06/18/1984 at 01:00 AM EDT
Summer of '84
Thanks for the picture of Robert Red-ford on your cover (PEOPLE, May 28). He looks as gorgeous now as he did when he was younger. I'm glad I ignored the reviews and went to see The Natural. It was a beautiful, touching movie, and I hope that Redford receives an Oscar.
New York City
The only reason I bought this particular issue was the picture of Robert Red-ford on the cover. It turned out that the only mention of Redford was a few short paragraphs about his new movie. Not very impressive.
In your minds the Springsteen tour may pale next to that of the Jacksons, but I would pay $100 for a nosebleed seat to see Bruce Springsteen before I would pay $1 for a front row seat to see the Jacksons.
Jim Erdman Jr.
Please, do not write, say or even think that any athletes are willingly going to boycott the Olympic Games this summer. These talented men and women are being forbidden to compete by their governments. Outwardly they must dutifully support the policy; inwardly they must all be devastated. They are the true victims—just as our athletes were four years ago—of a bloodless, yet no less dangerous, political war.
Kim D. Headlee
I hope your article about Christopher Vollan, who was born with spina bifida, and his family helps correct some wrong impressions that people may have received about this birth defect because of the Baby Jane Doe case. I am an adult born with spina bifida. The prognosis at birth was that I would probably not survive and that if I did, I would not walk or talk and would be mentally retarded. Until about 18 months ago I walked all the time, usually with braces and crutches but sometimes without. Now I use a wheelchair most of the time; however, I live independently and am employed full-time as an occupational therapist. (I have a bachelor's degree and a year of postgraduate study.) There are many others like me. Although my life hasn't always been easy, it hasn't been all suffering and pain either, and I'm certainly glad that I'm here!
As the mother of a young son with spina bifida, this story hit very close to home. My husband and I went through similar experiences when our son, Cliff, was born. I would like to add that there is a spina bifida association with local chapters across the country, and I have found that being able to talk to other parents and to adults with the condition helps a lot.
Sherrie L. Golzer
Readers can call 800-621-3141 (in Illinois: 312-663-1652) or write to: Spina Bifida Association of America, 343 S. Dearborn Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60604. The association will provide information about the screening described in the letter below.—ED.
What your article did not say is that a blood test is becoming available at some genetics centers around the country that screens for the presence of open neural tube defects such as the spina bifida Christopher suffers from. The AFP (alpha fetoprotein) blood screening is done 16 weeks after the woman's last menstrual period. It is able to detect 80 to 90 percent of such defects. It has an approximately 5 percent error rate (meaning that in approximately 5 percent of cases an elevated value is reported, but no defect is present). The test requires a single tube of the mother's blood, and results are available in three to 10 days. If the test returns an above normal value, it is repeated immediately. If it remains elevated, couples are counseled about the options of ultrasound and amniocentesis. Even if a neural tube defect is diagnosed, the option of proceeding with the pregnancy, with arrangements for specialized neonatal support in the delivery room to maximize the child's potential, is a viable one.
Judythe L. Torrington
Registered Nurse Clinician
Chapel Hill, N.C.
The story of the Vollan baby's affliction holds a lesson for all parents whose children suffer from disease or defect: Don't passively accept a doctor's pronouncement that there is little chance for your child. Our daughter's right arm was paralyzed at birth when the nerves in her shoulder were damaged during a difficult delivery. Not one of the many doctors we consulted gave us hope for her eventual recovery from this condition, called Erb's palsy. Then, quite accidentally, we learned of a plastic surgeon in Norfolk who had successfully corrected Erb's palsy with microsurgery and nerve grafts. The surgery must be performed while the child is still young, and had we not found out about the new procedure when we did, our daughter might have had to face life with a severe disability. Parents, don't allow one doctor's devastating prognosis to paralyze you with despair. Seek out those physicians who work at the cutting edge of their specialties.
Colonial Heights, Va.
Zoo owner John Aspinall once said he looked forward to a nuclear catastrophe because he "would be happy to see three and a half billion humans wiped off the face of the earth." That catastrophe may be around the corner, so I would like to remind Mr. Aspinall that when we go, so do the animals.
Sherman Oaks, Calif.
Picks & Pans
I agree with Ralph Novak's criticisms of the film Firestarter, but I think his remark that Stephen King has become a "monster" was unjustified. King is one of our most gifted writers of horror. I'm still looking under my bed and checking the closets after reading a story called "The Bogeyman" in his collection Night Shift. I do, however, shudder to think what the movie industry may do to the rest of his works.