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26 Antique Pictures Celebrating the Red Cross

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In many ways, the Red Cross is still largely the same as it was throughout the past 150 years, performing blood drives, delivering care packages to prisoners of war, helping victims of natural disasters, and rescuing those injured on the battlefield. In honor of the group’s fantastic work throughout the years, here are some classic pictures of the foundation at work.

All images courtesy of the Library of Congress.

On the Field

The Red Cross started in 1863 with the noble goal to provide medical services to those injured during war, regardless of the victims' affiliations. Since then, they have moved on towards helping victims of all types of disasters, although much of their work has still been dedicated to their original goal.

Clara Barton started the American Red Cross in 1881, and this is probably the first picture of the organization at work, shot in 1898 during the Spanish American War.

By the time WWI rolled around, the group was already large enough to have its own dedicated trains used to treat those injured in battle and to transport them to a hospital.

These weren’t just shabby cargo trains either; for patients that couldn’t survive the trip to the hospital, full-scale operating rooms were available to help maximize the survival rates for those rescued.

Planes were part of the group’s line-up in WWII, but they weren’t always just used out on the battlefield. In 1942, this poor lad was injured on the Corpus Christi naval station, which was so inaccessible by most vehicles that he had to be air-lifted to the nearest hospital.

This man was pinned under wreckage and was fortunate to be saved with the help of a Red Cross unit. Image taken by Alfred T. Palmer in 1941.

Not all field work occurred during the war. These masked volunteers were part of the St. Louis Motorcorps during the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic that took the lives of between 50 and 100 million victims.

Dogs

These days, most dogs enrolled in the Red Cross are therapy dogs, but during the first World War, search and rescue dogs were a vital part of the organization’s field work.

The dogs, equipped with a vest adorned with the foundation’s iconic logo, would be sent out to help track down injury victims like this man.

During the team’s downtime, the pups would also serve as friends and comrades of those assigned to the field.

To be fair, Sandy here wasn’t part of the organization’s search and rescue team, but the adorable pup did live at one of the group’s headquarters and certainly helped raise the spirits of the sick and wounded who spent time there.

Hospitals

Of course, once injury victims were rescued from the field, they had to be brought to a hospital. The Red Cross also maintained many of these facilities, especially during wartime when the majority of staff would likely be enrolled in the war effort.

Aside from physical care, Red Cross nurses were well known for the care and compassion they gave to injured servicemen, even spending holidays with them when they were unable to see their families.

During WWII, the organization trained over 100,000 women to serve as nurse's aides in order to help treat and comfort injured soldiers. This was a particularly valuable position at the time as hospitals around the world were understaffed.

This entire hospital in Australia was built by the US for the support of their troops and staffed by Red Cross workers.

Care Packages

Providing prisoners of war and disaster victims with food and other supplies has been an important part of the group’s work for years and those receiving the packages are certainly happy to get them.

A group of WWI Red Cross girls was carefully preparing care packages for unknown recipients when the photographer captured this image.

By WWII, things had become a lot more streamlined with assembly lines helping to prepare 2,000 packages an hour, tightly banded by these strapping young lads.

These three Belgian prisoners of war locked up in a German camp show just how much they appreciated receiving a Red Cross delivery, containing food, cigarettes and more.

Fundraising

Naturally, paying for the organization’s work isn’t cheap, even with all the volunteers they have. That’s why the Red Cross is always doing fundraising…and they have been since they started.

Booths like this helped attract both volunteers and donations during WWI, making them doubly effective.

Bananas were particularly rare throughout most of the twenties as the most common variety, Gros Michel, was ravaged by Panama disease and the modern varieties we enjoy were not readily available yet. As a result, this banana auction fundraiser held by the Red Cross in 1925 probably raised quite a bit of cash. Of course, the cute little Red Cross baby certainly didn’t hurt either.

Fair booths continued to be utilized in WWII, as seen in this 1942 Russell Lee photograph from the Imperial County Fair.

Celebrities

These days, Jackie Chan, Kristen Bell and Tony Hawk are just a few of the celebrities who actively work to promote the Red Cross, but recruiting celebrities is hardly a new idea for the foundation. Here are a few of their earliest celebrity members.

Perhaps the most famous member of the Red Cross during WWI was the beautiful Princess Mary, seen here with her mother (and grandmother of Queen Elizabeth), Queen Mary.

Just like today, the foundation continued to recruit celebrity members even when there was no major world crisis. In fact, President Coolidge signed up at the start of his presidency in 1923.

The foundation didn’t just attract political icons either: baseball player Christy Mathewson, one of the first five players inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, participated in this fundraising photo opportunity during WWI.

As the film industry started to become a big deal, the Red Cross began asking actors to join their ranks. Here you see silent film and stage actresses Frances Starr and Bijou Fernandez counting money collected at the National Red Cross Pageant in 1917.

In 1938, popular actors Johnnie Davis and Wayne Morris enrolled in the foundation as well.

