You Gotta Have Heart-And Other Vital Organs

Many of our hearts are touched when we see a human-interest story about organ donation. We feel grateful that there are donors among us who have made a second chance at life possible for another human being. But how much do we really know about this amazing gift?

While writing Primary Source, book five in my Aimee Machado Mystery series, I discovered many details about organ donation that otherwise I might never have known. One more example of facts I’ve learned while writing fiction.

The search term “Organ Donation” on Google produces 64,400,000 hits, which tells us there is a lot of information available. But despite continuing efforts at public education, there are many myths, misconceptions and inaccuracies about donation.

One fact that is easily understood is that there are 115,000 people in the U.S. waiting for a transplant. Another fact, perhaps not so well understood, is that it is not necessary to die to become a donor. There are two categories of organ donation: living donors and deceased donors.

Living Donors

Living-donor transplantation offers an alternative to waiting for a deceased-donor organ to become available.

The Mayo Clinic, one of the largest living-donor kidney transplant programs in the United States, estimates that in the U.S., about 6,000 living-organ donations are reported each year. Kidney donation is the most common living-donor procedure. After one kidney is donated, the donor’s remaining kidney performs the necessary functions for life. More than 45 percent of kidney transplants at Mayo Clinic come from living donors.

Living donors can also donate a portion of their liver, and the remaining liver will regenerate, grow back to nearly its original size, and perform its normal function. Though kidney and liver are the most common types of living-donor organ procedures, living people may also donate tissues for transplantation, such as blood, skin and bone marrow.

Deceased Donors

There are 8 organs that can be donated by a deceased donor: the liver, lungs, heart, kidneys, pancreas and small intestine. Donor tissues can also improve the quality of life for many ill people. They include skin, corneas, bone tissue including tendons and cartilage, heart valves and blood vessels.

The current model for deceased donors in the U.S. presumes that organs and tissues belong to the individual and cannot be appropriated without some kind of permission or authorization from that individual or a surrogate. This is referred to as “the donation model.”

Some other countries follow the model of “presumed consent,” otherwise described as “deceased organ recovery without explicit consent or authorization.” In that model, the individual who does not want his or her organs donated after death, must take steps before death to “opt out” as a donor.

Whether choosing to be a living donor or a deceased donor, it is important to know that of the more than 145 million people registered as organ donors, only about 3 in 1,000 can actually become donors when they die.

Qualifications as a donor

All people may consider themselves potential organ and tissue donors—regardless of age, health, race, or ethnicity. No one is too old or too young to be a deceased donor and most major religions support donation.

Even those with an illness or a health condition may be able to donate organs and/or tissues upon death. If the situation arises, doctors will examine the organs and determine whether they are suitable for donation. Only a few conditions would absolutely prevent a person from becoming a donor—such as active cancer or a systemic infection.

In the U.S. all people age 18 and older can register to be an organ, eye, and tissue donor. You can choose what you wish to donate, and you can change your status at any time. In many states, people younger than 18 can also register, although their families will have the final say if the occasion arises for donation before they turn 18.

Visit these websites and more to learn the facts about organ donation:
United Network for Organ Sharing https://unos.org/
Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network https://optn.transplant.hrsa.gov/
Mayo Clinic https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/in-depth/organ-donation/art-20047529

Primary Source is book 5 in the Aimee Machado Mystery series published by Camel Press (an imprint of Epicenter Press) and Harlequin Worldwide Mysteries.

The series is available in print and e-Book format from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and by request from your local bookstore. Visit again soon when I’ll share more facts I’ve learned by writing fiction. 

IED HAS TWO MEANINGS – BOTH ARE EXPLOSIVE

You might think you know what an IED is. I thought I did, but I was only half right. Most of us who have followed the various military conflicts in the Middle East are familiar with the term. It’s an abbreviation for a deadly roadside weapon called an Improvised Explosive Device.

There is another IED, however, which is often described as a “temper tantrum,”  or “flying off the handle,” but it is more than that. It is a psychological diagnosis found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5 for short), and it’s called Intermittent Explosive Disorder. Coincidentally, it can also be set off on a roadside, as seen in cases of road rage. This diagnosis is another fact I’ve learned by writing fiction.

