Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Pressure Building Over Excessive Benzene Contamination at Camp Lejeune Marine Base
Tim King

Benzene in tap water at Marine Corps base Camp Lejeune was downplayed and omitted from official documents.

(CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C.) - The sands are shifting under the feet of Marine Corps and Navy officials who kept the truth about deadly Benzene poisoning at Camp Lejeune off the radar, until now. It was revealed last week that officials modified the numbers over the Benzene concentration that, according to a study from 25 years ago, "far exceeds" safety limits imposed by federal regulations.

There is no doubt that the Navy is feeling the heat.

Political pressures are causing the agency to cave in some areas of resistance, and it now appears that there is no way to continue the charade that has kept this severe, deadly, cancer causing problem under wraps.

U.S. Senator Kay R. Hagan (D-NC) spoke up today about the Department of Navy's decision to fund the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) mortality study on contaminated water at Camp Lejeune[1].

The ATSDR is a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"For months, I have been pressing the Navy to fund the mortality study. It is the key to determining whether there were higher mortality rates for active duty marines and their families who lived at Camp Lejeune during the years of water contamination."

For a large number of Marines and their family members, alive and dead, there is no question as to what happened, particularly after last week's revelation by The Associated Press, that the Marine Corps had drastically altered the levels of Benzene in a report about a base well at Camp Lejeune, a problem which has only grown worse over time, while remaining very quiet, until now[2].

Hagan said, "I am pleased the Navy has listened and now is taking this crucial step. The findings will help bring answers to our Lejeune families who deserve closure on this issue."[3]

Navy Fights Funding of Studies

But the story certainly doesn't end there. Another North Carolina Senator, Richard Burr, has kept the pressure up for Marines along with Hagan. So far he has managed to block two Navy Department presidential appointees as the battle over funding moved forward. Burr's Spokesman David Ward says the senator remains focused on getting the Navy to pick up the cost for all the studies.

Money for a health survey of Camp Lejeune residents is still needed. It seems amazing that the military is able to spend so much fighting wars overseas, but when it comes to an amount like $92,000, required for the reanalysis of an existing study of pregnancy issues like mean birth weight and also preterm birth, the Navy fought tooth and nail.

It is the long and ugly story of governmental bureaucrats covering up evidence of toxic contamination that kills Marines; the Navy behind every move, along with the Department of Defense; agencies that look at the water contamination issues regarding both Lejeune and the now closed El Toro Marine Corps Air Station in California, as pure financial liability.

They know anything they admit regarding the base contamination will make the federal government responsible, so the stream of lies, followed by Marine officers becoming "indignant" over reporters' questions, continues.

The Navy did agree to fund a water modeling project that will cost almost $2 million. That will be used to determine how underground water actually flows at the base, and reveal how toxins would have been introduced, and spread.

The Associated Press says requests for comment from the Marine Corps were not returned.

Endless Evidence:

North Carolina congressman Rep. Brad Miller is also paying close attention to the Camp Lejeune issue, and the revelations that the Marine Corps has been misleading the nation for many years while blaming medical problems and deaths in the base water supply, on PCE (perchloroethylene) in the water, which they attributed conveniently to an off base dry cleaner.

He is familiar with the excessive number of male breast cancer patients, over 55 at last count connected to Camp Lejeune[4]. This according to Dr. Phil Leveque, writer and also a noted Physician, Pharmacologist and Forensic Toxicologist, is an extremely high number of occurrences for a single location.

Mike Partain can tell you all about it, he's a breast cancer survivor, and a constant warrior in the fight to bring justice and recognition to the Camp Lejeune issues.

Former career Marine Jerry Ensminger, who lost his daughter Janey to cancer connected to the North Carolina base, can tell you even more.

Then there are all of the other contacts who have shared horror stories of illnesses related to Camp Lejeune. There are the stories of how during the Vietnam War, the Marine Corps began refusing to bury stillborn infants, instead insisting that they were cremated. The reason? One Marine wife who lost her child at Lejeune in the late 1960's, says stillborn infants were filling up cemeteries in the area so fast that the Marines knew it was creating an unmistakable sign of the base's deadly toxicity. She says the moms lost, and for a period of time infants were all cremated.

Miller is requesting a House science subcommittee investigation of the reports mentioned above, that the presence of benzene in tap water at Marine Corps base Camp Lejeune were downplayed and omitted from official documents, as reported by The AP.

Beyond Lejeune and El Toro

The problems from Camp Lejeune, like El Toro, typically do not stay on base, instead the water based problems are carried off site by underground water tables. If it takes this long to simply prove that the Marine Corps has been lying about problems, and the Navy keeps fighting amounts less than $100k, then it is going to be a long fight. The people who live near these bases likely won't be warned about possible health effects any time soon.

And what about other bases and non-military locations where Benzene was allowed to contaminate the ground? Jill McElheney, a mom in Georgia, is circulating a Petition to Expand Camp LeJeune Federal Probe on Benzene Exposures[5].

She wrote to Congressman Miller, thanking him for calling for the federal probe yesterday on the benzene poisoning from contaminated water that Camp LeJeune Marines and their families were knowingly exposed to Benzene[6].

"I would like to appeal to you to broaden the investigation to include citizens as well who lived near similar storage facilities and had children to come down with forms of childhood leukemia as my son in Athens, GA."

McElheney says she scheduled an appointment with her Congressman, Dr. Paul Broun in 2009, to bring evidence of her claims. That came after an ATSDR Hearing Chaired by Miller, who sat as ranking member.

She said, "For some reason, they never showed nor informed me afterwards why they didn't keep the appointment."

She sent Miller a link to an article from a two part series by the Washington Independent, that highlights her son's story and his exposure to benzene.

"Given Camp LeJeune's ATSDR Public Health Assessment (PHA) was rescinded for the benzene exposures being omitted, isn't it fair to ask that other similar health documents issued by ATSDR also be withdrawn?"

Elected Officials & Media Helping Marines:

In the past, media has largely ignored the contamination of Camp Lejeune and El Toro, but the Internet is allowing quick and easy access to stories today that reveal the true nature of what is taking place.

Traditional reporters from groups like The AP, and newspapers in North Carolina in particular, are doing their jobs well and making the Marine Corps come clean with the facts, whether they like it or not. Same with the Orange County Register regarding El Toro, their staff has had their eye on the base contamination issue for a few years now.

The Senators and Congressman mentioned in this report have the backs of these Marines, so do the state's media groups. We may be seeing the unsavory side of a treasured military organization, but also the incredible results of a free national press.

