Health

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Sometimes, all it takes to make a hero is to be at the right place at the right time. Most of the time, these “right place right time” moments are truly just miracles…they couldn’t be anything else. There is simply no other way that many people could be in the right place at the right time. It was miraculously orchestrated by God, and because it was, people’s lives were saved. No one will ever make me think differently about it, because twice, I was there in these situations.

In 2003, a sixty-seven-year-old woman named Dorothy Fletcher had a heart attack on a flight to Orlando, Florida. A heart attack in any situation is bad news, but on a flight with limited medical supplies and even fewer medical staff. Immediately following Fletcher’s heart attack, the attendant, as often happens, asked if there was a doctor on board. In a medical emergency, like a heart attack, any doctor is better than no doctor, but what she got was so much more than what she expected. In response to her anxious inquiry for a doctor, 15 cardiologists stood up. Not just doctors…cardiologists, and not just one, 15!! How could this happen? Well, as it turns out, Fletcher has her heart attack on the perfect flight. The 15 cardiologists were on their way to a cardiac conference. Totally a God thing!! Needless to say, she survived.

Heart attacks are scary no matter where you are, and when an emergency happens, things move very fast. On Sunday afternoon, October 14, 2018, in the Walmart parking lot on the east side of Casper, Wyoming at 4:45pm, I faced my own emergency when my husband Bob Schulenberg had a heart attack in the Walmart parking lot. Before I even knew that my husband was down behind the car, a man who watched him fall was with him. By the time I got to him a cardiac care nurse was treating him. Almost instantly, a transport worker from the hospital who also knew CPR assisted, and then another cardiac care nurse showed up. The first man on scene had called for an ambulance, and with that came the firemen, most of whom my husband, as their mechanic for a number of yeas knew. Within two hours, my husband was recovering from the Widowmaker heart attack. People can say what they want, but without God’s orchestration, my husband would not have had all those people there and every procedure in lace to save his life. Everyone was in a place they normally weren’t, and none of them knew why. Even the heart cath team was at the hospital when they normally wouldn’t have been at that time.

My own emergency, fell into place in much the same way. When I was on a hike in the mountains, I slipped and fell…breaking my shoulder. We were ¾ mile from the end of the trail and the car. So, what is the miracle here? Well, there is one. When I fell on that trail, I was with a group of people. My husband and I have hiked many trails…just the two of us. We have never had a “situation” on the trail. On this day, I was with, not only my husband, but my sister-in-law and her partner, a nurse and life flight pilot, respectively. In addition, I was with my other sister-in-law, who is an experienced caregiver, as are my husband and me. The other people with us were physical therapists. When I said that I had broken my arm (shoulder), I immediately had a medical team at my side. They quickly fashioned a sling out of a bandana and a dog leash (amazing), but when they got me stabilized, and were ready to try to get me up, two hikers came over the hilltop saying that they were CNAs and they could help get me up. Unbelievable!! Then, they gave us a sweatshirt to usa as a gait belt for stability. All those people there for me when I needed them most!! That is totally a God thing. Yes, all these people were in the right place and the right time, but you will never convince me that it was a complete accident that they were. Nope!! That was a God thing!!

These days, we know that washing our hands and our bodies is important to good health. Of course, washing of hands cleans away dirt, germs, and bacteria, as well as many viruses that cause disease, but in the Old West, there were actually people who thought that bathing could actually make you sick, therefore bathing did not occur on a daily basis in the wild west. I’m sure you can imagine just how stinky things got. I suppose that if two people got very near each other, it would be a competition to see who smelled the worst. The reality is that we have all encountered someone who really needed a bath. Most of us would never tell that person that they stunk, but we might really hope that this wasn’t going to be the norm, or we might have to rethink the friendship.

Women in the old west “bathed” a little more often than the men, if you could exactly call it that. Mostly any daily bathing would consist of a pitcher of water and a washcloth, with the ritual performed in the bedroom of the home. Men on the cattle trail might take a plunge into a watering hole to get “cleaned up”, and quite often the bathing and the laundry would happen at the same time, meaning that a good portion of the body didn’t really get scrubbed up. Nevertheless, it was a good way to rid yourself of that nasty trail dust accumulated on the trail that day…or maybe the prior several days. This type of bathing might also involve armed guards to keep the Indians away.

