Stories by Erin Miller, Yuki Nakajima and Kwilwa Lee
Laugh it Off
Story by Erin Miller // Photo by Kevin McMillon
Caution: Adults and Kids at Play plaster the windowed walls of Bellingham's Co-op Connection Building - a well-deserved warning if you catch sight of the local laughter yogis.
Loyalists flock to weekly laugher yoga meetings to reap the benefits of a belly laugh - an improved immune system, less stress and better digestion, according to research conducted by laughter-yoga founder Dr. Madan Kataria.
Eighty-year-old Mary Lou Richardson, who leads the group with club co-leaders Mary Jensen and Linda Read, started attending laughter yoga a year and a half ago after Walt, her husband of 58 years, died.
"I just couldn't sleep," Richardson says. "And when I went to that, the very first day I came home and slept 12 hours. Twelve hours and that's all it took, and I thought, this is something I really, really need. And then I just kept going."
Richardson has macular degeneration, a condition that has severely reduced her vision - but you wouldn't know it watching her maneuver through her 100-year-old renovated coal-mining cabin cradling a pot of chicken noodle soup,
"I know I don't look blind and therein lies the problem sometimes," Richardson says.
During the week Richardson guides Columbia Elementary School students in a series of laughter exercises sounding "hahas," "hehes" and "hohos."
"With the children, there is just no holding back," Richardson says. But not all the students are able to laugh with their classmates. "I just told the principal the other day that there are a couple of kids in second or third grade, and they don't laugh. It just breaks my heart there is some stuff going on in these kids lives that is so out of the realm of their experiences."
Richardson attests to the alternative medicine's advantages, and caters the club's philosophy to assisted living and retirement homes to help other senior citizens catch on to the quick cure: laughter. Her own health, vivacity and spirit are a sure testament to smiling in the face of adversity.
Story by Yuki Nakajima // Photo by Jeff Emtman
Robots have already made strides in the 21st century, but soon they might help humans cross the street. John Huddleston, a post-graduate student at Western Washington University, has been designing a robotic guide-dog since March - the creation will be made by Lego.
A member of Bellingham Artificial Intelligence and Robotics Society (BAIRS), Huddleston started making the dog as a hobby project - an exercise in programming rather than robotics. Unlike its flesh-and-blood counterpart, the robotic dog will have a greater capacity to learn, making it easier for humans to "train" and "retrain" the mechanical mutt. The trick is programming instincts real dogs already have. Huddleston says it's difficult to train the robot to understand danger and to know when to stop walking.
Even though Huddleston earned his Master of Science in computer science in 2007, he's taking a basic-level biology class to better understand how animals detect danger - robotics is biologically-inspired, he says.
"There are lots of biological solutions that are pretty optimum," Huddleston says. "Generally when we solve problems, (we) look at biological system to see they solve similar problems."
To learn more about BAIRS, see BAIRS.
A Certified Hero
Story by Kwihwa Lee // Photo by Eric Schmitz
Dr. Marvin A. Wayne's office is undergoing a remodel but the walls are still covered with dozens of certificates because, well, the man is a hero. The American College of Emergency Physicians named Wayne "Hero of Emergency Medicine" this year for his exceptional contributions to emergency medicine and advancements in patient care, says Ron Cunningham, the organization's communication director. But Wayne says the award belongs to EMT paramedics and Emergency Medical Service staff.
Born in 1943, Wayne received a bronze star for valor as a combat surgeon in Vietnam. A physician at the St. Joseph Hospital Emergency Department and an associate clinical professor at the University of Washington, Wayne has been the local EMS medical director since its initiation in 1974. He pioneered an automated external defibrillator at EMS of Bellingham in 1974. He has conducted extensive research in measuring carbon dioxide in cardiac arrest patients to help determine whether patients stand a good chance of survival if medics transport them to the hospital, even with ongoing CPR. Because of Wayne's work, Whatcom Medic One has received a large amount of equipment such as semi-automatic defibrillators, pulse oximeters, end-trial CO2 monitors, anti-shock trousers, and fiber-optic video airway insertion devices, donated by major medical manufacture companies, Bellingham Fire Department Chief Bill Boyd says.
With a taste for sports, Wayne enjoys kayaking, scuba diving, hockey and windsurfing, but he also doesn't mind his job.
"When it stops being fun, I'll stop doing it," he says.