DEAR STEEL ADVICE: Several years ago, tests showed that I have a blood clotting disorder that had caused life-threatening clots in my lungs. This disorder (Factor V Leiden) is strongly hereditary. I immediately (from my hospital bed) called my parents, sisters and brothers. My dad recalled several older relatives who had, when he was a boy, complained of swollen, painful legs and died shortly thereafter. A younger cousin on that side of the family had died from a blood clot following an accident just a few years ago. I felt it a moral obligation to inform my family members, not to mention I cared about them. I recently learned that not one of my siblings had gotten themselves or their children tested. My older niece is now old enough to possibly be taking oral contraceptives that contain the estrogen and progesterone hormones that nearly killed me. I am worried sick about my nieces and nephew developing clots. I am considering calling or writing my older niece to inform her of this hereditary disorder and advise her how to get tested. I know for sure her parents (my brother and sister-in-law) would consider this intrusive, but I love my niece and am frightened for her. Please advise.
-- CARING AUNT
DEAR CARING AUNT: When you phoned your family about the possible genetic link to blood clots, they chose to ignore you. They decided not to be tested for Factor V Leiden.
Send an email to your parents, siblings, cousins and the young adults in the family, including your niece. Outline in nonemotional but direct language your experiences and beliefs about the possibility that some of them may also carry the gene for the blood clot disorder. Specifically address the risks associated with taking hormones and oral contraceptives.
You are not a doctor, and you can only relay what happened in your own case. By including your niece in this very general family email you will not be going behind your brother's back. After you send the email, respect the other relatives' right to make their own health care decisions.
DEAR STEEL ADVICE: I work in an upscale gift shop. Recently we have experienced some retail theft and now have to keep popular jewelry items under lock and key. Do you have any suggestions on how to prevent retail theft?
DEAR DISAPPOINTED: Shoplifting can be deterred but not totally eliminated.
An excellent preventative is keeping the expensive more valuable items locked in display cases as you are doing.
Ask the police department for alerts about local retail theft activity and consider purchasing a surveillance camera that monitors and records activity.
Signage indicating offenders will be prosecuted may give second thoughts to an impulse shoplifter; however, it will not stop a professional thief.
The owner of your store may consider hiring a detective who poses as a shopper and monitors customer activity. The sales staff should be on the lookout for shoppers who linger, touch everything and buy nothing. These shoppers may actually be leaving with more than a bargain.
Need some Steel Advice? Email questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Mary Ann Wellener, Steel Advice Column, c/o Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. Follow Mary Ann on Twitter at @PGSteelAdvice.