. When we stand up from a lying position, the brain is instrumental in managing arterial and cardiac connections so that blood flow is maintained. Most organic systems are semi-autonomous. The lungs won’t work at all without the brain, but the heart has its own natural pacemaker. Other organs like the liver and the spleen however, are minimally affected by the ANS.

 

Attention writers! If you’re working on a book, script, or article and need quick insight or advice on a medical condition that affects a character or impacts a storyline, please email your question to fritz@fritzstrobl.net. I’ll post answers to two questions every Monday on this blog!

Please note: Due the volume of requests received, I am not able to provide personal responses. Questions should pertain to characters or stories you’re writing, books you’re reading, TV shows/movies you’re watching, or health issues in the news. If you have a question or concern about a personal health issue, please contact your doctor.


Nov 01 2011

Medical Mondays: Ask the Book Doctor

The Book Doctor Is In

Today, I’m pleased to be launching a weekly column on this blog devoted to answering medical-related questions writers have been asking that pertain to characters or stories they are writing, books they are reading, or TV shows/movies they are watching. Since my medical background and cases inspire ideas for my own books, I would like to help other writers and readers understand more about common and unique medical maladies.

Q. I am writing a book that is set in 19th Century New England and my lead character suffers from insomnia and stress. From books I’ve read, it seems that doctors in that era frequently prescribed laudanum to alleviate these symptoms. Can you tell me more about this drug and its side effects? Vicky, NYC

A. Laudanum is also known as tincture of opium. It is 10% opium and 90% alcohol, usually with a flavoring added to mask its bitter taste. Obviously the 180 proof had an effect outside the opium. It was probably invented in the 16th century and its name comes from the Latin laudare, to praise. Laudanum has strong analgesic properties and was used for many purposes ranging from menstrual cramps to colic in babies. It was used recreationally as well. By the 19th century, laudanum was in popular use without a prescription. In addition to characters in novels, like Sherlock Holmes, it was used by authors themselves, among them Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, John Keats, Edgar Allen Poe, Lewis Carroll, and even Charles Dickens. Laudanum has side effects that are typical of most narcotics, such as dependence, withdrawal, sedation, constipation, and death (from overdose). In the 20th century it was removed from the over-the-counter market, along with the cocaine in Coca-Cola!

Q. I’m a big fan of the TV show, House. Almost every week, when Dr. House and his team of experts are trying to figure out their patient’s baffling medical condition, “amyloidosis” is often suggested as a possible diagnosis. What exactly is amyloidosis? Stuart, Jersey City, NJ

A. Amyloidosis is a rare disease caused by an abnormal protein called amyloid being produced in the bone marrow. Abnormal antibody proteins can create amyloid deposits that build up in the bloodstream and damage any organ. They frequently affect the heart, kidneys, and nervous system. There are various forms and because it is rare and difficult to diagnose, amyloidosis is generally incurable. Symptoms can range from changes in color/texture of skin, swelling in ankles and legs, numbness in hands or feet, fatigue, and shortness of breath–symptoms indicative of a variety of other illnesses. I check for it in my patients because it can cause peripheral neuropathy. Not thought to be contagious, one of my neurology professors, who studied it extensively, performed numerous biopsies on patients who died from it, actually (and sadly ironically) died from it himself! Those of us who do procedures always eventually stick or cut ourselves while treating patients. The movie Puncture deals with some of the dangers of modern medicine.

Attention writers! If you’re working on a book or script and need quick insight or advice on a medical condition that affects a character or impacts a storyline, please email your question to fritz@fritzstrobl.net. I’ll post answers to two questions every Monday on this blog!

Please note: due the volume of requests received, I am not able to provide personal responses, nor can I answer questions regarding personal health. If you have a question or concern about a health issue, please contact your doctor.   

Oct 24 2011

Real Presidential Migraines and Other Presidential Ailments

With the media buzzing daily about the politicians vying for a place in the upcoming presidential primaries and this summer’s news story about Michelle Bachmann’s migraines, it seems an apt time to look back at some of our past president’s medical conditions.

Starting off with real “Presidential Migraines” US leaders who were known headache sufferers included Thomas Jefferson (cluster headaches), John F. Kennedy (migraines), and Harry Truman (stress headaches).

It’s widely known that William Taft was obese, Ronald Reagan suffered Alzheimer’s Disease after his presidency and that George Washington had severe dental problems (and research conducted on some of his dentures in 2005 concluded that Washington’s alleged wooden choppers were actually made from a combination of ivory, gold, and lead, along with some human and animal teeth).

One of the more interesting cases was that of Woodrow Wilson. The president, who led the country during World War I and who appeared to be in satisfactory health, suffered debilitating strokes in 1919 during his second term in office. In fact he suffered from hypertension and may have had his first stroke at age 39. Although he was severely incapacitated with left sided paralysis and blindness in most of his vision, he kept his condition secret from his Cabinet, the public, and even the Vice President. His personal physician would never publicly admit the true scope of Wilson’s health. A reporter was hired to write a fake interview.  In June 1920, a carefully staged photograph was released showing him signing a document. Despite the impact of the stroke, he served out his term with his wife Edith carrying out much of his work behind the scenes.

