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A great Father’s Day column…by my Mom.

Margaret

Margaret “Peg” Sloan

My mother, Peg Sloan, was a writer and editor for our hometown Kankakee (Illinois) Daily Journal from the late 1970s to the mid-1990s. She published her first column in 1977, on the trials and tribulations of being a redhead. She went on to write nearly 700 more on subjects as varied as family, human nature, Irishness, the passage of time, and the memories of a big-city girl who married into an Illinois farm family. She won multiple awards for her writing and editing–from the Associated Press, United Press International and the National Press Women’s Association–and developed a large and loyal readership along the way.

Here’s one of my mother’s most popular columns, re-run this Father’s Day by the Daily Journal. It was written in 1979 about Mom’s father, my grandfather James Dalton, the year before he died. Grandpa was the quintessential Irishman: an accomplished musician, great dancer, master storyteller and a kind, gentle man. The column still gets to me, and with Mom now the same age Grandpa was back when she wrote it, I thought I’d share it with you.

P.S Peg Sloan is still alive and kicking. She lives in Wheaton, IL, with my father, Barney Sloan (and Happy Father’s Day, Pally Boy!). They’ve been married 68 years…

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School’s out! Now, where was I??

Graduation day!

Graduation day!

Astute readers of this blog may have noted that I apparently fell off the planet a few months back. Not so! The explanation for my writerly absence is pretty straightforward–I was working on my Masters in Public Health from the University of Minnesota (Go Gophers!) and using up all my writing energy on reports, papers, and online class posts. Given the fact that I last attended college in 1975, it was a bit of a slog at first.

But, huzzah! I finish up tomorrow, and will now re-grace the World Wide Web with my opinions on a range of maternal-child health issues (and anything else I feel like writing about). There’s new research on cesareans, cord clamping and breastfeeding, among other topics, and I’ve gotten interested in the role of ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) and toxic stress on child neurodevelopment. So many things!

So let me take this opportunity to welcome myself back, and to vow that–although I am eternally grateful to the U of M for an enjoyable learning experience–I am also eternally done with getting degrees.

I look forward to hearing from you as the blog posts re-accumulate. Onward!

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Why boy babies get sicker than girl babies…

Uh-oh...

Uh-oh…

One of the things I learned years ago in the intensive care nursery was that the key to a good call night’s sleep was to have mainly girl babies as your patients. It was (and I imagine still is) common wisdom in NICUs everywhere: boys just did worse than girls. Their lungs seemed weaker and their immune systems punier; they got sicker, and quicker, than the girls did. Thinking back, most of the harrowing patients I can recall were boys.

I didn’t spend a whole lot of time wondering or worrying about what seemed to me to be an obvious case of neonatal gender injustice. I figured it was all part of Mother Nature’s grand cosmic scorecard: if boys didn’t have to grow up and have babies, they could stand to suffer a bit more on the front end of life. (A philosopher, as you may have noted from previous posts, I am not…).

Now researchers at the University of Adelaide in Australia have come up with a genetic explanation for this boys-have-it-worse NICU phenomenon. In an article titled (deep breath…) “Integrative transcriptome meta-analysis reveals widespread sex-biased gene expression at the human fetal–maternal interface,” Dr. Claire Roberts, the lead investigator in Adelaide, explains it all:

We obtained gene expression data for .300 non-pathological placenta samples from 11 microarray datasets and applied mapping-based array probe re-annotation and inverse-variance meta-analysis methods which showed that .140 genes (false discovery rate (FDR) ,0.05) are differentially expressed between male and female placentae.  

To which I say: Who didn’t already know that?

In a closer approximation to spoken English, Dr. Roberts continues:

There is strong evidence that human males and females differ in terms of growth and development in utero and that these divergent growth strategies appear to place males at increased risk when in sub-optimal conditions.

Which means: Boy + Prematurity = Bad News.

The reason for the poorer outcomes in boys seems to be related to gender differences in how certain genes are expressed during pregnancy. In females these differences–and there are about 140 of them known to date–mean that there is more emphasis on placental development, the maintenance of pregnancy, and maternal immune tolerance. According to Dr. Roberts, girl babies are more “risk-averse” toward development and survival in utero than boys, which translates into better neonatal outcomes. Meanwhile, the gene expression differences  in boys mainly just make them get bigger than girls.

So if I understand this correctly, girl fetuses are smaller and smarter about survival than boy fetuses, and the boys are bigger and “less risk averse” than the girls. Sounds a lot like high school.

In fairness, the study is written for molecular biologists, who no doubt gobble this “inverse-variance meta-analysis” sort of thing right up. For those on the NICU front lines, though, it confirms the advice once given to me by a senior resident while we awaited a middle-of-the-night premature birth: “Bottom line, Sloan–if you want to sleep tonight, pray it’s a girl.”

Photo by Rosa’s Cakes https://www.flickr.com/photos/rosasck/

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June 1, 2014 · 3:39 pm

Time to wake up…

Well, it’s been almost exactly one year since my last post. Unlike my friend in the photo here, though, I haven’t exactly been sleeping. I smacked head-first into grad school last summer (getting my Masters in Public Health from the University of Minnesota), and between homework, term papers, and managing school deadlines for the first time in a few decades, my writing energy got all used up. But I’m proud to say I survived biostatistics, which was a bit hair-raising. (I swore when I finished college that I would never take another math course, but what are you gonna do? Stuff happens.)

Image

Your Blogger, hard at study…

There’s quite a bit of interesting research on pregnancy, labor, and the newborn these days, and that’s what’s got me interested in blogging again. So, here I go…

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Here’s to Peg and Barney…

What hath polio wrought? Ma and Pa, April 19, 1947

Peg (Dalton) and Barney Sloan–April 19, 1947

Today is my parents’ 66th wedding anniversary…

  • 7 children
  • 16 grandchildren
  • 5 great-grand-kids…and counting!

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Things Kids Say: Australian art critic edition

"What the...?"

“What the…?”

“Why would anyone think to draw that?”

Small child in Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art, viewing painting that looks a lot like, well…guts.

 

 

 

(Photo credit: jenny818)

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A personal polio postscript…

What hath polio wrought? Ma and Pa, April 19, 1947

What hath polio wrought? Pa and Ma, April 19, 1947

Actually, I owe my very existence to one particular case of polio.

Ed, one of my father’s best friends in college, had his legs paralyzed by polio in early childhood. When World War II came along, Dad went off to the South Pacific and Ed, his disability disqualifying him from active duty, took a desk job on Chicago’s Navy Pier. As fate would have it, one of the women who worked in his office was a red-haired Irish lass named Peg Dalton. Long story short, Ed thought Peg and Barney would be a good match, and 66 years later, they still are.

Bottom line: No polio, no me. I hate to seem ungrateful to the virus that made my blogging possible, but I can’t wait to see it vanish from the earth.

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