Thursday, March 15, 2018

40 Years Ago Today - March 1978

One of the most popular photos from my early childhood, this family photo is from March 1978.

This string of Polaroids is also from March 1978. My parents and I went to Uncle George's for a visit, possible on our way east to the new house in Maryland. Based on the serial numbers, the photos were all from the same batch.

There's a single photo I found with my cousin and I playing at Uncle George's and Aunt Wilma's. I've blurred out her face because I know privacy is important to her family and I wanted to respect that.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

40 Years Ago Today - March 1, 1978

I was finally able to locate, learn, and use a large bed scanner. Which made it possible to scan a growth chart my mother had for me. The first measurement was for January 3, 1977 where I clocked in at a whopping 20 and one half inches! Fast-forward a year and a couple of months and I grew to 31 and one half inches.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Naloxone Training And The Opioid Crisis

I recently attended REVIVE! training on how to administer Naloxone and left feeling empowered, scared, and educated. The training was hosted by the Rappahannock Area Community Services Board (RACSB) and attended by everyone from regular citizens like myself to local school employees. Due to the nature of the discussions held, I'll refrain from using actual names of people or places. But more on that in a minute.

The training itself was relatively simple. Simple enough that anyone older than 13 could, and should, attend a session. This wasn't an in-depth first aid training session with scenarios that involved gushing blood or delivering babies. This was just a few slides, a short video, and the most complex part was the hands-on portion where we learned how to administer the Naloxone itself. And even that was simple enough that a young adult could learn how to do it in a few minutes. In theory somebody younger could administer the drug but should rescue breathing (also known as mouth-to-mouth breathing) or chest compressions (also known as CPR) be required, they may not be strong enough to render first aid effectively. But the key to the training wasn't the first aid, it was the Naloxone.

But let me back up a minute and talk about the opioid crisis itself. For me personally, it was one of those things that I knew about, read about, and saw on the news. But largely dismissed because, like most drug-related issues, figured it would never impact me or those around me. But as I went through the training, there were a few things I learned about that made me realize it could hit closer to home than expected.

None of my friends or immediate family are drug users, at least as far as I'm aware. But I do know people that could be taking an opioid legally for pain management. And when you combine an elderly patient that may not remember when they last took a dose, it is possible for somebody to accidentally overdose. On top of that, I frequently use the bathroom outside of my house. Gas stations. Local retail stores. All are common places for an overdose victim to be found. As I learned in training, some of the symptoms of withdrawal are nausea and diarrhea. Which could send a person to the bathroom to begin with, but it's also a place they can use in private.

So as I quickly learned in the session, encountering a person that has overdosed is distinctly possible. And being prepared for it was the key point I learned. I left the training feeling empowered knowing that I would have the medication on hand to save a person. Medication that, for lack of a better description, is a miracle drug that can bring somebody back from the brink of death in seconds.

Naloxone is the generic name of the drug that essentially kicks out the opiod (Narcan is the brand name). On a molecular level, Naloxone is smaller than the opioid and is able to take over the opioid receptors inside the body. It doesn't get rid of it, only replaces it, and only for about 40 minutes. So even after you administer Naloxone, it is possible for the person to overdose again without using again because the opiod is still present in their system. But that's about the only draw back to Naloxone that I heard in the training class. You can't overdose on it. There's no negative side effects, even for accidental usage. You can't abuse it or get high from it. The dosage is the same for children and adults. And what really blew me away was that most first responders use it on cardiac patients as soon as they arrive on scene simply because it really has no negative impact on the patient and could save them if it was an overdose.

Despite all of this good news about how Naloxone worked, learning about the opiod crisis and hearing stories left me feeling scared. As a father with kids nearing high school age, hearing about overdoses in high school left me feeling nervous and out of control. Once upon a time, I was in high school myself. There were always rumors of drugs in school but I never heard a rumor of anything other than marijuana. I did know of people and had friends that drank alcohol but that was as far as it went. At least that I knew of.

Without violating the privacy of those that attended, hearing about multiple overdoses in multiple area schools left me shook. These were first hand accounts from reliable sources. And I think what scared me the most was the comment from one attendee who said their high-school aged child wanted to attend a training session because they had seen friends overdose. Absolutely depressing and scary all at once.

The discussion of schools then left us all with a bit of confusion when that same person asked if their child , as a student, could carry Naloxone in school. Because many rural rescue departments have long response times or may not even carry Naloxone as part of their standard equipment, the student wanted to be prepared for a future overdose. The trainer wasn't sure but we discussed it as a group some. And even though the Naloxone is a prescription drug, we felt confident that anyone, student or teacher, could carry it in school as long as they had filled out the appropriate paper work. Similar to a student carrying an inhaler or Epi-Pen, it should be allowed to be on the person at all times if that's what the prescription calls for. The problem seemed to be the usage of Naloxone. As an example, if a student has a prescription for an inhaler and lets another student use it, they would get in trouble. But for Naloxone to work, you need to give it to the person in distress. So like an Epi-Pen, it doesn't make sense to save a life only to get suspended from school for breaking the rules.

Which brought me to my conclusion that we need, at the state and local levels, rules in place to protect the patient and the good Samaritan. Some protections are already in place, but the policy in schools should include Naloxone as a protected medication that can be used by anyone from a Nurse to a teacher to a student. On top of that, schools should have an open prescription for Naloxone, just like many already do for an AED (automated external defibrillator) and Epi-Pen.