To make matters worse, when people did bathe, it might be done in the kitchen in a large tub of water, used by the husband first, the mother second, and the children by ages on down the line. As you can imagine, the water got pretty black by the time the youngest child was bathed. Then the water was finally dumped. That is actually where the term, “don’t throw the baby out with the bath water came from.” Sometimes being the youngest had its perks, and other times not so much. Some people would go to public bathhouses, where they might actually have to pay extra for “clean” water, and the guy after them might end up using their water, if he didn’t want to pay the extra fee.

The fact that bathing was inconvenient, and for some, scary, made people sometimes resort to other methods to rid themselves of the stinky odor. After all, lemon verbena wasn’t just a type of perfume. It helped to mask the odor that would come quickly with infrequent bathing. To make matters worse, people lived in primitive surroundings with lice, fleas and bedbugs, and the smell of their own dirty bodies drew flies and mosquitoes. Hopefully, the lemon verbena would help to keep the pests away…but I wouldn’t count on it really. I don’t think it masked the smell that well.

These days, we not only know that bathing is important to keep the stinky smells away, but it’s important to keep sickness away too. Most of us wouldn’t think of going long without bathing, after all, warding off sickness is important, but warding off that smell is vital!!

A number of presidents and their families have suffered the unthinkable during their time in the White House…the loss of a child. The Adams, Lincoln, Coolidge, and Kennedy families all suffered the loss of a child while in office; the Pierce family lost their last surviving child while en route to Washington to attend Franklin Pierce’s inauguration. John Adams’ grown son Charles died of alcoholism in 1800, shortly after the president lost his reelection bid. Thomas Jefferson’s grown daughter Mary died in 1804, three months after giving birth to her third child. Franklin Pierce lost all three of his sons at an early age. Eleven-year-old Benny, his only surviving child, was killed in a train accident in January 1853, two months before Pierce’s inauguration. Abraham Lincoln lost his son William “Willie” in 1862 in the middle of the Civil War. John F Kennedy lost his son, Patrick two days after he was born on August 7, 1963.

While it is always horrible when a child dies, whether the parents are famous or not, I find the death of Calvin Coolidge’s son to be among the saddest. While the deaths of these other presidents’ children are sad, little could have been done to change those losses. Calvin Coolidge had two sons, John (the oldest) and Calvin Jr. The boys spent the school year at boarding school, but they spent breaks from boarding school at the White House after he became president in 1923. The oldest son, John was born on September 7, 1906, and Calvin Jr was born on April 13, 1908.

On June 30, 1924, John and Calvin Jr were playing tennis on the courts at the White House. It was a hot summer day…the 91° heat was sweltering. The boys felt that it was too hot for socks, and during the game, Calvin Jr got a blood blister on one of his toes. Within a few days, Calvin Jr was not feeling well. He was diagnosed with blood poisoning…specifically a staphylococcus infection that, at the time, was usually treated with mercury. I’m no doctor, and many advances in the prevention and treatment of infections have been made over the years. One of the best ways to prevent a staphylococcus infection is proper hygiene…proper, frequent handwashing, and hygiene…or in this case, washing the toe several times a day. The feet are often a breeding ground for bacteria, because they are constantly in a hot, sweaty shoe.

By July 2, Calvin Jr was limping, running a fever, and had swollen glands in his groin. The blister on his third toe darkened, swelled to the size of a thumbnail, and red lines streaked his legs. This was in the days before antibiotics, and Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin was still four years off. In the words of the attending presidential physician, Calvin Jr was “in trouble.” As Calvin Jr battled sepsis for a week, his father battled despair and really pure panic. It was the kind of agony that only a parent who has lost a child can really understand. Calvin Sr tried to trust that his son was getting “all that medical science” could offer and tried to keep up hope that “he may be better in a few days,” but Calvin Jr passed away at Walter Reed Army General Hospital on July 7, 1924.

