Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Prologue

Radiation can be dangerous. So can ignorance.

The young woman had injured her wrist in a fall, and the swelling would not go down. She made an appointment with her family physician to have an X-ray to determine if any bones had been broken. Several X-rays were taken to obtain different views. In a few minutes, they were developed, and the wrist was found to have a slight crack that required the use of a splint for several weeks.

In a few days, the young woman, already a mother, began to feel those subtle, suspicious changes in her body. She went again to the doctor to find she tested pregnant. But the memory of her X-ray haunted her. She knew that all radiation was harmful, and that it could cause her to have a retarded (or worse) baby. The next evening, she spoke with a nurse in her Women's Club who shared the same nuclear nightmare. The nurse suggested that she consider an abortion. A consultation with her gynecologist found him in agreement. The "therapeutic" abortion eliminated the possibility of a deformed baby.

This story was related to me by the woman, who by chance was reading the first draft of this book. I took her information to a health physicist I had met and asked him to estimate the amount of radiation the fetus would have received from the 1960s or 1970s X-ray machine - and what its likely effect would have been. In a few minutes he told me that the fetus would have received less than half the radiation received from a coast-to-coast airline flight, and that the effect would have been entirely negligible.

Radiation can be dangerous. So can ignorance.

I wonder what my niece or nephew would have been like. So does my sister.