As I walked out the door, feeling a little rattled by the information, I felt like it was a worthwhile training session. It was certainly worth the money (it was free) and absolutely worth the time (90 minutes). I left with a lot of information that I hoped I never needed but was glad to have. All attendees also got a small first aid kit that had gloves, rescue breathing mask, and stickers. The stickers are to be put in the hair of anyone we administer Naloxone to. And while the Doctor that usually attends wasn't there to give us the Naloxone itself, we were able to fill out paperwork to get the medication in the near future.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Brand Loyalty In The Modern Age

When I talk about brands, I'm not talking cattle brands, your personal brand, or even that kid from that fantasy novel. No, I'm talking corporate brands and how we have, or have not, remained loyal to them over the years and into the current modern era.

As a kid, I was dedicated to Nike. They made the best tennis shoes in the world and I loved them. But somewhere around the mid-1980s, I lost faith in them. Why? Because my shoe fell apart. The glue on the sole left me with something that resembled a mad scientist crossed a flip-flop and a scuba flipper on the bottom of my shoe leaving me with this weird flap that made it nearly impossible to walk without tripping. Not to mention the smirks and laughs behind my back by my fellow elementary school students.

I'm nor here to call them out on their teasing me because if I did, I'd have to address my own poor choices as a child. Instead, I'm here to talk about how I've remained loyal, or not, to certain brands and how the culture of brand loyalty has changed with my generation, Generation X. And more importantly, how that shift is impacting Generation Y, or Millenials, Generation Z, and the companies that are falling behind or running ahead.

Back to Nike. I was so loyal to them and so appalled by their poor construction, I switched to Reebok. They may not know it, but that change in brand loyalty probably saved my parents some money. Those Nike Air Jordans were all the rage and cost all the money. But my Reebok high tops were much cheaper, and more importantly to me, they weren't Nike.

Through my early childhood, I also remained loyal to Coke. My mother and step-father drank Pepsi (still do) but I hated it because it tasted too sweet. Plus I modeled myself after my father more, even though I still struggle to admit it today, so if he liked Coke, I liked Coke. Thankfully I would eventually kick my soda habit but for decades I wouldn't drink Pepsi, although I was known to drink Pepsi products if I was desperate enough.

In my formative years, I was brand loyal. It was part of the culture I grew up in. It was ingrained in my head through my parents, TV commercials, and society. I knew Coke was the best because my dad drank it, the commercials said it was better, and I actually liked the taste. I knew Transformers were cool because my friends said so, they had their own TV show, and those cheap knock-off toys I got just didn't feel cool.

Over the years certain brands have come into, or dropped out of, my life. Quiznos. Jersey Mikes. Walmart. Target. Starbucks. Sheetz. They have their own loyal following and many even have their own loyalty program of some sort. Buy enough coffee at Starbucks and you get a free one. Go to Sheetz frequently enough and they'll send you a free coffee cup.

But what does all of this mean to those younger than me? What does it mean to the Millenials and Gen Z? Well, think about how they remain loyal to certain brands. Apple for instance. Countless teens have an iPhone and will continue to have one for a long time. It's a status symbol. It's a way of life. But what about Costco? Why would my kids want to shop at Costco when they can buy everything they want on Amazon? The Washington Post wrote an article on this very topic.

But I've been talking to other people about this for some time now, so it's not news to me that the younger generations are less brand loyal than the old grey hairs like me. And if you think about it, there's a lot of change to society that's behind this. Younger generations have a different view on what is moral or acceptable in society. So when Jared Fogle had issues with the law, it's no surprise that Subway lost customers. But that loss wasn't as large as it could have been because those younger generations weren't really the ones spending the money then. But when you look at the latest issue with H&M and their child models, that younger generation not only quit spending money there, some went so far as to trash stores.

Businesses today walk a fine line between making money and being morally correct. Not that the two are mutually exclusive but sometimes a company needs to leave people behind to make money. This is easily seen in a company that provides a service, such as internet or phone, and continually raises rates. Well, the cost of everything is always on the rise so it's no surprise that they need to raise the rates. That's the cost of doing business. Sure, there are a few outliers like Tesla that may be supplying a product without making a profit, but generally speaking, costs will rise and business will follow that with increased prices.

Where does this leave us going forward? I think it's up to the company to determine if they want to only make money, make money with a good heart, or have a good heart and worry about the money later. I think some companies are already in one of these buckets but may not last long without moving to another one. Here are a few examples that I'm either loyal to, not loyal to, or somewhere in the middle.

SteakUmm - make money with a good heart - They quietly do good things while supplying a reasonably priced product.
AltraZeroDrop - make money with a good heart  to only make money - They started with an altruistic idea, produced a product, and are now growing beyond their customer base.
Patagonia - have a good heart and worry about the money later - Pretty good model of a solid corporate citizen that has a loyal following and still produces a great product.
Starbucks - make money with a good heart - From their front-line employees to their senior management, they focus on the income and the customer.
GoPro - only make money - They've lost footing in recent years and could potentially go bankrupt if they don't turn their focus on their customers.
YouTube - only make money - Even though their a branch of Google (or technically Alphabet), they seriously seem to have lost their way over the years.