A story has been making the rounds recently about a number of sailors on the USS Ronald Reagan who are suing the US Navy and TEPCO for symptoms they claim are related to exposure to nuclear radiation on board the ship. The Reagan did not land in Japan at the time of the tsunami or the ensuing problems at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. However, it did participate in the transfer of relief supplies, a mission which resulted in the Reagan spending several weeks in an area about one hundred miles away from the crippled reactors.
Maryland sailor blames Fukushima for radiation poisoning
WASHINGTON (WUSA9) — He served his country, but has his country turned its back on him? A Maryland sailor says he’s now wheelchair-bound, and he blames it on radiation he was exposed to while representing his country at what’s been called the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.
Steve Simmons spoke to WUSA9′s Debra Alfarone exclusively.
Simmons never needed any help getting out on the golf course, “Even if it is a bad shot, I’m still happy.”
Golf, hiking, he’s always been the guy that never stops, “I love P90X, in fact after I did P90X, I also ordered the insanity workout.”
Until November 2011.
Steve was 33. That’s when life started changing for this U.S. Naval Administrative Officer. It was eight months after Simmons served on the USS Ronald Reagan when it was the first ship to respond to what’s been called the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl – the March 2011 meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. It was the result of being slammed by a powerful tsunami, triggered by the most violent earthquake Japan had ever seen. Steve started feeling tired, not himself. Then, he blacked out while driving to work, and drove his truck up on a curb. Steve said his list of ailments was puzzling,
“You’re starting to run fevers, your lymph nodes start swelling, you’re having night sweats, you’re getting spastic and you’re losing sensation in your legs, and you can’t feel your legs when you’re getting 2nd degree burns on them, and how do you explain those things?”
Doctors could not. Steve’s leg muscles eventually just gave up, and he’s now confined to a wheelchair to get around.
Steve’s then-fiance, now-wife, Summer, had just moved cross-country to Maryland with her three children to start their lives together. She says she was shocked, but quickly made a plan, “Things change, I started calling around, borrowed a wedding dress, we started looking for a chaplain and we were married the day before Easter in 2012 in a borrowed wedding gown and his dress whites. It was the last time Steve was really able to spend the day on his feet.”
It’s hard not to feel sympathy for Simmons. People do occasionally unexpected medical conditions, some of which are difficult to diagnose. However, there’s simply no reason to think this is radiation-related.
But this is my favorite part:
Steve explains, “As far as the big picture we still don’t have a diagnosis of what this is, still struggling to even get a doctor to acknowledge that radiation had anything to do with it.”
That diagnosis is critical. Without the Navy acknowledging that Steve wouldn’t be in this situation if it wasn’t for his time in Operation Tomodachi, his retirement and pension are at stake. Plus, he doesn’t qualify for aid in the same the way he would if he lost his legs in an IED explosion.
No doctor will say it is radiation related? Probably because they have medical training and understand what radiation does and does not do to the body. It’s just not consitstant with that. Granted, the man may be convinced that something as demonic as radiation must be the casue, that’s not going to hold up in court.
The Department of Defense says radiation levels were safe, and were the equivalent to less than a month’s exposure to the same natural radiation you pick up from being near rocks, soil and the sun.
Steve doesn’t buy that, “How do you take a ship and place it into a nuclear plume for five plus hours, how do you suck up nuclear contaminated waste into the water filtration system and think for one minute that there’s no health risk to anybody on board.”
Again, we have an emotional response. Whether an area is dangerous depends on a number of factors, like there intensity of the radiation and whether there are particles that can be inhaled or ingested. Other important considerations include the time spent in the area and whether it was indoors or outdoors. It’s not a binary safe-unsafe kind of question.