Blood Drives

As long as blood transfusions have been a regular medical procedure, the Red Cross has been there to collect blood and plasma donations.

Say what you will about prisoners, but they can be a darn patriotic bunch, or at least they were back in 1943. When the Red Cross visited San Quentin to receive blood donations, over 300 men volunteered – more than twice the number the foundation actually had the capacity to take donations from during their visit.

Here’s another shot from the San Quentin blood drive. It was common for the organization to visit prisons and other institutions back then, and as long as they had people willing to donate, they were willing to collect the donations.

While prisoners may or may not be as patriotic as they once were, there’s one group that certainly is – firefighters. Now seventy years later, if America started fighting in another major war, you bet you’d see firefighters, just like this one from New York, donating as much blood as the Red Cross would let them.

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Beyond the Label: How to Pick the Right Medicines For Your Cold and Flu Symptoms
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The average household spends an annual total of $338 on various over-the-counter medicines, with consumers making around 26 pharmacy runs each year, according to 2015 data from the Consumer Healthcare Products Association. To save cash and minimize effort (here's why you'd rather be sleeping), the Cleveland Clinic recommends avoiding certain cold and flu products, and selecting products containing specific active ingredients.

Since medicine labels can be confusing (lots of people likely can’t remember—let alone spell—words like cetirizine, benzocaine, or dextromethorphan), the famous hospital created an interactive infographic to help patients select the right product for them. Click on your symptom, and you’ll see ingredients that have been clinically proven to relieve runny or stuffy noses, fevers, aches, and coughs. Since every medicine is different, you’ll also receive safety tips regarding dosage levels, side effects, and the average duration of effectiveness.

Next time you get sick, keep an eye out for these suggested elements while comparing products at the pharmacy. In the meantime, a few pro tips: To avoid annoying side effects, steer clear of multi-symptom products if you think just one ingredient will do it for you. And while you’re at it, avoid nasal sprays with phenylephrine and cough syrups with guaifenesin, as experts say they may not actually work. Cold and flu season is always annoying—but it shouldn’t be expensive to boot.

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ETH Zurich
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Medicine
This Soft Artificial Heart May One Day Shorten the Heart Transplant List
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ETH Zurich

If the heart in the Functional Materials Laboratory at ETH Zurich University were in a patient in an operating room, its vital signs would not be good. In fact, it would be in heart failure. Thankfully, it's not in a patient—and it's not even real. This heart is made of silicone.

Suspended in a metal frame and connected by tubes to trays of water standing in for blood, the silicone heart pumps water at a beat per second—a serious athlete's resting heart rate—in an approximation of the circulatory system. One valve is leaking, dripping onto the grate below, and the water bins are jerry-rigged with duct tape. If left to finish out its life to the final heartbeat, it would last for about 3000 beats before it ruptured. That's about 30 minutes—not long enough to finish an episode of Grey's Anatomy

Nicolas Cohrs, a bioengineering Ph.D. student from the university, admits that the artificial heart is usually in better shape. The one he holds in his hands—identical to the first—feels like taut but pliable muscle, and is intact and dry. He'd hoped to demonstrate a new and improved version of the heart, but that one is temporarily lost, likely hiding in a box somewhere at the airport in Tallinn, Estonia, where the researchers recently attended a symposium.

Taking place over the past three years, the experimental research is a part of Zurich Heart, a project involving 17 researchers from multiple institutions, including ETH, the University of Zurich, University Hospital of Zurich, and the German Heart Institute in Berlin, which has the largest artificial heart program in Europe.

A BRIDGE TO TRANSPLANT—OR TO DEATH

Heart failure occurs when the heart cannot pump enough blood and oxygen to support the organs; common causes are coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. It's a global pandemic, threatening 26 million people worldwide every year. More than a quarter of them are in the U.S. alone, and the numbers are rising.

It's a life-threatening disease, but depending on the severity of the condition at the time of diagnosis, it's not necessarily an immediate death sentence. About half of the people in the U.S. diagnosed with the disease die within five years. Right now in the U.S., there are nearly 4000 people on the national heart transplant list, but they're a select few; it's estimated that upwards of 100,000 people need a new heart. Worldwide, demand for a new heart greatly outpaces supply, and many people die waiting for one.

That's why Cohrs, co-researcher Anastasios Petrou, and their colleagues are attempting to create an artificial heart modeled after each patient's own heart that would, ideally, last for the rest of a person's life.

Mechanical assistance devices for failing hearts exist, but they have serious limitations. Doctors treating heart failure have two options: a pump placed next to the heart, generally on the left side, that pumps the blood for the heart (what's known as a left ventricular assist device, or LVAD), or a total artificial heart (TAH). There have been a few total artificial hearts over the years, and at least four others are in development right now in Europe and the U.S. But only one currently has FDA approval and CE marking (allowing its use in European Union countries): the SynCardia total artificial heart. It debuted in the early '90s, and since has been implanted in nearly 1600 people worldwide.

