Monday, May 25, 2015


I look a bit like my mother in this picture

My maternal grandmother had it.  My mother had it.  My mother's sister has it.  I have it.  Atopy is defined as "The genetic tendency to develop the classic allergic diseases -- atopic dermatitis, allergic rhinitis (hay fever), and asthma.  Atopy involves the capacity to produce IgeE in response to common environmental proteins such as house dustmite, grass, pollen and food allergens.  From the Greek "atopos" meaning out of place."

In addition to being allergic to "common allergens," people with a heightened form of this condition often develop allergies to medicines and chemicals of all sorts, including those that are supposedly "safe," such as common ingredients in cosmetic, soap, fragrance and shampoo products.

Allergic reactions to certain foods are common, as well as reactions to pesticides used in commercial growing operations.

Atopic syndrome is a tendency for a person to be "hyperallergic," and can be fatal for those who experience a severe reaction and go into anaphylactic shock.  Some years ago I suddenly developed an allergy to a medication I had taken previously with no problem and ended up in the emergency room at the hospital.  They took one look at me and shuttled me right in to see the doctor, no questions asked. My face had ballooned out, I was covered in hives, and I had begun having trouble breathing.  The doctor told me that if I had wait another few minutes, I would not have survived.  "We caught it in time," she said, "Thanks be to God."

Insect venom is a particularly bad one for me.  Even the measly mosquito leaves me with giant welts on my skin.  Dermatitis is a less frequent manifestation of my particular version of Atopy, but is chronic on my scalp.  I should be using an organic, mild shampoo, but it is cost prohibitive, as are the organic foods and supplements I should be taking to curb my chronic illnesses, of which atopy is just one syndrome.

Allergic reactions can come on swiftly.  Several times I have experienced sudden, severe itching of the soles of my feet, rapidly followed by hives all over my body and swelling.  Whole classes of medications are off limits for me.  All Nsaids, such as aspirin, aceteminophen and ibuprofen, are verboten, as are sulfa drugs (a common allergy), many antibiotics, and who knows what next?  The older I get, the more allergies I collect.

Atopy has a strong hereditary component.  One study found that atopy increases by a factor of two with each first degree family member suffering from it.  My family has hit the jackpot, with numerous members afflicted.

Having this atopic syndrome with the asthma, hay fever and dermatitis components, complicates my treatment for the chronic illnesses that I have.  I can't take several arthritis medications because I am allergic to sulfa (which is related in a way I don't understand.)  Even some non-allopathic remedies cause me problems, such as glucosamine condroitin because it is derived from shellfish, to which I am allergic.  It goes on and on like that.

Ideally, I would be eating a completely organic, non-GMO diet and using organic cosmetic and housecleaning products, but my disability income doesn't meet my needs in this regard.  I try to eat the organic items that most affect me and put up with the asthma and allergic reactions, keeping my emergency inhaler and my epi pen (epinephren shot) close at hand, but this is a less than ideal approach that leaves me with skin eruptions all over my body as a result of my body trying to eliminate the toxins, and probably is part of the dermatitis aspect of atopy.

Every time I read a news item in which the poor are being criticized for buying "gourmet" food, i.e., organic food, it makes me angry.  In some areas of the country, legislators are proposing laws that would restrict the type of food that poor people could purchase with their food stamps.  One of the items they want to forbid is fish.  My doctor is telling me to eat more fish, like salmon and kippers that are high in Omega 3s, to combat the arthritis that I can't treat with medicine because of my allergies.  Thank God I am not on food stamps!

Many disabled people have health issues that call for a chemical free diet.  Personally, I have become rather fond of living, and I don't want to become one of the 5,000 people each year that die of an asthma attack.  I'm going to continue to strive to purify my diet and get as much organic as I can possibly manage, and I recommend that everyone with asthma and similar issues does the same.

Silver Rose Parnell
(c) 2015


Kuster, W.; W. Kuster, M Petersen, E. Christophers, M. Goos and W. Sterry (December 12, 2004).  "A Family Study of Atopic Dermatitis".  Archives of Dermatological Research (Springer Berlin / Heidelberg) (2/January, 1990); 98-102  LINK  Wikipedia  Medicine Net

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology LINK

Saturday, May 23, 2015



This blog post is for those who already acknowledge that helping the poor is a good thing to do. Christians are required to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick and visit the prisoners, according to the words of Jesus.  I have to assume I have a tremendously large target audience, since there are so many self-identified Christian in America.  People of other faiths and no faith are also invested in helping the poor, so, for the tiny minority of people who think that helping the poor is not something they want to do, for whatever reason, please don't bother reading this.

For the rest of you, I want to say that it is important to get a good picture of what is actually happening with the poor of this country and how it is we came to have 46 million poor people in a land that is rich with resources.  While a certain portion of this problem is barely addressed by government programs that are being threatened with cuts or elimination, there remains a great need in this country for individuals of good will to step up and help those less fortunate than themselves.

The confusing thing is that poverty doesn't look like poverty in America.  The standard of living is so high that the poor live in apartments or houses that look nice, that have refrigerators and washers and dryers, but there's little or no food in the fridge, and there isn't enough money to keep ahead of the utility bills to pay for running the washer/dryer, the fridge and everything else.  Dental care and eyeglasses are beyond the reach of at least half of the poor and nearly poor.  Medical care is spotty, and sometimes they can't pay for the prescription and over-the-counter medicines they need.  They're living in a golden cage, but the seed dish is empty.

Before you decide how you as an individual are going to prioritize your efforts to help the poor, I would like to suggest 5 steps that you can take, in the order provided, to make it an activity that is informed, satisfying and effective.

