Missing At Birth

When I was seven years old, my mother decided to impart some previously undisclosed details about my birth. I’d already heard, many times, along with several relatives, how much I’d weighed, that I was a happy baby, that I’d slept well, that I was the first grandchild on my father’s side of the family. Birth itself was still something of a mystery to me. I knew that babies grew in their mothers’ bellies, but I wasn’t sure how they emerged from them. My friend Suzie’s big sister had recently informed us that giving birth was sort of like peeing, except it hurt more and took a lot longer. I didn’t think any further information was necessary.

I also already knew that my parents had been married for three years when I arrived. By the time I was seven, they’d been married for ten years. My mother once told me that she’d had a number of miscarriages before I was born. She didn’t say if she’d had any after. She never told me what a miscarriage was, but I figured out it was some kind of unexpected, physical cancellation of pregnancy. She’d also told me several times that she’d always wanted to have more children after me. “It’s your father’s fault I haven’t had them,” she’d said. “He hasn’t been — romantic enough.” Once, when she was in one of her states, she told me it was my fault she hadn’t had them. But that happened later, when I was a little older.

Whatever the cause, the consequence of all this was that my parents had no other children. This did not seem advantageous to me. Being an ‘only’ put me under too much pressure. It was, however, nice to have a spring birthday. Easter was always near my birthday. For my seventh birthday, I’d gotten a very large Easter basket and an orange kitten. I’d named him Sweetpea. He liked sleeping on the paper grass in my Easter basket. He was also not averse to letting me wheel him around in my doll carriage.

Since my birthday, my mother had been fond of pointing out that, at seven years old, I had attained the Age of Reason. Whatever that meant. Just an excuse, I thought, for telling me more things I really didn’t want to know. I believed that there were just some things that mothers should not tell their children, whatever their age. It was okay for Suzie’s big sister to tell us a few home truths. She was one of us, after all. But mothers, I thought, should just keep some things to themselves. Normal mothers did, I was certain. But my mother was not a normal mother.

Sweetpea was asleep in my doll carriage when my mother announced, in mythic tones, that she had A Few Things to tell me. Sometime in the hours after I was born, she said, her doctor had told her that he believed I’d had a twin who didn’t make it. Something about the afterbirth, he said. It had not been, he thought, an identical twin.

I was stunned. I wondered how the doctor might have figured that out. In those days, they didn’t have ultrasound machines to determine prenatal womb occupancy. What was the something about the afterbirth, I wondered. Was there a tiny dead body in it? My mother didn’t say, and I didn’t ask. She also didn’t say what an afterbirth was exactly. She did tell me now that, missing twin aside, after all those previous miscarriages, she was just relieved I’d made it with all my working parts intact. I wondered if all those miscarriages had involved tiny dead bodies. Still, I felt somewhat reassured. I was afraid she might have been disappointed that she’d only ended up with me, and not with both of us. It seemed a little cruel to me to end up, say, with chocolate ice cream, only to find out you were meant to have both chocolate and strawberry, but that the strawberry had been cancelled at the last minute.

She admitted that she was unconscious during the crucial part of the proceedings. “Knocked out,” was how she put it. Once again, she mentioned that I’d weighed nine pounds, seven ounces. Before, I’d thought my higher-than-average birth weight was a point of pride, like an athletic achievement. Now, I wondered if I should feel guilty about it. Then she said that, despite my birth weight, she hadn’t had to have a C-section, which, I gathered, was some kind of surgical procedure conducted to remove extra-large babies. The reason she hadn’t needed one was amusing, she explained. When the nurse first placed me in her arms, she thought perhaps they’d made a mistake and given her someone else’s baby — not her newborn girl, but some one or two-month-old who was visiting the maternity ward. I weighed a lot, she said, but I was also twenty-three-and-a-half inches long. She sat back, grinned at me, and folded her hands. I stared at her, not grinning, and hoped there was a punchline.”Don’t you see?” she said. “You were so long and skinny, you just slid right out!” Sometime after I was considerate enough to just slide right out, that ominously suggestive afterbirth followed me.

