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Thursday, June 2, 2011

I'm Keeping Them FAR FAR Away from Pit Bulls

While I am not a clinician or researcher by any stretch of the imagination, my work puts me in close proximity to some of the world's leading scientists.  I find myself at forums, symposiums, workshops, etc. where biomedical researchers share their knowledge, work, findings, and hypotheses.  While I usually understand only about 40% of what's being said, I am frequently fascinated and inspired by what these pioneers are doing for the good of humanity.  I frequent Wikipedia a lot more now than I ever have before, but I'm glad to be learning things outside of my discipline, even if it's mostly lessons in latin.

With that said, I found myself at Emory University's School of Medicine early yesterday morning for a pediatric technology and surgery research symposium.  I brought my laptop to work in case the terminology of the presentations became too overwhelming for me to understand.  I was pleased that I was able to keep up with most of the topics.  I did get a little lost during some presentations on stem cells and T-cells and isolating them and how they proliferate.  Even as I write this, I have no idea what I'm relaying. 

Well, there were a couple of presentations that really resonated with me, specifically one clinician's presentation,  "Pitbulls and Children: A Deadly Combination."  This clinician (meaning he is an M.D. who doesn't practice medicine per se, but mostly conducts research) decided to conduct a retrospective study using patient data from two years of children admitted to all of the Atlanta area children's hospitals with dog bite injuries.  You'll have to bear with me now, because I am terrible at remembering numbers and statistics.  (remember no where close to being a scientist.  could never master the numbers thing.) I know that I will misquote specific statics, so you'll have to take my word for it when I just go with term "majority."  So, their findings showed that children admitted with dog bite injuries, the breed that was responsible for the majority of the attacks were pit bulls.  (I think it's something like 60%).  And a child attacked by a pit bull had the most severe injuries, which was evidenced by some pain quotient physicians use and their length of stay in the hospital.  A child injured by any other dog averages a 3 day stay versus 7 days for children attacked by pit bulls.   Most pit bull attacks occurred in suburban areas and the overwhelming majority of the time (~80%, I think), the dog belonged to either a family member, neighbor, or friend.  

Unfortunately, his presentation featured some very graphic photos of injuries.  It was heartbreaking and disturbing for this sensitive, non-scientist person to see.  

I got a chance to chat with this presenter during the break.  This two year study was just the beginning of their work.  Now, they're conducting a prospective study which will allow them to gather more data such as socio-economic factors.  If I understand correctly, the end goal of this study is to draw some correlations to dog fighting and help influence legislation with regards to vicious dogs.  

I probably got to spend about 10 minutes talking to this doctor after his 12 minute presentation.  That's how long it took to set my mind against letting my future children near any pit bulls: 22 minutes.  Now, this is not a campaign against pit bulls.  I'm sure people have plenty of positive testimony about their personal experiences with this breed.  Allow me to give you some insight on my personality:  I am an excessive worrier.  I'd say that 75% of the time my thoughts are either in the past brooding over "coulda, shoulda, wouldas" or in the future fretting over hypotheticals.  (That should come as no surprise given the very nature of this blog.)  But I only have to hear of a tragedy happening once in order to fear that the same misfortune will surely befall me someday.  And my brain operates under the theory that if I allow myself to worry about something no matter how much the odds are already stacked against it of actually happening, then the less likely it will occur.  There is the flawed logic of me, the worrier.   

Just one photo or one story was all I would ever need to know that when I have kids, I am keeping them far far away from pit bulls and I won't care who they belong to. 

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