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http://www.wattpad.com/27993722-the-fruit-of-the-fallen-chapter-01

Read THE FRUIT OF THE FALLEN on wattpad for free!

https://www.goodreads.com/event/show/928355-feature-celebration-for-the-fruit-of-the-fallen

Mangos, finger bananas, pineapples cubes and fresh papaya scooped out with your fingers and eaten so that the juice dribbles down your chin and hand. What’s culinary protocol when you’re sitting in a canoe six degrees above the equator with a basket of handpicked fruit at your feet and a wriggling fish in your lap that you speared just minutes before? No need to cook him either. I made five slices down his side and the tore his flesh away from his bones, rinsed each morsel in the ocean water and enjoyed the best sushi I’d ever tasted.

This was Ponape, a small island in Micronesia six degrees above the equator north and slightly east of Australia.  If you take a flight to Hawaii from Los Angeles and keep going another three thousand miles you’ll be there. I was in between my second and third years in college taking seven months to be a student missionary. I taught music in a church sponsored elementary school children, which basically meant I played the piano an hour a day while they sang nasal renditions of summer camp favorites. It was a good gig. I was young, in love with a fellow missionary, and fearless. Well, almost.

My roommates and I had decided to go snorkeling in a place where the water was so warm you needed to get out to cool off and so blue that it was made transparent. I could see the colored coral below our canoe and my roommates’ snorkels bobbing up and down and their fins splashing as they motored around.

“I’m going across the channel,” I yelled when a mask appeared. A thumbs up was the response.

The channel looked no wider than maybe a hundred feet, as if I knew what a hundred feet looked like back then. I spat in my goggles to keep them from fogging, rinsed them out, slipped on my flippers and rolled out of the canoe.

Talk about HD clarity. Colors blended with colors- fish and coral, little Nemos peeked out from within their anemones, parrot fish with kissing beaks played chase, some blue, some yellow, some green, and some striped all colors of the tropical rainbow.  Breathtaking. So beautiful.  But I left them behind and swam towards the channel watching the bottom fall away.

When I was half way across I paused to consider how far I had come. Everything seems farther away when you’re in the water, and I thought I must have already come at least a hundred feet. But I was half way. No reason to turn around- except that I couldn’t see the reef ahead. Fearless. I swam on.

The water was not so warm all of a sudden. The bottom had disappeared completely. I couldn’t see the other side nor the reef from where I’d come. I was alone in the open channel feeling small and insignificant. But I wasn’t alone. Oh, no. I was definitely not alone.

From the direction of the open ocean I caught a glimmer moving towards me. I wiped my goggles and peered into the darkness. It was enormous. Then, it …they, were all around me. Hundreds, even thousands of tuna swimming under me and in front of me, behind me. I could reach out and touch them, they were so close. Then they were not close at all. They were scattering.

I’ve scared them, I thought. But it was not me they were afraid of. It was the shark swimming through the open channel directly towards us. I saw him. Black eyes on gray skin. He was big. Six feet? Thirty? I froze. Couldn’t move. My mind told me to swim. My legs froze? I was to be the sushi.

But he did not eat me. He turned and followed the tuna, leaving me alone floating in my own pee. I forced my legs to kick like I never had before until I reached the highest bit of corral I could crawl upon. I yelled for my friends to pick me up. They laughed nervously when I told them what had happened. The locals rolled with laughter when I told my story. They said it was only a reef shark. Not dangerous unless you have a string of fish hanging from your waist, and then a bite is only an accident. But it did not matter.  Reef shark or not, that moment changed me.

Hemochromatosis would have killed me had I not been so persistent with my doctors…

I’ve been really good about keeping my life’s problems to myself, so you probably had no idea how difficult the past five years have been. Typical of most men, I lowered my head and pushed forward stubbornly refusing to reach out for help. I became withdrawn, depressed, overweight, fatigued, and was plagued with a plethora of seemingly unrelated health problems and random pains in my abdomen and chest radiating to my arms and fingertips. I knew something was wrong, very wrong, but my doctors told me I was young and healthy. They asked if I was stressed. I told them, “of course.” They said I needed to lose weight.  I told them, “duh,” and tried to explain how active I was with volleyball, photography, travel, and how I walked my Labrador Retriever regularly. They nodded and smiled.

