Shared Stories: A Christmas birth

Dulce Ruelos trained and worked as a doctor in the Philippines before getting married. One December, a patient with triplets prompted an unforgettable Christmas. Shared Stories is a weekly column featuring articles by participants in a writing class at the Norwalk Senior Center. Bonnie Mansell is the instructor for this free class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program. Curated by Carol Kearns

By Dulce Ruelos
The year was 1962. In March I graduated from the College of Medicine at the University of Santo Tomas, a Catholic University.  I took the medical board exam in May.

While waiting for the results of the board exam to be released, I went back to my hometown that was 500 kilometers from Manila. To make my time useful, I went to our town‘s Rural Health Unit (RHU) to gain more insight and experience in actual medical practice.

The Rural Health Unit is staffed by a physician who is the Municipal Health Officer (MHO), a nurse, a midwife, and a sanitary inspector. They are charged with providing basic medical services to the town and village. I was assigned to assist the MHO as she saw and treated all kinds of patients with different kinds of medical conditions.

I had an uncle who was a resident physician at the provincial hospital located at the provincial capital nine kilometers away.  He advised me to leave the RHU and go to the hospital instead.  He felt that the hospital would offer a wider range of medical experience compared to the RHU.

I took his advice and joined the hospital as an extern.  I performed the duties of the resident physician but under strict supervision. The license to practice comes upon successfully passing the board exams.

During this time there were six of us ladies and six men who were all externs.  Upon passing the boards, we would become part of the hospital medical staff as positions became available.  Although we graduated from different medical schools, working together made us close friends, helping one another and having fun times together.

One particular Christmas season, we had an expectant mother who was admitted as an inpatient.  All of us, including the patient, were surprised when she delivered triplets.

She and her husband were very poor farm workers.  It was obvious that they could not afford to provide for the triplets in addition to the five children they already had.  The babies were all underweight but had no medical problems.

Government hospitals often were not adequately funded and medical supplies were often lacking. This time all of us externs decided to raise money for the babies.

They all needed diapers, blankets, clothing feeding bottles, milk formula, and other supplies. We made a list of people in town and gave them notice that we would go Christmas caroling at their homes.  We raised a large sum of money and had fun doing this.

Eventually the parents decided to give up the babies for adoption. One baby was adopted by the hospital pharmacist who was childless.  Other childless couples adopted the other two babies.  

At this time there was a man belonging to a tribe in the nearby mountain province.  He offered to take one of the babies in exchange for a water buffalo.  The father turned down that offer.
This particular Christmas is one I’ll always remember.  We had fun caroling and we helped a needy family.

Alda Sichting

September 13, 1945 - December 12, 2017

Alda Sichting Obit.jpg

Alda Sichting, age 72, passed away unexpectedly while at home on the evening of December 12, 2017. She is survived by her husband Bob, and daughter Cindy.

She was born in Arizona, and grew up in Perris, CA where she raised and showed dairy calves, eventually met her husband Bob and settled in the Downey area. They married in Dec 1964, just celebrating their 53rd Anniversary.

She worked in Real Estate, along with doing the bookkeeping for the family’s business, Industrial Forklifts, until their retirement in 2007.

Alda was active in the community and was President of the Downey Sister Cities Assoc. in 1984 and continuing to be on the board and committees, working tirelessly for over 30 years in furthering their People-to-People program through visitations and fundraisers. She was instrumental in starting the first official Paramedic Program in Guadalajara, Mex, which later became a statewide program, and aided in adding their newest sister city of Roscommon, Ireland.

She was a philanthropist in every sense.  Some of her many accomplishments were being a Commissioner on the Emergency Preparedness Committee for the City of Downey, on the board for the C.H.E.R. Foundation, Southern California College of Chiropractic, Theater for America, American School of X-Ray, and many more.

She had a huge heart and was always willing to help those in need in any way possible. She was strong willed which helped her defy the odds of many health issues over the years. Alda always felt there was more out there for her to do. Her close family and friends were the center of her universe, sharing a tight knit relationship with her husband and daughter, as well as her precious grandsons. She will forever hold a place in all our hearts. Words cannot express how much she’ll be missed.

Her Celebration of Life will be held at Miller Mies Downey Mortuary on Dec 29th at 10:30am.

