Friday, July 27, 2012


Hey everyone! Good news! I have finally succumbed to my husband's insistence that I Tweet. Yes, I finally have a Twitter account. It is now on this blog. Although many tweets will be about cinematic moments, you will also see postings on all sorts of combinations of anatomical, pathological, artistic, and comic/graphic novel novelties. 

The other news is that I will be taking a bit of a hiatus from extended blogging here while working on a project that will take up much of my time. I'm not going to tell you what it is exactly, but I'm sure you'll be shocked when you read that it is about pathology! 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

LOCKOUT - Bacteria

My cartoonist husband and I saw Lockout --- what a blast! I don't like prison movies as a rule, but I'm going to have to make an exception for prison movies in space from now on! Sure, there were some plot and script problems, but the film was delightfully bombastic and cliched in some witty ways.

There were two extra-entertaining moments in the film. The first, see below, caused me to research wound first aid. I'll talk about that in a moment. The second was when the heroine of the film had to get a needle stuck through her eye in order to inject her brain with something, I forget what. I'm not going into details here, but it was soooo funny! Diet Coke almost came out of my nose, I was laughing so hard! 

This moment was worth the price of admission!
Our heroine, Emilie Warnock (Maggie Grace) has been shot in the thigh. She's got a big ol' gooey wound (thanks to make-up or special effects or whoever is in charge of wound guck!) A prison worker in a lab coat gives her first aid and dresses Emilie's wound through her pants.  

For some reason I was distracted for the rest of the film by the fact that no one cut or tore Emilie's pant leg away from her wound. She has this gun shot wound to the thigh that is oozing but not spurting, as far as I can tell. My instinct is to assume it would be better to tear the fabric away from the wound site, look to make sure there aren't bone fragments sticking out of the area, and then apply a compress. Although I watch EMTs on TV, I am not one. In the moment I wanted the drama of the torn pant leg and I was distracted by the fantasy of a potential compound fracture. But trying to stop bleeding first does seem like best practice, in retrospect.

The last time I was helping someone with a wound while waiting for the EMTs, I pulled a maxi pad out of my purse to use for compression and bleeding control. It was the cleanest, most absorbent thing around. Highly effective. Slightly embarrassing. I now keep an extra pad in my bag, just in case I encounter another head wound (Too much information?) 
Look! It's got "leak lock" protection. That'll come in handy in a gun fight.
Admittedly if you are surrounded by lecherous male (presumably heterosexual) escaped prison convicts you may want to compress the area without baring any female thigh. I bet if someone had slapped a Stay-Free on Emilie's thigh, the sight of feminine hygiene products might have tempered the sexually charged mood. 

Let's say keeping that pant leg on was the best strategy for immediate wound treatment in the field. Once Emilie and her rescuer, Snow (Guy Pearce), got to a prison medical facility, I thought our ex-CIA operative would bare that leg and do some cleaning or some wound assessment while he's busy flirting with Emilie.  Did I mention she happens to be the president's daughter? 
The dressing sort of looks like a maxi pad, doesn't it?
Later I realized that of course Snow is going to keep Emilie's pants on! He's got to get her out of there! if he disrupts the pants which are smashed into the wound by the bullet and then by the dressing, he might rip a clot off and start her bleeding again. Plus there's not really time to meticulously clean the thigh. That would be a bad idea. Better to leave the wound cleaning to a doctor.
Somebody's using the excuse of lifting that tiny syringe
to show off his biceps to the President's daughter!
Is the president's daughter going to die of sepsis if her wound isn't cleaned properly within an 8 hour period(1)? No, she's not, but this gives me an excuse to blog about infection, sepsis, and necrosis.

