POSTSCRIPT / February 15, 2000 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Millennium Bug can’t survive EDSA pollution

THAT amazing picture in last Sunday’s POSTSCRIPT of a 21-week-old fetus reaching out from his mother’s womb to clasp a finger of the surgeon operating on him in utero was a winner, judging alone from the reaction of readers.

If you missed it, we strongly suggest that you look for that Philippine STAR issue of Feb. 13.

Again, we thank the San Pedro Branch Field Rep Team of Meralco for sending us the picture of Samuel Alexander Armas, the fetus with the upraised hand. Credit is also due The National Enquirer, which first published it last Nov. 16.

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FATHER Cal Poulin, SJ, Xavier University, Cagayan de Oro, writes: “The picture of tiny Samuel’s outstretched hand is most gripping indeed!

“May the sight of that tiny hand touch the heart of someone who might otherwise turn his or her own hand to the destruction of some other still unborn ‘Samuel,’ about to reach the wondrous day of emerging fully from the safety of the womb into the warm embrace of a loving family.

“The picture itself is worth more than a thousand words, and may well have the further effect of saving even one innocent life.

“The picture portrays, quite coincidentally, the Gospel message in today’s (Sunday’s) Catholic liturgy which depicts Jesus reaching out with a healing touch to a leper, otherwise condemned, through no fault of his own, to painful rejection by his own community.

“Thank you for this extraordinary and thought-provoking manifestation of the hopeful life of a tiny child within the fragile safety of his mother’s womb.”

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ON our request for help in explaining what Samuel’s “spina bifida” problem is, reader Mon Sagullo quotes from Grolier’s 1996 Multimedia Encyclopedia:

“Spina bifida is a birth defect in which part of the spinal column (the bony structure surrounding the spinal cord) does not close properly, so that a segment of the cord is left exposed.

“The defect may involve only a few vertebrae, or it may leave a major section of the cord uncovered. The cord and/or membranes surrounding the cord may protrude. The nerves in the protruding sac are protected by only a fragile membrane and can easily be damaged or infected.

“If untreated, most infants with spina bifida die of infection; many others are left with severe disability. In the United States spina bifida occurs in approximately one out of every 1,000 live births.”

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MORE details came from Dr. Leah N. Rivera of the High Risk Unit, University of Santo Tomas Hospital. She is an obstetrician gynecologist with a subspecialty in perinatal medicine and one of her interests is fetal therapy. She says:

“The surgery of the fetus in utero is not new. The pioneering work was initially done on monkeys by the group headed by Prof. Michael Harisson of the University of California in San Francisco.

“In the early 1980’s the first fetal surgery was performed on a fetus with uretheral obstruction. By 1989 they had performed 13 operations for different anatomic malformations like bladder obstruction, congenital diaphragmatic hernia and sacrococcygeal teratoma. Of these 13 cases, 10 resulted in a viable pregnancy.

“After this, many centers in the US, some of them in Florida and Atlanta, tried to follow their procedure for other indications like spina bifida.

“Spina bifida is a defect of the skin, underlying soft tissues and vertebral arches exposing the neural canal. With the advancement of fetal surgery, this can now be corrected during the early part of the pregnancy and the mother is able to continue with the pregnancy.

“With the advancement of technology, especially the development of higher resolution ultrasound machines, we are now able to diagnosed congenital anomalies with a certain degree of accuracy. And, of course, with this comes therapy.

“The concept of the fetus as a separate patient has long been recognized. We are now able to institute treatment, e.g. transfuse blood to the anemic fetus in utero, replace amniotic fluid in those pregnancies with a decrease amount.

“I hope this breakthrough in science will make more people aware that the fetus is a separate individual, with its own needs and right to live, and not just a piece of tissue as many believe.”

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WHILE all this is going on in the wonderful world of science and medicine, here we are busy swapping Erap jokes in the Internet and the text windows of celfones.

