Sunday Snippets

Hollyhocks in my garden a few years ago.

Hollyhocks in my garden a few years ago.

Cousin Karl in Wisconsin was cleaning the snow and ice off his roof when he fell.  A veteran of foreign wars, Karl reports he did a paratrooper roll as he landed (hopefully on more snow). Nothing broken, he says, but sure to be bruises later on. My cousins in the Midwest have had a rough winter.

The Washington Post  (2/16/14) (correction..this was a BBC report)writes that a scientist attending the annual gathering of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Chicago, gave a paper on the wild swings in the Jet Stream which have led to a milder winter in Europe and the weird winter in North America this year, as well as drought in Australia and California.  When asked if the changes were owing to Man-Made Climate Change, the scientist was non-committal.  “We don’t have enough years of data to show that,” she said.

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Today, the Post also reported on the ICD-10 or International Classification of Diseases (10th edition).  The ICD provides the Diagnostic Codes administrative medical personnel use to describe various procedures in insurance claims forms, like Medicare, for example.

As a demographer who studied mortality and morbidity in grad school, I learned the French invented the idea of classifying illnesses and death, and I learned how to use ICD codes in writing various papers. A colleague of mine working on her PhD used the ICD codes to categorize Massachusetts death certificates from the nineteenth century when the industrial age got underway.  She wished to show the a link between the rise of the Industrial Age and mortality.  She found some correlations, but the death rates actually improved as the Commonwealth industrialized.

Using copies of real death certificates, we learned how to discern chronic and acute conditions existing before death.  For example, a man could have diabetes, lung cancer, and fall out of his wheelchair and die.  So what killed him?  The current ICD lists 56,000 codes for various life-threatening ailments, such as W05.0XX1 “fall from a moving wheel chair.” “Look at the data,” the most important words ever uttered in scientific circles and one I never forgot.

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A morning in June two years ago.

A morning in June two years ago.

I had intended to find some green today, but ended up at the Apple Store instead.  I have a power issue with my laptop.  I thought it was off and I couldn’t get it to turn on.  The clerk showed me it was on, but not responsive because I didn’t turn it off properly when I last used it.  After a lesson in how to power my laptop, I went home to the only green around here, my parrot, Baby, who is tugging on my pinkie because he thinks paying attention to him is more important than any laptop.

12 thoughts on “Sunday Snippets

  1. Your cousin fell off the roof and only got a few bruises? Holey Moley that’s amazing!

    I’m still learning things on my iPad and I still don’t know how to do a whole bunch of things. Sigh… But I’m trying to learn.

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  2. I wonder just how many years of data that jet-stream scientist needs to prove something? Cheez!

    The studies on mortality also very interesting…. So many people in our age group have such a variety of ailments (and take so many pills) that I don’t think anyone could really know exactly. And looked at in another way, does it really matter? It’s really about how you well you live the years and days given to you isn’t it?

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  3. Oh Dianne you reminded me of a position I had (well one of the duties of a position I held) where I had contact with the ICD codes of discharged patients at the little private hospital where I worked in administration. Once the medical records were released from the ward and had been coded I ‘entered the data’ and provided the federal government with a list of codes per month.
    Thanks for the memory

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  4. I am glad to hear your cousin landed okay. Several years ago a roofer fell off and they had to call the lifeline helicopter. It caused quite a stir as it landed at the bottom of the street. I never did find out how the poor man fared, hoping that it all worked out okay for him. Another enjoyable read Dianne, your posts always make me think and I feel my brainbox expanding – lol – one can live in hope.

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  5. Describing our Midwest winter as “rough” is classy indeed. I can’t talk about it with stooping into the gutter with some serious profanity. Oh well, spring is just around some corner or other.

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  6. Your post made me chuckle. Isn’t the ultimate cause of death cardiac arrest? David witnessed 2 deaths at the gym within the past year. Would you say intense workout on the treadmill caused their death or cardiac arrest?

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    • Cardiac arrest is what happens to anyone who dies. It is not a cause of death. Treadmills don’t kill either or anyone who uses one would die. The fellows who died at David’s gym had underlying issues that contributed to their deaths. Four fellows in my office died after their hearts gave out. One had a chronic kidney disease, two were on chemo for cancer, one was experiencing an infection he acquired while traveling. However regarding the last guy, if had been in better health (not overweight) he might have survived the infection and not died at age 42.

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