Certainly, I was relieved that I hadn’t forced my mother to have a C-section. But why she was telling me all this? What was the point? How was I supposed to react to such information? I couldn’t tell. I also knew that my reaction was not uppermost in her mind. It never was. She just had to get this off her chest. Again, I wondered why she chose to unburden herself to me, and not to some grownup. Was there a subtext? Perhaps it was because I had evidently continued to be a rather considerate child. I was a good listener. I didn’t ask a lot of difficult questions. Perhaps it was because I was just there. Whatever her reasons, for now, her story was done, and, as usual, I was left to ponder it unaided.

I wheeled Sweetpea into my room and shut the door. I began to wonder about my missing twin. I imagined it was a brother. It could have been a girl, a non-identical sister. But I was sure it was a brother. I wanted it to be a brother. How was I supposed to feel about the fact that he hadn’t survived? Did that make me a murderer? Had I committed infanticide in my mother’s womb? Had I somehow robbed him of nutrition, elbowed him out of the way, and gobbled it all up for myself? Is that why I weighed so much at birth? Why didn’t he defend himself? Was it just the size difference? Was my zygotic self always bigger than his? Did I accidentally or deliberately kick him to death with my long, skinny legs? Did we get tangled in a sibling embrace that choked the breath out of him? Or, due to my overwhelming volume, did I just smother him to death?

Or was it even my fault at all? Was it possible for a woman like my mother to have a sort of partial miscarriage? Did my mother’s body decide, by some mysterious process, that it could only handle bringing one baby at a time into the world? Was I the product of some Darwinian, survival-of-the-fittest contest over which I had no control? Wow.

My options appeared to be that (a) I was a murderer, (b) I was a clumsy, unwittingly dangerous oaf, (c) I was too competitive, and (d) I won some contest I didn’t know I was participating in. Ultimately, I couldn’t decide which one applied. And it almost didn’t matter. Whatever happened to him, I felt bereft.

I wondered what life would have been like with a twin brother. Would my mother have divulged so much unsavory information to both of us, or to just one of us? Or to each of us one at a time? We could have at least compared notes afterward. It would have been helpful to have someone with whom to discuss the states my mother sometimes got herself into. Like the times she was convinced that the neighbors, or my father’s fellow ushers at church, or the women of the neighborhood coffee klatch, were all conspiring against her.

I wondered what my brother would have looked like. Would he have dark blond hair and blue eyes like me? Or brown hair like my mother? Or hazel eyes like my dad? Would our parents have liked one of us more than the other? Would my dad have recruited my brother, and not me, to help him develop photos in his darkroom? Or would he have put us both to work, hanging negatives and uncurling prints off the photo dryer? Would I have been spared the boredom of having to hand my father various tools while he tinkered with the car? Would I have gotten a kitten for my birthday? Would we both have gotten kittens?

Would we have the same friends? Would the boy next door, who’d kissed me on the cheek one day in his back yard and then run away, have been my brother’s friend instead of my first romantic interest? Would my brother have slugged him for kissing his sister? Would my brother and I be on the same side in our epic neighborhood snowball fights? Would we even like each other?

Of course we would, I decided. We were twins, after all. Maybe he would play with trucks while I played with dolls, but we could still play games and build forts and do puzzles together. We could push each other on the swings. We could still be allies when our parents had one of their screaming matches over dinner, ducking our heads together when they threw dishes at each other. I wouldn’t have to run, alone, to my room to cry afterward. I wouldn’t be an ‘only.’ All the pressure wouldn’t be on me.

It was really too bad that he didn’t make it. I missed him. A lot.