Glad you asked! It's the presence of harmful bacteria in a wound or the blood stream. An overwhelming number of bacteria in tissues can lead to necrosis (tissue death) caused by toxins excreted by the bacteria, or the cell walls of the bacteria can be toxic in themselves. Infection and necrosis are often accompanied by pus(2). A lot of bacteria can lead to huge amounts of pus, or even worse, gangrene, and/or the bacteria may leave the wound site, get into the person's blood stream, and kill the person(3). Another name for bacteria in the blood is bacteremia. 
Bacteria come in many shapes and sizes...
Yes, even the pants of the President's daughter are going to harbor bacteria. The bullet itself may also have bacteria on it. Once Emilie gets back to Earth she's going to have to go to the doctor to get the caky, clotted blood, fabric, dressing, and microbes cleaned out of that thigh. 

1. I say eight hours because it's a plot point.
2. Pus - a thickened soup of dead tissue, white blood cells, and cellular debris. It comes in shades of whitish, yellowish, and greenish. Sometimes you can smell it! Ick. I've grossed myself out.
3. For an excellent description of infected wound signs and symptoms and their treatment check out the article on Another good first aid description is at

Thursday, May 3, 2012

DEEP BLUE SEA: Hemorrhage


McCallister (Saffron Burrows) extracting brain protein from her super-shark.

One of the super sharks is annoyed at having her brains picked (literally) by Dr. McCallister, or perhaps she doesn't like second-hand smoke. In any case the shark awakens from her tranquilizer-induced slumber (while still in the lab) and bites off Jim Whitlock's hand which happens to be holding a cigarette. Tobacco is more dangerous than we knew!

Jim's arm is off. He is bleeding copiously, which looks great onscreen. His colleague, Janice Higgins, is ineffectually trying to mop up the blood gushing out of what's left of his upper extremity. This team of scientists get Jim in a gurney and rush him into an elevator. 

Janice (Jacqueline McKenzie) does a horrible first aid job for Jim (Stellan Skarsgard).
Nice blood splatters!

In the elevator crazy Dr. McCallister gives Jim a shot of something and then says, "Oh no! He's starting to hemorrhage!" "Starting" too?!?! 

What is hemorrhaging? Bleeding. That's it. Could be inside your body as with a stroke or a bruise, or it could be that you are bleeding out of your body because you scraped a knee or a super-shark bit off your arm. "Starting too..." Haw!

Later in the elevator McCallister expresses concern that she's not doing enough because she's "not that kind of doctor(1)." Russell Franklin (Samuel L. Jackson), the project's investor and the only character with the wherewithal to apply a tourniquet, tells her it's okay. 

1. To be fair, I'm not that kind of a doctor either. Oh wait... I'm not any kind of doctor. But I do know how to apply pressure to profusely bleeding sites on the body.

Monday, April 16, 2012

DEEP BLUE SEA: Alzheimer's Disease 2

For an excellent overview of Alzheimer's disease visit the Alzheimer's Association. Practically everything I talk about here can be found at their site or through their links, or via Merck online.

A brain scan of the super brain of a super shark.

Oh yes! That crazy b---- Dr. McCallister was trying to cure that crazy b---- of a disease, Alzheimer's, by genetically engineering sharks so that they grow larger brains (which makes them intelligent as a "side effect") and thereby making it easier to harvest some unnamed shark brain protein. By bathing "inactive" human brain cells with shark brain protein, they will "reactivate" and voila! Dr. McCallister will "end all that suffering with a single pill." I laughed so hard I scared the cats.

First of all, I don't know how brain cells are "inactive" unless they're dead. So if you reactivate inactive brain cells, does that mean the patient becomes a zombie? Are their clinical tests to determine normal zombie behavior as opposed to the impaired cognition, memory, and altered behaviors of zombies with Alzheimer's?

OMG! I just googled "zombies Alzheimer's" and look what I got! This guy's got imagination!
Hunter S. Zombie's blog links the zombie virus and Alzheimer's disease.