from cdc.gov

from cdc.gov

My journey has been fraught with doubt and disbelief. No one believed I was sick. I put on a happy face and went on with life feeling a little worse each day. I went to the doctor five years ago complaining of pain in my chest. She ordered the regular tests to check heart and lungs. She also gave me an inhaler and ordered a series of allergy tests. I learned I was allergic to dust mites (who isn’t?) and bought a new mattress, covered it with a special hypo-allergenic case, and filled my rooms with hepa-filters. A year later, I went back complaining of the same pain and also generalized fatigue. I required a nap every day and was sometimes too tired to leave the house. No amount of sleep helped. Still I went to work and continued to coach volleyball several nights a week. I went on with life, trying all the while to hide how bad I felt on a regular basis. I kept telling myself that I would feel better if only I was in better shape. This is what my doctor had said after all.

Another year passed before I changed doctors and presented my symptoms again. By this time I had added fifteen pounds and persistent dark circles under my eyes. On the worst of days, people would actually ask if I had been in a fight, so discolored was my skin. I would wake in the morning and tell myself I needed to change the lights in the bathroom because they were so unflattering. My doctor ordered a sleep study. I spent the night wired up and was told I was had chronic sinusitis and a mild case of sleep apnea. They gave me a c-pap machine to help me breathe at night and prescriptions to help with the sinus issues. Finally, a diagnosis, I thought.

from celticcurs.org

from celticcurse.org

Depression was the next symptom. I found myself withdrawing from my friends, short tempered, stressed, and focusing on negative thoughts. I was becoming more and more frustrated with the fact that there seemed nothing I could do to change the way I was feeling. Here is when I should have reached out for help. But I couldn’t. I wouldn’t. If only I had known that depression was a common symptom of the soon to be diagnosed disease.

Another year came and went and my symptoms increased in severity and frequency. Add shortness of breath, dizziness, and an irregular heartbeat to the mix, and I was sure my heart was the problem. A blocked artery would explain the fatigue, shortness of breath, and sharp pains in my chest and left shoulder. I went to the emergency room and came home with a normal EKG. I was told I was having a panic attack. Then I had an episode in Paris where I was staying for the summer and sought out a British doctor. He said the same as the others – I was healthy, but also suggested that it could be an ulcer. He gave me the equivalent to Nexium to get me through the summer.

from celticcurse.org

from celticcurse.org

Back home, sharp pains in my chest again sent me to the hospital and an x-ray, MRI and ultrasound were ordered. I also had a tube stuck down my nose clear to my stomach (worst test ever) to check my esophagus and then a separate GI endoscopy later. Esophagus negative. Yes on gastritis (pretty common).  Then the ultrasound came back positive. My doctor told me there was sludge or a stone in my gall bladder and suggested I have it removed. I was referred to a surgeon who confirmed the diagnosis. But I wasn’t convinced. A gall stone only explained some of my symptoms. So I tried a holistic approach. For three months I changed my diet and took gall cleansing supplements without any relief. The pain increased. Seeing no other option, I scheduled the surgery and had my gall bladder removed. The sharp pains were gone, but not the shortness of breath, dizziness, fatigue, and heart palpitations.

This is when I asked for a new doctor, my third. He was skeptical when I first saw him, but ordered a slew of tests to pacify my insistent requests. Tubes were filled with blood and sent off to the lab. Weeks later, I visited the doctor again for results and was referred to another specialist because I had an elevated enzyme in my liver which suggested hepatitis. Really? Hepatitis? The specialist asked some very personal questions and ordered another series of tests. Years after my first visit to the doctor, the results were in. No, I did not have hepatitis, but I did test positive for Genetic Hemochromatosis.

What is Genetic Hemochromatosis?