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Exercise After Cancer When You Don’t Feel Like It

There are a lot of folks out there who manage to get back to their pre-cancer fitness after treatment. Some of them even exceed their pre-cancer fitness. They run marathons, practice yoga regularly, take up kick-boxing, do spin classes or zumba, or walk three miles a day. I admire these folks unreservedly, but I am not one of them. This post is not for them. This post is for the rest of us, for whom just getting out of bed in the morning is often a struggle.

Personally, my greatest athletic feat after cancer was going back to work. I used to work full-time. I’m not up to that anymore. First, I worked half-time, then eventually I crawled my way back to working four days a week instead of five. I had bills to pay, after all. I work as a homecare physical therapist. For a long time, I had to take neuro-stimulant drugs to combat fatigue and brain fog so I could get through my work day. Now, I manage on caffeine. I once got myself a pedometer to see how much running around I really did. The results were somewhat ambiguous. So, I got an accelerometer, but it burned through batteries too quickly. Basically, a pedometer measures movement in 2D, while an accelerometer measures it in 3D. My advice to the average person about getting such a device? Save your money. Here’s my own advice to patients about exercise: don’t fuss about how far you walk or how many exercise reps you do. Just do something, and keep track of how long you spend doing it. Time is the most pertinent measurement anyway when you’re just trying to mitigate the effects of all those hours that you can’t pry yourself off the couch.

As far as doing something goes, I will admit that my job has its advantages. I see six patients on an average day. I schlepp a heavy bag loaded with a laptop and medical accoutrements. When I visit someone at an apartment complex, I usually have to park far from the door and hoof it to the entrance. I take the stairs between floors when I can. I’m not one of those physical therapists who sits and watches her patients laboring away. I always do the stuff with them. One demo is worth a thousand words of instruction. Conservatively, I’d say that I spend at least a quarter of my average work day engaged in significant movement. That’s about two hours out of eight. And it’s probably more than that. No wonder I’m exhausted when I get home. Exercise after work? I don’t think so.

It’s what I do or don’t do on my three days off a week that’s the problem. All these years later, I still catch myself comparing my current energy level and activity tolerance with my pre-cancer self. Big mistake. I was a ball of fire before cancer. Now, when I’m not jacked up on coffee while slogging through work, I’m more of a limp noodle. I’ve tried all kinds of things to entice myself into getting more exercise on my days off. I get paid to invent exercise programs, after all. A few years ago, I even bought myself a rowing ergometer, which used to be my favorite cardio machine at the gym. I still enjoy it now and then, but there are a lot of days when I just don’t have the wherewithal to unfold it and turn on the monitor.

I also know I’m not alone. Not only am I not alone in the Cancer Club, but I spend every day figuring out how to teach recently-hospitalized people who don’t feel like getting out of bed how to get up and move. Finally, it occurred to me to take some of my own advice to them. And to pass it on to you. Hence this post. I should also say at this point that, if you’re at all unsure about what you can or should do, especially if you have pain or lymphedema, ask one of your doctors to send you to a physical therapist first. Or get one sent to you at home.

When You Don’t Feel Like Getting Out of Bed, Don’t.

You can do a lot of exercise while lying down. Really. Even without throwing the covers off. If you’re reluctant to get up, just lie on your back (which is supine, as we PTs call it), stretch your arms out sideways and inhale deeply. Then hug yourself while you exhale. Repeat a few times. Then, pump your ankles up and down, slowly and methodically, several times. Next, tighten your butt muscles, hold for a few seconds, relax, and repeat. Then do likewise with your knees, straightening them as much as you can. If you feel friskier by now, you can try sliding your legs apart and back together a few times. Next, you can try to bend one knee and slide your heel up. Then slide it down. Repeat with your other leg. You might think all this is no big deal, but this is basically what we PTs teach all our patients who have just had joint replacement surgery. And it works. If you feel capable of throwing off the covers, you can try the supine exercises diagrammed on these two PDF’s: (1) simple back/leg exercises and (2) slightly less simple back/leg exercises. I put them together for people with sore backs, but you don’t have to have a sore back to do them. If you do have a sore back, I’ve put the links to the original posts at the end of this one.