In Breach of Ethics, book three of my Aimee Machado Mystery series, an angry outburst occurs in a most unlikely setting—a hospital conference room during a meeting of the Ethics Committee. Until I wrote the scene, I had never heard of this other IED. Taking on the persona of my protagonist, a hospital-based health sciences librarian, I decided to research impulsive rage, and in doing so, I discovered Intermittent Explosive Disorder.

In some cases, as in extreme road rage incidents, this lesser-known IED does turn deadly. As defined by the Mayo Clinic, “Intermittent Explosive Disorder involves repeated, sudden episodes of impulsive, aggressive, violent behavior or angry verbal outbursts . . . grossly out of proportion to the situation. Road rage, domestic abuse, throwing or breaking objects, or other temper tantrums may be signs of intermittent explosive disorder.” Simply put, this explosive disorder brings out the beast in some of us in a terrifying manner.

Once diagnosed, treatment might include a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy and medications, including antidepressants, anticonvulsants, antianxiety and mood regulators.

For more detailed information on diagnosis and treatment of this disorder, visit the sites shown below.

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/intermittent-explosive-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20373921
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/conditions/intermittent-explosive-disorder
https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/treating-intermittent-explosive-disorder
https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17786-intermittent-explosive-disorder

The Aimee Machado Mystery series, published by Camel Press and Harlequin Worldwide Mysteries, is available in print and e-Book format from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and by request from your local bookstore. Visit again soon to learn more facts I’ve learned by writing fiction. Primary Source, book 5 in the series, is due for release in mid-February.

(Bear photo by Andre Tan on Unsplash)

 

Get Hip to HIPAA: Hackers Want Your Health Data

I have a question for you. What do hackers want more—your Social Security number or your health information?

If you guessed Social Security, you’re wrong. Here’s another fact I learned by writing fiction. The answer is health data, and criminal hackers are busy stealing it every chance they get.

Despite this alarming trend, there is some protection in place for patient privacy. In 1996, the United States legislature passed the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act  known as HIPAA. This act provides for data privacy and security provisions for safeguarding medical information.

The passage of this act was meant to protect patients’ privacy, but it means nothing to a criminal hacker whose day job is stealing your health data. The law has emerged into greater prominence in recent years with the proliferation of health data breaches caused by cyberattacks and ransomware attacks on health insurers and providers.

Hackers can fetch only around $15 a pop on the web for a Social Security number, but a medical record with personal information attached can go for $60 or more. 

Criminals can use health data to create fake identities that allow them to buy and resell medical equipment or drugs, to file fake claims with insurers, or to file fake tax returns. Hackers will use stolen hospital records for extortion—the patient must pay to keep from having their records sold on the dark web.

One reason health data fetches more dollars is that medical identity theft can go undetected for years. The modern practice of electronically storing medical records rather than using paper charts has resulted in a bonanza for criminal hackers. They can sneak in with a few taps on a keyboard, grab the data, and sneak out without being detected.,

How is this possible? One explanation is that medical facilities and private practices tend to put patient care items first when considering expenditures. If the budget is tight, money is not spent to replace aging computer systems, hire IT consultants, and upgrade security infrastructure. These cost-cutting practices make hackers’ work remarkably easy.

Visit these sites for more complete information on this topic:

https://www.dhcs.ca.gov/formsandpubs/laws/hipaa/Pages/1.00WhatisHIPAA.aspx

https://www.healthit.gov/sites/default/files/YourHealthInformationYourRights_Infographic-Web.pdf\

https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-individuals/guidance-materials-for-consumers/index.html

The security of health data is a recurring theme in the hospital-based Aimee Machado Mystery series published by Camel Press, an imprint of Epicenter Press. Available in print and eBook formats from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and by request at your local bookstore. http://camelpress.com/

Medical Interpreters – Saving Lives

Facts I’ve Learned by Writing Fiction

This post is a result of my research for SPINE DAMAGE, book four in my Aimee Machado Mystery series featuring a hospital librarian with a specialty in forensics. 

Ever wonder what happens when a critically ill or injured patient with no knowledge of the English language arrives in an American hospital’s Emergency Department?

 

In Spine Damage, book four of the Aimee Machado Mystery series, that’s just what occurs at fictional Timbergate Medical Center in Northern California. The incident involves a young Portuguese-speaking man with a potentially fatal gunshot wound to his spine. It also results in a new mystery involving Aimee Machado, our hospital librarian.