James O’Neal Crutchfield

March 10, 1928 - December 14, 2017

James O'Neal Crutchfield Obit.jpg

James O’Neal Crutchfield, Sr. was born March 10, 1928 in Bokoshe, Oklahoma to Edward and Velma (Pulliam) Crutchfield and passed away Thursday, December 14, 2017 in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma at the age of 89.

He is survived by his daughter, Debbie Pio and husband Roger of Downey, California, his sons, James “Jim” Crutchfield, Jr and wife Pam of Coweta, Oklahoma and Randy Crutchfield and wife Carrie of Bokoshe, Oklahoma, a daughter-in-law, Carla Crutchfield of Downey, California, eleven grandchildren, Amanda, Jamie, Nicholas, Levi, Melissa, Heather, Amy, James O’Neal, III, Stacy, Tiffany, and Chelsey, fourteen great grandchildren, Carter, Savanna, Isaiah, Sarai, Jeremiah, Benjamin, Rebekah, Luke, McKenzie, Gavin, Haley, Blake O’Neal, Tara, and Vanessa, five sisters, Wanda Riley of Panama, Oklahoma, Shelba McConnell of Brea, California, Barbara Fowler of Brea, California, Beverly Carey of New River, Arizona, and Karla Dill of Owasso, Oklahoma, and one brother, W.T. Crutchfield and wife Glenda of McCurtain, Oklahoma.

O’Neal was preceded in death by his parents, Edward and Velma, his wife, Virginia Pearl Crutchfield, his son, Terry Crutchfield, his sister, Lavada Parker, and his brother, Joe “J.E.” Crutchfield. He was a Navy veteran and he loved his family dearly. Funeral Services were held on Tuesday at the Mallory-Martin Chapel in Spiro, Oklahoma with Reverend Ronald Miller officiating, burial followed at Old Bokoshe Cemetery under the direction of Mallory-Martin Funeral Home. Pallbearers were his sons and grandsons. Please sign O’Neal’s online guest book at

Jerry Leonard Federico

June 27, 1947 - December 7, 2017

Jerry Leonard Federico Obit.jpg

Jerry Leonard Federico, age 70, passed away on Thursday, December 7, 2017, at home in Visalia, California. He was born in Lynwood, California, to James Joseph and Rose Mary (Sala) Federico and was the younger of two boys.

Jerry honorably served in the Army, during the Vietnam War and upon his return home worked as a plumber for more than 35 years.

Jerry loved many things but mostly he loved to have a good time, go fishing and spend time on his boat, he loved to cook and eat, woodworking, he loved to go to yard sales, and to watch football (Go 49ers).

He is survived by his spouse Bobbi (Schnell), daughters Lisa Michele Federico-Thomas, Karyn Marie Federico and Tamara Lynn Federico; granddaughters Madison Taylor Bell, Kaitlyn Elizabeth Thomas and Rebecca May Aspeitia, his brother James Michael Federico and lastly, Duke of Ashland, our dog.

A Memorial Service will be announced at a later date and will take place in Southern California. In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to the Wounded Warrior Project in Jerry’s name.

No farewell words were spoken, no time to say goodbye, you were gone before we knew it, and only God knows why.

DUSD open enrollment begins Jan. 1

DOWNEY – Downey Unified will be conducting its annual Intra-District Open Enrollment (formerly called School of Choice) during the month of January for the upcoming 2018-19 school year. 


Downey parents who reside within the district boundaries and wish to have their student attend a Downey Unified school outside of their attendance area may apply. This enrollment period does not apply for parents of students who reside outside of the district boundaries.

From Jan. 1-31, applications for Intra-District Open Enrollment will be available to pick up at any of the 20 Downey Unified schools and the district office, or can be filled out and submitted online at

New students (including kindergarteners) entering a Downey Unified school for the first time, and wishing to apply, must also register at their school of residence. This will guarantee registration in the District for the new school year.

Handwritten applications must be submitted in person to the Student Services office at the Downey Unified School District by the closing deadline of Jan. 31, at 4 p.m.

Applications are not processed on a first-come basis. A random, unbiased lottery will be held to place students on an Intra-District Open Enrollment permit waiting list for the upcoming school year. 

Schools may accept students from the established waiting lists according to priority, only if space is available.

For additional Information and questions, call the Student Services Office at (562) 469-6550.  

