Wednesday, July 15, 2009
DAYNA DUPUIS THERIOT
by Jim Belshaw
Dayna and Keeyan's story is brought to you by The Missouri Vietnam Veterans Foundation.
Dayna Dupuis Theriot writes a letter filled with questions, not the least of which is to whom she should send it for answers. She scours the Internet looking for such answers and finds only tantalizing clues, or more to the point, one clue, one connector between her son and the various abnormalities that have been visited upon him. The clue repeatedly shows itself, but never to the degree that she can say it is the answer with any certainty.
“Every time I put in one of Keeyan’s abnormalities with that information about my dad, Agent Orange in the first thing that would pop up,” she said.
With the exception of a too small body, his physical appearance gives no indication that her young son knows firsthand the medical mysteries that Dayna includes in her letter:
“Dyslexia and learning disabilities
“Speech and hearing problems
“Asthma and allergies so severe that Keeyan is on Xolair injections (normally for people who are 12 years of age or older according to the Xolair Web site)
“Illecolitis (a form of Crohn’s disease)
“Premature Ventricular Contractions (heart disease).”
Her father, a Vietnam veteran who served in the Army, is under treatment for PTSD, but has never been diagnosed with a disease connected to Agent Orange. Nonetheless, pointing to the presence of Agent Orange in her Internet research, Dayna finds yet another clue hard to pin down .
“My father was in an area that was heavily sprayed with Agent Orange,” she said. “He’s been through a lot. I don’t know how he would handle it if we found out this kind of thing was transferred from his body to us. It would have a powerful emotional effect on him. I would hate for him to blame himself. What I’m doing now is just looking for answers. You don’t know who else is out there with the same problems.”
Dip in anywhere in her letter and “powerful emotional effect” becomes understatement.
“My son, Keeyan, was born August 2, 2000, weighting only 4 lbs., 14 oz.,” she writes. “He had problems before coming home with his sugar levels and body temperature. We stayed in NICU (Newborn Intensive Care Unit) for five days before allowing us to go home. He then came home to vomiting, choking, and almost losing him in our home.
“He was checked by his pediatrician to discover his esophagus was strictured. It was narrowed so severely that it only allowed a few drops in at a time and not even his own mucus could be digested. It is similar to Esophageal Atresia. He was admitted and the surgeon dilated the esophagus. It lasted two weeks before collapsing again. So in September 2000, only 4 weeks old, a thoracotomy was done. They would cut out the narrowed part and resection the damaged esophagus.
As her letter continues, it takes on a peculiar phenomenon of language, one in which mothers become conversant in a medical language usually reserved only for specialists, men and women who have spent the greater part of their lives studying such things. It falls to mothers to understand medical terms and procedures that would leave most people scratching their heads.
This is not the case with the mothers of children like Keeyan Theriot. They understand the complications because the complications become the stuff of daily life.
“After the procedure was done, he assured us that Keeyan would be fine,” she writes. “He then began vomiting, choking, and the esophagus was so irritated that it began to bleed. We began PH probe studies to find out what was going on. The studies showed reflux and it was really bad. So they put him on a drug given to patients with esophageal cancer to be able to tolerate feedings. It didn’t help …
“We went to see a Pediatric Surgeon for Rare Anomalies. He gave us a few options … He mentioned doing a fundoplication/nissen so he would not be able to vomit. The procedure was done at age 4 1/2 … only to be discouraged by vomiting and bleeding …"
Some of the questions Dayna asks are the same questions asked by the wives of other Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange:
+If the children of women veterans are determined to suffer from such service connected disabilities, why are the children of male veterans excluded? (Dayna's son, as well as the children of other women, were born with conditions that are on the presumptive list for children of women veterans.)
+Studies show more defects in women than men. Why?
+There are cases of second and third generations, but no proven studies. Why?
+Are there more studies planned for future generations?
+In the small study of 24 Vietnam veterans, they all had some type of chromosomal changes. Why was the study stopped?
It is a proven fact, Dayna points out, that more children of Vietnam veterans suffer learning disabilities, health issues, asthma/allergies, birth defects, and other health issues. “They all seem familiar to me,” she says. Kids are also born with rare disorders that may show up later.
“It’s been rough,” she said. “You always have in the back of your mind that (answers) would leave you with some closure and you would be done with this. I mean, you have to live with it, but at least you know why and you say, OK, this is the way life is going to be. We’re going to have to live with it, like it or not. This has been my life for the last eight years. I have no idea how I get through this. It takes a lot.”