[1] Feb-19-2010: Navy agrees to fund toxic water study at NC base The Associated Press

[2] Feb-17-2010: Marine Corps Busted Over Benzene Contamination at Lejeune - Tim King

[3] Feb-19-2010: Congressman requests probe into benzene contamination at Marine Corps base Water Industry News (AP)

[4]Sep-25-2009: The Few, The Proud, The Damaged - Tim King

[5] March-18-2008: Part Two: Toxin Agency Uses ‘Unscientific Method’ The Washinton Independent

[6] March-20-2008: More than toxic trailers: Investigation examines broader problems at federal health agency

References and Archival links:

All stories related to the Marine Corps articles about El Toro and Camp Lejeune

Jun-13-2009: National Research Council on TCE Kicks U.S. Marines to the Curb - Tim King

Nov-06-2009: Report Clearing Marine Corps Connection to Camp Lejeune Sickness was Purchased - Tim King

Jan-24-2010 : Akaka Proposal for Camp Lejeune Found Unacceptable by Veterans and Their Families - Jerry Ensminger Special to

Feb-10-2010: Congressional Tug-of-War Over Veterans' Heathcare? - Robert O'Dowd

May-05-2008: Marine Death Camp: Camp Lejeune Trichlorethylene - the Culprit - Dr. Phil Leveque

Feb-17-2010: MSNBC: Danger of Marines’ water removed from report

Dec-14-2009: Lejeune and El Toro: 'A Tale of Two Bases' - Robert O'Dowd

Aug-04-2008: Contaminated Marine Base in Irvine Slated for Public Park and Community Development (VIDEO REPORT) - Tim King

Aug-06-2009: El Toro Marines Exposed to Radiation - Robert O'Dowd

Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as's Executive News Editor. Tim spent the winter of 2006/07 covering the war in Afghanistan, and he was in Iraq over the summer of 2008, reporting from the war while embedded with both the U.S. Army and the Marines. Tim holds numerous awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing, including the Oregon AP Award for Spot News Photographer of the Year (2004), first place Electronic Media Award in Spot News, Las Vegas, (1998), Oregon AP Cooperation Award (1991); and several others including the 2005 Red Cross Good Neighborhood Award for reporting. Serving the community in very real terms, is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website. You can send Tim an email at this address:

Monday, December 14, 2009

Athens, GA - Home to Toxic Chemicals that Will Be Around Forever

Agencies Deny Equal Protection Granted Under Law to Environmental Justice Communities

Micah's Mission (Ministry to Improve Childhood & Adolescent Health) met with Governor Sonny Perdue and requested a commissioned study on high volume chemicals in Georgia to determine their impact on the state's children. Micah's Mission proposed to the Governor that funding for this study be obtained through tobacco settlement money which would be at his discretion to award. [Rural Roads Magazine, Volume 2, No. 2, Summer 2004, pg 12] Governor Perdue chose however to award the tobacco settlement money to a top air polluter in Athens, Georgia to build a public warehouse road for a proposed expansion.[,2668,78006749_79688147_93278236,00.html]

The proposed expansion was met with fierce opposition from the community concerned about the continuing deterioration of Athens' airshed, and the health impacts associated with increases in air toxic emissions on children. []
Combined with the economic downturn of 2008, the expansion permit was withdrawn by the industry.[] It was not reported whether or not the tobacco settlement money awarded to this company by Governor Perdue was indeed utilized to build their warehouse road after the proposed expansion failed.

In his denial to commission a study on the high volume chemicals impacting Georgia children, Governor Perdue overlooked a group of chemicals known as perfluorochemicals (PFCs) which have been prevalent in the manufacturing of carpets and textiles, food wrappers, teflon cookware, and other consumer goods. []

Known in the 1970's to be toxic, ubiquitous, bioaccumulative, and resistant to biodegradation, the title Georgia holds as Carpet Capital of the World has come with a high price. In essence, PFCs behave like no other persistent man-made chemicals before them, and continued to be used for decades knowing damage was occurring to human health and the environment. []

Micah's Mission, after a confidential consultation with a top environmental health official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, petitioned the state of Georgia to investigate the exposures of local poisoned communities in Athens. These two neighborhoods are well defined as environmental justice communities according to the EPA definition. [] The following information has been thoroughly documented, and any records will be made available upon request:

Pittard Road is bordered by an industrial facility that for two decades knowingly manufactured perfluorochemicals in spite of its knowledge of detrimental health and ecosystem impacts emanating from its operations worldwide. The facility was shielded from the public health investigation of Pittard Road from 2003-2006 although it was in violation of local, state, and federal laws at the time of the public health investigation. Residents were not disclosed any information about the violations or chemical releases of this facility to air, soil, surface, or groundwater. The list of agencies which withheld information about historical perfluorochemical use of the owners of this facility include:

U.S. EPA Headquarters - Washington, DC
U.S. Department of Justice
EPA Region IV - Atlanta, Georgia
EPA, National Exposure Research Laboratory, Ecosystems Research Division
U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry
Georgia Environmental Protection Division
Georgia Chemical Hazards Program
Northeast Georgia Health District
Athens-Clarke County Health Department

Air testing from a Canadian pilot project in 2004-2005, while the public health investigation of Pittard Road was underway, revealed levels in Athens, Georgia of volatile perfluorochemical precursors. Scientific interpretation of these results attributed perfluorochemical levels in Athens to a local manufacturing facility. Pittard Road is due a comprehensive and truthful evaluation with no more protection of this industry. While we hope it is not true, was Pittard Road a sacrificial lamb for EPA to negotiate cooperation with this industry on the harm of perfluorochemicals? It is now clear that all residents of Athens, including University of Georgia students, should rightfully be informed of just how contaminated Athens Clarke County is with perfluorochemicals, and what is being done to mitigate this exposure.

Additionally, our Dunlap Road community, is currently saddled with a landfill expansion which was promised in an agreement with government in 1992 never to occur. This treaty has been willfully and defiantly broken by current elected leaders. A permit application to continue to unethically dump toxic consumer products laden with perfluorochemicals (which will never biodegrade) awaits approval by Georgia Environmental Protection Division. What quantity of perfluorochemicals have already made its way into the landfill from three decades of operations? To what degree has it contaminated the groundwater? Has our infamous Poop on the Loop wastewater treatment facility near the University of Georgia been tested for perfluorochemicals which are hauled constantly to the landfill in sewage sludge? Has this historically problematic wastewater treatment facility which receives numerous complaints of odors been tested for perfluorochemicals that can attach themselves to airborne biological contaminants? Are perfluorochemicals lurking in local compost material? Now that air testing has identified Athens, GA as a perfluorochemical hotspot, what are the exposures to students, landfill residents, Pittard Road, and the population at large? How have these persistent chemicals entered into our food chain and impacted organic farmers in Athens?

Will our environmental justice communities be given equal protection under the law? Or will EPA continue to deny that a perfluorochemical problem even exists in Athens?

We hope to hear promptly from our elected leaders given the urgency of this issue.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Tale of Two Terrorisms

It was the best of times in Spring 2009:

DuPont managed to dodge another tetraethyl lead bullet from their stunning thirty years of stealthy operations in Athens, Georgia. Selling off this illegally operating facility to InVista in 2004, along with eleven others in seven states totaling 680 law breaking acts, it may surpass in genius the infamous blood money DuPont stole from unleashing tetraethyl lead on the world. In any case, the 2004 DuPont/InVista deal of forty facilities worldwide proved DuPont hadn't lost its Midas touch of generating poisoned profits.

InVista, in an outcry that a professional con artist took unfair advantage of them, reached a record breaking audit agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Justice providing cushy bottom line benefits and legal immunity.

Dr. Richard Besser, in his final days as reigning CDC Interim Director, sat on the front row of a bioterrorism preparedness lecture at the University of Georgia receiving praise from keynote speaker, Dr. Isaac Ashkenazi.

American Cancer Society, in spite of the global economic downturn, restocked their treasure chests once again from a tried and true marketing strategy of heartstring pulling at Relay for Life fundraisers all across cancer stricken communities in Northeast Georgia.

And on Pittard Road, the neighborhood behind DuPont/InVista, only a few miles from the University where Dr. Ashkenazi gave his terrorism lecture this week, and students raised money for the coffers of American Cancer Society, LIFE GOES ON . . .

It was the worst of times in Spring 2009:

Under Dr. Besser's leadership, CDC Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry was charged by Congress in an astounding hearing on Capitol Hill with ongoing and extensive public health failures to protect American citizens from toxic trespasses of hazardous waste.

Stephen Dent, married heir to the DuPont one hundred million dollar ($100,000,000) fortune, made the news of his sugar daddy escapes with three women who attempted to extort his global InVista sell-off.

American Cancer Society in their own trysts with environmental health movers and shakers released details of a secret meeting which questions the foundational truth of whether it perpetuates or prevents cancer.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice in entering into a consent decree with DuPont/InVista did not consider that these corporations deliberately misled, withheld, and falsified statements in an official three year cancer cluster public health investigation by federal, state, and local authorities.

And on Pittard Road, the community behind DuPont/InVista, only a few miles from the University where Dr. Ashkenazi gave his terrorism lecture this week, and students raised money for the coffers of American Cancer Society, DEATH GOES ON. . .

I sat listening to Dr. Ashkenazi on Tuesday define terrorism as an attack on innocence.

He stressed the importance of getting inside the head of a terrorist to better understand such a violent worldview. Showing graphic videos that revealed terrorists don't think twice about brutalizing their own; muchless, carrying out mass casualties on their sworn enemies, I let my mind wonder. . .

If I was offered $4000.00 for my oldest son in college to carry out a terrorist act, what depths of despair and brainwashing would take me there? That's the cheap price tag Dr. Ashkenazi placed on a militant indoctrinated mind who comes to believe a sacrificial act of killing oneself to eliminate others has eternal rewards.

I recognized the trademark on these attacks of innocence. A spirit that seeks to kill, steal, and destroy leaves fingerprints at the scene of the crime beyond the chaos and confusion the media captures.

Terrorists are victims themselves of the evil master they serve. Coming as an angel of light but leaving total darkness, they become just another meal for a blood thirsty lion.

Sitting on the front row at the lecture was Dr. Richard Besser, Interim Director of the CDC, who smiled quite a bit perhaps out of relief because the swine flu crisis was apparently under control for the time being. His injury prevention staff joined him. Dr. Ashkenazi was not short of praise for CDC, and informed the audience our U.S. anti-terrorist systems were in place and working well.

But that was not an entirely true statement. An attack on innocence happened just a few miles away from this UGA lecture hall gathering of mass casualty experts. In a neighborhood known as Pittard Road, a toxic assault by DuPont on this community went unchecked for three decades.

In March 2003, an elected Georgia leader, a Pittard Road resident, and a children's environmental health ministry, all petitioned Georgia Public Health to investigate a large number of cancer cases on Pittard Road.

An initial investigation resulted in a mixed messages report released in August 2004 by the local Northeast Health District which concluded that data examined of high cancer cases among young women "indicated that this was likely due to a familial disposition and not linked to environmental pollutants or toxins."

This conclusion was based upon an interview with DuPont/InVista in which the facility was asked about their operations and emissions given their close proximity to Pittard Road homes.

DuPont/InVista responded that "we do not emit anything but vegetable oil." No effort was made to double check the validity of this statement.

Now we know it was false from eighteen violations that are defined in a consent decree confirmed by Counselor Bernadette Rappold, Director, Special Litigation and Projects Division (MC 2248), Office of Civil Enforcement of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Records obtain through EPA Region IV FOIA on October 2004 indicated hazardous waste played a role in the operations of DuPont dating back as early as 1980 in their polymer-based fiber manufacturing.

A suspiciously large absence of permits and records for twenty five years indicates a regulatory breakdown in overseeing the compliance of DuPont's operations in Athens, Georgia. A simple internet search will prove that nylon and fiber manufacturing of this nature require permits to operate.

Why were these permits missing? Why did the public health agencies refuse to interface with the regulatory agencies on this illegally operating facility? Why were facility monitoring wells not reviewed given the historical background problems with private wells reported by the Pittard Road residents?

Ms. Carolyn Callihan, EPA Region IV, in a phone conversation during the investigation, reported to me that DuPont was not actually in their databases which she found quite odd. Why didn't Ms. Callihan follow up to this omission knowing a public health investigation was underway?

Ms. Cynthia Peurifoy and Mr. Elvie Barlow, EPA Region IV, in a phone conference with me, stated there was nothing Environmental Justice could do for Pittard Road residents. They, too, failed to check this facility who was in noncompliance status during the cancer cluster investigation. They suggested we form a relationship with the industry.

Why didn't Ms. Peurifoy, Mr. Barlow, & Ms. Callihan follow up with this facility during these inquiries? Upon doing so, they would have discovered it was not being tracked by the regulatory agencies thus altering the outcome of the public health investigative reports.

It is evident from the violations outlined in this consent decree that DuPont has a long and extensive history of corporate abuse of the environment. This abuse was occurring at the time of the cancer cluster investigation.

What irony and insensitivity that Mayor Heidi Davison would agree to speak at a DuPont/InVista celebration honoring Dr. Martin Luther King in January 2004 as the predominantly African American community of Pittard Road was being duped of a fair health investigation.

Why didn't Mayor Davison have her newly appointed Environmental Coordinator perform a background check on the facility externalizing their waste onto Pittard Road given their knowledge of the highly publicized cancer investigation underway at the time?

This facility was also in violation of local ordinances at the time. Bringing to light these violations would have potentially changed the local direction of the Northeast Health District's Investigations into Occurrence of Cancer in the Pittard Road Community in August 2004. Why was this knowledge concealed?

The health investigators avoided ambient air and soil sampling citing lack of funding although residents had referenced these concerns. The contaminants that tested in residential well water were dismissed with unfounded assumptions of their harm, origin, and duration.

Withholding of these eighteen violations maliciously exposed a known sick community to environmental health risks from industrial operations of DuPont/InVista thus invalidating the local public health investigation.

The responsible regulatory agencies with authority failed in their duties to properly investigate the community concerns of this facility, but instead showed partiality to DuPont/InVista.

In 2006, CDC Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry issued a Health Consultation in collaboration with the state of Georgia on the cancer cluster investigation of Pittard Road. This report is not released until an CDC/EPA senior regional representing liaison signs off on approval.

Again, DuPont/InVista remained under the radar in this report although the facility was knowingly compromising the quality of the environment at the time of the investigation with estrogenic compounds and carcinogenic emissions.

There was no effort made by InVista to report their discoveries of DuPont's illegal activities in order that these numerous violations be included in the public health investigation underway at the time.

In fact, the authors of the Health Consultation, stamped with the approval of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, attempted to downplay any role chemical trespassing as a causation in the reported cancers from any nearby industrial source. This suggests that public health investigators were deliberately covering up involuntary exposures to Pittard Road residents.

Were agencies aware of these violations taking place under their noses as they falsely assured the community it was safe? The violations of this consent decree include ambient air, water, and soil mediums.

Were the agencies' conclusions predetermined, and a hunt to locate external sources to support their position?

In one inaccurate statement inserted into the Health Consultation and attributed to the American Cancer Society, it claimed: "studies have not been able to identify any chemical in the environment or in our diets that is likely to cause breast cancer."

Not only is this a false statement, the reliability of American Cancer Society data in a government issued report is questionable and inappropriate due to the extensive conflicts of interest the charitable organization has to corporate funding.

A month before EPA and DOJ reached this audit settlement with DuPont/InVista, the Investigations & Oversight Subcommittee of the Science & Technology Committee charged the agencies responsible for issuing these public health reports with jackleg science and extensive public health failure.

Congressman Dr. Paul Broun, ranking member of this committee, and our elected representative, has called for reformation of the procedures and peer reviewing process to prevent this type of faulty and erroneous science resulting in unhealthy toxic assaults to millions of Americans.

We have asked that these reports on Pittard Road be rescinded, and are awaiting response from the CDC and our elected leaders as to instructions on properly filing the official documentation for this 2006 Health Consultation to be withdrawn. Sufficient evidence exists to rescind the Health Consultation based on the eighteen DuPont/InVista violations intentionally omitted from the investigation.

These comments serve as an official request to the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice to notify the CDC Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry, EPA Region IV, GA Public Health Chemical Hazards Program, GA Environmental Protection Division, and the Northeast Health District that these violations were occurring during their joint investigation therefore rendering their collective conclusions null and void.

These comments serve as an official request to EPA and the Department of Justice to authorize an investigation into this defrauding, and to re-open the cancer cluster investigation to correctly document the eighteen violations and their adverse health effects to Pittard Road residents.

We had also filed an EPA FOIA requesting documentation on this facility to include data on the eighteen violations of this consent decree. An expedited request was made in a timely manner to review the documents for these comments, but no notification of approval has been received by EPA before the deadline for submission of these comments.

At this time, a consent decree is not in the best interest of all parties having brought forth this new information. The Pittard Road Community deserves a fair, accurate, and comprehensive environmental public health investigation into the false statements, inadequate purview, and degradation from illegal operations by DuPont/InVista.

It is likely that the ongoing violations of this facility at the time of the cancer cluster investigation combined with three decades of dodging regulations contributed to the high cancer rates of the Pittard Road families.

We ask that EPA and the DOJ consider these comments and what is in the best interest of those violated by DuPont/InVista by terminating this consent decree.

Thank you,

Jill McElheney

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Morphing of Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue

Dear Governor & First Lady Perdue:

We met during your first term to discuss children's environmental health goals for the state of Georgia. See photo.

It was pouring down rain that day in Monroe with the Confederate Flag protesters not afraid to get wet.

I remember wondering: why are they so mad with the Governor? Surely he is a man of his word.

I came to find out those feelings of anger may have well been justified.

Requesting at our meeting that upcoming tobacco settlement money be rightfully designated to environmental health issues for children; shortly thereafter, you awarded CertainTeed Fiberglass Insulation that money for a warehouse road.

Traveling down the loop around Athens, you can visibly spot CertainTeed for they resemble a huge cigarette huffing and puffing tons of poisonous combustion into our deteriorating airshed.

CertainTeed is the largest air tox polluter in our area, who not long ago, had dollar signs in their eyes to increase their unfiltered dangerous emissions in spite of our high asthma and poverty rates.

Yet, recently they withdrew their controversial expansion plan permit not being spared by these economic hard times.

Your irreverence after our meeting also hurt me because I had opened up and shared with you both the painful chemical trespassing of industry responsible for my 4 year old son's leukemia whom you met that day.

Maybe you recall that I framed and brought to you as a gift a recent wedding photo of your son Jim and his bride taken at their wedding by my brother, Jim. I had hoped to appeal to your heart.

Now five years later, I am not naive enough to believe anymore a heart appeal in politics is anything more than a waste of time.

So I will appeal now in a more familiar language----picked up from these years of investigating my son's case since our meeting in Monroe:

1. The former GA Hazardous Waste site in Athens (#10728) where we lived and he was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer was:

a. Wrongly delisted by GA EPD last week in a postdated letter sent to me by Mr. Mark Smith
b. Has been mistakenly approved for residential living

2. Dr. Carol Couch and EPD are being charged by me for:

a. Unsound science
b. Manipulation of data
c. Violation of hazardous waste disposal laws
d. Destroying evidence
e. Ignoring a requested moratorium on delisting #10728

3. This site can be proven that it remains:

a. A hazard to pregnant women, children, the elderly, and immune compromised

b. Increases the risk of genetic alterations associated with childhood leukemia

c. Contaminated with site related chemicals known to be genotoxic, carcinogenic, and
immune disabling

4. A Congressional hearing on Capitol Hill last week charged The Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry (ATSDR) with "jackleg science" recognizing this GA Hazardous Waste Site #10728 by ranking House member, Dr. Paul Broun:

a. As relevant in this ongoing Congressional broad investigation sparked by the FEMA/formaldehyde public health failure, and being potentially comparable given dangerous exposures of fugitive benzene emissions

b. Acknowledging the state of GA with ATSDR in a multi-agency culture generating slipshod science

c. "Deny, delay, minimize, trivialize or ignore legitimate health concerns" from hazardous waste that compromises public environmental health, safety and welfare

d. Refused to act on significantly known childhood leukemia risks withholding critical public health data from the exposed and medical personnel inquiry


5. President Barack Obama issued an internal memo to EPA last week before the postdated
delisting of this site. The President stressed:

a. The agency is to give priority to scientific integrity

6. EPA Administrator, Lisa Jackson, has given an agency outline which includes:

a. priority of hazardous waste sites and residents living under chemical trespassing from these operations

7. EPA Region IV, in an external/internal review group with GA EPD, of which I was denied representation, made a list of egregious errors in an attempt to quash any legal entanglements similar to the FEMA/formaldehyde exposures

8. You are being asked to reverse the delisting of this site #10728 based upon these serious charges.

9. You are being asked to reflect from that Saturday with Sonny.

10. You are being asked to respond.

Politically yours,

Micah's Mom

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Music of the Mad

Joy to the World. All you boys and girls.

I looked around on the school bus. Black faces. All of them. I wasn't afraid though because my best friends in kindergarten were twin black boys, Gary and Greg Ivey. Black was another color in the crayon box I was all too familiar with. And in secret delight, I thought God giving me two best friends that looked alike was as if He handed me two cookies instead of one. I was the first to get off the bus at my Papa & Grandma's historical house in town. I never got to see where all the black boys and girls were going. At school, Gary, Greg and I played in a wonderful cardboard cutout house. We were equal. If they'd known that a little white girl was having so much imaginary fun with two black boys, I suspected they would had stopped it. Years later when I heard of Rosa Parks and her famous bus ride that triggered a movement, I came to the conclusion that she was the big reason me, Gary, and Greg were even friends at all.

Joy to the World. The Lord has come.

The sirens shouted get out of our way for there's a fire to put out. It was the first house I ever saw burn to the ground. We stood in the yard and watched all the confusion and excitement. The row of houses across the street from my grandparent's town house fascinated me because they were crooked shacks which reminded me of the nursery rhyme about the crooked man. I would learn the crooked man was the one who rented these sub-standard houses out. And he rented them out to black families. To boys and girls who rode the bus and got off after me. I misinterpreted the sirens. They were shouting get out of our way so we can salvage this white man's real estate.

Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea. Joy to you and me.

When we moved to Oakwood Mobile Home Park in 1992, exactly one year earlier an unknown but substantial amount of diesel spilled from a faulty underground pipeline. But we didn't know it. The experienced local environmental beat reporter didn't either. That hazardous waste was not cleaned up. Like toxic vomit left to saturate the soil and groundwater, this neighborhood was known in secret files as Low Target Population. But, give us credit. We did know if there was ever a fire, we should evacuate immediately because the place would ignite much quicker than the crooked row house I saw at age 5.

Let earth receive her King. Let every heart prepare Him room.

Diagnosed at age 4 post-Christmas 1998, how did my son make it to age 5? We got home from the clinic that day to celebrate his birthday with a homemade banner expressing our sentiment: We thank God Micah is alive. Come celebrate for today he is five! It would soon be one year since he was rescued from death at the Low Target Population subdivision. Fitting in some strange ways that Micah wanted a Star Wars party. Being thrusted into the world of childhood leukemia resembled a galaxy far far away. I certainly felt I was in a battle like no other in all my life to keep Micah alive and remain functionally sane. I would come face to face with evil I didn't even know existed. Complete with his sister dressed as young Anakin Skywalker, and character masks of Queen Amadelia, Jar Jar Binks, and Obi Wan Kenobi, Micah challenged many of his party guests to a friendly light sabre showdown! It was all in good fun, but a foreshadow of things to come---of masks that were to come off in real life: of those that worked to cover up the truth, who kept the system running at all costs--- the Anakin Skywalkers turned Darth Vaders for a paycheck. I would learn God is not the feel good galactic force that is with you. He's in the furnace fireproofing your heart when a mad world has thrown you in there and turned up the heat.

If I was the king of the world, I'll tell you what I do. I'd throw away the cars, and the bars and war.

The war in Iraq. The cancer of children. The exploitation of indigenous people. The dirty secrets of the world were pumped in and stored next door to me at Oakwood Mobile Home Park. Hello. I would like to know the address to your home office. My son was poisoned from your operations and I am in need of an apology. He tried desperately to connect with me as much as one human being can to another on the phone. But the madness was ever present in his detached conversation reminding us both of what we knew: no human king would throw away the cars, bars, and wars. King George was living proof of that. Cars need oil. Wars determine who gets the oil. And bars anesthetize us to accomplish the unethical mission.

And heaven and nature sing. And heaven and heaven and nature sing.

Our multi-ethnic President who identifies himself as African American is pulling troops out of Iraq by August 2010. He is promising millions of green jobs in a hemorrhaging economy. He has plans to detox us from our addiction to fossil fuels. Taking bold efforts to secure our houses and protect our children from chemical trespassing, I see Gary and Greg in him. And wonder why I set up house at Oakwood Mobile Home Park where the bus stop sat right on top of an underground petroleum pipeline. God knows this white woman is tired of the madness. Rosa Parks, I understand, was tired too when she refused to give up her bus seat. Is there a movement around the corner?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

On Earth As It Is in Heaven

Ten years ago I overheard of a tragedy in Woburn, Massachusetts as my 4 year old son, Micah, underwent spinal chemotherapy for leukemia. Children of this community town were exposed to contaminated groundwater during critical stages of development. Their rare bone marrow cancers would be linked to corporate abuse of the environment. Their story of suffering was shared with the world on the big screen and written about as well by author Jonathan Harr. A Civil Action became a case study in law classes around the country.

But now we have the Clean Everything Acts that insure the environmental health protection of pregnant women and their offspring from chemical stressors. Think again. From the fuel that makes our vehicles go to the drugs that make our pain stop, our love affair is as passionate ever with chemicals. We unleash them because they make our lives for the short term happier, more convenient, and there's good money in progress.

But are they safe?

What doesn't kill us will only make us stronger. Not exactly. What doesn't kill us wreaks havoc on our gene function for generations. So bottom line is, yes, real life exposure to a sea of synthetics is killing us. Survival of the fittest at work? There is no equation where survival is guaranteed when infertility and diminished IQs are factors.

When I discovered that my own son, Micah, had been poisoned the same way as the children of Woburn, I died. My heart broke of despair to learn the antiquated system in A Civil Action was alive and well in Athens, Georgia.

How can a dead mother take care of her sick child?

When a resurrection takes place, there is an unveiling of the truth. Truth shatters fear. It frees a trapped soul bound by evil. It reminds the resurrected and those who witness it that Spirit triumphs over death and disease with love. It fulfills faith and hope. And it reassures that there is a way to accomplish heavenly endeavors while experiencing hell on earth.

I got up, took off my grave clothes, and could do nothing but come forth:

Surely when I shouted from the mountain tops how Micah fell between the cracks, regulatory agencies and public health officials would come running to his rescue.

I reasoned if I called the industries on the phone and asked for an apology, they would give it.

If a defenseless child could be robbed of his constitutional rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of playing, politicians elected by free citizens would rise to the occasion in the halls of justice for him.

All would be made right.


I made trips to Washington to speak to lawmakers. I met with the Governor and First Lady of Georgia. I petitioned the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. I stood up at state public hearings to document on the official record Micah's story.

I asked for justice.

This is about what transpired in those meetings with the powerful, and the untangling of a web of politics that fuels injustice.

I called and wrote to the industry whose billion dollar product flowed into the ditch only feet from the room I slept, studied, and wrote pro-life Republican articles when I was pregnant with Micah. Their poisons seeped into the groundwater from intentional dumping, and their permit to pollute included my indoor air quality.

With bought-off laws that shielded them from proper clean up and accurate reporting, their profits trumped my baby's right to exist.

I asked for an apology.

This is about how industry responded.

I invited those being chemically trespassed against to gather so we could learn together how involuntary exposures could impact our children and for generations rob them of health, wealth, and wisdom.

I asked for their time.

This is about how those families rose up in their communities with knowledge, and granted me the gift of friendship.

I engaged a multitude of lawyers, doctors, and researchers to fit together multiple pieces of a complex puzzle.

This is what the picture looked liked once it was put together.

I asked God to heal a broken me.

This is how He did it. . .

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


My Dad's name was Jimmy. Esophageal cancer killed him two months ago. As a young girl growing up in the 70's, I remember reading the warning label on his cigarettes. Being that innocence often questions reality, I wanted to know, "Why would anyone allow cigarettes in the stores if they maybe hazardous to your health?" Daddy quit smoking because he wanted to be able to run with his grandkids. Maybe he didn't quit soon enough. Wonder if he has talked to any tobacco executives in heaven who pushed a product knowing it was addictive and deadly. . .

I'm 42 and still question reality: why do cancer surgeons and the Amish invest in tobacco knowing its undisputable reputation as a killer and thief? Where is the logic as to why cancer sticks are allowed to be on the market when their very nature robs the entire well being of a nation? Smoke is an infringement upon those of us who value our lungs. Call it toxic trespass of a faulty product which pulled the economic wool over America's eyes. The tobacco industry has externalized their hazardous waste on all consumers not just the ones who buy their hazardous product. Everyone pays for the pain big tobacco unleashes on their customers. The industry profits and call it freedom. Right. Freedom to kill. Can I get an amen from the Supreme Court? Not today I'm afraid.

Another Jimmy that influenced my life greatly, whom I never knew, would had celebrated his 40th birthday this month had cancer not snatched him away just shy of his teenage years. Like my Daddy, hazardous waste killed him, too.

I first learned about Jimmy as Micah was getting his 4 year old spine punctured with a needle. The procedure room was sterile. The mood dead serious. One mistake of injecting the anti-leukemic drug vincristine into the central nervous system of a child was catastrophic. Nurses triple checked their vials and left no room for error.

Dr. Abshire, a white-haired, pediatric oncologist with a military background, and get down-to-business, Nurse Practitioner, Colleen, were chatting matter of factly. They evaluated Micah before beginning to make sure his drugs of fentanyl and versed were kicking in. They assured me Micah wouldn't remember a thing.

Curled up on the table notably in the fetal position for easy access to his spine, Micah mentioned that it was kind of his medical team to give him a back massage. Now that's the type of drug combo his mother needed too at the time: one to take away the pain of a needle that could penetrate bone marrow and convert it to a soothing back rub. A customized prescription for me would call for one that could take away the agony of watching my child suffer, and transform it to the comfort of the good life of baseball, hotdogs, apple pie and Chevrolet. Or something similar to the tune of that illusion.

I would learn eventually that Jesus was stronger than narcotics with no side effects. He would take off my blinders, and allow culture shock to set in big time. The farce of the American dream we are indoctrinated to chase winds up killing our kids, and is as addictive as hallucinogenic drugs. The Great Physician was healing Micah and me that day through a lumbar puncture.

Listening in to the medical team's dialogue hoping to glean some knowledge, comfort, or both, Dr. Abshire said,

"Awareness of childhood leukemia will increase due to the movie coming out now."

Nurse Colleen seemed to agree with Dr. Abshire's analysis of this new movie hitting theatres. It appeared from their conversation that both had read the book upon which the movie was based.

I logged the title in my head, A Civil Action, and made a mental note to remember it because just maybe the hospital library might have it. I was hungry to learn more about Micah's illness, this "garden variety of the good type of leukemia" as Dr. Olson had described it when he broke the news to me.

And then the calls started. Friends telephoning to let me know I should go see this movie about children who died from leukemia who drank toxic water starring John Travolta. Reed Liggin, one of my high school classmates and a pharmaceutical rep, had just read the book, too. His review was the book was better than the movie.

And then there was Ruth Ann Warwick, the lady from church, one of the few I trusted to babysit my baby daughter in the nursery. She was the hands and feet of the Spirit in so much of what she did for others. Her light was bright. After she saw the movie, the tone in her voice to me was almost one of a prophetess commanding to go watch it.

And then there was talk show host, Leeza Gibbons. I seldom watched TV, but having moved into the basement of family, there was a TV on most regularly. The families from A Civil Action were Gibbons' guests, and were discussing their tragic experiences. The sickness and deaths of their children from contaminated water gripped me. How the families dealt with the madness glued me to the screen.

I saw Nancy Chuda on the same program. Never heard of this lady who lost a beautiful daughter to cancer from environmental exposures, and began a nonprofit to educate others on children's environmental health. She was giving a demo on how to mix nontoxic cleaners from common household products.

I wept. I could not take it to hear about a little boy named Jarred, so close to my own son's first name, who died in the car as his parents drove him back to the hospital. I knew that familiar drill of logging miles to the hospital. Could that happen to Micah? How did my son wind up with this same type of rare leukemia like A Civil Action? It happened so long ago before we had the protection of our environmental agencies I reasoned. Isn't that why former President Nixon founded EPA and declared a war on cancer?

I would wait until the movie came out on video, or at least until I was sewn back together emotionally. Maybe I could handle it once Micah was beyond this critical stage of intensification chemotherapy that dominated our lives. I tried to put those poor children and families from that town near Boston out of my mind.

But neither them nor the gnawing to get our water tested would go away. I took a few of the urinals which we had collected from our hospital stays, drove over to our abandoned home, and filled them up with water from our tap. I would take them to the University of Georgia lab when I got the chance. Then my mind would be settled.

Jimmy Anderson's death was caused from a system failure that still existed twenty five years later when my son was diagnosed with the same disease. One young boy in Massachusetts would save another boy's life in Georgia...from the grave.

Only Jesus could pull that off.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Junkyard Jesus

I began this blog in December 2007 to highlight a book in the works about my 4 year old son's journey with leukemia linked to corporate abuse of the environment. His cancer awakened me to an existence of evil not eons away in an dark abyss of hell, but a very present operating system living incognito as my neighbor.

As I pieced together the remnants of my faith as my son's health deteriorated, it was hard to accept that children die as collateral damage everyday from chemical trespassing and involuntary exposures unleashed by our ever growing psychotic behavior of doing business as usual. The dehumanizing agony of realizing that my son was the sacrificial lamb of government and industry made me appreciate Jesus more.

Athens Banner Herald writer, Jason Winders, welcomed me into the blogging world in January 2008. Where did you come up with the words "community activist" to describe me, Jason?

I would had much rather been labeled a Jesus freak who believes every church in Athens should be speaking out against the dumping of our collective waste on our brothers and sisters next to the landfill.

Or maybe a radical Christian who expects environmental health agencies to stop lying and deceiving about the unrefutable and irreversible harm being done to our current and future generations.

And I would had been flattered if you penned me as a junkman's daughter who came to realize her Dad's salvage yard could be as spiritual as any misguided ministry amassing wealth for a personal kingdom rather than doing the Father's will on earth as it is in heaven.

No sooner had Jason made his New Year's introduction of me as a fellow blogger, my writing suddenly stopped. No more entries as if I got a severe case of writer's block. My cyber journal, that ceremoniously began on the anniversary of my son's diagnosis with leukemia, came to a standstill when my Dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer in February. He lived less than 4 months. I spoke on a beautiful spring day at his graveside services in late May.

And now, therapeutically, back at the keyboard, this entry is yet another disturbing reminder that cancer is a merciless disease claiming itself as triumphant in my life. It hasn't taken Micah yet, but holds him hostage and forced him to look on as it devoured both his grandfathers that he revered and adored. It continues to taunt and dare me to take on its power and greed. And if I was the greatest community activist in the whole world, I would want to run and hide now shaking in my shoes with fear.

But I'm a Jesus follower believing perfect love cast out fear. It's a radical vision taught and embodied by the GodMan. I compare it to lessons learned in my Dad's junkyard:

1. A junkyard is not the end of the road, but an opportunity to be useful in a different capacity. Dad pointed out vehicles we'd encounter on the road in our small hometown that had made doctor visits to his junkyard. A door and tire here, a starter and hubcap there. Once he stripped and sold all the operating parts he could off a junk vehicle, the remainder would be crushed and made into something different. The transforming love of Jesus is doing the same spiritually taking away the old and creating in us new.

2. A 65 Chevy transmission won't fit a 2005 Mazda. The goal is to restore each to their fullest potential, but not all makes and models are interchangeable. The same with human beings and how they accept spiritual teachings. No religious leader, male or female, that has ever lived or living today is without flaws. That includes the Pope or Reverend Billy Graham. No doubt the controversial pastors of the current presidential candidates fall short. Why shouldn't they being mere mortal men? Jesus gets human restoration right everytime because He wrote the operating manual. His ministry is of reconciliation and unity. He reunited us to Yahweh, our Creator, and backed up His words with His blameless life...and volunteered death....and life resurrected.... and everlasting.

3. Invest in junk. My Dad had a lucrative business turning trash into treasure. He sat down one day before his death and gave me the 411 on recycling limited resources. It was easy to see the economical and environmental profitability. Jesus poured Himself into the sick, sad, and broken hearted. He called His followers to have a permanent relationship with the poor, prisoners, widows, and orphans. Oppression, which devalues the sanctity of life, is a consistent enemy of the Christian to be fought wherever it rears its ugly head--- be it at an unjust landfill in Athens Clarke and Oglethorpe County Georgia, or ethnic cleansing in Africa.

I found it coincidental when my Dad passed away that another descendant of a "rag and bone man" (a British term for junk dealer) discovered his grandfather had given him a 2,400 year old Persian gold cup of great value. The cup had been the object of target practice earlier and left stored under the bed. A good reminder we can have misplaced value right under our noses sometimes. A spiritual analogy as well that where our treasure is, there our hearts will be also.

Dr. Bill Sheehan, a waste management expert, passed along this thought that God recycles and the devil burns. Bill never claimed to be a theologian, but an ecologist. I think a good theologian is also an ecologist. Jesus was. What would Jesus drive? I think he would probably still wear sandals and walk, take mass transit, and bike. But I think he would appreciate a visit to a junkyard.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Death at the Door & Life at the Bookstore

I dropped to my knees, and grabbed Micah hugging him in ecstasy. He wanted to know why I was "acting so funny."

The fax from Dr. Dowain Wright, read, "lab work shows only slight anemia. . ."

Dr. Wright was the rheumatologist we had visited earlier in the day in Atlanta.

He had wanted me to stay until the blood work results were back after off-handedly mentioning the possibility that Micah could have leukemia. That was just too much bad news for me to handle alone if Micah's complete blood count revealed that awful dreaded disease of bald children. So I politely declined the invitation to wait, and requested that Dr. Wright fax the results instead to my home.

On our way back to Athens, Micah and I stopped off in Monroe to visit my brother, Jim, at his office. I needed some moral support before going home to face Dr. Wright's verdict. We shared a pizza and my fears. My brother's colleagues picked up our spirits.

Micah was having a blast with the inflatable, giant purple gorilla which was an advertising gimmick. The day almost seemed normal. I cherished normal which was few and far between the past two months. I felt as if Dr. Wright's news would be positive.

How overjoyed I was to find that optimistic fax waiting for me! I welcomed it as proof that Micah was on the road to recovery.

Looking back, the place I felt most emotionally secure in receiving Dr. Wright's news was ironically the source of my son's illness. My sanctuary of home was a temple of doom. Death was knocking on our door at Oakwood.

Oakwood was the mobile home park we had lived in the past six years. Named after the surrounding hardwood trees which were now arrayed with beautiful fall colors, the trees thrived even as a diabolic nature possessed the land decades earlier.

Oakwood was a killing field for corporate abuse of the environment. Micah was one of its intended victims from conception. The effect of a lifetime of exposure was unleashing its terror now four years later. Death was intent on claiming Micah.

The neighbors were preparing for their seasonal production increase of fuel operations. I was preparing for my son to get better. The two could not co-exist in The Toxic Triumvirate.

Four weeks later after Dr. Wright's fax, I would hear our pediatrician say, "Micah has almost no platelets and a hemoglobin of 5."

He would immediately receive a blood transfusion upon emergency admission to the hospital followed by platelet transfusions so he could undergo surgery for a port-a-cath without bleeding to death.

Dr. Wright would be one of the first doctors to visit Micah on the oncology floor, and apologize to me for delivering us a false sense of hope on that memorable day. He explained that a small percentage of children he and his partner evaluated did present with symptoms much like Micah where chronic anemia eventually progressed to childhood leukemia.

But was it Dr. Wright's fault that medical school did not train him in children's environmental health?

The sinister and health-robbing operations in The Toxic Triumvirate thrived on secrecy. There was no mercy...not even to a helpless baby boy born in its grip. Life was being sucked right out of Micah, and that evil had escaped recognition by any doctor that had examined him.

The quality of a child's environment is paramount to his well being. A poison triangle was Micah's playground. He hunted sharks in a bathtub full of cancer causing chemicals. He dug for dinosaurs in a yard with contaminated soil under his feet. His air in intergalactic space was loaded with extreme volumes of benzene, a bi-product of gasoline known for over 100 years to cause leukemia.

I could not blame Dr. Wright. How could he know that we lived next door to millions of gallons of petroleum pumped in by shoddy pipelines. Everyday we were breathing and drinking our neighbors' migrating chemicals and accumulating a toxic threshold. Micah's little body, like a hazardous waste drum, was filled to capacity.

Dr. Wright had been thorough with his examination, and thought Micah was just too mobile to have juvenile arthritis. But something was extraordinarily wrong as he took Micah's history and physical:

"Is he normally this color?" he inquired.

"Well, he is fair skinned like me, but since he has been sick, he has been paler," I replied.

"Does he eat well?" came the next question.

"Well, I force feed him because he has no appetite," I answered. Dr. Wright asked me to elaborate.

"He lays on the couch because he is tired so I feed him there." I responded.

What abnormal answers! It was as if I was beginning to accept Micah's slow deterioration as a normal part of life. I adjusted his daily schedule around a monster that would not let go of him. Like the proverbial frog slowly boiling in warm water, I was becoming desensitized to the seriousness of his illness. How did I suppress that once strong maternal instinct which told me SOMETHING IS NOT RIGHT?

But one comes to trust the medical world of pediatricians and specialists with their catch all phrase "a virus that has to run its course" ---even after repeatedly hearing from friends and family:

"Micah looks fine except for he's a little pale."

Being pale is a sign of anemia. I knew that so I purchased a supplement with iron thinking it would do the trick and bring Micah's energy level back up. How could that happen though? No amount of nutrients or vitamins could fight off my powerful oppressors disguised as neighbors. They were slowly taking my son. I was letting them.

The mental health of our family was being stretched. Homeschooling with four children, our collective lives began to revolve around Micah's declining health and not our academics. Looking forward to Fridays as our field trip day, we were canceling out more and more because Micah just did not feel up to it.

We attempted to bribe Micah with toys thinking our conquering Anakin Skywalker would return to save the day... like it was possible to turn up his energy level like a thermostat. Jordan, 12, my oldest son, frugal with his money, took his savings and bought huge dinosaur figures with hope that the magic would return in Micah's life.

His kind gesture touched my heart, but it was a failed attempt that proved money cannot buy health or happiness. Conversely, however, in The Toxic Triumvirate, the love of money did buy the silence of many. It was their bought silence that resulted in the loud banging of death at our door.

I suppose death peeked into our window on Christmas, and delighted in my crockpot full of homemade soup made with petroleum ingredients. No one warned us that death is more than a peeping Tom finding thrills in skull and crossbone meals. It is the thief who comes to steal and kill the potential of children misleading society into thinking poor unfortunate genes are to blame instead of industrial abuse of the environment.

I had promised to take Micah to an after Christmas sale at Books-a-Million. Still not able to hold out walking on his own, I pushed him in the stroller down to the children's section. We thumbed through a few preschool selections, but Micah's love affair had long been with prehistoric giants that once made the ground shake. His mind was healthy as his repertoire of dinosaurs was impressive, but his little body was screaming to be healed.

Why didn't I wake up and see how sick my 4 year old son really was? Why didn't I march myself back into the emergency room again with Micah, and demand another hospitalization like I had at Thanksgiving? I made a fool of myself that night, but I never regretted it.

Here one month later and what did I have to show of his improvement? Other than the fact that he was alive, there was nothing else that gave the slightest hint that Micah was better. I had tricked myself into believing he was on the road to recovery when all the signs were otherwise staring me in the face.

I had become defeated while my son was dying. But mothers don't have the last word with their children, God does.

