Wednesday, 27 August 2014

To congratulate non-ALS ice bucket champs!

The ice bucket for ALS has challenged Obama and the Dalai Lama among many people.  I am quite sure Lam Gyalwang Drukpa or Dzongsar Khyentse are willing accept the challenge.

I wonder how people might have had first known about ALS. May be through Stephen Hawking! Back in 2011 when I was a teacher in Yangchenphug, I told a class of 11 science students about Hawking and his ALS. ALS has a prognostic life of only 3 years to live.

But Hawking has lived out all medical predictions and it is a miracle - miracle for the medical researchers as well. Diagnosed with this condition in 1963 at the age of 21, he still lives on. Through Hawking, the doctors have found a unique way to learn more about the disease behaviour of ALS.

What is ALS?
ALS is a kind of disease that is grouped under motor neurone disease. Through many chemical mechanisms, the motor nerves get damaged. People usually find their limbs become weak and floppy, unable to move at ones’ will. Some may have difficulty in speaking and swallowing. They may trip, stumble and have unsteady gait. The cause is thought to involve genetic mutations and mRNAs.

Is it good to know about ALS?
It is always fashionable to know about stuff. It is a GK point.

Though a rare condition, it is significant to the people affected by it. The US data estimates 2-3 ALS per 100,000 persons. The maths is straight forward; Bhutan should be having 14-21 ALS patients in our population. This is wrong! Medicine is not maths and that’s why computers can never fully replace doctors.

Consider the genetic make-up of a population and its interactions with the environment coupled with the lack of specialist neurologists in Bhutan, I am optimistic that we will be able to diagnose and treat ALS.

Can we leave out ALS patients in Bhutan, if any?
I haven’t found reports of ALS in Bhutan. This may be because of two reasons. There aren’t medical journals published in Bhutan. I haven’t yet practised in Bhutan.

Are there other important things?
I can’t say ALS is unimportant. But certainly, at this stage in Bhutan, there many more important things at hand to focus on. The Annual Health Bulletin lists alcoholic liver disease and high blood pressure as the top killers. There are enough and more reasons why these killers are on the rise, including diabetes.

What’s the point of this article?
The young people in Bhutan including myself, should focus on the big killers, relevant and pertinent to our society. We should work to keep our people happy as I remember a Rudyard Kipling poem from school that talks about healthy people for a healthy nation. As you support ALS, please support for other diseases in Bhutan.

We need to think of other ice bucket challenges for alcohol liver disease, hypertension and diabetes. Why can’t we for the phallus we draw on our homes?

(This phallus is to draw attention to our own set of health challenges in Bhutan)

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