Lupita Infante to perform at Ferias Legales holiday party

DOWNEY -- Lupita Infante will be performing at the Ferias Legales holiday party taking place Thursday, Dec. 21, in Downey's Mi Cielo Restaurant and Rooftop Lounge.

Lupita Infante.jpg

Lupita, a Downey native, is the granddaughter of legendary "Golden Era" Mexican star, Pedro Infante, and the daughter of Pedro Infante, Jr., himself a famous singer and movie star.  

Lupita's televised rendition of "Recuerdame" from the hit movie, "Coco," was critically acclaimed. Her last album, self-titled "Lupita Infante," found success as an artistic expression of her musical upbringing, paying tribute to her grandfather Pedro Infante, and her father Pedro Infante Torrentera, with songs like “Cien Años” and “Padre Mío Amigo Mío”, accompanied by Mexico’s traditional mariachi sounds.  

Currently, Lupita is recording songs for her next album, which is expected to be released soon. 
About Ferias Legales
Ferias Legales (Spanish for “Legal Fairs”) was founded in May 2016 by a group of individuals who, though from different fields, nonetheless agreed that a void existed in the delivery of legal resources to underserved communities.

Ferias Legales Director Maria Torres, who holds a master’s degree in Psychology and worked in a legal non-profit for over 10 years, explained the beginning of Ferias Legales as “a combination of people from multiple disciplines with one goal in mind: To deliver services to the community.”
The services have centered on legal resources, though access to mental health services has been incorporated into its programming. Although the organization is relatively young, Torres chooses to focus on its accomplishments.

“Yes, we were established in May of 2016, but in that time we have delivered services to underserved communities from Lancaster in the outer reaches of L.A. County to deportees at the U.S.-Mexican Border," she said. "It is precisely because of the dedication of our Ferias Legales volunteers that we have assisted over 10,000 people.  We are extremely proud of that.”
Ferias Legales programming includes legal fairs, panels, workshops, clinics, expungement clinics, citizenship fairs, DACA Q&A sessions, and policy discussions.

Additionally, Ferias Legales recently launched a partnership with Rio Hondo College’s Pathway to Law School Program that includes a mentorship program that pairs judges and attorneys with students; an internship program that exposes students to various different areas of law; a Mock Trial team of volunteer attorneys who provide feedback to students; a Speaker Series that enables students to listen to the journeys of our guest speakers; and a Court Visitation Program where students visit courtrooms and observe real legal proceedings and speak with prosecutors, defense attorneys, court personnel, and judges (who invite the students to speak privately in their chambers).  

As a result of their partnership, Ferias Legales will be awarding its inaugural “Inspiring Diversity Award” to the Pathway to Law School Program. 
The holiday party is scheduled for Thursday from 6-10 p.m. at Mi Cielo Restaurant and Rooftop Lounge in Downey.  Tickets are available for purchase for $25 at the door.

For more information about Ferias Legales or the event, contact Ferias Legales Director Maria Torres at 

Warren High wrestlers finish in top 8 at Beach Bash tournament

DOWNEY -- The Warren High School wrestling team competed in the Edison High School Beach Bash Dec. 8-9. The Bears finished in ninth place overall with 123 points and had nine wrestlers place in the top eight of their respective weight classes.

Fountain Valley was the tournament champion with 192 points. Host school Edison finished in second place with 177 points, San Clemente finished in third place with 171 points and Coalinga finished in fourth place with 170 points, respectively.

Mayfair finished in fifth place with 165.5 points, South Hills finished in sixth place with 151.5 points, Cypress finished in seventh place with 143 points and Santa Fe finished in eighth place with 128 points to round out the top eight finishers.

Warren’s Carlos Vasquez (106) defeated La Serna’s Caleb Garcia via pin at 32 seconds to place fifth. The Bears’ Joshua Mariscal (106) was defeated by Jack Garcia of San Clemente and placed eighth. Salvador Alvarez (113) placed fifth after defeating Matthew Reyes of South Hills 7-6 and Joshua Mendoza (126) was defeated by Joel Peterson of Woodbridge to place fourth.

Matthew Lopez (132) defeated Isaiah Godinez of Bonita 2-1 to finish fifth and Alan Elizalde (138) defeated Luis Caprini of Fountain Valley 7-2 to finish seventh. Allan Dillon (145) was defeated by Max Tait of Northwood 4-2 and finished sixth.

