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                                         By Tod H. Mikuriya

                                              Nov. 14, 1961


            You have just received 600 roentgens of total body radiation in less than one day.  One or two hours after exposure you feel nauseated and vomit.  After awhile you recover, feel much better and are able to go about your business except that you feel somewhat weak, restless, and have vague aches and pains.  Seven days after exposure you are sick again.  This time the nausea and vomiting is worse, diarrhea.  At the end of the tenth day after exposure you start to run a fever.  You cannot eat or drink.  At this point you cannot go on anymore.  You must lie down.  By the eighteenth day after exposure you will be dead.  Multiply this sequence times a million.  Perhaps, however you are to be one of the more fortunate.


            You have received 400-500 roentgens of total body radiation in less than one day.  One or two hours later you feel nauseated and vomit.  The same series of events as above takes place except that the second bout of nausea and vomiting with the sore throat and fever will come on about two weeks after your exposure.  Again you will be incapacitated.  This time you may not die.  At about three weeks after exposure you notice your hair coming out in large patches.  About the same time you may vomit up material resembling coffee grounds.  Your feces become black and have the consistency of tar.  You feel weak and tired.  You are bleeding into your stomach and intestines.  Multiply this scene by a few more million.


            Death from acute radiation takes place primarily by two mechanisms.  One mechanism is hemorrhage into the stomach and intestines as the radiation sensitive cells lining these organs die and slough.  The bleeding is encouraged by the destruction of the bone marrow which produces the platelets, a component of the blood necessary in clotting.  The other mechanism is infection.  This same bone marrow that has been destroyed by the radiation ceases to produce white blood cells, our prime barrier against infection.  The pressing horde of bacteria held at bay until now, swarm in to overwhelm the body.


            Treatment of radiation sickness is replacement of blood, fluids and antibiotics.  Blood is given intravenously.  There will, however, be no source of blood.  Blood banks will be non-existent.  Fluids will probably have to be given intravenously as the intestines will be too weak to absorb anything.  But where would one find an intravenous set?  Where would one find antibiotics in the great melee?  Where would one find a band-aid?


            Remember, fifty MILLION humans will have been exposed to varying degrees of lethal and sub lethal doses of radiation.  Centers of communication and supply will have been vaporized.


            Such a situation is outside the realm of our comprehension.  As our car speeds down the road we do not see our bodies scattered, broken, bleeding upon the highway until after the collision.  We continue blithely on our safe emotional premise that IT cannot happen.


            If you want to get away from the polite rational discussions of disarmament may I suggest you attend a small disaster such as this car wreck.  Experience the blood, the torn and outraged flesh, the panic, and the individual tragedies.  Then attempt the gigantic horrible extrapolation.



Student Peace Union

Discussion Bulletin

Vol. 2 No. 1 Fall 1961