FUKUSHIMA Lives on the Line

chap.IVPatient Relief Activity Records [Essays and Research Publications]FUKUSHIMA: Lives on the Line209Kan, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao sampling produce grown in Fukushima. In conjunction with a trilateral summit in Tokyo, the three heads of state visited Fukushima on Saturday. On a trip to the city center, I certainly saw more police and security officers out, but they engendered a feeling of comfortable security rather than intimidation or confrontation.May 29, 2011The Saturday morning farmers market a kilometer from home reopened yesterday. Nakazawa Chokubai was meant to start mid-March, but uncertainties about radioactivity in the soil resulted in a cautious delay. In fact, topsoil is being skimmed off and buried at kindergarten through high school campuses here in Fukushima City. But farming is underway. I bought onions, asparagus, green beans and potatoes Saturday morning. Before continuing on to FMU, I stayed for some coffee and conversation.One does not buy coffee at Nakazawa Chokubai. Coffee is offered and served as a matter of courtesy. Nakazawa Chokubai, like Harunoya, is a social networking sight not based on the Internet. I like it that way. Over coffee, you might guess that conversation would dwell on radiation, aftershocks, and all the economic fallout of recent events in Fukushima. I certainly tried to convey my sympathy. These farmers work harder for my meals than I do. But they wondered if I had repatriated after the nuclear accident, as recommended by so many foreign governments. And they wanted to know about the tornados ripping through America’s heartland. “Such a terrible kind of storm. How tragic for your people.”From Nakazawa Chokubai, I pedaled on to FMU, where an email from cousin Michael, forwarded by brother Don, was waiting. Michael is a nuclear engineer whose previous correspondence helped me sort through the facts around Fukushima Daiichi. Semi-retired, he drives semis, and was passing through Joplin, Missouri while an F5 tornado was doing the same. Michael is not given to drama or overstatement, but from his report it is clear that he was just meters and minutes, if not seconds, from being a casualty.Life, or not, involves chance. To be among The Living bestows choice.June 8Members of the Fukushima City Orchestra came to FMU on Saturday morning, June 4. Performing in our hospital’s main lobby, they were a welcome contrast to the days after March 11, when the lobby was filled with mobile hospital beds set up for mass casualty. The smiling faces of patients enjoying live music – and friendly musicians – would have made the best pictures. Family and friends were certainly busy with their cameras. But as a member of the hospital, I was bound by privacy policies to avoid pictures that might directly identify patients. Nevertheless, I hope today’s photo gallery offers some flavor of a Saturday morning in Fukushima.June 17A classroom between the bicycle parking lot and my office has been co-opted for a Fukushima Prefecture citizen’s health survey project. Fukushima Prefecture has just over 2 million citizens. If the excess radiation to which we are exposed is of any consequence, a carefully controlled long-term survey covering a large number of people will be invaluable. Statistically, two million is a good number if sufficient participation, free of selection bias, can be secured. In fact, the intention is to seek the cooperation of everyone living in Fukushima.Researchers around the world are certainly interested in studying the health of our citizens. Without any oversight, a research free-for-all would surely create duplication of effort, and likely annoy study subjects. Beyond mere annoyance, there is the need to protect privacy. It is one thing to be stripped of financial privacy, as with the recent breach of Citigroup’s credit card database (including my records). As bad as the Citi hack is, a violation of one’s health information is a more serious matter. So privacy protection is paramount.My personal hope for the long-term survey of health in post-nuclear Fukushima is that skeptics and enthusiasts alike be inspired by words that predate the nuclear age, but still ring true:“The best interest of the patient is the only interest to be considered.”William James Mayo, MD (1861-1939)addressing medical school graduates in 1910