Zipf’s Law comes out of the closet

After two years of writing this blog anonymously, I’m going public. Here’s why.

Feeling crappy today?  Do something to help someone else–you’ll feel sooooo much better!  Here’s one option for doing it.

2015-08-10 15.39.52
In the recovery room with Joyce. I spend a lot of my time there–a challenge, since I’m interpreting for people who are coming out from under anesthesia.

After two years of writing this blog anonymously, I’m going public.  The reason: I’m going to hit you up for money to pay for surgery for people who need it more than you can imagine, and who won’t get it without your help.

My name is Kevin Bretonnel Cohen.  (If you’re French, and you recognize my middle name: yes–they were my uncles.)  51 weeks a year I’m a computational linguist at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, where I teach in the Computational Bioscience Program.  One week a year I am an interpreter in Guatemala, where I work with Surgicorps International.  We are an all-volunteer group of surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, operating room technicians, therapists, and assorted support staff (like me).

There are many volunteer surgical groups like us that travel to spots where medical care is out of the reach of most people and donate their services.  What’s different about us is that we bring with us some uncommon surgical specialties.  One of those is hand surgery.   Hand surgery is a highly specialized area of practice that focuses on restoring function to hands that don’t work, whether from congenital (birth) defects, burn scars, injuries, or any of the other things that can happen to these crucial but surprisingly fragile parts of your body.  The hand is an amazingly complicated organ, and restoring function to a hand with no fingers requires an enormous amount of training—Dr. Kim, our hand surgeon, did fellowships in both orthopedics and plastic surgery.  (In medicine, a fellowship is a period of highly specialized training.  It can last as long as five years—and that’s after four years of college, four years of medical school, and a 3-year residency program.)

Our patients typically have little access to education and few options for a future that doesn’t involve physical labor.  A child who is born with a non-functioning hand or a kid with a burn contracture will have few options to support themselves, and may not just live in poverty themselves, but raise children in poverty.  That’s a lot of suffering…

…and you can do something to prevent it.  Surgicorps pays all costs of the surgeries that we provide–the supplies, the anesthesia, the medications, a hospital room for the patient, a bed for the family member that brought them (often by riding 15 hours in the back of a truck or on a crowded bus), x-rays, lab tests.  Why not donate some money to cover some of that?

I’m not asking you to fund my participation.  Like all Surgicorps members, I don’t just volunteer my time–I buy my plane ticket, pay for my hotel room, meals, etc.  Your money goes to cover the costs of surgeries.   

How much should you give?  The more you give, the better you’ll feel!  🙂  Here are some ideas:

$25: a surgical pack

$100: four surgical packs!

$250: transportation, food, and lodging for a patient and their family during the hospital stay; or, all surgical costs for one patient

If you can’t spare $25: no problem.  Give $10.  That will fund all of the ibuprofen that we send our patients home with for the entire week (and yes, almost all will go home with nothing stronger than ibuprofen).   Don’t have $10?  Give $5.  You will feel better for it–if you don’t, I’ll give you your money back!  Now that I’m not anonymous anymore: you know how to find me!  Here’s how to donate:

No linguistic oddities today, but we’ll get back to our normal discussion of our daily encounters with Zipf’s Law in French and English soon.

5 thoughts on “Zipf’s Law comes out of the closet”

  1. I knew you were an unusual sort of good egg . Nice discovery .
    I’m French but the only Bretonnel I heard of was a famous boxer. This one ?
    I felt a luminous, light and fresh impression during the short day I spent in Boulder a long time ago .
    Be happy in Guatemala . Happy and exhausted, is it possible ?

    Liked by 1 person

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