Albert Sam II, M.D.
Vascular Surgeon

The Vascular Experts

June 11, 2019

On June 11, 65 Y’s Men of Meriden were treated to a PowerPoint Presentation by Dr. Albert Sam, M.D., working at the Middletown office of The Vascular Experts, the largest group of Board-certified vascular surgeons in the nation. And in 45 minutes, he covered the gamut of vascular disease afflicting the human body with emphasis on the lower extremities.

Sam started by noting that the incidence of leg amputation due to blood vessel disease is highest in the deep South and inland from the eastern seaboard; indeed, Louisiana has the highest rate in the country, much of which is related to ethnicity as well as disproportionate rates of diabetes, smoking, hypertension and hyperlipidemia. Comparing arteries to highways, he stated that occlusive arterial disease can lead to catastrophic results, in contrast to venous diseases (such as deep vein thrombosis, varicose veins and venous insufficiency) which rarely lead to life-threatening outcomes.

Early signs of arterial disease include dry atrophic skin on the legs, thickened toenails that do not respond to antifungal treatment and hair loss on the legs and toes; these sometimes progress to muscle atrophy, skin ulcers and gangrene. A patient wants to prevent “Critical Limb Ischemia” which like a marker may foretell a mortality of about 32% within two years. Arterial blockage may be confirmed by ultrasound or with an angiogram (sometimes enhanced by computerized tomography or magnetic resonance imaging). Treatment of a serious blockage may include a bypass graft, endarterectomy or even amputation. For milder forms of stenosis, a balloon angioplasty, placement of a stent or a “coring out” of the blockage may suffice.

Sam also discussed carotid artery blockage and noted that 700,000 strokes annually result in the fourth leading cause of death. Carotid artery stenosis may initially present as a TIA (transient ischemic attack) with symptoms sometimes progressing from facial droop, slurred speech, and visual loss to weakness on one side of the body. Diagnosis with ultrasound or angiogram may lead to medical treatment, stenting of the narrowing, or open surgery.

And abdominal aortic aneurysm (with 200,000 new cases diagnosed annually) has become the tenth leading cause of mortality in men over age 55. With rupture of the aneurysm, survival rate is today less than 5%. Rupture may be averted with insertion of a graft inside the aorta.  

A Different Kind of War Hero - Vietnam 1968
Paul Scollan
Vietnam veteran, retired Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Mental Health, and Y's Men chairman
June 4, 2019

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” With this quote from Irish philosopher Edmund Burke, Paul Scollan, a Vietnam veteran, retired Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Mental Health and club chairman, presented a chilling program to 65 Y’s Men of Meriden on June 4.

This was the story of both the My Lai Massacre by American troops in Vietnam on March 16, 1968 (about two months after the Tet Offensive), and Hugh Thompson, an American helicopter pilot who risked his life to curtail the bloodshed during which 504 unarmed South Vietnam civilians were killed. US Army soldiers were ordered to destroy huts, tunnels and all means of subsistence, and “to shoot anything that moves”. In the ensuing mayhem, some American troops defied direct commands by refusing to take part in the massacre, but others followed orders by rounding up and slaughtering the villagers.

Thompson and his two crew members, flying a light-observation helicopter and after viewing the carnage below, landed several times at considerable risk, placing the helicopter between advancing soldiers and their intended victims to prevent the mass shootings. In one instance, Thompson ordered his crew members (armed with a M-60 machine gun), “Shoot if these bastards open up on me or these people”; he then successfully coaxed 11 terrified villagers out of hiding and stood with them as they were flown out by a circling Huey gunship in two groups.

Hugh Thompson

South Vietnamese women and children in My Lai before being killed

During another moment on that day, Thompson noticed several large groups of bodies but also spotted some survivors in a nearby ditch. After landing once again, a crew member entered the ditch and returned with a bloodied 4 y/o girl, apparently uninjured, who was then flown to safety. After returning to base, Thompson promptly told his superiors about the events he had witnessed that day and the order was issued to cease the operation (and to cancel similar planned operations against other villages).  