Aspects of Franklin Roosevelt’s failing health were also covered up. In addition to polio, the impact of his smoking, and general presidential stresses due to the WWII, FDR had extreme hypertension, coronary artery disease, and heart disease. Prior to the 1944 election, he began making plans for his funeral and memorial, giving farewell gifts to his friends and employees and burial instructions to his son. He died in April 1945, only three months after he began his fourth term of office. Exactly who participated in the cover up, including the role of his personal physician, has been a mystery, with FDR’s medical records having gone missing from a locked safe.

Also secretive about his health was Grover Cleveland, who had a cancerous growth removed from his jaw and had a rubber prosthesis implanted to disguise the effects of the surgery. His condition was undisclosed to the public until well after his death (which was not from cancer).

John F. Kennedy suffered from endocrine problems for most of his adult life, as well as back problems and an array of gastrointestinal issues. He took hormones, steroids, and other assorted medications on a regular basis. Although giving the impression, publicly, that he was of satisfactory health, the reality was anything but and he, too, kept much of his maladies a secret.

Some of the more quirky medical afflictions among our past Commanders in Chief include boils on the buttocks (Jefferson), hemorrhoids (Carter and FDR), sleep apnea (Taft), and gout (Van Buren and Buchanan). Plus, a vast majority of our leaders snored–not a health hazard, but perhaps of some frustration and lack of sleep for their First Ladies.

Oct 07 2011

Longevity and Common Sense Ways to Achieve It

The quest to live a long healthy life is a journey of universal appeal. Like the Mobius Strip at left, which has no end, there are those who pursue eternal life. As Woody Allen said, “I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work; I want to achieve immortality through not dying.

The average lifespan in the United States has increased substantially in the last 100 years, from 47 to about 80. A major factor was the development of antibiotics in the mid-twentieth century. Recent advances in treatment of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and cancer have produced further life extensions.

Maximum lifespan is the theoretic maximum age humans can achieve. This is determined by the Hayflick limit, which defines the number of times cells can divide. To date, this lifespan generally last about 120 years. While everyone has his or her own maximum lifespan, it rarely runs to 120 years of age. The genetic factors that regulate this and are determined by one’s DNA, are mostly immutable at the current time. But the question remains: If our individual maximum lifespan is written into our DNA, how do we achieve that?

To understand how to live longer, we must first understand how and why we die short of our theoretic maximum. More importantly, what are the factors that one can alter?

Under age 45, believe it or not, the most common cause of death is accidents. In my case, at age 26, I was within seconds of dying when I encountered a problem with an airplane I was student piloting, which nearly crashed during a maneuver. Fortunately, I only managed to scare some cows (and myself). Whereas I was able to figure out the problem and avoid an untimely demise, many incidents are often difficult to avoid.

Alcohol is frequently a contributing factor in quite a large number of fatal accidents. Likewise, an alterable factor in trauma-induced death is the wearing of helmets while biking, motorcycling, and snow skiing. Actress Natasha Richardson’s tragic death to what was deemed initially to be an insignificant head trauma is only the most recent notable example. I was once asked to help evaluate the death of a female passenger who fell off the back of a motorcycle that was coming to a stop. Despite riding at a very slow speed, when she fell backwards striking her head on the pavement without a helmet, she died immediately.

It is also interesting note that since 1994, deaths from traffic accidents have steadily decreased due to mandatory seatbelts, airbags, and improved automotive design. Yet, taking its place is a different type of accident which, for the first time ever, outnumbers traffic deaths: drug-related deaths. And a leading proportion has been misuse of prescription drugs, a sadly preventable form of death.

Under age 65, the largest number of human deaths relates to cancer. Such tremendous strides have been made in cancer therapy that many cancers can now be regarded as not a death sentence but as a chronic illness if not cured entirely. The reduction in cigarette smoking has been a great help not only to cancer but even more so to preventing vascular disease. Cessation of cigarette smoking may decrease risk of vascular disease by as much as 70% in some.

Vascular disease is the largest cause of death in the over-65 age group. In fact, heart attacks and strokes account for over one-third of the annual death toll for all ages combined. This we have the biggest opportunities for prevention.

Hypertension is a significant factor in vascular disease and kidney failure. Ideal blood pressure is around 100/60. Physicians have more aggressively treated hypertension every year. Recently, treatment is recommended for pressures chronically over 130/80.

Hyperlipidemia, abnormally elevated levels of lipids or lipoproteins in the blood, is treatable in most cases and is another independent risk factor in vascular disease. The use of statins has been a leading factor toward improved health and also appears to help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

A more subtle contribution to risk reduction has been the use of anti-platelet drugs, particularly aspirin. An effective preventive therapy for stroke and heart attack, aspirin also helps in the prevention of certain types of colon cancer and possibly breast cancer.

