Our Balrog: Cholera

Remember the Balrog from The Lord of the Rings saga?  The giant beast made of fire that Gandalf (then The Grey) warned the fellowship of.  The monster who was the foe of none and whose quest was only one of evil.

Boromir:  What is this new devilry?

Gandalf:  A Balrog.  A demon of the ancient world.  This foe is beyond any of you. RUN!

When I saw that scene it sent shivers down my spine.  With hairs standing on edge and reflexes up I would watch Gandalf and the fellowship run from the Balrog.

Gandalf:  You cannot pass! I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the Flame of Anor. The dark fire will not avail you, Flame of Udun! Go back to the shadow. You shall not pass!

Culminating this harrowing escape was Gandalf facing off with the Balrog, only to fall down the abyss with his antithesis.

How can such a primordial fictional character create such real intrigue?  Maybe we genetically have a fear of ancient enemies, fictional or not.  It makes sense, right?  Our ancient predecessors millions of years ago learned quickly that pissing off a saber tooth tiger was a bad idea.  Those who learned quickly to avoid them and taught their children this trait survived, those who didn’t, well, you can see them at the La Brea Tarpits!

With time this trait was engrained in our genetics and passed on generation to generation.  Millions of years later as I watch The Balrog threatening our fellowship on my couch and 52 inch LCD TV, I still get the same “flight or fight” response my ancestors did – albeit a much more blunted response.  Bottom line, we know our enemies when we see them and Balrog is easy enough to spot.  But how about those that aren’t easy to spot?  Those that need a microscope to find them? {Enter Cholera}

Cholera is a pretty nasty disease.  It causes uncontrollable diarrhea, abdominal pain and cramping, nausea, and vomiting.  With all that dehydration our kidneys shut down, then our brain and finally we die.  The bug that causes cholera is an ancient foe – a bacterium called Vibrio cholera. Having been around for millions of years it has claimed millions if not billions of lives.  It is spread by poor hygiene – fecal contents contaminating our drinking water/food, etc.  We learned quickly that even if we can’t see our foe, drinking water downstream from camp was a bad idea.

For the most part, cholera is a disease that now affects developing countries with not so ideal sanitation and hygiene techniques.  Through education and clean running water we have virtually eradicated this foe from our homes in industrialized nations.  Even though this Balrog does not affect us, it is still out there killing our brothers and sisters in other countries.

Yearly, worldwide close to 5 million people are affected and last year about 130,000 people are thought to have died from cholera.  Most of us have heard that cholera hit Haiti last fall but the numbers of affected and projected numbers dead is being reexamined.  According to the BBC (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-12744929) the projected numbers fall short of the true situation.  We know that from October through December about 150,000 people contracted the disease and about 3,500 have died.  The United Nations originally thought by the end of this year 450,000 people would have been affected by cholera in Haiti.  Now we are learning that this number is a gross underestimate.  As of March 10th 252,640 people have been identified as having cholera and 4,672 have died, already surpassing the trend of the original estimate.

The University of California at San Francisco estimates that by the end of this year, close to 800,000 people will have been infected in Haiti and over 11,000 dead.  That’s 2-4% of the population of Haiti wiped out by this Balrog!

What can we do?  First off you can go to www.DocTipu.com and donate to my upcoming medical trip to Haiti.  Your money will go directly to patient care and providing families with food/shelter and most importantly, clean water.  Next, donate to any of the major organizations working in Haiti such Project Medishare and Red Cross among others:



Do your part in fighting this ancient foe and donate to the individuals and organizations who are leading the fellowship’s quest in sending this Balrog back to Hades and away from Haiti.

Doc Tipu

About Doc Tipu

Doc Tipu is a medical humanitarian and U.S. doctor. Find more information at http://www.DocTipu.org
This entry was posted in Haiti, Health, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Our Balrog: Cholera

  1. Jeff Lee says:

    You make a very good analogy. I never thought of it that way. Cholera is a pretty scary thing. I’m glad you’re writing about these topics. We need more people like you!

  2. Safa says:

    I never thought of Cholera in such a way. But, it is so true! Nicely written! I think it is so wonderful that you will fight such a scary foe in such a poor place. You are amazing!

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