Carlos Durazo (160) was defeated by Joshua Bustamante of La Serna 6-2 to finish fourth and Naethan Guerrero (182) was defeated by Scott Martell of Huntington Beach 6-1 and finished eighth. 

Coach Brogden said he is proud of how well his team wrestled at Edison’s Beach Bash and is looking forward to the start of San Gabriel Valley League competition.    


DOWNEY WRESTLING: The Downey High School wrestling team competed in the La Costa Canyon Classic Tournament Dec. 8-9, finishing in seventh place overall with a total of 142 points. Downey narrowly missed sixth place by a point and a half to La Costa Canyon. 

Rancho Bernardo finished in first place with 194.5 points, Brawley finished in second place with 171.5 points and Cherokee Trail finished in third place with 160 points, respectively. 

San Marcos finished in fourth place with 149 points, Santa Ana finished in fifth place with 145.5 points and host school La Costa Canyon finished in sixth place with 143.5 points to round out the top six finishers. There were over 50 schools represented at this tournament and some of last year’s state qualifiers were competing in it. 

Downey had four wrestlers place in the top eight of their individual weight classes. Returning state champion Jonathan Prata (5-0) placed first at 113 pounds, Dylan Ajtun (4-2) placed fourth at 120 pounds, Roland Dominguez (5-1) placed third at 126 pounds and Adrian Guerra (5-1) placed third at 220 pounds. 

Coach Soto is proud of his team and how well they competed at La Costa Canyon. It was certainly a competitive tournament with so many schools represented. 

Downey hosted its own tournament last weekend and those results will be made available in next week’s Patriot.                  

PIUS BOYS BASKETBALL: The St. Pius X-St. Matthias Academy High School boys’ basketball team currently has an overall record of 4-2 and will begin Santa Fe League play when they travel to Mary Star of the Sea of San Pedro on Jan. 10. 

The Warriors recently competed in the 14th Annual Husky Classic at Fairmont Prep and finished with a record of 2-2. St. Pius X-St. Matthias Academy defeated Cabrillo 64-57 in their first game on 12/4, was defeated by Upland 68-37 on 12/5 in their second game, was defeated by Diamond Bar 80-47 on 12/7 in their third game and defeated San Pedro 53-41 on 12/9 in their fourth and final game.

The Warriors defeated Animo Watts 80-11 on 12/13 and defeated Hawthorne 66-32 on 12/15. St. Pius X-St. Matthias Academy will be competing in the Dwan Hurt Holiday Classic Tournament at Serra High School December 20-23. The Warriors are scheduled to play Peninsula in their first game on December 20th and their opponents will be determined based on the results of their games as they progress in the tournament.

The Warriors finished last season with an overall record of 0-18 and a Santa Fe League record of 0-10. This year’s team is much improved and has already surpassed last year’s win total.

PIUS GIRLS BASKETBALL: The St. Pius X-St. Matthias Academy High School girls’ basketball team currently has an overall record of 4-5 and will begin Santa Fe League play when they travel to St. Bernard’s of Playa del Rey on Jan. 9. 

The Lady Warriors competed in the 40th Annual Downey Classic Tournament November 24-29 and finished with a record of 1-3. St. Pius X-St. Matthias Academy was defeated by Torrance 41-20 on 11/24 in their first game, was defeated by Cerritos 57-23 on 11/27 in their second game, was defeated by Nogales 43-18 on 11/28 in their third game and defeated Compton Centennial 54-32 on 11/29 in their fourth and final game.

The Lady Warriors also competed in the Webb Tournament in Claremont December 5-9 and finished with a record of 2-2. St. Pius X-St. Matthias Academy defeated the Webb Schools 45-30 on 12/5 in their first game, was defeated by Pilibos 39-34 on 12/7 in their second game, was defeated by Woodcrest Christian 35-31 on 12/8 in their third game and defeated Gary 47-29 on 12/9 in their fourth and final game. The Lady Warriors defeated Animo Watts 68-14 on 12/13 at St. Pius X-St. Matthias Academy.

The Lady Warriors will also compete in the Mayfair Tournament over Christmas Break. St. Pius X-St. Matthias Academy is scheduled to play Santa Monica on 12/20 in their first game, Corona on 12/21 in their second game, Torrance on 12/22 in their third game and a to be determined opponent on 12/23 in their fourth and final game.