President Coolidge and his wife, Grace, were at Calvin Jr’s bedside when he passed, and according to observers, the president’s face resembled “the bleak desolation of cold November rain beating on gray Vermont granite.” Their hearts were broken, and the President often wept, looking out his window where Calvin Jr once played tennis. It was his thought that if he hadn’t been president, his son would have been with them still. He said, “We do not know what would have happened to him under other circumstances, but if I had not been President, he would not have raised a blister on his toe, which resulted in blood poisoning, playing lawn tennis on the South Grounds.”

Starting to live life again after such a horrific loss is never easy, and many people really never make that return to life. Trying to grieve the loss of a child in such a public setting would be excruciating, and I can’t imagine being forced to live that way. Nevertheless, while much of the wind went out of their sails, the Coolidge family did go forward, as their son would have wanted them to. It’s what a family does. John married and had two daughters…Cynthia and Lydia. The daughters gave President two grandsons and a granddaughter. I think Calvin Jr would be pleased to know that they went forward to live a good life.

My niece, Gaby Beach has had a very busy year. Following her graduation from nursing school, Gaby took a job at Wyoming Medical Center, where both she and her husband, Allen Beach now work. Gaby now works in the PCU, which is an area of the hospital for patients who don’t need to be in the ICU, but aren’t quite ready for the care they would get on a regular floor. Gaby really likes her job, and she has been assigned as the charge nurse periodically.

Because they both work at the hospital now, Gaby and Allen decided to buy a house near their work. They had been renting an apartment for Allen’s parents, Caryl and Mike Reed, but the place was far out in the country, and now that they were both working, they felt it was time for a home of their own. They found a great house that wasn’t too far from the hospital, and now they are working on making it their own, and enjoying the time with their dogs, Oly and Jasper. They’ve removed some trees in the back yard that we’re old and growing into power lines. They hope to build a garage in the back yard sometime in the near future, but for now they will most likely settle for a taller privacy fence.

Having school out of the way for now has been really nice for Gaby and Allen, who has a degree in Hospital administration. Gaby’s degree is in nursing, of course, and at some point, down the road, she plans to work toward her bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN), but for now she wants to just relax and enjoy her job and life for a while.

They have plans to go to Disney World in April. They have worked very hard, and a fun break will be awesome for them. I’m sure that after a cold winter, a trip to sunny Florida would be really nice. Gaby and Allen really love to travel, but with Covid, they haven’t been able to do much of that, making this trip to Florida a big deal. Covid has kept everyone closer to home these days, but now it’s time to live a little. I know they will have a great time.

Gaby and Allen first met when they were in the Navy, stationed at the same place. That is also where Gaby became interested in becoming a nurse. Being a Corpsman taught her so much about medicine, and so when she was done with her term of service, she went back to school to become a nurse, and she has become an asset to the hospital. Today is Gaby’s birthday. Happy birthday Gaby!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

It’s hard to believe that my mother-in-law, Joann Schulenberg has been in Heaven for four years now. Her passing took time. Alzheimer’s Disease is a slow killer, in comparison to other diseases. That doesn’t make Alzheimer’s Disease any less devastating, and in fact, it just might be more devastating, because before the end comes, the patient has already lost their memory. Still, if you look for the good in the situation, you might just find that while they may not remember many new things, including who you are, now that you are grown up, they have many old memories that can really enrich your life…if you are willing to listen to their stories.

My mother-in-law often wasn’t sure of our names when we came to visit her, but by the look on her face and the alertness of her posture, you knew that she knew that you belonged to her. Many people place a lot of emphasis on the patient knowing their family’s names, but that is just setting yourself up for sadness. And you miss the recognition that comes without the name. My mother-in-law did so much for so many people…from knitting, to crocheting, to sewing, to cooking, my mother-in-law did a lot for the people around her. She lived a good long life, much of it raising the vegetables and meat for the family. She saw eras of time that people today can’t understand. With depression and recession, boom and bust, mining and agriculture, she had a diverse viewpoint, and that made her, unlike the rest of the people around her knowledgeable in different ways of life.

