Thursday, August 23, 2007

Farewell, Ukraine!



One of my last activities in Kyiv was watching the local Premier League team, Dynamo, play Karpaty (from Lviv). I'm not usually keen to watching soccer, but this game was incredible. The final score was 7-3, with Dynamo clinching its first victory of the season.


I am writing this post from JFK after a long but uneventful flight from Kyiv. It's wonderful to revel in the American-ness of this airport after being abroad for so long. Look, there's a Starbucks! Someone reading US Weekly! Little kids dressed in colorful plastic Crocs! Fat people!

It's lovely.

Since my connection to Norfolk, VA, has been delayed for over an hour (that's JFK for you, I guess), I think now is a good time to update this blog about my last few days of research.

On Monday, after interviewing some liquidators, I walked over to the dosimetry department to undergo a full body radiation scan. It was an interesting experience, to say the least. I had to lay prone in a small, metal-lined room for half an hour. There was a web cam installed inside, which is how I got this picture:



Fortunately, I came out as clean as a whistle. My Cesium-137 level was only 30 (I think the units are Beckrels? It's hard to tell because my form is in Russian). The average healthy Kyiv resident carries a load of about 400. The dosimetrist actually expected to see a much higher reading considering that I had been eating a lot of local produce, but I guess five weeks just isn't enough time to acquire any sort of irradiated dose.

On Tuesday, I arrived at RCRM at 10 AM, hoping to interview a potential Ark worker who was in the hospital for check-in control. I ended up getting more than I bargained for; in addition to an interview, I got to watch the man go through the entire process of becoming an ICARR participant. It went something like this:

Step 1: The worker is offered the ICARR consent form.

Step 2: The worker reads and signs the ICARR consent form. He is given a copy for his records.

Step 3: An official at RCRM prints out a full page of identical bar code labels from her computer. These bar codes are the participant’s unique ID number, and they allow ICARR scientists to identify him anonymously. One of the bar code labels is stuck to the signed consent form.

Step 4: The worker is brought to another room, and scientists take from him what looks like a lot of blood. It ends up being only 40 ml, separated into 4 or 5 test tubes, each of which is labeled with a bar code.

Step 5: The worker is paid his "incentive" of 100 Hryvnas (= 20 USD). He is given a receipt for the exchange, which is stored in a binder along with his consent form.

Step 6: An official at RCRM sits down at a computer and logs on to ICARR’s online information exchange system. She enters the participant’s bar code into the system, along with a few other descriptive data points (male or female, etc). From now on, the worker is officially in the ICARR system, and scientists from the US or Ukraine can use the online data exchange program to enter or retrieve his health data. There are drop-down menus where various medical reports (cardiology, gastroenterology, etc) can be made about him in the future.

Step 7: An official at RCRM takes the participant’s blood samples to a laboratory in the immunology department. There, DNA, plasma, etc. will be extracted.

Step 8: Eventually, the biological materials will be divided into two, with one copy staying in Ukraine and the other being shipped to the US for research.


After witnessing the ICARR procedures, I interviewed four more liquidators and called it a day.

It was bittersweet saying goodbye to my Ukrainian friends and colleagues at RCRM and RTI. This trip has been such an incredible experience, and I will miss Kyiv a lot. But, I’m sure we will all keep in touch, and I am ready to go home and start school again. It’s been a long summer!

I'll leave you with a photo from the Kyiv zoo:


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