The Lady Warriors finished last season with an overall record of 4-22 and a Santa Fe League record of 1-9. 

Paging Dr. Frischer: Hand Washing

I recently addressed a class of 6th graders on the topics of germs and hygiene. As you can imagine, we spent much of the time discussing the importance of hand washing, which in turn led to the subjects of soap, water, and antibacterial cleaners. What’s new in the scientific literature?


Hygiene plays a significant role in how frequently we get sick. The data is rather depressing regarding hand washing after using a public toilet. Studies show that women are better at it than are men: roughly 62% of women wash after using the bathroom, while only 40% of men do. Even worse, only 5% of all people wash correctly. I’ll get back to that.

A recent study out of the University of Maryland looked at hand sanitizers vs. soap and water. The hands of participants were deliberately exposed to E. coli. Then, one of the following was used for cleansing: alcohol-based hand sanitizer, non-alcohol based hand sanitizer, plain bar soap, or liquid antibacterial soap. Twenty seconds were counted out for each washing (note
that most people spend five seconds with their hands underwater – if they wash at all).

The results? Alcohol-based hand sanitizers worked better than those without alcohol. Antibacterial soap worked only slightly better than regular soap. Washing with soap and water is the first choice, however, especially if the dirt on your hands is visible. Sanitizers do not actually remove the dirt. However, hand sanitizers are indeed more effective than soap and water in eliminating germs.

The bottom line is that technique is actually more important than which product is used.

Just to make it more complex, however, note that the *overuse* of hand sanitizers and antibacterial soap is not a good thing, as not all germs are bad - many are protective.  The overuse of antibacterial products can encourage bacterial resistance, making it more difficult to fight the harmful germs when we really need to.

To properly wash hands with soap and water:

■ Wet the hands with running water (the temperature makes little difference), and add soap.

■ Rub the hands together, making a soapy lather. Wash the fronts and backs of the hands, between the fingers, under the nails, and around the wrists *for at least 20 seconds (the “ABC” song, or two rounds of “Happy Birthday”).

■ Rinse the hands well under running water.

■ Dry the hands thoroughly with a clean towel or air dryer.

■ Turn off the water with a clean paper towel or an elbow.

Soap and water are not always available or convenient. To properly use hand

■ Apply the hand sanitizer to the palm of one hand

■ Rub the hands together, spreading it over all surfaces of the hands and fingers until dry.

Always wash hands before preparing food or eating, treating wounds, dispensing medicine, caring for a sick person, inserting contact lenses, or touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Wash your hands after using the toilet, preparing food (particularly raw meats), changing a diaper, touching an animal, blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing into your hands, treating wounds or caring for the sick, handling garbage, household or garden chemicals, handling dirty towels, or shaking hands with others.

My talk to the 6th grade class was a good reminder to me and to the parents in attendance, as well as to my target audience. Germs are all around us. Some of the germs can cause illness. Please pay attention to your cleansing routine.

Until your hands are truly clean, keep them away from your eyes, nose and mouth…and from everyone else.

Letter to the Editor: Ideas for Cristina Garcia

Dear Editor:

I just received a brochure from Assemblymember Cristina Garcia. It informed her constituents that our state government has now passed AB617 to improve air quality and to address pollution in cap and trade.

I’d like to know how much money has been spent on air quality in the past several years. This bill has appropriated $300 million, with more to come.

Then AB 1132 gives air pollution control to districts, which can require a facility to cease operations until a full hearing can be held. Let’s not forget pending negotiations will cost California citizens $2 million for conversion of a vacant lot, located on the boundaries of Commerce and Bel Gardens, into a park. Then $226,000 to fund transportation for school groups to the ocean.

I was 16 years old before I saw the ocean, and there are millions of children in the U.S. who either haven’t seen it or will never see it. Is there any other spending you can think of to extract money from California citizens?

Each year, Assemblymember Garcia wants to know if anyone has an idea for a new law. Can you think of a law that might cut taxes on this highly over-taxed state? Maybe make a new law saying that State Legislatures and government will not try to take away Proposition 13. Make a new law that will require Californians to obey federal laws.

