Mary Carmichael

Stories by Mary Carmichael

  • What Color Is Your Bra? Facebook's Pointless Underwear Protest.

    Last night I told the entire Internet what color bra I was wearing. Usually I try not to overshare, but it was ostensibly for a good cause. Around 4 p.m., I saw a weird Facebook status update from a friend, a journalist turned lawyer whose writing is usually smart, grammatical, and comprehensible. The update read, "rose and lavender paisley." Huh? Over the next seven hours, more than half the status updates in my feed turned out to be colors, mostly pink, beige, and black. I figured out that these were colors of bras. Then I chuckled a little at my friends who had written "nothing" and "pink" (that friend was a man) and "harvest gold" (him, too).You know what I didn't do? Think about breast cancer. That, however, was supposedly the point of the exercise. No one yet knows who started the meme, but apparently, someone kicked it off a few days ago with a chain-letter-style Facebook message to a bunch of women, asking them to virtually flash...
  • What Health-Care Reform Will Mean for You

    Amid all the talk about filibusters, long-term affects, and 'bending cost curves' one thing has gotten obscured: how will you see your coverage change after health-care reform passes?
  • Brittany Murphy, Type 2 Diabetes, and Cardiac Arrest: Speculation and Science

    What made Brittany Murphy’s heart stop beating? We’re not likely to know why the actress went into cardiac arrest until toxicology reports come out sometime in the next six weeks. One clue, however, is that according to her mother, she had type 2 diabetes. If that’s the case, her tragic death may have some simple medical answers. Gossip Web sites have been quick to point out that Murphy was plagued by rumors of drug abuse and anorexia, both of which can put a strain on the cardiovascular system. But type 2 diabetes can be even harder on the heart. The high glucose levels associated with the disease affect the arteries, making the vessel walls rough and more likely to collect fatty deposits that block the flow of blood. If blood flow to the heart is interrupted, the cardiac muscle becomes starved for oxygen and dies.Even when they’re being treated effectively, people with type 2 diabetes are at a much higher risk for a heart attack or stroke than most of us. Having the disease is as...
  • Gambling On an AIDS Vaccine With Sudhir Paul

    Sudhir Paul's research could be revolutionary—or it could be a waste of time and resources. Why a group of nonscientists has decided to bet on his out-there ideas.
  • For Kids, Being Uninsured Can Be A Killer

    It’s easy to get lost in the dismal statistics coming out of the new study on children and health insurance: there are 7 million uninsured kids in America; they’re 60 percent more likely to die in the hospital than insured kids are; basic insurance could have saved 17,000 of them from dying over the last two decades. But let’s step back from the numbers for a minute. Let’s say you’re the parent of a 5-year-old boy. One day you notice that your son’s breathing is ragged, that he can’t run around for long before he starts to gasp for air. You take him to the pediatrician’s office, where he’s diagnosed with asthma. You live just below the poverty line, and your son is insured by Medicaid, which pays for the inhaler he needs. The next year, your son needs a refill on his inhaler. But now, he no longer has Medicaid because you didn’t fill out the raft of paperwork required to re-enroll him every year. You work two jobs that pay under the table, and you couldn’t pull together all the pay...
  • How Do You Solve a Problem Like Diarrhea? Poop Jokes May Save Millions of Kids a Year

    There are two ways to try to draw attention to the oft-ignored issue of diarrhea in the Third World. You can point out that it’s literally a dead serious thing, an ailment that kills more than a million children under age 5 every year. Or you can use comedy in the service of tragedy─i.e., you can make jokes about poop.The World Health Organization and UNICEF are adopting the former strategy. On Wednesday, they released a long joint report criticizing the global health community for neglecting diarrheal disease and laying out a seven-point plan for fighting it.But the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine─not normally a goofy place─is going the funny route instead. On Thursday evening, in the name of public awareness, it’s co-hosting a red-carpet awards ceremony and a “hilarious, unmissable evening of comedy and short animated films about hygiene and,” yes, “poo.”  There’s not much about the Golden Poo Awards that can be said with a straight face. The film-festival entries...
  • Hazy Memories, Moral Clarity: What a Very Bad Night Taught Me About Date Rape Drugs, Friendship, and Responsibility

    A lot has been said about the recent Double X column by Lucinda Rosenfeld on friendship, loyalty, and date-rape drugs. Like many of the site's commenters, I'm livid about the column and not at all mollified by Lucinda's halfhearted apology to readers. I'll get to why, specifically, in a minute. But first, a story:The night before New Year's Eve, 2005, I went to an upscale Manhattan bar with my two best friends. We all had a round of gimlets, heavy on the lime juice. Enjoying ourselves but hardly tipsy, two of us started a second round. What happened a few sips into that drink, the two of us don't remember, but our friend who abstained tells us that within minutes, both of us went into slurred, babbling hysterics. One of us lunged across the bar and grabbed the bartender; the other threw up and slumped, barely conscious, on the floor. The club's bouncer, assuming we just couldn't handle what little liquor we'd been given, kicked us out....
  • Health Matters: Making Medical Decisions for Kids

    Recently, a friend sent me a 2006 clip from "The Oprah Winfrey Show" featuring a room of fussy newborns and a woman who claimed she could translate their cries. I'm a skeptic by nature, but around March 4, I will have a newborn of my own, and this clip seems to have become required viewing for pregnant women, so I watched intently. Young babies speak five universal "words," Priscilla Dunstan told an enthusiastic Oprah, and I nodded, suppressing if not entirely suspending disbelief—until the show more or less became an infomercial for the "Dunstan Baby Language" DVD. I didn't want to condemn Dunstan's ideas in haste; some of them sounded reasonable. But if they were the real deal, I thought, they'd be mentioned—if not by name, at least by concept—in pediatrics journals. If they weren't, with a bit of searching I'd find they had been debunked.Three hours of searching and one query to Dunstan later, I had a problem: there wasn't proof either way. The Dunstan company had developed a...
  • One OB Doc's Quest to Save High-Risk Multiples

    A Phoenix obstetrician uses controversial methods to help infertility patients and their babies survive high-risk multiple-birth pregnancies. But is he promising more than he can deliver?
  • Health Matters: Get a Life, Doc

    Residents are often too busy wiping the noses and taking the temperatures of other people's kids to do the same for their own.
  • Report Finds Katrina Kids Have Poor Health

    Even before the storm, they were some of the country's neediest kids. Now, the children of Katrina who stayed longest in ramshackle government trailer parks in Baton Rouge are "the sickest I have ever seen in the U.S.," says Irwin Redlener, president of the Children's Health Fund and a professor at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. According to a new report by CHF and Mailman focusing on 261 displaced children, the well-being of the poorest Katrina kids has "declined to an alarming level" since the hurricane. Forty-one percent are anemic—twice the rate found in children in New York City homeless shelters, and more than twice the CDC's record rate for high-risk minorities. More than half the kids have mental-health problems. And 42 percent have respiratory infections and disorders that may be linked to formaldehyde and crowding in the trailers, the last of which FEMA finally closed in May. The "unending bureaucratic haggling" at federal and state levels over how...
  • Got Insurance?

    Why the candidates' plans might not deliver on universal health coverage
  • An Rx to Push Generic Drugs

    Why don't the medical shows pledge that their 'doctors' will prescribe generics when possible?