The critically injured patient cannot tell his story to his doctors or to the police without the help of an interpreter. Aimee finds help for this fictional patient, but what would happen in real life?

Raise your hand if you speak English, and Portuguese, and if you’re also fluent in medical terminology in both languages. No one? The specialty of Certified Medical Interpreter (CMI) is currently experiencing a 29% growth rate, so if you like languages and you’re seeking a career path, it’s worth a look.

Before we go further, let’s clear up the difference between interpreters and translators. Both require a knowledge of more than one language, and both require skilled specialists, but for different reasons. The most obvious difference is the medium: translators interpret written text; interpreters translate orally.

Authorities in the field agree that expert knowledge of subject matter is equally as important as interpreting experience. When a medical interpreter is involved, the accurate oral exchange of information between health care provider and patient can be crucial. A qualified medical interpreter must have an extensive vocabulary, including medical terminology and an ability to express thoughts concisely in both languages. Beyond that, the interpreter must be familiar with both cultures.

Although the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) does not require that hospitals use certified interpreters, it has clarified the standards for qualified and competent interpreters. Qualifications and competencies can be met in a variety of ways (not simply through certification). Those include:

– Knowledge of medical terminology
– Language Proficiency Testing
– Training in interpretation best practices
– Interpreting experience in a healthcare setting

There are documented cases of patients being saved, or lost, because of the quality of medical interpretation. Who knew that second language we were required to learn in school could someday lead us into a profession that would offer the opportunity to save lives?

For more information on medical interpreters, visit one or more of the following sites:

http://www.certifiedmedicalinterpreters.org/

http://www.imiaweb.org/

https://www.aafp.org/afp/2014/1001/p476.html

http://blog.cyracom.com/joint-commission-standards-healthcare-interpretation

Visit www.sharonstgeorge.com again soon for another  fact I’ve learned while writing SPINE DAMAGE, book 4 in this series.

Books in the hospital-based Aimee Machado Mysteries are published by Camel Press (an imprint of Epicenter Press) and are available for purchase in print and eBook format from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and from your local bookstore.
http://camelpress.com

Child Prodigy: Is Genius an Abnormality?

Welcome to another post on facts I’ve learned by writing fiction.

While researching the third book in my Aimee Machado Mystery series, I came across many fascinating examples of child prodigies and their stories. The plot of Breach of Ethics centers on the plight of a ten-year-old piano prodigy who suffers a burst appendix. The little girl becomes a patient in the hospital where Aimee works as a forensic librarian and coordinator of Timbergate Medical Center’s Ethics Committee. To avoid spoilers, I won’t reveal more of the plot here.

Among the things I learned about prodigies is that they emerge most often in fields of athletics, mathematics, chess and music. Think Tiger Woods, Stephen Hawking, Bobby Fischer, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Recently, reality television has begun showcasing young prodigies with programs like Little Big Shots, and Genius Junior. But prodigy can come with a downside. “Many gifted kids have A.D.D. or O.C.D. or Asperger’s,” says Veda Kaplinsky of Juilliard, a pre-eminent teacher of young pianists. “Genius is an abnormality and can signal other abnormalities.”

A decade ago, The Big Bang Theory, a scripted television series, introduced us to physicist Dr. Sheldon Cooper. In a spin-off, we now see Young Sheldon as a child prodigy. The success of these two series was followed more recently by Dr. Shaun Murphy in The Good Doctor, on a different network.

In both cases, these characters are brilliant in their respective domains, physics and medicine, but they struggle in other areas. The Shaun Murphy character is written with a diagnosis of autism along with his savant syndrome. And although The Big Bang Theory does not state that Sheldon Cooper is on the autism spectrum, there are viewers who believe his character exhibits some Asperger-like characteristics.

Returning full circle to the musical prodigy in Breach of Ethics, and to musical prodigies in general, there are many amazing examples of these gifted children online. Here’s one site that’s worth a look, and there many others on the topic of child prodigies.

http://www.classicfm.com/discover-music/latest/child-prodigies-video/

The Aimee Machado Mystery series is available in print and e-Book format from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and on request from your local bookstore. Come back soon for another post on facts I’ve learned while writing Spine Damage, book 4 in this series.