Upright and Taking Nourishment

If you’ve managed to get up, crawl to the kitchen, eat some breakfast, and sit in a chair, there are lots of other things you can do. One of them is to stand up and sit down again several times in a row. This is essentially a squat, but easier and safer than a full squat sans chair. It’s a great, effective strengthening exercise, and there are several versions. If you need to use your arms to push off, no problem. Just try to stand up as straight as possible for a few seconds before you sit down again. If you can do it without pushing off, you can brace your hands on your thighs to help you stand. You can also try standing up from your chair with your arms folded across your chest. Or with your arms raised straight out in front of you. The main thing is standing up straight once you’re on your feet, making sure you feel your back, butt, knees and lower legs doing their thing. The magic is in repeating it two or three or ten times in a row. Honest. Simply amazing.

Another thing you can try in a chair is to lean over your own lap, let your arms hang down, and try to touch the floor. Don’t worry if your belly gets in the way or your shoulders are too tight to reach that far. It works better if you sit with your knees and feet apart. It’s a great way to stretch out your back. Just hang there for ten or twenty seconds, and when you get over the headrush, suck in your belly muscles and roll yourself upright again. And, of course, try repeating a few times, reaching further each time, if possible. You can mix things up by stretching your arms over your head as you sit up. Sort of like doing the Wayne’s World ‘We’re not worthy’ wave, but without the rock stars.

Say you’ve been sitting up for a while, checking your email, your Facebook page, your Twitter feed, and uploading a few pix to Instagram. Probably an hour or two has gone by. Time to move again. Don’t be afraid: you can still stay in that chair. Just push that laptop away, let your arms hang down by your side, and shrug your shoulders up and down. Shrug them ALL the way up and ALL the way down, slowly and thoroughly. Five times or ten times. Then squeeze your shoulderblades together, hard, several times. Hang your head forward and let your neck stretch out for several seconds. Then look straight ahead and slowly, gently, turn your head to one side and stretch it, and then turn to the other side. Slide your feet forward so your heels are resting on the floor, and pump your ankles up and down methodically. No ‘flapping.’ You want to feel your calf muscles working. Maybe try standing up a few times. Maybe even try standing up, moving your laptop to the kitchen counter, and checking your social media while standing. Just for a few minutes anyway.

Taking A Stand

Don’t worry. I’m not going to go off on you and load you up with a lot of fancy standing exercises. Really, I’m just going to encourage you to stand. There have been a lot of articles published about the benefits of simply standing, so I’ll let you do your own search for them. In one article I found, a physician claimed that, over a year, standing for a cumulative total of three hours a day had the same health benefits as running 10 marathons. I’m not sure if I could pull off standing three hours a day myself, but the point is that being a couch potato is detrimental to our health. In an excellent post by Carolyn Thomas, who blogs about women and cardiac disease, she quotes a leading cardiologist who shares some astonishing info. Even if you manage to perform that much-touted 30 minutes of exercise a day, if you spend most of your day sitting and not moving, as many people do, you’re still in much worse shape overall than people who get off their butts periodically. The point is NOT to slump motionless on the couch all day, but to move around now and then.

I’m also not talking about standing rigidly in one position. In fact, I don’t recommend that, especially for people with back problems. I’m talking more about doing a little something when you stand, something you’d normally do while sitting, like sorting your snail mail. One of my tricks is to turn on the radio and see if I can stand for the duration of the average song or news story. You could just stand there and listen while texting your friends. If you feel ambitious, you can add some further movement by loading the dishwasher or unloading that carton of canned cat food you ordered for your favorite fur baby. In fact, any attempt at those much-dreaded household tasks while standing is helpful. Like sorting or folding laundry. Or polishing the silver. Whatever. I worked on some of this blog post while standing. You get the idea.

