FUKUSHIMA Lives on the Line

68— What were your thoughts in regard to family and friends back in the United States?Dr. Nollet: My first email to family was rather naïve: “Big enough earthquake in Fukushima to probably make international news. I’m OK.” This was sent right after confirming the safety of our staff and the operational status of our transfusion laboratory. I had no idea on Friday afternoon that upwards of 20,000 people on the Tohoku coast were abruptly taken from this world. As soon as my friends and family overseas understood the scope of our disaster, they cried for the people of Japan, and wanted to help. They were eager for accurate information, something the media didn’t always give them. So that became my job.— When did you come to Fukushima, and why?Dr. Nollet: I joined Fukushima Medical University in January 2008. Since 2004, I had been the National Medical Education Program Manager for the Australian Red Cross Blood Service, and a transfusion medicine specialist in Queensland. But as a non-citizen, I had to give up my medical job as soon as a qualified Australian doctor could be found to replace me. At the time, Professor Ohto and I were working together on a manuscript. Right when the journal was ready to publish, I had to say that we could no longer list “Australian Red Cross” as my affiliation. After I explained why to Professor Ohto, he asked, “How about coming to Fukushima?” Before I gave my final answer, he went ahead and listed my affiliation on the manuscript as Fukushima Medical University.— That must have been a big change. How about Japanese food?Dr. Nollet: People like to ask if I can eat sushi and sashimi. Yes, and one of Fukushima’s best sushi chefs works at the FMU Hospital cafeteria. I am also fond of natto (fermented soybeans) and genmai (brown rice). I continue to buy, and eat, locally grown genmai from the same supplier that serves a small café in my neighborhood. Some café friends urged me to switch from brown rice to white rice after the nuclear accident, because they heard that polishing rice removes cesium. Well, the 2011 crop was not harvested until months after the nuclear accident, and by then testing was in place. Contaminated rice was kept from the market.