Genetic hemochromatosis is disease which alters the body’s ability to regulate iron absorption. Too much iron is absorbed and stored in the organs and tissues, particularly the skin, heart, liver, pancreas, and joints. The excess iron poisons the organs and causes organ failure if untreated. The excess iron and iron carrying proteins, mainly ferritin, also thickens the blood so that organs have to work harder to process the blood. The potential for stroke is a serious side-effect. In my case, the gall bladder was the first casualty. How lucky I am that it was my gall bladder that failed first. A nurse shared the story of a recent patient who had lost two brothers to hemochromatosis before he had been diagnosed with the disease. The tragedy is that hemochromatosis is a very common genetic disease and is easily treatable. So why is it so often missed?

from runkle-science

from runkle-science

The inherent problem with genetic hemochromatosis is that the disease hides like a cloaked ninja deceiving observers and masking its identity. Symptoms are created by stressed organs, so these organs are treated. The iron continues to increase until the next organ is affected. The patient then goes to the doctor with these symptoms and receives treatment for that organ, not the underlying cause. It is only a matter of time before a critical organ fails.

from yourdiagnosis.com

from yourdiagnosis.com

Treatment for hemochromatosis is simple. The patient goes on a weekly basis for a phlebotomy where blood is withdrawn from the body to (1) dispose of excess iron and ferritin and (2) so the body will use iron to make new blood. It can take months to drop iron and ferritin levels to normal. In my case, ferritin started at 3,700 ng/ml (200-300 ng/ml is normal). After two months, I am at 570 ng/ml. Only one or two more to go! Then, I’ll have to have my blood tested a couple of times a year and repeat the phlebotomy as necessary.

My health has yet to return to normal. The biggest issue I face is the excess weight that I have gained. The good news is I have more energy now and should begin to see the benefits of routine exercise.  I have also found that my personality has been altered by the  illness. I have all the side effects of depression and a type-A personality. I know it will take some time. Seriously! It’s been years in the making – these bad habits and thinking patterns that have come to rule my life. But I have found the silver lining and am making progress.

I hope you will read and share this with your friends and family. Genetic hemochratosis is the most common deadly genetic disease, a silent killer that can lie dormant in your genes and be passed on to your children even if you have no symptoms. And it is so easy to test for if you ask for it. One simple blood test is all it takes.

I am thankful that I was insistent with my doctors that something was wrong. I have been given a second chance on life. God willing I’ll be able to make the most of it!

– J. C. Burnham

Flotsam_Jetsam_Dec_2013

Which stories stand out among the flotsam and jetsam that is wattpad?

I have sifted through the profiles and complied a list of stories I find worthy of your attention. These authors have written words others might have overlooked without having realized their merit. So, I intend to give them their due attention.

These are not professional authors. Their stories might not even be complete. But, I will assure you, they are worth a moment of your time.

Why have these stories been selected? They show promise in one of the five following areas:

Voice – Individuality is timeless. Clichés die young.

Plot – Turn me on my head and spin me until I’m dizzy and giddy.

Artistry – Poetry in prose.

Technique – Some writers just know how to do it right.

Title/Cover – Catch my eye. Draw me in.

DIRECT LINKS TO STORIES:

“Angel of Fire – the Breath of Immortality”

“That Story Untold”

“My Poems”

“Popularity for Dummies”

“Sammuel Pickett”

_

READ NOW FREE ON WATTPAD.COM!

#7 Mystery/Thriller top 1000 list
#12 Paranormal top 1000 list

http://www.wattpad.com/story/9117145-the-fruit-of-the-fallen

Flotsam_Jetsam_Nov_2013

Which stories stand out among the flotsam and jetsam that is wattpad?

I have sifted through the profiles and complied a list of stories I find worthy of your attention. These authors have written words others might have overlooked without having realized their merit. So, I intend to give them their due attention.

These are not professional authors. Their stories might not even be complete. But, I will assure you, they are worth a moment of your time.

Why have these stories been selected? They show promise in one of the five following areas:

Voice – Individuality is timeless. Clichés die young.

Plot – Turn me on my head and spin me until I’m dizzy and giddy.

Artistry – Poetry in prose.

Technique – Some writers just know how to do it right.

Title/Cover – Catch my eye. Draw me in.

DIRECT LINKS TO STORIES:
“june” – http://www.wattpad.com/story/2537470-june
“Naturally Weird” – http://www.wattpad.com/story/8094138-naturally-weird
“The Unexpected” – http://www.wattpad.com/story/9061473-the-unexpected
“I Love You So Much” – http://www.wattpad.com/28663743-i-love-you-so-much
“Unearthly Divinity” – http://www.wattpad.com/story/1385729-unearthly-divinity

http://www.wattpad.com/story/9117145-the-fruit-of-the-fallen

Read ‘The Fruit of the Fallen’ on Wattpad http://wattpad.com/27886030?utm_source=web:reading&utm_medium=twitter

James C. Burnham’s latest short story is now available!