Prevention or treatment of obesity is also important. There are an estimated 300,000 preventable deaths annually from diabetes, for which obesity is a huge risk factor. Obesity is also an independent risk factor in many other diseases like heart disease and hypertension. Curiously, underfeeding (but not undernourishment) is well known to increase lifespan in rats. This type of underfeeding, which is really a diet aimed to achieving the lower limit of ideal weight, can positively impact health and longevity in humans as well.

Overall, although you cannot change who your parents are and the DNA they gave you, you can manipulate the environment to which the DNA is exposed and get the most out of it in terms of improved health and longevity.

Sep 05 2011

The Truth About Migraines

Migraines sound pretty boring as a blog topic. Actually they aren’t. I know. I take care of them. And I have them myself. And I named my first novel Presidential Migraines.

Migraines have been in the news this summer when it was leaked that Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann, a Presidential candidate, has them. The press claimed Ms. Bachmann might be laid up for days at a time and this could impact her effectiveness in the Oval Office.  The story is almost certainly nefarious political fiction; these days migraines are well treated in the vast majority of people, be they Presidential candidates or anyone else.

Migraines affect 12% of the American population with 18% of females and 6% of males having at least one per year). Yet, they are clearly underdiagnosed, a core reason being that some people with migraines never get headaches. Estimates are 3%, but I suspect that is grossly low because most people don’t think they have a migraine unless it includes an incapacitating headache and head-in-the-toilet vomiting. To neurologists that would simply be called  a bad migraine

Take my migraines, which I never knew ran in my family for every known generation until I started asking questions. At age 27 as a G2 neurology resident at the University of Minnesota, I experienced spells where I thought I was going to pass out, couldn’t think straight, and was dizzy, but had no headache. To be sure that I wasn’t simply hypoglycemic, I had my blood checked. Normal.  Same for CT and EEG. Then I spoke to Mom—often an excellent resource—and she clued me in on our family’s history with migraines. In fact, as I child, I had a few emergency room visits for possible appendicitis, which turned out to be abdominal migraines. This goes to show it’s not always in your head!

Hemiplegic migraines run in some families, where the sufferer  becomes paralyzed on half his body (with or without a headache), almost like a stroke. Some get aphasic; they can’t speak or understand–or both–even though they know exactly what they want to say! This can also cause partial or total blindness (scotoma and hemianopsia). Some people even pass out–not from the pain either.

Certain foods and medications are known to be precipitants of migraines, such as cheese, chocolate, red wine, and hormones. If you’re prone to migraines, you may need to curtail or avoid consumption or usage altogether.

To this day I rarely get actual headache symptoms. On rare occasions, I may find myself reading the same medical report three times and can’t understand it–I recognize that to be a symptom of my migraines and simply take two ibuprofen.

If you suspect you have migraines and are concerned, you should seek the help of your physician or a neurologist. Neurologists are specialists who deal with migraines as well as other brain diseases.

Aug 18 2011

US Navy SEALs

While writing Greek Flu, I wanted to learn more about the Navy SEALs so that I could accurately portray them in my story. I was privileged during my research to meet a large number of active and retired SEALs. I wanted to know not only the technical details of what they did but also who they are. I was also able to meet some of their families and spend time with them. These days, after the bin Laden mission, there are a lot of SEAL “experts” who have come forth. I make no such claims, but have reviewed chapters of my book with some experienced SEALs for general accuracy; any inaccuracies are solely mine–either by intent or error. I believe my depiction of the SEALs in Greek Flu is factual and intriguing.

The Special Warfare insignia, or "SEAL Trident."

SEAL is an acronym for SEa, Air and Land. They are a group of men who take their job of protecting the United States to heart.  The concept of “Team” really means something to them. During some meetings I was asked if I “was Team.” Hopefully that meant that I was at least holding my beer correctly. One funny story is that after meeting with all these brave men, my wife confided that her biggest fear was that despite my age I would somehow convince the Navy to let me be a SEAL!

SEAL history goes back to WWII when in 1942 the Amphibious Scout and Raider School was started in Florida. They trained the first Naval Combat Demolition Unit (NCDU) to reconnoiter land areas and dispose of obstacles. NCDU was first utilized in Operation Torch in North Africa. By 1943, after serious problems in Tarawa, the Navy realized the need for underwater demolition of obstacles. Eventually, nine Underwater Demolition Teams became Combat Swimmer Reconnaissance Units and, ultimately, Navy UDTs.

In the 1960s it was realized that the United States must development unconventional warfare with guerilla and anti-guerilla abilities. Mainly from UDTs with commando experience in Korea, modern SEAL units were formed with bases in San Diego and Virginia Beach. They were so effective that it was estimated that 200 Viet Cong were killed for every SEAL life lost.

Their many battles are beyond the scope of this page. But whether in Iraq, Afghanistan, or the latest hot spot, Naval Special Warfare continues to evolve and serve with the demands of the day, either alone or in coordination with other services branches, some of which attend SEAL reunions as well.

http://www.sealswcc.com/

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