The brain cells in a patient affected by Alzheimer's are not inactivated, but weakened and ultimately destroyed. What causes this brain cell death? Protein! (Thunderclap!) Yes, I am being silly because practically every single structure in your body (cell walls, etc.) are made of proteins. Proteins are your friends, proteins are your enemies. The same goes for shark proteins, perhaps. They can be fickle.

Beta-amyloid plaques cluster around brain cells.

Two different proteins play a role in Alzheimer's disease. Beta-amyloid fragments (from a larger protein of brain cells) start to form plagues (outside the cells) that essentially clog up the synapses between neurons, trigger inflammatory reactions, and lead to cell death, hence McCallister's inactivation. 

A brain cell (top) has tracts made from microtubules (below left),
which lose integrity when tau proteins clump (below right.)

Tau proteins help form tracts (neurofibrillary for you trivia buffs) that transport substances along the branches of the nerve cell. In Alzheimer's the tau structure is abnormal, leading to the tangling of these proteins and destruction of the tracts. The cell can no longer transport nutrients the way it should and will weaken and die.

Russell Franklin (Samuel L. Jackson) won't live long
enough to suffer from Alzheimer's.

The cells our intrepid scientists are experimenting with are imaged as pyramidal cells, which are indeed the cells they should be studying. The only glitch is that these cells seem to have been stained to make them easier to see with a microscope, and they appear pretty healthy, not "inactivated" by Alzheimer's.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

DEEP BLUE SEA: What is Alzheimer's disease?

Deep Blue Sea: the shark's not quite that big.
I have wanted to blog about this film for a long time. Finally I will get this mother of a medical conundrum off my To Do list! Unfortunately most of the events in this film that make me love it have nothing to do with medicine or body sciences. Although, there is a particularly hilarious laugh-out-loud reference to hemorrhaging that will be discussed in a later post. And sure, when Russell Franklin (Samuel L. Jackson) gets chomped we could say the moment is about the body, but you know what I mean.   

What has driven our mad scientist Dr. Susan McCallister (Saffron Burrows) to create a bunch of shark monsters? One of the Four Spectres Of Old Age(1) - Alzheimer's Disease - that's what!

"We are this close to the reactivation of the human brain cell!"
Her father may have had Alzheimer's but Dr. McCallister is CRAZY!

WHAT A B----!
Dr. McCallister has secretly genetically engineered a race of intelligent super-sharks all for love of her father. Here's what she says to Russell Franklin:

"Have you ever known anyone with Alzheimer's?...By the end all (my father) could do was ask why my mother wasn't home. And each time I told him she was dead I had to watch him take that loss like a car wreck!"

This doctor dragged her father through emotional upheaval again and again because he suffered from an organic brain disease. What a nasty thing to do to someone! Advanced Alzheimer's patients have profound memory loss and its likely that her father forgot his grief after each re-experience of it, but c'mon! My father has advanced dementia and my mother is dead and there's NO WAY I'm going to wrench my dad's heart out on a regular schedule. That's just mean! 

Janice Higgins (Jaqueline McKenzie) tells us that sharks never
experience loss of mental function with advanced age.
Is that true? How old does a shark get, anyway?

Oh, yeah... Alzheimer's disease! What is it? Alzheimer's is a degenerative progressive brain disease causing dementia, and emotional and behavioral changes. The disease usually appears in older persons (65 and up) but there is a small percentage of people who develop the disease earlier in life. At this point there is no cure for it, but there are treatments to lessen symptoms to some degree. There are also things a patient and their friends and family can do to cope with the progressive loss of function that occurs. I speak from experience here, not just from reading the Merck Manual. If you have experience with Alzheimer's you know it's a B----!

I say this from experience too - you don't break your father's heart every time he asks about your dead mother and you don't go breeding a bunch of man-eating-super-sharks because you're feeling guilty about your father's disease!

How does Alzheimer's effect the brain (of humans, not sharks)? How can we use monster sharks to cure this disease? Stay tuned...