Larry, a depressed blind man working at a suicide hotline, must wait the mandatory ten days before he can buy the gun that will end his life. Little does he know that a thirteen year old child in desperate need of his help is about to change his plans. If only his aim were better…

Read the full story here in The Subtopian Magazine:

http://issuu.com/thesubtopian/docs/subtopian_issue_20

In my experience, Parisians fall into two categories- the nicest, most helpful of all people and the disgruntled, can’t be bothered to acknowledge you American’s who invade our city and have the audacity to assume that I speak English. I am fortunate to have met more of the first than the latter, but what an impression these few curdled individuals make. My first experience being more than ten years ago when I bought a round trip metro ticket that only worked half way. No big deal, really. But it was the attitude of the metro worker that frustrated me to no end. But the most revealing sourpuss I’ve met was an older gentleman in a camera shop just a week ago. I stopped to ask if he knew where the local theater was as online maps and my cell phone application had led me astray. I asked in my best French if he spoke English. I didn’t have to rely upon my limited French to understand his response. It went something like this, “Why do you ask if I speak English. Why don’t you understand French? You come to my country, my city, and…” The rest became incoherent grumbling. To salvage the situation, because I did need his help, I asked in broken French if he knew where the theater was. He pointed down the street and went on about his business. Sigh. Maybe the stereotypes were correct. But I reminded myself of the countless others I had met who had been so kind and helpful. One sour apple would not taint my impression of all Parisians.

And so I sat aside my bitterness and went on about my summer in Paris. It wasn’t until I visited the American Cemetery at Omaha beach in Normandy that I remembered this man. I am not ashamed to admit that I wept openly standing among the white crosses with the invasion beach in clear view. Why are cemeteries so beautiful? How does a place so ugly, where so much pain and suffering once existed, carry the cool summer ocean breeze across green grass as if just created by the breath of god? This is something every American should experience to appreciate our freedom and what so many sacrificed to free the world from certain tyranny. I think this old Parisian must have forgotten what these boys sacrificed for him.

Visiting the Normandy museum in Caen brought to fruition my perspective. I learned of the history of France before and during the occupation. I was astonished how easily Hitler invaded and caught the French armies unprepared. I was even more surprised by politics of some French officials and how these leaders encouraged the propaganda and occupation of the German forces. They just laid down and rolled over, something I found so hard to accept as an American brought up on the fundamentals of courage and perseverance. I learned of how the British defended their island against invasion and stood firm when greatly outnumbered and at a technological disadvantage. Way to go Churchhill!

Then came the Normandy invasion. So many boys. So many lives lost. British. American. Canadian. It is estimated that over four hundred thousand men died establishing a foothold in Northern France. As I walked among the crosses, listened to the names of the soldiers in the white halls of the memorial, watched footage of their struggle on the beach and through the countryside, I thought of what we as a country sacrificed for the French. I thought of what every American still sacrifices. How many precious moments have the grandchildren of these soldier never known? How many birthdays, weddings, graduations, have been less from missing someone who gave his life in Normandy? I remembered my own grandfather who died in his early fifties. He served in the Navy during the war on an aircraft carrier and was wounded during an attack when his platform was shot out from under him. There is still talk in my family that it was shrapnel fragments in his chest that contributed the cancer that took him when I was only nine. I was lucky, though. I had these memorable years to know him, so many more than those whose grandfathers never came home.

Am I bitter? Yes. Am I distraught? Absolutely. I say to this grumpy old Parisian man who questioned my inability to understand French- be thankful that I have chosen to spend my money in your city; be thankful that my grandfather chose to fight for your freedom; be thankful that American’s hold so dear the principle of freedom that we came to your aid and made it possible for you to speak your beloved language and not the German that would have been your legacy.

Here’s an idea. I want to take this grumpy old man and visit the American Cemetery in Normandy. Let him count the number of lives that were forever changed fighting for his country. Then, as long as there is a memory of someone who fought in the war, let him buy a drink for every British, Canadian, and American visitor he has the pleasure of meeting for the rest of his life. This would be a small token to represent that great debt he and his country will never be able to repay.

I’ve never been more proud to be an American than on this day. God bless you veterans and thank you ever so much for your sacrifice!

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