As I parked in Tulsa outside the hospital before dawn Monday, I was remembering that only a few weeks ago I had read my grandfather's handwritten notes on surgery he had taken during a class in medical school, "You must have courage to use the knife." But as I was discovering with each step, you must also have courage to have the knife slice into you. And that is what I was walking toward to have done.

For over 20 years I have monitored my calcium levels after having had a bone-lead scan done at the Harvard School of Public Health and learned I had a body burden of lead trapped in my bones. And in order to just keep it sequestered so as not to be released into my bloodstream to continue doing damage to my organs, I have watched my calcium and had my blood lead levels checked every year since. When my calcium was low and for numerous years it was, I added calcium supplements.

Since the body is tricked by lead and treats it as if it were precious calcium, lead if whirling around in your bloodstream isn't excreted out of your body it is grabbed and stored in your bones in case you might need it later.

Sometime back another switch got flipped and my parathyroid started blasting out calcium to abandon. Understanding that nothing in abundance, could be right and seeking balance, I agreed to submit to the knife to have a surgery to correct the issue.

There is something extreme about having your throat cut open that seems harsh, but when results afterwards determined quickly to be effective and have thus far proved to have been positive, the decision to proceed undaunted, well, I am happy with the choice. And happy when you get old and qualify for Medicare walking in is not as scary financially either. I long for a day each person no matter her age can receive medical treatment as a human right.

In our community at a meeting last weekend I was introduced to a number of people as the "Conscience" of Ottawa County. Now that is a burden to carry, but at least I was not introduced as the Cut Throat Conscience, as might have been stated this week!

There are lots of reasons to speak out in Ottawa County and those who know me understand having a soft voice can be a challenge at first, but speaking out can be contagious and those who Flood are signing our DEMANDS that they are not going to take it anymore! They ARE speaking out, too. There are lots of ways to have your message heard. Everyone who had signed these showed up last weekend to meet with the woman who is challenging Senator Inhofe for his seat in Congress. You were there, your name was. Keep signing, and we will keep sharing your messages to any politician coming to town, or to those who will carry them with them to seats of power. We are on a roll.

You say? Yes, we got 25,120.74 tons of asbestos-containing material removed in 1,675 trucks loads and shipped out of here. AND all 53.82 tons of Carbon Black is GONE, all done in 166 days. That is power to the people and EPA serving to protect us.

Remember there is more to be done and when you are the Conscience of the County, you would expect the rally cry to begin, get more done, do more at the old BF Goodrich site, finish the investigation, the state must force the companies to DO RIGHT by the people, or move over and allow the EPA to step in and help us determine how much danger the neighbors are in, how much benzene and other chemicals are we talking about, how far have they spread, what damages do we deserve and who is going to do something about it?

We need to be protected from the next flood and we deserve representatives who will fight for us. We will hold "I Flood I Vote" rally again soon. Need a shirt? We have them.

Sign a Demand. We are LEAD Agency — Local Environmental Action Demanded. These are not appeals, or pleas. We demand and deserve to be protected.

The responsibility lies with each resident in Ottawa County to demand of each other to find out if their property is contaminated with lead in the soil and if it is to have it removed, both for free by calling the DEQ Hotline. They are not going to be knocking on your door anytime soon, but you can call and ask them to come and take some soil samples, take some samples from gravel driveways. You can be a Conscience of Ottawa County. You can ask your neighbors. We can share the title. We can make our community safer for the children who are going to play in that backyard of yours or want to plant their very own garden. What's that number? 1-800-522-0206.

We are not going to take it anymore. We all have a conscience and we can all muster up some courage to use our voices.

Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim

Rebecca Jim is executive director of the LEAD Agency