1. I made up that "Four Spectres Of Old Age" phrase, but I imagine them to be cancer, Parkinson's disease, osteoporosis, and Alzheimer's disease.

Monday, April 2, 2012


Sorry gang. Many of the movies I've been watching lately have been a bit samey and uninspiring regarding any interesting medical context, which is to say NONE. I am sure this will change soon! 

One of my gag cartoons from a performance series called Pathology Laffs!

While not blogging here I've been busy. I finished grad school at Goddard College! Cower in awe before the mighty MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts! Guess what my focus of study was? Yup! The intersection of body sciences with creative practice. This blog was one of my projects, as a matter of fact(1). 

Also, my cartoonist husband, R. Sikoryak, and I have been guest teachers at the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, VT this school year. AND I am writing and drawing a minicomic. I can't help it - EVERYONE is a cartoonist in this town! It will come out this month.

What does the rest of my life have to do with this blog? I've been distracted from The Cinematologist because I'm putting together a blog-serving-as-website documenting what I'm doing when I'm not writing about movies. If you're into body-science-themed cartooning, performance, or needlework (you heard me - needlework) you might want to check it out. You'll see I've been busy(2)...


A cross stitch of my friend Lisa's fetus.
He's even cuter as a baby!

KriotaWelt is still being built. If you didn't see that particular thing that I did that you want to see, I'll get it up there eventually.

1. The academic writing I did about this blog didn't allow for many exclamation points or slang! Sheesh!
2. I went to France, too!

Sunday, September 11, 2011


No worries, Mary Poppins will make Michael bathe sooner than later,
reducing the length of exposure to carcinogens.

When we were last discussing chimney sweeps, Mary Poppins the movie, and scrotal cancer, I mentioned how unpredictable cancer can be. Often cancer develops years after the exposure that mutates and changes cells so that they eventually become cancerous.

That's what happens with scrotal cancer. Boys sent up those 17th and 18th century chimneys were exposed to the carcinogen (soot), later developing the cancer in adulthood(1). If they continued in the profession as men, protection from soot didn't improve just because they kept their clothes on.  English(2) sweeps of the time wore loose clothing that allowed soot to creep into all sorts of bodily crevices.  

According to Disney, loose clothing was no longer worn by chimney sweeps
such as Bert (Dick Van Dyke) and his cohorts.

How did Percival Pott(3) know to associate scrotal cancer with chimney sweeping? It's a very rare form of cancer, but it happened so frequently amongst the profession that the sweeps had a name for it - Soot Wart!


Onset of the warty growths usually occurs between the ages of 20 and 40. Sometimes the sweeps would just cut the "wart" out by themselves, with a knife - ouch! - and hope for the best. Without some kind of attention, the cancer could eventually spread throughout the inner thigh, invade genitals, and eventually enter the pelvic cavity. What a horrible way to die!

According to A Brief History Of Scrotal Cancer, in Pott's day, 1775, the treatment was surgery without anaesthesia, or applications of a poultice containing arsenic (another carcinogen) that would kill the warty tissue and cause the growth to slough off. Oh-my-gosh! I am grossing myself out! 

If a sweep was "as lucky as lucky can be," to quote Bert, he wouldn't have ignored the earliest stages of soot wart, sought medical attention (such as it was), and be lucky enough to be treated by a doctor/surgeon like Pott.

A carcinogenic magical wonderland of rooftops and products of combustion.

So… this winter, as you cozy up to the fire with a carcinogenic bottle of wine, and some popcorn(4), slip Mary Poppins into your DVD player (Netflix doesn’t stream it yet) and think about how lucky you are that you’re not a chimney sweep like Bert.

1. As stated in the last post, although these boys were all exposed to soot, not all of them would develop the cancer.
2. As opposed to German and other European sweeps who wore tighter clothing and had little or no incidence of scrotal cancer.
4. Remind me later to talk about "Popcorn Lung".