Even Erap Estrada gamely contributed his own repertoire of jokes during the 1ast presidential campaign. With him just a candidates then, the jokes were cute. They just bounced off him like dirt sliding off teflon.

Now the jokes are beginning to tell on him and his office. Why? Because now he is already president – and, besides, the jokes uncannily reflect what most people perceive to be reality.

The joke session hour is over for Erap. It’s now time, high time, for serious business — if he is not yet aware of it.

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WE caught this one over the weekend from Marilyn Robles, wife of Rex of the RAM who’s now retired and is into consultancy and mining (not along the Imeldific mining schemes of Ma’am, we’re sure):

The last four Philippine presidents have been classified thus:

Marcos: the Martial Law President.

Cory: the People Power President.

Ramos: the Centennial President.

Erap: the Millennium Bug.

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LOOK what we got for quoting a praise release of Environment Secretary Antonio Cerilles wherein he claimed to have closed some bus companies for alleged violation of pollution laws.

Reader G. Haigh scolded us over the weekend: “I wonder where you get your information that Victory Liner and Five Star bus companies have been closed. Yesterday on the North Luzon tollway I was nearly run off the road by buses from both companies being driven recklessly.

“Never mind pollution, it is time to get these shabu-fuelled cretin drivers behind bars. In my country, they would never qualify for a learner’s permit, let alone be given charge of a potentially lethal vehicle carrying 50 passengers.”

Ner, err… Butch Dayrit who manufactures those stories about the alleged anti-pollution efforts by his cerillic boss better explain why they pollute media with false information.

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TALKING of pollution, the dirty air hanging over EDSA is a million times more deadly than the clatter of that White Elephant rambling through the light rail laid out between the North Triangle in Quezon City to Gil Puyat Ave. in Makati.

We can survive the MetroStar light rail mega-ripoff, but the pollution shrouding its line is a silent killer from which escape looks impossible at the moment.

The pollution on EDSA is slowly but surely killing thousands of commuters and motorists who have no choice but to pass that way every day. People are slowly dying – and the grisly part is that we know it but are not doing anything about it!

We challenge Cerilles to cut down to tolerable levels the air pollution along da riles. Never mind the praise releases. Just do it.

And as we keep saying, we dare Cerilles to take President Estrada with him on a public bus with windows open during rush hours on EDSA. The Millennium Bug would then learn with finality that EDSA’s foul air is worse than DDT.

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IT has been a source of wonder for commuters why traffic policemen would rather suffocate on EDSA than arrest the smoke belchers sowing sure death like they had been fielded by funeral parlors.

MMDA chairman Jojo Binay once told us of smart alecky bus drivers who get off easily by complaining that enforcers press too hard on the accelerator when testing their vehicle’s emission.

Why, are they blind? One does not need a gadget to spot smoke belchers five blocks away. Enforcers should not debate with drivers of offending buses. They should just shoot the tires and have the sooty vehicle towed to the nearest scrap iron dealer.

We told Jojo (but it seems he found us too young to take seriously) that by grounding smoke-belching vehicles, he would be shooting two birds with one stone: he cuts down pollution on EDSA and eases traffic with the retirement of the heavy polluters.

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ANOTHER of our public solicitation for computer-related info: Will somebody please tell us the comparative features/advantages of a CDROM, a DVD and a writable CD drive?

If one’s CDROM conks out, or is about to, and he want to replace it, should he install another CDROM, or change to a DVD or a writable CD drive? Many friends have asked us this question but we would rather refer it to the experts.

On a related topic, we’ve noticed that some people want to latch on to the Internet and join the email frenzy, but are timid to go for it. They probably think it’s too expensive or complicated and would not want to expose their imagined ignorance by asking.

It actually involves a simple adjustment of one’s computer. And the small expense involved is more than compensated by the myriad money-saving uses of Internet. (The phone companies are losing millions from unrealized revenue from subscribers who resort to free email service instead of using toll phones.)

The Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and hardware/software distributors should look into this and mount a more effective information blitz.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of February 15, 2000)

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