FUKUSHIMA Lives on the Line

chap.IVPatient Relief Activity Records [Essays and Research Publications]FUKUSHIMA: Lives on the Line199Transplantation Immunology at Fukushima Medical University. In normal times, Fukushima City and Yamagata City are connected by bullet train, and the eponymous prefectures adjoin each other.These, of course, are not normal times. I apologize for any misunderstanding that may have led you to believe that Dr. Sakuma was based in Yamagata. Even if you could find your way to Fukushima City from Yamagata, it is against the wishes of the United States Government for Americans to be within 80 km of the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant. You should respect this advice as a loyal citizen with an important role to play in the relationship between the United States and Japan.My situation is different, because I am a medical doctor at a medical university with specific protocols for dealing with radiation events. However, I respect the fact that good journalists want to do their jobs well. So, even though we at Fukushima Medical University cannot receive visitors apart from certain patients and family members, and time does not lend itself to interviews, I have secured the cooperation of a professional society in California to make up-to-date information available about the state of things here.Please feel free to visit the home page of the California Blood Bank Society, www.cbbsweb.org, where you can click on General Items under Fast-Breaking News, in a column just right of center. Alternatively, a direct link to “An American Doctor in Fukushima” can be tried as follows: http://cbbstoday.org/nollet_fukushima.php I should mention the possibility of this direct link changing, as the volume of data increases. The webmasters in California generally work when we in Japan are supposed to be sleeping.Thank you again for your concern, and please be mindful of your health and well-being. It would be politically awkward for the governments involved to deal with an American journalist who got stranded, injured, etc. Aside from the nuclear issue, just now we are in the midst of a substantial aftershock, one of the worst and most continuous since March 11. I have to go now.With kind regards,Kenneth E. Nollet, MD, PhDMarch 24, 2011Yesterday morning’s first email got me thinking about tribes. A pathologist I had never met took note of my FMU affiliation, appended to a trivial bit of writing in the Archives of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. He emailed: “Is there anything we in the US can do for you or for Fukushima Medical University? Please let me know, I’ll be praying for you specifically.” This member of the Pathology Tribe practices in a health care system founded by Franciscans, and, through another religious denomination, he participates in the rebuilding of Biloxi, Mississippi, which is still recovering from Hurricane Katrina. Tribal affiliations needn’t be exclusive.An electronic dictionary sold in Japan warns that “tribe” in modern English may have offensive or disapproving overtones. I hope that no one is offended by my use of the word, or by my tribal instincts (toward blood relatives, blood bankers, pathologists, Amateur Radio operators, Fukushima…).Japanese concepts of “soto” (outside) and “uchi” (inside) are worth mentioning. These are easy to talk about, but not so easy for those of us born outside the culture to fully understand. Within a university, “soto” might refer to other departments, and “uchi” to one’s own. In the context of many universities, “uchi” might expand to include all the departments in one’s own institution. “Soto” should not be equated with enemy or antagonist; in fact, being “soto” often entitles one to special courtesies. “Uchi” expands or contracts depending on the circumstance. Maybe “uchi” is another word for tribe.How do we foreigners fit in? Or out? Yesterday’s news showed one group of immigrants taking this matter into their own hands. Their home country is plagued by tribal conflicts, or so we’ve been told. I imagine they knew something about hunger, and saw it again in the faces of so many displaced Japanese. They organized a feeding station and stocked its kitchen with the meats, vegetables, and spices of their national comfort food. I can’t imagine how that happened, but it did. They cooked, and served, and cooked, and served…Does the sense of tribe expand, or contract, in the face of tribulation? The answer might tell us how things will turn out.March 25, 2011Prior to yesterday’s ad-hoc graduation ceremony, I thought the quietest place on campus was a recording booth adjacent to our language laboratory. See the official press release, “FMU graduates face a new world.” In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami,