Neal Freeland

Engineering/marketing manager, family guy. My personal blog with a few work thoughts mixed in.


with 2 comments

we’re off to cleveland tomorrow morning. as the surgery draws
nearer, julia asks me how i can be so relatively calm and
confident knowing amelia is facing a risky surgery that could end her
life. i look at this the other way around. this is the surgery that
will save her life. here’s why.
while stationed in pearl harbor with the navy i learned that
hawaiians traditionally wait until their child’s first birthday to cut
their hair. they believe this helps ward off the many threats that can
end an infant’s life. in the developed world, we’ve mostly forgotten
about these risks as medecine has pushed them back from the
forefront of our lives. congenital heart defects are the most
common birth defect, affecting 1% or 40 thousand of the 4 milllion
annual births in the US. previously, most infants would die from these
defects, which can be seen, for example, in the horribly
high infant mortality data for congo (90 infant deaths per 1000
live births). this means 9% of all children born in this
diamond rich country on the west coast of africa die within the
first year of life. congo’s poor results are due to the ravages of a
decade-long civil war and deteriorating physical infrastructure
(pot-holed dirt roads) that make it impossible to reach the
basic medical facilities that do exist in the cities.
in the US, we’ve pushed this mortality rate down to only 6.5
deaths per 1000 births, largely due to our stability and high
investment in health care (nearly 15% of gdp). for lucky people like me
and julia, who have excellent employer provided health insurance, we
get to take our child on a jet airplane to be treated by the best
doctor in the best hospital in the world and can hope for even
better results than the average for the country.
so while amelia has a rare combination of heart defects and the
surgery she is going to experience this week is difficult and risky, i
am very comfortable with the odds. instead of a 95% chance of death,
she now has a 95% chance of life. this surgery is an example of our
medical system working, and i am thankful for it. in fact, the
only question in my mind right now is, "how long will her hair grow in
one year?"
infant deaths per 1000 live births
(infant  is less than 1 yr old)
   Japan      3.3
   Germany 4.2
   US           6.5
   Brazil     29.5
   Iran       41.6
   Congo   90.1

Written by nealfreeland

October 9, 2005 at 9:51 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. So, I am sitting here in Bangkok and I went by an internet cafe – it is so damn hot that I needed a break from walking the street and I thought – what do I need to do – and I thought I needed to catch up on folks that I had not been seeing what they were up to -so I popped in to the cafe, logged in and first thing I thought, hey, wonder how Mr. Freeland is doing -so went to your space and spent the next 45 min just reading through the entries. Wow, what a journey you have been on, makes my last few months of craziness seem, well, so irrelevant. Looks like your journey has been crazy these last few months. from your blog, you sould be in Cleveland now – and a big day later this week. My thoughts will be with you – not sure that helps much – but my heart and support goes out to you, your wife and kids. Keep your chin up – and I will be checking in on you blog more frequently (ok, now I need to get back on the street – so much for doing more, your\’s was enough!)Best :)David


    October 23, 2005 at 10:20 am

  2. Thanks so much for the perspective. Our son ( is due Feb 26 and has HLHS. It\’s sometimes tough to look at the positive 85% and not the 15% that seems to loom large most days.I\’m bookmarking this post. Thanks again.


    January 3, 2006 at 7:28 am

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