This article was Published in The Fresno Bee online on Saturday, Jun. 27, 2009
by Jim Doyle
On June 2, the Ford Foundation released the results of a lengthy study on the effects of Agent Orange/Dioxin, and confirmed what Vietnam veterans have known for years: This stuff will kill you, or worse, pass to your children and grandchildren and cause a range of disabilities and diseases that will profoundly affect their lives.
Every good parent does their best to assure a better life for their children, irrespective of time and place. Many Vietnam veterans, however, have unintentionally left a disturbing legacy -- birth defects or damaged genes that carry the potential risk of birth defects in succeeding generations.
This troubling inheritance is directly linked to the harm caused as a result of our exposure to Dioxin, an unintended by product of the combination of 2-4-5-T and 2,4,D that created the herbicide more commonly known as Agent Orange.
Over a period of nearly 10 years, about 21 million gallons of Agent Orange was sprayed over more than 10 million acres in Vietnam. The VA presumes that veterans who served in Vietnam were exposed to Agent Orange. It was in the air and in the water. Dioxin was one of the more prevalent culprits at Times Beach and Love Canal.
Agent Orange was composed primarily of two commonly used commercial weed killers, the combination of which creates the chemical 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD), known to be toxic in humans. One of these ingredients (2,4,5,T was banned by the World Health Organization in 1970. TCDD accumulates in human fatty tissue, where it is neither readily metabolized nor excreted.
Over time, the toxin accumulates and the effects can remain. In April 1970, the federal government found evidence that TCDD had caused birth defects in laboratory mice, but it was still used in Vietnam for nearly eight more months.
Children and grandchildren of Vietnam veterans suffer from a wide spectrum of conditions including Achondroplasia, a type of dwarfism to Williams Syndrome, a rare disorder caused by "erasure" of about 26 genes from a specific chromosome that can cause mental retardation, a distinctive facial appearance and cardiovascular problems for starters.
Cleft lip and palate, congenital heart disease, fused digits, hip dysplasia, neural tube defects and undescended testicles -- the list goes on.
Who drafted these kids?
Physical, mental and emotional disabilities in our children, and now a growing number of anecdotal reports of these same birth defects turning up in our grandchildren haunt Vietnam veteran parents.
These are the result of wounds that will never be acknowledged by a Purple Heart medal, wounding yet another generation.
When will the casualties of the Vietnam War end? After 30 years of research, the evidence is firmly on the side of Vietnam veterans, both male and female. Despite this evidentiary flood, Mom and Dad are still running the gauntlet of rules, regulations, administrative decisions, legal opinions, forms, physical examinations, evaluations and plain old indifference in an attempt to get treatment and compensation, not only for themselves but for their children.
Again it must be asked, who drafted these kids?
After more than 30 years, isn't it long past time for this issue to be settled?
The Ford Foundation report calls for improved diagnosis and treatment, and continued study of the environmental and health effects of Agent Orange. It also appeals for expanded care, not only for veterans but for their children suffering next-generation effects from their parents' toxic exposures.
In the face of the growing scientific evidence and the conclusions of the foundation study report the government still refuses to fully acknowledge the friendly fire toll of Agent Orange, now visited upon another generation.
Vietnam veteran moms and dads must focus on what will be there for their children after the flag on their casket has been presented.
The reality is that there are hundreds of thousands of Vietnam veterans who endure daily struggles with diseases and conditions that are a direct result of their exposure to Agent Orange and other toxic chemicals used in Vietnam. There is little, if any, serious dispute of that fact. Millions of Vietnamese also suffer the same illnesses and die the same agonized death, and their children too.
Just as Traumatic Brain Injury has become the signature wound of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, so to has the long-festering wound of Agent Orange become the signature wound for Vietnam veterans.
Before his death in January 2000, Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt Jr., commander of U.S. naval forces in Vietnam and later Chief of Naval Operations, fought to force those in power to take responsibility for their actions and admit that Agent Orange killed more than vegetation.
Zumwalt ordered the spraying of Agent Orange in the Mekong Delta and it ultimately lead to the cancer that killed his Navy lieutenant son, Elmo Zumwalt III at 42. Grandson Elmo IV was born in 1977 with a severe learning disability.
For Admiral Zumwalt, it was simple.
When Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, a World War II veteran whose son served in Vietnam and died from cancer, recuses himself from Agent Orange cases, there is a reason.
Vietnam veterans are not asking for a handout, they are just asking for some truth. Oh, and a return on the investment they made in freedom four decades ago. There can be no recession in that account.
