National Geographic April 2016, Part 1

Death, Death, and More Death.

I’m not overly enthusiastic about reading about death. And for this project, I had to slog through, not just one, but two articles about death. If I were less dedicated to my goal of reading everything, I would have just skipped these two articles.

So I’m going to give you a couple of titles,  a couple of authors, a couple of photographers, and a quick rant, and then we’ll be done with this and move onto the title article on Joel Sartore’s photo ark (which is also tangentially about death — I love posting about death 30 hours before I’m supposed to get on a plane, really, as if flying didn’t make me nervous enough).

First title, author, and photographer, The Crossing, by Robin Marantz Henig, photographs by Lynn Johnson.

Second title, author, and photographer, Where Death Doesn’t Mean Goodbye . . . by Amanda Bennett, photographs by Brian Lehmann

And now the rant. The Crossing is about new developments in science where people who were previously thought to be beyond resuscitation were resuscitated (frequently seemingly no the worse for wear). One of the examples they give is Jahi McMath, who, we are told, “experienced a catastrophic loss of oxygen during a tonsillectomy.” If this is  the quality of research that Marantz Henig put into this article, then I’m suspicious about the whole thing.

McMath was obese and had sleep apnea. This caused a sort of feedback loop effect where her sleep apnea seemed to be making her gain weight, and her weight problems were exacerbating her weight problems. Finally, in 2013, (and by some accounts, a little reluctantly), the doctor in question operated on her. The operation was not a simple tonsillectomy.  The doctors completely resectioned her throat. They removed her adenoids, her tonsils, and I think they did something to her uvula. Looking it up, I see that they resectioned her uvula and her pharynx as well. This is an extensive surgery, and not one to be undertaken lightly.

And McMath made it through safely. I can’t find the reference now, but I seem to recall that she was out of recovery and in ICU (because it was extensive surgery) and was talking with her family when she began to bleed from the incision site (which was in her throat). Then she went into cardiac arrest and by the time they got her heart started, there was no sign of brain activity. The State of California declared her dead. Her mother disagreed with the state because McMath’s heart hadn’t stopped when her neurological functions did and got them to release McMath to her and they moved her to New Jersey, where she has been on a ventilator and a feeding tube ever since.

So it wasn’t just a tonsillectomy (though her tonsils were removed during the surgery), she didn’t have the event during the surgery itself, and there was a bit more going on than just a loss of oxygen.

Next up: More San Antonio parks and then a man who is trying to get a photograph of every existing species of animal.

National Geographic January 2014, Part 2

Far from Home, by Cynthia Gorney, photographs by Jonas Bendiksen

Far from Home is a profile of the situation and economics of “guest workers” in foreign countries. This article refers to them primarily as “remittance workers,” because of the fact that the workers are sending as much money home to their families as they can afford to do. In economics, the term for sending money in this way is “remittances,” thus “remittance workers.”

There are millions of remittance workers in the world, both documented and undocumented, in scores of countries all over the world. The United States is temporary home to one of the largest populations of remittance workers in the world and, indeed, the existence of undocumented remittance workers in the United States is currently a heavily debated issue.

For the purposes of this article, however, Gorney focuses on one particular subset of one particular remittance worker population in a different country. This is the situation of Filipino guest workers in Dubai.

And the example Gorney uses to show this world to us is the Cruz family (which is a pseudonym to protect them). The Cruzes met in Dubai, though the husband, Luis, had a wife at home in the Philippines. After he and Teresa fell in love, however, Luis got an annulment from his wife at home and married Teresa. As they are a two-income family, they can live independently of some of the group homes that remittance workers occupy in Dubai. They also have room for two of their children. The problem is that they have four children. Since there is no room for them in the home, the Cruzes sent their eldest two children home to the Philippines, where they live with their maternal aunt.

Once Upon a Dragon, by Jennifer S. Holland, photographs by Stefano Unterthiner

Okay. Komodo dragons. They’re dragons. From Komodo.

This article is actually a very interesting read, but there’s not a whole lot to say about it. We talk about the legends that say that humans and dragons are sort of cousins — the first komodo dragon was the twin sister of an Indonesian prince. They’re a protected species, as are their prey, which means that people of the islands where the Komodo dragons live cannot offer deer meat as offerings to the dragons anymore. And, as we do in a lot of National Geographic articles, we follow scientists who are studying the dragons.