As her disease progressed, my mother-in-law, lost her recent memories, but she retained the old memories, and she passed them along to her family…often in the funniest ways. One minute you might find yourself telling her what time to get on the school bus, the next you think you have her all figured out when she tells you that they are having dinner at your house…like you aren’t you. When you try to play along, and ask her what the “imaginary you” will be cooking, suddenly she was back and making you feel ridiculous, by saying, “I don’t know, what are you cooking?” I know people consider Alzheimer’s Disease to be a tragic, devastating disease, and I suppose it is, but when people think about how devastating Alzheimer’s is, they are thinking of themselves…what they are missing out on, not thinking about the patient…who won’t remember grief or loss, who gets to become younger in their mind, and who ends up without a care in the world. Attitude is a big part of dealing with Alzheimer’s Disease, and I don’t mean the attitude of the patient, I mean the attitude of the family. It makes all the difference in the world. Four years ago, my mother-in-law left us for Heaven, where her mind is clear again. I am truly happy for her, even though we miss her very much.

Depending on who you talk to, you will hear a variety of thoughts on Christmas, from it being a pagan holiday to it being a Christian holiday, to Jesus being born in the spring…which is interesting to me, because my nephew, Barry Schulenberg celebrated his December 11th birthday on June 11 for a long time so that it wasn’t so close to Christmas…thereby spreading his gift receiving out over the year. Noe a bad idea. Really, my point is that the time of year really doesn’t matter. It is the fact that you are celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior. I don’t think He cares, one way or the other, if we have the date wrong. Birthdays are often celebrated on a day other than the actual day…and Christmas has also been celebrated on a day other than the 25th of December, due to work schedules, illness, and distance.

The point is that Christmas…on whatever day it is celebrated…is the celebrate Jesus’ birth. Our Savior, the Son of God, the Word of the Trinity, took on flesh to become a human and gave up Heaven to come to Earth to die for us, that we might live in Heaven with Him and that we can become the Righteousness of God, even here on Earth. That is the reason we celebrate Jesus, and the reason we always will. People can call Christmas whatever they want to, but those of us who serve the Lord will always know exactly why Christmas is important. They can never take that away from us.

Jesus was the greatest gift God ever gave to the world, and that is why we give gifts to this day It is to remember the greatest gift ever given, because of a love that is beyond anything we can possibly imagine. If you want to really understand the love of your Heavenly, remember how much your parents love you, and then multiply it by infinity. That is the love of God. The Bible says in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting Life.” God is Love, and He gave His Son for us. Praise God, Happy birthday Jesus, and Merry Christmas to all of you.

It’s hard for me to believe that my husband, Bob Schulenberg’s aunt, Linda Cole has been gone now for 5 years. She always seemed to be so full of life, and then suddenly, she was gone. In many ways, Linda quit living…really living when her husband, Bobby Cole passed away May 30, 2014. Bobby was her soulmate, and when they married, it was “until death do they part” and so it was, when Bobby passed away. By that time, their kids had both married and moved away, so I’m sure there was a degree of loneliness too, but it was still a shock to all of us, because we had no idea that her death was so close. Heart attacks are that way though. One minute the victim is fine, and the next they aren’t.

Linda had lived a number of places in her lifetime, but in many ways, I think she liked Winnemucca, Nevada the best. It was small enough to be likeable, but with the gambling industry there was always something to do. Linda and Bobby both worked in a casino, and had an active social life. They had always loved dancing, especially square dancing, and while I don’t know if they had a place to dance in Winnemucca, they did when they were in Kennebec, South Dakota. They also love to pay cards, which might be why they enjoyed the casinos so much. They used to spend hours playing cards with any of the family who came to visit.

Prior to moving to Winnemucca, they had owned a hotel in Kennebec, but in a strange twist of fate, the building was struck by lightning years ago, and actually burned to the ground. I had never known of a building that was destroyed by lightning, but it does happen. With their source of income gone, and Kennebec being the extremely small town it is, there was nothing to do, but to move away. So, they went to Winnemucca, Nevada. It was a huge life change, but one they were excited to make. They enjoyed life in Winnemucca, enjoyed being grandparents, and each other. They had a good life. Today would have been Linda’s 75th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Linda. We love and miss you very much.

For a heart surgeon, there comes a point with a heart, when the diseased part is bad enough that it can’t be fixed. No matter how hard he tries, it is going to take a miracle to save the owner of that heart. That was the place that Dr Christiaan Neethling Barnard was facing in November 1967. His patient, 54-year-old Louis Washkansky was…well, dying, with little hope of survival. Heart transplants weren’t done every day like they are these days, and Barnard had told Mr and Mrs Washkansky that the operation had an 80% chance of success, an assessment which has been criticized as misleading, but by the same token, Mr Washkansky had no chance of survival without the transplant. Then, the opportunity presented itself, in the form of accident victim, Denise Darvall.