The Bottom Line

The point of this post is not to flog you into doing something you really can’t do. I’ll save the complicated stuff for a subsequent post. The point is that, whether you’re vertical or horizontal, using your muscles some of the time, even just a little, is better than not using them at all. Pretty much any and all movement of any joint larger than your thumb will work. Or just using most of your major muscles to fight gravity by standing will work. It all counts. It doesn’t have to take longer than a few minutes. In fact, the other point here is that lots of benefits accrue by doing a little at a time, but doing it several times a day. Do keep track of it, too, and add it all up at the end of the day. You might be surprised. Two minutes here, five minutes there, it adds up. Recently, I visited a patient just home from having a few stents placed to make it easier for her heart to pump blood through her body. She felt like she’d been run over by a truck. I got her to agree to take a five-minute walk around her house each day. By our next visit, she said she’d spent the last few days taking two five-minute walks around her house each day. It wasn’t exciting — it was a small house. But, she felt enormously better. In fact, we ended up taking a walk outside that day. It really doesn’t take much. Just move your bottom.

A few old posts:
Arm and Shoulder Pain After Breast Cancer
Sore Back 101
Sore Back 201

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A Carton of Eggs: Remembering Auschwitz

‘A focal point for visitors today, the gateway sign says “Work Will Set You Free,” a monstrous lie told to the men, women and children imprisoned there. (Maciek Nabrdalik)’ [Smithsonian.com]

“…tolerance cannot be assumed …. it must be taught. And we must make it clear that hate is never right and love is never wrong!”

— Auschwitz survivor Roman Kent, speaking at the memorial ceremony for the 70th Anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz

I am writing this on a cold January day. On the ground are the remains of the nearly two feet of snow that fell here a few days ago, on January 27th, 2015. That day was also the 70th Anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, perhaps the most infamous concentration camp, and surely one of the most evil monuments to hatred constructed by the Nazis during World War II. The weather on that long ago day in Poland may well have been like this one in southern New England: the wind gusting strongly, cutting through skin and clothing like a frigid knife.

“At least 1.1 million people were killed here, most within hours of their arrival.”
— Andrew Curry, writing about Auschwitz for Smithsonian Magazine, February, 2010

As I sit here, I am warm, safe, and well-fed. I am still alive, despite cancer, grief, the viscissitudes of occasional misfortune. I am doing two of the most powerful things any of us can do in the face of bestial human cruelty — I am remembering and I am writing.

I am remembering a small handful of friends and their parents, Jewish friends of my generation, and their parents who were imprisoned in concentration camps and managed to survive. I am remembering the cordial, dignified father of one of those friends. He scarcely ever spoke of his experience in the camp, but it was always there, like a base note humming underneath his posture, his demeanor. It vibrated with the conflicting emotions of survivors’ guilt. With every intention of preventing his children from feeling that guilt, they inherited it anyway, a burden of helpless sorrow and wordless resolve that infused their perspective, their self-esteem, their choices.

I am remembering a woman I met several years ago. I was visiting her to perform a home physical therapy evaluation. She had recently come home from the hospital and was feeling weak and unsteady. She was a charming lady who spoke with an accent that sounded Eastern European. Her house was cluttered with old furniture and memorabilia. In the background was the sound of soft clucking from the hens she kept in a large coop behind her house. I petted her sweet old dog. And I admired a large, elaborate cage full of vividly colored Australian finches, a gift from her son, who was present to help. She offered me tea, coffee, lunch, egg salad, cake, each of which I politely refused. Her son and I discussed ways to rearrange some furniture to create safer pathways for her and her walker. She was tiny and bent with arthritis, but fiercely alive, her face crinkling throughout our visit into an irrepressible smile. She resisted several of our suggestions, but always with charming persuasiveness. “I’m old, but I get around okay,” she said. She again offered me a drink, a sandwich, cake. Again, I declined with a smile.

