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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Risk vs Reward




It was a perfect day in Massachusetts-- for skydiving! Today Tara and I celebrated her graduation from high school by jumping out, as they say, of a "perfectly good airplane" at 14,000 feet. With us was a friend of hers, and her boyfriend, Jeremy, who came along to watch and take photos. On the way up, we realized her friend couldn't buckle up in the car as one of the seat belts was broken. This got me thinking about risk, our perception of risk, and reward.

Most people would never go skydiving. They consider it dangerous, although your chances of dying in a car crash (from not wearing your seat belt) are much higher. Most people are shocked that I love to skydive, and not only that, that I encourage my children to. Tommy went with me last year. My husband will never go. Tara's boyfriend refused to go, though we invtied him this time. Her boyfriend's mother even tried to dissuade her from going! One of my younger brothers told me "Never!" People think we're crazy!

But off we went, eagerly looking forward to it. For us, the rewards outweighed any perceived risk. Our perception of risk often determines our decisions. And things seem riskier 1) if we are not familiar personally with it--most people don't ever skydive, 2) if it is sensational-- and one skydive death makes the news, even while several car accidents will be overlooked, 3) if there is feeling of lack of control. We often "feel" more in control of our cars, and feel less likely to die in them.

This is my fourth jump, and so Tara has seen me go with Tommy and other people, and come back raving about how great it is. So she has some "familiarity."

There are about 3 million jumps in a typical year in the US, and about 30 deaths. This is about one person per 100,000 jumps. One website says "You would have to jump 17 times per year for your risk of dying in a skydiving accident to equal your risk of dying in a car accident if you drive 10,000 miles per year." So odds are good you'll be fine! My family knows that me cooking is riskier-- the odds of the house going up in flames is higher than coming down parachuteless. Hence, I don't cook!

So what's all this got to do with hemophilia? Some people are still very insecure about infusing factor concentrate. We are writing up a big article for the August issue of PEN about recombinant and plasma-derived factor concentrates. There are risks with any medication, and of course we had sensational deaths with hemophilia many years ago. This has made many fearful of products. But all US products are considered safe by the US FDA. My husband used to tell me how these are among the most scrutinized drugs on earth, and that we'd run a higher health risk eating at a fast food restaurant than infusing factor!

Sometimes it all has to do with perception. My perception of skydiving? The rewards far outweigh the risks. I feel the same about factor concentrate, too. Read the August issue of PEN to learn more about safety of our products, and if you ever want to shake up your world, get on the edge, have an adventure, try skydiving!

"Life is a daring adventure, or is is nothing at all." Helen Keller

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