If you have an hour of your time, I recommend you listen to this episode of Radiolab. Things tend to fall into my lap at very appropriate times. While driving home, in the middle of a nationwide Pandemic, this episode fell into my lap.
On August 21st, 2016, Radiolab collaborated with The New York Times reporter Sheri Fink to talk about the difficult process of hospital Triage, and inevitably the idea of deciding who gets to live and who doesn’t. And in some ways, it has never felt more appropriate than right now.
We hear three crisis situations, in which resources were limited, and hospital staff were faced with the difficult task of triaging their patients. Hospitals are not designed to handle a mass surge of patients. So when that happens, how do you decide who’s needs are more necessary? How do you decide who you stop giving care to? How do you make these difficult decisions, and is that too much responsibility for a person?
In the middle of the episode, they talk about a critical situation that happens to be exactly the situation we are in now. And ironically, one of the decisions we as hospital staff are having to make. Who deserves to live, and who does not?
For further reading, here is the original article Sheri Fink wrote for The New York Times on a public debate that she attended, in which a critical care physician from John’s Hopkins asks, how should we make that decision? Whose Lives Should Be Saved? Researchers Ask the Public
Radiolab did an interview with Andy Mills, about his amazing friendship with Kohn Ashmore. In college Andy Mills heard a strange noise down the hall, and upon further investigation, discovered fellow student Kohn Ashmore. Most striking about him was the fact that he moves and speaks extremely slowly. It wasn’t until much later in their friendship that Andy discovered that for years Kohn didn’t even know that he spoke slowly.
It is an example of how resilient the human mind can be. That after living with the sound of his own voice for so long, it no longer seemed a strange thing. And admittedly, after listening to this interview over and over, Kohn’s voice no longer sounds strange to me.
Here is that interview by Radiolab. In honesty, the song at the end of the interview always chokes me up a little. It is filled with so much pain, and courage, and maybe a bit of hope.
Here also is the original audio story by Andy Mills that had initially caught Radiolab’s attention. Though most of the information is the same, and some of the clips were used in Radiolab’s interview, this version is put together and told entirely by Andy Mills.
(And for a deeper look into the life of Kohn Ashmore, he published a short biography, which can be found here on Amazon.)
This interview by Radiolab gets pretty real at the end. It draws that line that stands between Victims and Truth Seekers. The interview seeks to dig deeper into the 1975 Yellow Rain that fell in parts of Laos. The controversy behind it, and the consequences of it. The host of Radiolab, interviews a man, Eng Yang, who was in Laos when the rain fell.
The podcast was initially released in September of 2012. After much uproar and upset over the end of the interview, it was amended and rereleased less than 2 months later. This is the amended version.
Here also is the 2 part 1991 New Yorker article that got Radiolab interested in this story in the first place. (if you have a subscription)
Eng Yang’s niece Kao Kalia Yang, who acted as translator for him during the interview, and spoke on behalf of the injustices placed on her people. Born in 1980, in a Thailand refugee camp, right as the world was beginning to open their eyes to the idea of chemical weapons. Her first book, published in 2008, 4 years before this podcast, The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir, recounts the Hmong people and her own grandmother’s experience during the Vietnam War. She is a writer, public speaker, and a teacher. Here is a link to her website: http://www.kaokaliayang.com/
The podcast by Radiolab titled Unraveling Bolero, “a story about obsession, creativity, and a strange symmetry between a biologist and a composer that revolves around one famously repetitive piece of music.” They present two randomly connected cases of progressive aphasia, transmodal creativity and the right posterior neocortex. Super interesting stuff.