While all implants come with side effects, especially when the immune system grows hostile toward a foreign object in the body, a common problem with existing total artificial hearts is that they're composed of hard materials, which can cause blood to clot. Such clots can lead to thrombosis and strokes, so anyone with an artificial heart has to take anticoagulants. In fact, Cohrs tells Mental Floss, patients with some sort of artificial heart implant—either a LVAD or a TAH—die more frequently from a stroke or an infection than they do from the heart condition that led to the implant. Neurological damage and equipment breakdown are risky side effects as well.

These complications mean that total artificial hearts are "bridges"—either to a new heart, or to death. They're designed to extend the life of a critically ill patient long enough to get on (or to the top of) the heart transplant list, or, if they're not a candidate for transplant, to make the last few years of a person's life more functional. A Turkish patient currently holds the record for the longest time living with a SynCardia artificial heart: The implant has been in his chest for five years. Most TAH patients live at least one year, but survival rates drop off after that.

The ETH team set out to make an artificial heart that would be not a bridge, but a true replacement. "When we heard about these problems, we thought about how we can make an artificial heart that doesn't have side effects," he recalls.

USING AN ANCIENT TECHNIQUE TO MAKE A MODERN MARVEL

Using common computer assisted design (CAD) software, they designed an ersatz organ composed of soft material that hews closely to the composition, form, and function of the human heart. "Our working hypothesis is that when you have such a device which mimics the human heart in function and form, you will have less side effects," Cohrs says.

To create a heart, "we take a CT scan of a patient, then put it into a computer file and design the artificial heart around it in close resemblance to the patient's heart, so it always fits inside [the body]," Cohrs says.

But though it's modeled on a patient's heart and looks eerily like one, it's not identical to the real organ. For one thing, it can't move on its own, so the team had to make some modifications. They omitted the upper chambers, called atria, which collect and store blood, but included the lower chambers, called ventricles, which pump blood. In a real heart, the left and right sides are separated by the septum. Here, the team replaced the septum with an expansion chamber that is inflated and deflated with pressurized air. This action mimics heart muscle contractions that push blood from the heart.

The next step was to 3D-print a negative mold of the heart in ABS, a thermoplastic commonly used in 3D printing. It takes about 40 hours on the older-model 3D printers they have in the lab. They then filled this mold with the "heart" material—initially silicone—and let it cure for 36 hours, first at room temperature and then in an oven kept at a low temperature (about 150°F). The next day, they bathed it in a solvent of acetone, which dissolved the mold but left the printed heart alone. This process is essentially lost-wax casting, a technique used virtually unchanged for the past 4000 years to make metal objects, especially bronze. It takes about four days.

The resulting soft heart weighs about 13 ounces—about one-third more than an average adult heart (about 10 ounces). If implanted in a body, it would be sutured to the valves, arteries, and veins that bring blood through the body. Like existing ventricular assist devices and total artificial hearts on the market, it would be powered by a portable pneumatic driver worn externally by the patient.

FROM 3000 TO 1 MILLION HEARTBEATS

In April 2016, they did a feasibility test to see if their silicone organ could pump blood like a real heart. First they incorporated state-of-the-art artificial valves used every day in heart surgeries around the world. These would direct the flow of blood. Then, collaborating with a team of mechanical engineers from ETH, they placed the heart in a hybrid mock circulation machine, which measures and simulates the human cardiovascular system. "You can really measure the relevant data without having to put your heart into an animal," says Cohrs.

Here's what the test looked like.

"Our results were very nice," Cohrs says. "When you look at the pressure waveform in the aorta, it really looked like the pressure waveform from the human heart, so that blood flow is very comparable to the blood flow from a real human heart."

Their results were published earlier this year in the journal Artificial Organs.

But less promising was the number of heartbeats the heart lasted before rupturing under stress. (On repeated tests, the heart always ruptured in the same place: a weak point between the expansion chamber and the left ventricle where the membrane was apparently too thin.) With the average human heart beating 2.5 billion times in a lifetime, 3000 heartbeats wouldn't get a patient far.

But they're making progress. Since then, they've switched the heart material from silicone to a high-tech polymer. The latest version of the heart—one of which was stuck in that box in the Tallinn airport—lasts for 1 million heartbeats. That's an exponential increase from 3000—but it's still only about 10 days' worth of life.

Right now, the heart costs around $400 USD to produce, "but when you want to do it under conditions where you can manufacture a device where it can be implanted into a body, it will be much more expensive," Cohrs says.

The researchers know they're far from having produced an implantable TAH; this soft heart represents a new concept for future artificial heart development that could one day lead to transplant centers using widely available, easy-to-use design software and commercially available 3D-printers to create a personalized heart for each patient. This kind of artificial heart would be not a bridge to transplantation or, in a few short years, death, but one that would take a person through many years of life.

"My personal goal is to have an artificial heart where you don't have side effects and you don't have any heart problems anymore, so it would last pretty much forever," Cohrs says. Well, perhaps not forever: "An artificial heart valve last 15 years at the moment. Maybe something like that."

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