While we’re at it, make a law that all government officials will obey the Constitution of California – that being Article 3, Section 6 of the Constitution, which every state official swore to do. Or maybe let us vote on whether we want a sanctuary state to protect illegal criminals. Maybe make a law to cut the outrageous tax on gasoline. Enough is enough already.

When these laws have passed, maybe I could think of a few more.

Elsa Van Leuven


Letter to the Editor: Garcetti versus Trump

Dear Editor:

The Trump Administration repeatedly threatens to withhold federal money from cities that don’t cooperate with immigration policy.

Then L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti stated that L.A. is a sanctuary city on TV, challenging the Trump administration. Now L.A. wants 3.1 million in federal funding. They said no.

Eric Garcetti has to learn that you don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

Mike Sandoval

Shared Stories: Love for a fish

Many of us have won a goldfish at a carnival game, and we do our best to take care of these beautiful, delicate creatures.  Yolanda Reyna recounts a touching story when one of these fish became her son’s first pet.  Shared Stories is a weekly column featuring articles by participants in a writing class at the Norwalk Senior Center. Bonnie Mansell is the instructor for this free class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program. Curated by Carol Kearns.

By Yolanda Reyna

Robert (my ex-husband) adjusted to life without his dog Max. After our children Reina and Li’l Robert, we had our third child, a son, Daniel. 

It had been 11 years since Max had been taken away. We all seemed to be doing fine without any pets in our lives. 

Although, when Daniel turned ten years old, he was becoming curious about animals. I can recall him watching his favorite cartoon shows, such as “Little Bear” or “Franklin.” Franklin was a cartoon show about a turtle and his family. And, no, Daniel wasn’t curious about a bear or a turtle, thank God!  Well, a turtle would have been ok!  As time went on he would often ask if he could have a puppy, and of course, I’d say NO!

One day my children and I attended a harvest festival at their elementary school. It was a lot of fun. There were games, prizes, food, and music. Daniel had played a “Toss a ring-around a bottle” game, and he’d won! 

He won a goldfish! It looked so cute in the little bag filled with water (floating around with such little space).  It was a bold orange color.  Although, I thought it looked a little blue with its mouth drooping, giving that sad expression. 

When we took it home, we found a small bowl to place it in temporarily. Daniel had a responsibility to care for his first pet fish.  The next day he and I went to the local pet store to purchase a fishbowl and some fish food. 

Every day, before Daniel ate breakfast and dinner, he’d feed his fish without being told.  I had placed the fishbowl in the kitchen where Daniel had a good clear view of the fish.  He had so much love for it.  He was showing a lot of responsibility for a ten-year-old boy.  

He’d feed the fish, watch it as it would eat, and off to school he’d go!  Sometimes, he’d just stand there tapping his little finger on the bowl.  But I had the responsibility of changing the water. That was day after day. 

Occasionally, his father, big Robert (my ex-husband) would feed the fish, not realizing it had been fed. I’d say to him, “Daniel fed the fish this morning.”

“Oh,” he’d say.

Also, I’d catch Reina and Li’l Robert feeding the fish too, and I’d say to them, “Your dad fed the fish already!”

“Ahhhh! we want to feed the fish!” they’d say.    

 At times I found myself feeding the fish, thinking it hadn’t been fed!  Even as a mother, I worry about a fish!  It seemed we all had the same love for Daniel’s fish as he did! 

One evening, as dinner was being served, Daniel raced to the kitchen to feed his fish. Surprisingly, the fish was not in the fishbowl! 

Daniel said, “Mommy, where’s my fish?” 

I looked. I said, “I don’t know!”  It was a mystery.  We looked around and the fish was nowhere in sight! 

“Well,” I said, “it couldn’t have just got up and walked away,” or more like, “It couldn’t have just jumped out of the bowl!” 

But apparently, it did! 

I noticed it lying on the floor, lifeless, underneath Daniel’s chair in the kitchen!  Not even a flap from its fin.  

As my eyes set on the fish, I said to Daniel, “There it is!” 

My God, what happened? I asked myself.  Daniel and I looked at each other in disbelief!  Either someone took the fish out or it just jumped out itself!  There was no explanation. 

The only answer I had for my son was, “Daniel, your fish wanted to be near you when you sat at your chair.”

That seemed to have pleased Daniel, being that he was only ten years old or maybe he thought his mommy was just plain crazy!  Funny, if it did jump, which it had to have, it leaped right underneath Daniel’s chair.

When I told his father, brother, and sister what had happened, they were sad to hear the news. We realized we had all been feeding the fish without each other’s knowledge.  It just seemed the fish was being overfed and jumped out of the bowl, or it just jumped out to escape it’s living conditions.

Whatever the reason was, we will never know.  It was probably screaming, “Stop Feeding Me!” Rest assured, we did have a proper burial with respect to Daniel.

In the end, knowing how much my son showed love and care for his first pet fish allowed me and the rest of the family to show love and care too!

Paging Dr. Frischer: Bug bites


This has been a banner year for insect bites, and I’ve been hearing many more complaints from patients. It’s likely that our last long wet winter, followed by warm weather, is responsible. 
Which insects are causing the problem, and what can we do about it?

■ Mosquitoes are the most common source of bites. In fact, there is a new invasive and aggressive species found here in Southern California called Aedes aegypti, They are black with white stripes, and don’t behave like typical mosquitoes. They will aggressively follow their victim, and bite during daytime hours, unlike the typical dusk biting behavior of most other mosquitoes. 

For the most part, mosquitoes are found near standing water, even very small quantities of water, where they breed. Their bites cause local pain, itching, swelling and redness. Typically, within 20 minutes there is an itchy bump. It peaks within two to three days, and then goes away. 

Some people, particularly young children and highly allergic people, can develop dramatic swelling surrounding the bite, and even a low-grade fever (often mistaken for cellulitis). 
Mosquitoes pose an additional problem; they can transmit serious diseases. Locally, there have been cases of West Nile virus, St. Louis encephalitis, and Zika virus. Worldwide, they also transmit malaria, yellow fever, dengue fever, La Crosse encephalitis, and chikungunya virus.

■  Spider bites pose a variety of problems, depending on the variety of the spider. Symptoms of bites can include itching, rash, bite site and muscle pain, sweating, trouble breathing, headaches, nausea and vomiting, fevers, chills, anxiety, restlessness, and even high blood pressure. 

Venomous spiders found in the United States include the black widow, brown recluse, and hobo. Although they are especially dangerous to those who work outdoors, we all know that they do occasionally find their way inside. 

Stay calm, wash the skin with soap and water, apply cold water or ice, elevate the bite, attempt to identify the type of spider, and see your doctor if necessary.

■ Ticks can transmit several infectious diseases, including Lyme disease (which is rarely seen in California).

■ Flea bites are usually only a nuisance. It’s possible for the site to become infected, though, by scratching that annoying itch!

■ Houseflies can’t actually bite. They can, however, transmit intestinal infections in conditions where the water and general hygiene are poor.

Some insects can cause a general (systemic) allergic reaction. These are uncommon but can be caused by mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, blackflies, deerflies, louse flies, horseflies, centipedes, kissing bugs, and notably…by the sting of a bee. 

The most serious (but rare) generalized allergic reaction is anaphylaxis, with hives, wheezing, vomiting, low blood pressure, and even loss of consciousness. Anaphylaxis needs immediate treatment with epinephrine. Anyone with a history of anaphylaxis should see an allergist for further education and evaluation, and carry an epinephrine autoinjector.

How much trouble should we go to in order to prevent insect bites? It depends on how significant the risk is. If we travel to a foreign country where a mosquito bite can lead to malaria, then it is critical to protect ourselves. 

Strong chemical products (like DEET and Permethrin) are very effective. However, milder insect repellents may be enough in areas with lower levels of disease. Botanical oils, including sandalwood, geranium, and soybean, have been used to repel mosquitoes and ticks. However, they aren’t nearly as effective as DEET or permethrin.

Of course, for those simple insect bites, treatment focuses on the relief of symptoms. Wash the area with soap and water. Reduce any local swelling with ice or a cold pack. Reduce any itching with a topical cream (containing calamine, steroids, or pramoxine), or an oral medicine (products like Claritin or Dimetapp can help during the day, and an antihistamine like Benadryl can help at night).

Whether at home or away, know your risks, and take measures as needed to protect yourself.
Dr. Alan Frischer is
former chief of staff and former chief of medicine at Downey Regional Medical Center. Write to him in care of this newspaper at 8301 E. Florence Ave., Suite 100, Downey, CA 90240.