As we were wrapping up our visit, I asked her about her accent. “Where are you from originally?” I asked.

“I am from Auschwitz,” she said. And as she said it, I noticed that one of her sleeves got rucked up, and tatooed on her arm was a row of numbers.

My eyes instantly filled up, but somehow I managed not to cry. We gazed intently at each other for a few eternal seconds. Finally, I said, “I am very glad you are here.”

“Every one of you is the guardian of the memory…”
— Bronisław Komorowski, the President of the Republic of Poland, at the Memorial Ceremony for the 70th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz

As I was packing up to leave, she insisted that her son fetch me a dozen eggs. “Fresh,” she said, with her remarkable smile, “very good hens. You take.”

I hoisted my work bag over my shoulder and accepted the carton. “I’m very glad to have met you,” I said.

“Thank you,” she said, patting my hand. “You a good girl.”

I managed to get into my car and drive to the end of her driveway before I had to stop the car. I sat and wept for several minutes. Every day over the next few weeks, I would tear up whenever I cracked an egg, and say a silent prayer.

Today, this week, I weep again and I remember. I will always remember. It is the very least I can do.

Some links:
1) Auschwitz: The Forgotten Evidence – Full Documentary – History Channel
2) The Auschwitz Album, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, National Geographic Channel
3) Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial & Museum, 70th Anniversary of Liberation Memorial Ceremony
4) Smithsonian: Preserving Auschwitz

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Staying Safe: Medical Alerts & Emergency Alerts

First, a few general remarks. I didn’t write many posts last year, but I kept a lot of notes for future topics. A lot of those topics combine the knowledge I’ve gained and explored from the major aspects of my life: my cancer experience, my personal life, and my work life as a healthcare clinician. I like that. It makes me feel like I’m finally integrating the messy, fragmented existence I’ve led since I was diagnosed into some kind of whole. This post covers one of those topics.

Medical Alert Services: Communicating Your Medical Reality

Back when I was helping METAvivor publish their blog, I published a great post written by Susan, of The Uppity Cancer Patient called Medical Emergencies and the Single Girl. Lots of my homecare patients wear medical alert bracelets, but Susan’s post provides a lot of information about how to use this service in ways I did not then know about, but which I have since passed on to many people. Most of us probably regard these bracelets and necklace pendants as simply notifying emergency personnel that the wearer has diabetes or a significant medication allergy. But, as Susan found, that’s just the beginning of the story. It can also enable medical personnel “to quickly find my emergency contacts, talk to my doctor, find my living will, and receive an up-to-date list of all my medications and conditions.” In other words, the message engraved on the medallion is meant to be quick shorthand only, detailing the most crucial information when you cannot speak for yourself. But it also identifies a means by which clinicians and EMTs can rapidly find whatever information you decide they might need to provide you with appropriate care according to your wishes. A list of services is provided here, on the MedicAlert website: My MedicAlert Services

To initiate MedicAlert, one needs to purchase a bracelet or necklace. There are many more styles available than ever, and on Susan’s post, you can find links to other sources of more fashionable versions. Generally, an initial bracelet with a year of services can cost as little as $24.99, and after the first year, the services can be renewed for $19.99 a year. You can find complete information on the MedicAlert Foundation website, at MedicAlert.org.

Emergency Alert Services: When You’re At Home

“I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” In homecare, this now-iconic phrase is no joke. Every year, up to a third of adults over age 65 will suffer a fall, for all kinds of reasons. And older people are not the only people who fall or find themselves having a sudden health crisis. “I think I might be having a stroke,” “I can’t breathe,” and “I think I’m having a heart attack” comprise many a health crisis. Many of the people having a health emergency will be at home alone at the time. Many of them will have a cellphone that is nowhere near them, and can’t be readily found when they most need it. When we admit a new patient to home health services, we provide them with printed information about personal emergency alert services. Basically, this is a service that provides a communicator that is hooked up to a landline phone, along with a button that you wear. If you are having a crisis, you press the button, which automatically communicates with a response center. They will respond immediately and try to talk to you though the communicator speaker to determine the nature of your crisis and initiate the emergency services you might need. But if you cannot respond, they will automatically initiate those services that you specify when you sign up, such as notifying emergency services and friends or family members who can come to assist you. Probably the best known provider of this service is Phillips Lifeline. Standard monthly services usually cost $30 per month, and an auto-alert service that is automatically triggered by a fall costs $45 per month. There may be discounts available for these services through local home health agencies or other elder service agencies.