The time had come, and on December 3, 1967, Darvall’s heart was transplanted by Dr Bernard into Washkansky. As with any new procedure, there were the inevitable risks, and while Washkansky regained full consciousness and was able to talk easily with his wife, he developed pneumonia eighteen days later and because of his compromised immune system, due largely to the anti-rejection drugs, he died eighteen days later of pneumonia, largely brought on by the anti-rejection drugs that suppressed his immune system. Dr Bernard could have given up, but he did not. His second heart transplant patient, Philip Blaiberg received his new heart in 1968, and while his life after that was not long, he did live another year and a half. Of course, these days, the heart transplant patient has a much better prognosis because of how much medical procedures have improved.

Born in Beaufort West, Cape Province, South Africa, on November 8, 1922, Bernard studied medicine and practiced for several years in his native South Africa. As a young doctor, he experimented on dogs, which I suppose might make some people angry. Nevertheless, Barnard developed a remedy for the infant defect of intestinal atresia. Intestinal atresia refers to a part of the fetal bowel that is not developed, and the intestinal tract becomes partially or completely blocked (bowel obstruction). His technique saved the lives of ten babies in Cape Town and was adopted by surgeons in Britain and the United States.

In 1955, Bernard decided to travel to the United States to further his studies. He was initially assigned further gastrointestinal work by Owen Harding Wangensteen at the University of Minnesota. Then, Bernard was introduced to the heart-lung machine, and was allowed to transfer to the service run by open heart surgery pioneer Walt Lillehei. After his study abroad, he returned to South Africa in 1958. Barnard was appointed head of the Department of Experimental Surgery at the Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town. After a long and successful career, Bernard retired as head of the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery in Cape Town in 1983 after rheumatoid arthritis in his hands ended his surgical career. Still, he could not leave surgery completely alone. He became interested in anti-aging research, and in 1986 his reputation suffered when he promoted Glycel, an expensive “anti-aging” skin cream, whose approval was withdrawn by the United States Food and Drug Administration soon thereafter. During his remaining years, he established the Christiaan Barnard Foundation, which was dedicated to helping underprivileged children throughout the world. He died on September 2, 2001 at the age of 78 in Paphos, Cyprus after an asthma attack.

Modern medicine has come a long way through the advances of a number of people, one of the greatest being Richard Lewisohn. Born July 12, 1875, in Hamburg, Germany, Lewisohn studied medicine at the University of Freiburg, which is still one of the most prestigious medical schools in Europe. He obtained his medical degree in 1899, and in 1906, he immigrated to New York. Lewisohn’s initial interest was in the digestive system (gastroenterology). He began his work at Mount Sinai Hospital, but, it ended up being his work with blood transfusions that made him the medical hero he was.

The blood is a complicated matter, and the study of the blood, or rather the experimentational use of the blood, often ended with tragic, and even fatal results. Of course, much of the problem came from having no understanding, or even any knowledge of blood types. The discovery of blood types didn’t come about until 1901, when Karl Landsteiner discovered that blood consisted of different types. Some types were compatible and could be transfused, leading to healing, but other types coagulated when mixed and would kill you. It was an amazing discovery, but Landsteiner’s discovery did not change medicine overnight. Doctors still faced the the fact that when blood was removed to transfuse into another person, it quickly clotted, making it unusable. That led to a direct method of transfusion, crazy in and of itself, in which doctors would sew the veins and arteries of the donor and the recipient together. Maybe it worked, but it just wasn’t practical. Not only did you have to have a donor with the correct type on hand, but the physician didn’t know how much blood was being pumped into the patient, or out of the donor, for that matter. They needed a way to have blood on hand, and in measurable containers, all without having to deal with spoilage.

