Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Twelve-year-old Russian Girl Likely Victim of Thalidomide

A twelve-year-old Russian girl, Irina, is missing her left arm, femur bones in both legs, and has webbed fingers on her right hand. The defects are said to be the likely result of her mother taking thalidomide while she was pregnant. Irina lives with her adoptive parents in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This story is about the community working together to raise money to get Irina a new prosthetic arm that could cost up to $30,000. While this is a very noble deed and inspiration, it is not the reason I am sharing this recent story.

I want everyone to pause and think. Is a new wave of thalidomide babies right around the corner? Is this the type of future we want for our children and grandchildren? Irina is twelve years old. The dawning of a very young and new generation of thalidomide babies could be upon us sooner than we think if we don’t all help raise awareness of the potential dangers of this drug. The article refers to the “banned” drug, thalidomide. I have not confirmed whether thalidomide is indeed currently banned in Russia. It is really irrelevant except to say that if it is banned and there are thalidomide babies being born, then how many will be born in countries where it is approved and distributed for several different diseases? It also reaffirms my original statement that even the tightest distribution controls can not account for human nature or mistakes.

Read the article and think! In the 50’s and 60’s, no one knew of the effects until it was too late. Thalidomide was considered safe. The survivors now in their 50’s are experiencing enormous financial challenges for medical care with the small settlements they received. In other countries where no compensation has been awarded, thalidomiders beg on the street just to buy food and make ends meet – no expensive adapted cars or wheelchairs to increase their potential of getting a job.

Well, this time around, WE KNOW the effects! At the risk of sounding cold and heartless, I want to know who is going to bear the financial burden this time. In a time of economic collapse with people losing jobs and their homes, big-hearted Americans are participating in fundraisers so that a 12-year old Russian thalidomide child can get a $30,000 arm for reasons that could have been avoided. Irina’s defects are actually mild. Most have been born with no arms and/or legs. My heart goes out to the babies born into this type of lifetime struggle, but will our pockets remain deep enough for every thalidomide baby yet to be born with defects that could have been avoided? Where will this generation of thalidomide babies be in fifty years? When will we ever learn from our past?

“Russian-born girl inspires Grandville school family to reach out, provide prosthetic arm”

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