Emergency Alert Services: No Matter Where You Are

Perhaps the most helpful advance in emergency alert services has been the variety of devices, apps and services now available for mobile alerts that can be activated wherever you are. Phillips offers a Response App for your smart phone for $13.95 per month which does not require a long-term contract. They also offer a service called GoSafe which provides alert services anywhere you are if you don’t have a smart phone.

One of the most interesting developments in this realm has been the development of ‘smart jewelry.’ An article by Charlie Stevens for PFSK, about Artemis Smart Jewelry, describes how one company is taking emergency alert services to another level. Marketed primarily to women of all ages, a company called Sense6 Design is working on a comprehensive emergency service called Artemis that they plan to have ready by the end of 2015. The service works with your smartphone by means of a clip or a pendant that you can tap in any kind of emergency — health, assault, fire or other kinds. The rechargeable communicator in the clip or pendant “uses a wireless connection with your smart phone to send an emergency transmission to our private security agency which is available 24/7.[…]The security operator uses live audio from your necklace, coupled with GPS data and your personal profile to determine whether to contact police, fire or medical staff to help you [and] simultaneously sends a text message to your choice of loved ones with your current location and a request for help.” The cost of a pendant starts at $49, and various emergency service plans cost from $1/month to text or email three friends, to $19/month for the full security service described above. By December, 2015, they plan to have this service fully functional for people who have an iPhone 4 or later, and by mid-2016 for those with Android smart phones. Further information can also be obtained at the main website for Artemis smart jewelry at Artemis by Sense 6 Design.

Other start-ups working on similar smart jewelry include Cuff and First Sign Technologies, summarized with Sense6 Design in this article in WearableWorldNews, published in February of 2014. Cuff is offering smart bracelets that will include Fitbit-style health and activity tracking and text/call notification, along with emergency notification.

First Sign Technologies offer a variety of products, including hairclips and pod devices attached to your keys, paired with services similar to to those offered by Smart6 Design’s Artemis products. Device options allow you to choose either an assault alert or a fall alert option, but apparently not both at once. First Sign’s services are geared primarily to providing personal security in the event of a violent crime, even detering attackers by emitting an alarm, collecting and storing audio and video evidence for police and responders, along with contacting emergency services. The security service that will work with one of their products costs as little as $5/month and works like that offered by Artemis, as a smart phone app that will operate with Apple iOS 4.3 or later and Google Android 2.1 or later. The communicator pod in your hairclip or keychain tag will contact a security operator who will be able to communicate with you, gather real-time information about your emergency, including your GPS location, and notify the appropriate responders. I could not find a clear target date on their site for when their full services will be on board, but the article posted on the WearableWorldNews site stated that First Sign was already well on their way to funding their services as of a year ago, and their site suggests that their services are operational now.

An Ounce of Prevention…

I have to admit to feeling like this is the most dire post I’ve written so far, and that it makes me want to get in bed with my cat and pull the covers over my head. However, as anyone who’s ever been diagnosed with cancer knows all too well, shit happens, and there’s nothing wrong with providing ourselves with some useful assistance in case more shit happens in the future. It may require us to wear a little more jewelry, but it’s a crazy world, my friends. Stay safe, okay?


First Sign Technologies
Phillips Lifeline
Medical Emergencies and the Single Girl
Sense6 Design’s Artemis Products

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