Read the Ford Foundation Report on Agent Orange at:
Waiting For An Army To Die Won't Work When A Significant Number of Vietnam Veterans Are Reporting Children and/or Grandchildren With Birth Defects Related to Exposure to Agent Orange:
by Mokie Porter
Tuesday, June 2, 2009 at the Cosmos Club in Washington D.C.the Ford Foundation, announced that it is funding and launching of a full-scale, public-relations campaign to win the sympathy of the American people for the plight of Agent Orange victims in Vietnam
The Ford Foundation and the U.S.-Vietnam Dialogue Group on Agent Orange/Dioxin are hoping to mobilize resources and raise awareness for the continuing environmental health consequences of dioxin contamination in Vietnam resulting from the use of A/O, with the end goal of gaining the support of Congress, American business, and the American people to direct U.S. dollars to Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange. When representatives of Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) asked at the June 2nd meeting whether the condition of American veterans, their children, and grandchildren would also be a subject of the public relations campaign, the answer from the chair of the Working Group, came back "We have given you the report."
The June 1, 2009, report, "U.S. Vietnam Veterans and Agent Orange: Understanding the Impact 40 Years Later," which was done by the National Organization on Disability with funding from the Ford Foundation, concludes that it is not "too late to correct the lapses in the nation's treatment of veterans who were exposed to dioxin during the Vietnam War." It goes on to state that "One lesson of the Agent Orange experience has been that the consequences of such chemicals are rarely easy to predict, and that the burdens they impose may well be borne for generations." for report and VVA reactions.
The report includes five detailed recommendations for greater clarity and justice: (1) Outreach to All Affected Veterans and their Families; (2) Outreach to Health Practitioners and Disability-Related Service Agencies; (3) Medical Care for Affected Children and Grandchildren; (4) A Fresh Approach to Research; and (5) Direct Service to Veterans and their Families, in Their Communities.
If the Ford Foundation's publicity campaign will focus on the plight of Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange, but not American victims of Agent Orange, then veterans need to launch our own grassroots publicity campaign to gain the support of Congress, American business, and the American people for the unfinished Agent Orange agenda for American veterans and their families.
The Task Ahead: Don't Mourn, Organize and Publicize in Your Own Communities
This is not just a VVA issue.VVA members, chapters, and state councils need to reach out and work with other veterans organizations in their communities and to be a force multiplier. Many of our members, of course, are members of other veterans organizations, so this will help.
The brunt of the fallout of this one-sided, public-awareness campaign will rest on our members at the grassroots, in chapters and state councils, where the network exists for our veteran families. We cannot allow those veterans outside the VA/VSO network to find out about their A/O exposure from the perspective of the Vietnamese victims, as they watch the Ford Foundation media campaign unfold in print and on television.
While, at this point, we know very little about the when and where of the Ford Foundation media campaign, we expect that it will begin this summer and continue through the year. We anticipate a multi-media barrage, with Ford's efforts directed toward the documentary film industry, the print media, radio, television, celebrities, etc. We have not located the budget for this endeavor yet, but expect that, minimally, it will be in the range of six figures.
This is not about animosity toward Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange, but it is a response to the telling of only one side of the story by the Ford Foundation media campaign. That's not the right approach to take and may well create a great deal of pain in those veterans, whose "welcome home" nearly forty years ago, was a slap in the face, or disdain and distance, and who will now, once more, be reminded of the esteem in which their government holds them, as they watch while the Ford Foundation media campaign focuses on the suffering of their former enemy.
What do we need to create awareness? We need real stories about real people to convince the American people and Congress that our A/O problems are real.
We already have two excellent stories, though still in the rough draft stage. More will be needed. If each state would identify at least one family with a child or grandchild affected by A/O, willing to share their story, we will begin to have ammunition to use locally and nationally with the media and with legislators.
One idea that has been suggested is holding veterans health forums at the chapter and state council levels. That's a good way to get local media attention, and a forum to discuss the issue of A/O, as well as all the host of illnesses and maladies associated with military service. It would likely be useful to have a nuts-and-bolts, how-to plan for this type of health forum.
What we need is something that could be shared with other states and chapters, like a "checklist for organizers of local health forums," or a document that has tips for putting on a "high-interest, high attendance, high media coverage veterans health forum in your community.
Ideas other than a veterans health forum will likely emerge, and a forum for the sharing of these ideas, info, intel, and good stories will be needed, if we are to sustain a vital campaign. What works in one area may not work in another area. Local initiative, local creativity, and local enthusiasm and energy will be essential.
This is not just about Vietnam/Agent Orange alone; it is about all toxic exposures in all theaters of our recent wars whether in Thailand, on Eglin Air Force Base, Guam, Puerto Rico, Texas, the Gulf, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.--the larger lesson continues to be this: The cost of war doesn't end when the guns are silent, in fact it takes a generational toll so we, as a nation, must be willing to pay the price.
(See VVA web page http://www.vva.org/ for report and VVA reactions. The report is also available at http://www.veteranstoday.com/article7206.html)