Unbeknownst, as we browsed and chatted in the kid's reading section, someone was eavesdropping on us.

He approached us boldly. A distinguished, gray-haired man with a buttoned-down, solid red holiday shirt, I had noticed him earlier sitting at a reading table when we strolled by. There was no mistake that we were his intended destination as he got up and headed for us. Maybe Micah and I were too loud in our dinosaur discussion.

He was intrusive and to the point:

"Excuse me ma'am, I was listening to you and your son's conversation. I am a doctor. May I ask you a question: Is your son well?"

I glanced over to see what he had been reading. It was an indicator that he might just be telling the truth, or it could be a prop for a set-up to a scam. A thick physician's desk reference book was opened at his table. That prompted me. It was an opportunity to quiz him. If he was a doctor, surely he knew what a mean virus could potentially do to the heart of a child.

So I obliged him with a response,

"Actually, he was hospitalized and diagnosed with a viral infection right before Thanksgiving. Would you happen to know what an extended virus could do to his heart?"

He answered correctly passing my qualifying test.

It felt good to unload so I stood there, and told this total stranger my son's medical history of the past months. He asked provocative questions. He wanted to know why I was pushing Micah in a stroller if he was recovering.

An effective teacher as well, he demonstrated skin tone differences by comparing Micah's to mine. He pointed out blood vessels in my arm which were not evident in Micah's.

He also gave timely advice. He requested that I take Micah back to his pediatrician, and ask for an iron test. He was confident from his observations that Micah was still anemic.

We parted exchanging our names. I specifically asked where his practice was located. I felt leery about giving out my address so I refrained. Internal debating began in my head as we left the bookstore. He was most likely not a doctor. He was pretending to be one. So, he said that he was a general practitioner from Savannah. He was visiting his daughter who was a doctoral student herself at the University of Georgia.

No. I preferred to remain skeptical. I did not want to take Micah back in to see the pediatrician. It meant more screaming and crying, more specialists, more out of pocket payments, but most of all, it meant he was back at square one. It meant my illusion that I was getting my little boy back would be shattered.

The first thing I did when Micah and I arrived back home from the bookstore was to pick up the phone and call information.

My inquiry of a Dr. Ben Hubby from Savannah proved the man in the bookshop was legit. He would be the doctor I attributed to saving Micah's life with a predestined appointment at Books-a-Million.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Crossing Dimensions in 1999

I sat in the dark watching Micah sleep. Even at the midnight hour, his paleness was evident under the glow of lights from hospital gadgetry keeping him alive. A knock on the door interrupted my thoughts. It was Nurse Julia.

I had become accustomed to the flurry of activity in Micah's hospital room, but he certainly had not. In a previous outburst, he sat up in bed with his frail self and demanded, "What's SHE doing here?" Another nurse. Another order. Another traumatic experience for Micah. But this time the medicine from Nurse Julia was for me.

She handed me a styrofoam cup with nonalcoholic champagne and whispered, "Happy New Year."

Now there was an oxymoron. Remembering the tune of Prince, I had dreamed of many things I would be doing when 1999 actually did arrive in history. Yet I never envisioned this nightmare in a million years.

Ringing in the new year at the hospital bedside of your child just diagnosed with cancer doesn't paint a rosy picture for the future. My mind raced with gripping questions: Would Micah respond to treatment in 1999? Would I lose him? Would I lose myself? I was in a combined state of emotional denial and information overload. I dug deep for something to be grateful for.

As I reflected on the events of the last week in 1998, I observed a pattern of intriguing spiritual nearness. I could be grieving over a dead son had it not been for the kindness of a complete stranger who was eavesdropping on a conversation between Micah and myself just days earlier in our local bookstore.

Micah could had been given any oncology nurse upon admission, but Edith Yeargin just happened to be there. She didn't normally work on the hospital floor, but chose to come in and help over the holidays. She had leukemia when she was a girl. She became Micah's favorite nurse. She became a voice in the wilderness for me.

Have you ever made a toast to God in a time of crisis? To thank Him for your struggles because He approved the course to shape you into a more compassionate human being? It is hard to embrace words of the Bible in 1 Thessalonians directing us: Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks; for this is the will of God in Jesus Christ concerning you.

It doesn't come natural to do this. So I approached the supernatural to hold my hand amidst the ever present anxiety of confronting my deepest fear: MICAH COULD DIE.

I had been cocky to think I was immune from pain and despair. I saw it all around me as a manager of Oakwood Mobile Home Park. Now I was immersed in it. When I asked the One who gave me Micah to reveal Himself, He showed up. His arrival shook my narrow-minded world view of life and death.

As the dawn broke with the first light of 1999, my pride was waiting to be broken as well. Micah found comfort in the playroom, and we would migrate there at some point in our day. I watched him imagine, explore, and create as if all of his trauma had melted away. But there was always his chemo-pole nearby to remind me of more trauma to come. I thought of the long road ahead for him trying to choke back my tears.

I was sitting beside little Michael's mom. He was the same age as Micah battling the same disease.

She attempted to comfort me, "It gets easier. The first week is always the hardest," she said.

Why do children get cancer? I looked around the playroom at fragile little bodies in various stages of cancer and blood disorders as their lifelines of chemotherapy dripped into their veins. Why did I want to scream? Why did I quickly forget my toast to God?

In my hurting, I was silent to the world, but in my heart I defiantly declared in a thunderous outrage, "This is not suppose to happen to my child."

And it was as if God spoke back to me and softly reminded, "This is not suppose to happen to anyone's child."

With the radio playing in the background of the playroom, I was caught off guard by lyrics I had never heard from a gravely male voice, "Everything is gonna be allright, rock-a-bye, rock-a-bye."

What a beautiful message to hear at a time of brokenness. I think at that moment I realized we are constantly crossing dimensions from the physical world to the spiritual realm. We perform in the physical being led in the spiritual. We participate in society joining the angels in worship. We experience pain of the flesh while rejoicing in our souls. We can decide to stay trapped in the fear of the physical never allowing the Spirit to comfort us. Or we can choose to walk in the Spirit which equips us for the challenges of the physical. I chose the latter maybe initially out of selfishness because I was completely helpless to heal Micah.

Within a month, I would learn from a mysterious sequence of events that the last six years of my life had been spent as an unwilling participant in The Toxic Triumvirate... three poisoned places that formed a triangle. My place of residency was the weakest of the trio, a perfect dumping ground for the other two parties who were very much aware of their clandestine activities.

Under the beautiful hardwoods, vices of the poor and broken-hearted were hidden within the cheap paneled walls of 15 mobile homes. Low target population was the phrase I read in the government file. I read it once. Twice. Three times. I cried each time thinking perhaps I was misunderstanding its definition.

The massive bulk petroleum facility with above and underground storage tanks is kept alive by snaking buried pipelines. It breathes in money and exhales hazardous air emissions. It's like living next door to a giant gas station not required to clean up serious environmental messes because the value of the neighborhood is $0.00. Rubber-stamped by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as acceptable collateral damage of the oil and gas industry, the list included Micah, my family, neighbors, and even me. How crushing. But that is what the leader of The Toxic Triumvirate does. It crushes. It kills. And it does so all in the name of progress.

But the Low Target Population Report didn't mention God. He was there, too. He has a thing for the poor, oppressed, and broken-hearted. We meet Him in dark, scary places, and He lights our way.

I met Him crossing dimensions in a children's hospital ringing in 1999.