1)  DO YOUR HOMEWORK.  Research basic statistics through reliable sources the provide source data and statistics. Ignore anecdotal stories from your friends and Facebook contacts, as well as opinion pieces about the great unwashed poor and what we should do about them.  Understand the overall picture by digesting the raw data.  See some of my own resources at the end of this blog.

I have found that reviewing comparative charts prepared from the raw data is a good way to visualize the issue.

If you see a conspiracy under every rock and you distrust every agency that collects statistics, I can't help you, because it is impossible to understand a situation that exists outside yourself if you refuse to recognize any authority but yourself or those persons whose opinions already jive with yours.

2)  Listen to and read the opinions of only those people who have expertise in the areas of economics and poverty demographics and who are authorities in their own right and who rely upon credible facts when forming their opinions and strategy.  Particularly ignore anyone who claims to have "secret" information that "the government" is trying to hide from us.  They're peddling the Brooklyn Bridge.

3)  Once you have digested the data, you will come away with a good picture of poverty in America.  There are about 46 million poor people in our country and several million who are nearly poor.  You can't help them all, aside from paying your taxes (a very tiny percentage of which goes to government entitlement programs), so you'll have to begin to focus on the subset you'd like to help the most.

Keep this in mind: You are not paying ANY taxes toward the upkeep of the poor, unless you are making more than $50,000 income per year. If you make $50,000, only $7 of your taxes will go to welfare. That's for the whole year. You aren't entitled to an opinion about the poor when you're only paying $7 a year to help them.

Often, when I mention the poor, people immediately make reference to panhandlers and the homeless, even though that group represents an itty bitty speck in the 46 million sea of poor people.  I myself require assistance from friends in order to struggle through every single month, but I also find myself helping the homeless in several ways.  Take it as a given that you'll do a little something to help them in addition to your other activities.  Theirs is a special situation that doesn't represent the rest of the poor.

This is the stage at which a great deal of prayer and soul searching are required.  Which demographic of the poor will you help?

In America, the poorest of the poor, people whose income is below about $700 a month, are the ones who get the government benefits and free health care.  They used to also receive dental care and eyeglasses, but in the numerous cuts to benefits over the last few years, dental care and eye care may have been eliminated from Medicaid.

I would say that, as far as survival is concerned, the poorest people who make up the bottom third of the spectrum are, in some respects, better off than the poor whose income is slightly higher because the bottom third are the only ones who qualify for government programs.  NONE of the poor are "doing well," however.  They are all scrabbling for survival.

I belong to a rather large demographic of disabled people who, because of their illnesses, have needs that are much more expensive than the needs of an able-bodied, healthy person.  Our disability income is probably half what we need to combat our medical problems.  For instance, due to various conditions, I am supposed to get regular therapeutic massages, eat organic food, use organic cosmetics, have a service dog, and a super commercial vacuum that eliminates dust in my environment, but I can't afford any of it, so I feel ill all the time and walk like an 80 year old.)

One of my neighbors once said to me, "Why aren't you working?  You look fine to me."  Big sigh. No human being can look at another human being and magically see everything that is wrong with them.  Consequently, no one can automatically anticipate another person's needs, which brings me to category number 4:

4)  ASK the poor what they need.  Don't decide for them and then try to thrust it on them.  Recently, an acquaintance texted me and said that she had gone to the food bank and was bringing me a box of food. Trouble is, I can't eat any of it.  My diet is restricted because of my stomach ailments and my numerous allergies.  I thanked her, told her I couldn't use it, and asked her to give it to someone else. She said she would take it to some agency and that THEY would be grateful for it (unlike me, who would not take it from her.)

I will be eternally grateful to my two Catholic friends who call me every month and ask me if I need something in particular from Costco or from a favorite grocery store or from the vitamin catalog. Without these angels of mercy, I would be in a much worse position than I am.

5)  Finally, don't forget the poverty of loneliness that infects our country.  There are a lot of isolated poor and sick people who rarely get a visitor.  Visit a nursing home.  Invite one of the church ladies to your house for a meal.  Take a lonely person to breakfast.  It will mean the world to them.

After you have done all the research and rubbed elbows with the poor and made friends among them, let all this education and experience help inform your voting pattern during the coming elections.

Here are some links of some of the reputable sources for statistics that I mentioned:









Multiple sources, including U.S. Department of Labor, Dept. of Commerce, Census Bureau, etc.

Includes data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture

This website uses data from the U.S. Census Bureau, The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, American Medical Association Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, UNICEF, the United Nations, the Boston Globe, United for a Fair Economy, The Equality Trust, University of Massachusetts' Center on Social Policy, Report by Allen Greenspan ECONOMIC APARTHEID, Michael Gorman of the American Library Association

Citing a report on Income and Poverty in the United States (2013), US Census Bureau, and other sources.


Sources:  Office of Management and Budget,
U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Dept. of Health and 
Human Services, Dept. of Labor, 
U.S. Census Bureau

Redistribution of Wealth between 1970 and 2005
Data from Department of Labor

One of the experts upon whom I rely for informed opinion and expertise gleaned from both education and extensive experience in the field of economics is Robert Reich.

Robert Reich was the Secretary of Labor in the Clinton Administration.  He was named by Time magazine as one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century.  He is currently Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and the Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies.  He has written thirteen books, two of which became best sellers.  His new film, "Inequality For All," is now available on Netflix, iTunes, DVD and On Demand.

I hope my suggestions are helpful to you.

God bless us all.

Silver Rose Parnell
(c) 2015