In April 1914, a Belgian physician named Albert Hustin, proved that sodium citrate could be used as an anticoagulant in diluted blood. Lewisohn immediately jumped upon this insight and set up detailed experiments using sodium citrate and dog blood. Through Lewisohn’s experiments transfusing dogs, he was able to determine the exact concentration of sodium citrate that was both safe and effective for blood transfusions. He was also able to keep the extracted blood viable for two days prior to transfusion. More study would eventually increase that timeframe up to 14 days.

This was exactly what the world needed…blood could be stored, and made available as needed. Lewisohn’s work led to the storage of blood in blood banks. It is a discovery that is credited with saving over 1 billion lives to date. Lewisohn’s discovery, occurring at the time of World War I, as well as his findings concerning blood storage for transfusions was used as a method to save the lives of wounded soldiers. Use of blood transfusions expanded after the war. By the 1930s Blood Banks became common in cities worldwide, making blood transfusions the most important lifesaving medical advance in history.

In 1955 Lewisohn received the American Association of Blood Banks’ Karl Landsteiner Memorial Award. In January 1959 he became an honorary fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, having been a fellow of the American College of Surgeons since 1916. Lewisohn was also a Fellow of the American Gastroenterological Association, and served on the American Board of Surgery. He passed away (probably of natural causes, but I cannot confirm that) on August 11, 1961 in New York City. He was 86 years old.

In the mid-1800s, it was unheard of for a woman to be a doctor. They were barely allowed to be a nurse, although they were somehow expected to be able to do all the “nursing” duties for their own family. Elizabeth Blackwell was born February 3, 1821 and she was about to change things forever. She first became a physician in England, and then she became the first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States, and the first woman on the Medical Register of the General Medical Council. I’m not a big “women’s libber,” but sometimes women need to decide what they want to do in life, and go for it. Elizabeth Blackwell played an important role in both the United States and the United Kingdom as a social awareness and moral reformer. She promoted education for women in medicine.

Strangely, Blackwell was not interested in a career in medicine at first. In fact, when her schoolteacher brought in a bull’s eye to use as a teaching tool, Blackwell found that she didn’t feel so well. So, initially, she became a schoolteacher in order to support her family. Teaching school was one of the few “acceptable” occupations for women during the 1800s. Unfortunately for her, she hates every minute of teaching, but she found that medicine and medical subjects did interest her.

Her interest in medicine began after a friend fell ill and told her that, if a female doctor had cared for her, she might not have suffered so much. Blackwell decided then and there that she would go to medical school. She began applying to medical schools and immediately found out that there was a prejudice against women students of medicine. In fact, there was no such thing, and the school and other students intended to keep it that way. That prejudice against her gender would persist throughout her career, but it did not stop her.

She was rejected from every medical school she applied to, except Geneva Medical College, currently known as State University of New York Upstate Medical University. Amazingly, her acceptance came after the male students voted for her acceptance. And so it was that in 1847, Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman to attend medical school in the United States. Her inaugural thesis on typhoid fever was published in 1849 in the Buffalo Medical Journal, shortly after she graduated. It was the first medical article ever published that had been written by a woman female student from the United States. In what was considered a perspective that was deemed by the medical community as feminine, the thesis “portrayed a strong sense of empathy and sensitivity to human suffering, as well as strong advocacy for economic and social justice.”

In 1857, Elizabeth Blackwell founded the New York Infirmary for Women and Children with her sister Emily Blackwell, and began giving lectures to female audiences on the importance of educating girls. She also played a significant role during the American Civil War by organizing nurses. Her contributions remain celebrated with the Elizabeth Blackwell Medal, which is awarded annually to a woman who has made significant contribution to the promotion of women in medicine. Blackwell remained active even into her later years. In 1895, she published her autobiography, Pioneer Work in Opening the Medical Profession to Women. It was not very successful, selling less than 500 copies. After this publication, Blackwell slowly relinquished her public reform presence, and spent more time traveling. She visited the United States in 1906 and took her first and last car ride.

While holidaying in Kilmun, Scotland in 1907, Blackwell fell down a flight of stairs, and was left almost completely mentally and physically disabled. On May 31, 1910, she died at her home in Hastings, Sussex, after suffering a stroke that paralyzed half her body. Her ashes were buried in the graveyard of Saint Munn’s Parish Church, Kilmun, and obituaries honoring her appeared in publications such as The Lancet and The British Medical Journal.

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