Aftermath of the My Lai Massacre

Hiller OH-23 Raven Light-Observation Helicopter

These events at My Lai were promptly reported in writing by Thompson, but little was done. It wasn’t until 18 months later that investigative reporting by the New York Times broke the story to the outside world, inciting outrage and further increasing opposition to the war. Thompson and his crewmates were eventually awarded the Soldier’s Medal some 20 years later for their heroism that day.

Battleship Row on Pearl Harbor Day
Ken White
Y's Men member
May 28, 2019

On Dec. 8, 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt delivered at an emergency joint session of Congress his famous “Pearl Harbor Speech”, whose first line referred to the previous day’s attack on Pearl Harbor as “a date which will live in infamy” (today often incorrectly titled “a day ...”). Within the hour, Congress had declared war on Japan. Addressing 65 Y’s Men of Meriden on May 28, club member Ken White reviewed the history leading up to the attack and the sequence of events occurring on Dec. 7.

Lack of action on important intelligence on both sides heavily factored in the events about to unfold. As early as Jan. 27, 1941, US Ambassador to Japan Joseph Grew warned America that Japan was planning to attack Pearl Harbor, but authorities here did not believe this information was credible, and so no action was taken. On the reverse, the Japanese naval codes had previously been “cracked” so the US military could decipher critical Japanese communications, a situation of which the Japanese were unaware.

White then outlined the location of US battleships and cruisers moored at Ford Island, struck by two waves of aerial attacks launched from six Japanese aircraft carriers (353 aircraft) which succeeded in sinking or damaging all eight battleships (four were sunk); all but the USS Arizona were later raised with six returning to active service. In addition, three cruisers and three destroyers were sunk, and 188 aircraft destroyed, along with the loss of 2,403 Americans killed.

USS Arizona burning

Attack Plan

Two “fortunate” events: firstly, all three American aircraft carriers were out at sea during the attack and so were spared. Secondly, Japanese Commander Nagumo at the last moment decided to abort a third wave of attacks which would have destroyed the American fuel supplies, along with torpedo storage and drydock facilities. Six months later at the Battle of Midway, the Japanese lost four of the six carriers that had participated in the Pearl Harbor attack.

At the conclusion of the presentation, a flurry of questions and informational comments erupted from the audience. It quickly became apparent that there was a substantial body of knowledge of military history among the Y’s Men.

The Current Status of High School Football
Jason Bruenn
Platt H.S. Head Football Coach
May 21, 2019

Speaking to 52 Y’s Men of Meriden on May 21, Jason Bruenn, Head Football Coach at Platt High School, discussed “Where is football today”?  Since graduation from Platt in 1992, Bruenn has been coaching since 1992, eventually being named Platt’s fourth head football coach in 2007; numerous Platt graduates are now playing college football. The rivalry between Maloney and Platt in the Thanksgiving Day Stoddard Bowl is currently tied at 30 wins each with one game tied.  Overall, Platt’s football record is 311 wins to 296 losses, and under Bruenn, 80 wins and 49 losses (62%).  His teams have had four conference titles and five state playoff appearances in 12 years.

Conditioning for football is essential, including twice-daily off-season weightlifting three days per week beginning after the fall season and continuing the entire school year, along with biometrics with personal trainers who help all athletes in the school.  During summer months there are passing leagues, tournaments at Sheehan High School, team summer camps and drills at colleges where college recruiters pay close attention. Additionally, Platt football players perform community service, going to local elementary schools to talk to students, as well as performing clean-up projects at Hubbard Park.

To prepare for games, teams take notes to learn offensive plays, as well as film study several days weekly.  In preparation for games, there are pre-practice walk-throughs, individual drills, dynamic stretching, calisthenics and group drills. During games, TV screens are set at different angles to review plays. 

The hot issue of concussion injuries was then discussed. Bruenn stated that soccer and hockey actually have more concussion problems, yet football gets more media attention. Unlike some schools, Platt has a certified trainer on staff.  During a game, if a player says “I’m dizzy” then he is out of the game.  After a concussion is diagnosed, there is a five-day protocol before the athlete can return to playing football.

Bruenn agrees that future pre-high school football will be “flag” football because young athletes are more susceptible to injury than older players. To avoid injuries during practice at Platt, the former 90 minutes of contact is now only 40 minutes. Football equipment is top-of-the-line with helmets costing $360 each and shoulder pads $350, even though the equipment is much lighter today.