Posted by: getthenac | April 5, 2010

Stand up and scream, Sharon

by Carole Bartoo
I got a call today from a lady named Sharon O’Hara in the Puget Sound area of Washington State. She writes a blog called “COPD and other stuff” basically chatting up what news she finds on the internet about emphysema, which she has. She found my article about Dr. Robert Miller’s work to define a mysterious lung condition suffered by soldiers who had served in Iraq, (article here  ) and called me up.

Before I even got out the word “hello” she launched in: “Do you know what your article has done? It has blown up my world! I don’t know why people aren’t standing up and screaming about this.” After a second I caught up as asked her if she meant the article on the soldiers.  “These are our servicemen and women!” Sharon said sounding pretty outraged. ‘Preaching to the choir, I told her. I too couldn’t believe the media hadn’t taken the story on.

 Sharon  is 56 and has had a good life. She was especially fired up about Dr. Sylvia Waters, an army doctor, former marathon runner and mother of 7-year-old twin girls.

Dr. Sylvia Waters in Iraq

 This was a soldier and doctor with her whole life ahead of her, who now has a form of obstructive lung disease that will forever keep her from being fully active.  Sharon left a comment on the web version of the story… and a lot of other people did too. They said this was important to them, important to their loved ones. They wanted to hear more.

 Only, that’s the problem. No one is hearing more because the media has been singularly unimpressed with the story. In the four years since tiny mentions of Dr. Miller’s findings about these soldiers and the respiratory issues they suffer first hit the web, the only calls that have come into Vanderbilt have been from soldiers and their loved ones. No media.

After talking to a few reporters we finally got one media person out to report on the story. Not to slight that (to-remain-unnamed-until-the-story-comes-out) reporter, but – Come ON. Anymore it is frustrating and sad to watch/read the news and see story upon story about the entertainment industry: who fell over on “So you think you can dance” and which Idol star came out of the closet. Who cares when there are genuine concerns out there that affect people’s actual lives?

Again, Come on. I guess I have to be grateful that through the power of the internet, not all the decisions about dissemination of  news belong in the hands of people who are fascinated by TV shows about singing and dancing.

Go Sharon. 

Go to www.burnpits.org for personal stories of these soldiers

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