01 October 2005

Lament of the Sentinel

One year of research culminates in a single, disturbing realization: I was poisoned.

On the bright side, at least I have an explanation for odd medical anomalies!

Alright, I confess. I have a warped sense of humor. Last year's chemo, for example, presented a juicy conundrum: how could I lose all the hair on my head yet still have to shave my legs? Before I could put pen to paper and solve the problem, I was drop-kicked into another mystery: chemo fog.

Rather like a chemically-induced Alzheimer's Disorder, chemo fog redefines 'short-term' memory; long-term memories remain intact. That's how dementias work: the earliest memories are the last to go. I could not tell you what I did yesterday, but my earliest memories are of a Merchant Marine uncle and his rare, extraordinary visits with tales of faraway lands. I knew that would be my life, someday. It took a long, long time, because my high school offered females two career options: homemaking and secretary. (It's true!)

From those two choices came two lessons: one, the kitchen was not my friend; two, shorthand and typing bored me, despite being clocked at 180 wpm and 100 wpm, respectively. On the other hand, Snap On tools and Mopar transmissions intrigued me, thanks to mentors at my Dad's shop. I was a tomboy, through and through.

At the ripe old age of 29, I enlisted in the Navy. For some unfathomable reason, my Navy did not have Snap On or Mopar ratings so I chose a work-intensive avionics rating that involved electrical, mechanical, pneumatic, hydraulic and troubleshooting skills...and carried a lot of sea duty!

Classes and the mandatory note-taking would have been a breeze, had I not suffered from severe pushup-related muscle cramps. My sense of humor suffered greatly under the company commander's watchful eye; not so my physique. Despite the challenges, I was living my childhood dream throughout boot camp and the subsequent year-long training course.

Ah, about that whole living-a-dream thing? Guess I forgot to tell CINCPAC. Their response? Sorry. Female. You can learn it; you can teach it; you can even use it, just not aboard ship. Women serving in combat intensive ratings do not go to sea!

Oh pshaw. Now what?

Well, I was introduced to the joys of micro-miniature repair, otherwise known as soldering to NASA specifications, often with a stereo microscope. It is not a job for the faint of heart. One miniscule solder joint could be tested for 40 different defects. Forty! It wasn't long before I was teaching the course.

It would be 20 years before I learned lead exposure is considered a precursor to criminal behavior. Implicated in PTSD. Lowered IQ. Attention Deficit Disorder. Amyotropic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gherig's Disease). Multiple Sclerosis. Dementias. Alzheimer's. Psychological upheavals. Lead is a neurotoxin and carcinogenic. It can affect you by exposure to vapors as well as ingestion or respiration of microscopic particulates.

It is a primary ingredient in solder.

That is where my story begins.