Category Archives: Health

Justification

Nothing pleases a hypochondriac more than a diagnosis. It’s justification for all those years of medical research and vague complaints. And the more serious the diagnosis, the greater is that satisfying feeling of justification.

I just got my diagnosis, and it’s very serious. Hooray! I’m proud to announce that I have Atrial Fibrillation, otherwise known as AFib. I won’t go into all the details, except to say it could kill me. And that’s a prognosis any hypochondriac can sport with pride.

I spent a few nights in emergency rooms last month, where they told me I probably had AFib. But last week a nice, kind cardiologist confirmed that diagnosis and made it official.

It appears I’ve had AFib most of my life. Basically, this is a disease that makes your heart lose rhythm and race like an IndyCar with a flat tire. Usually this disease starts in middle age or old age, but not for me. I’m one of the rare few who started to have AFib attacks in my teen years.

I just didn’t realize what they were. And that’s because they’ve always been short-lived, sort of like Whitman’s Sampler AFib attacks. Or previews of coming attractions for my old age. They’ve usually lasted only a few seconds, and never longer than a minute. But last month they must have gone on steroids, because they started lasting for hours.

When an attack comes on, my heart suddenly starts pumping wildly, without any warning. There’s also a fluttering or churning sensation in the middle of my chest, as if it’s full of butterflies, or as if there’s a garden hose turned to full blast. It’s a weird sensation, and actually kind of fun to experience as long as it only lasts a few seconds. It’s like getting a rush from drugs without actually shooting up.

I never thought much of these attacks, due to their short duration, and never told a doctor. It’s a good thing too, or I might have been misdiagnosed with panic attacks and sent to a shrink. Hell, I could be living in a rubber room by now.

This has happened to some AFibbers. They get misdiagnosed with mental illness. It’s true that anxiety can sometimes trigger an AFib attack, but usually they come out of nowhere. They’re bolts from the blue, with no rhyme, reason, or pattern to them.

They happen to me at odd times. I could be busy with a chore, or shopping in a store. I could be cleaning my email of spam, or I could be eating a plate of green eggs and ham. I just never know when AFib will strike.

However, a study of AFib patients in 2015 showed that yoga can reduce the attacks by up to 40 percent. So maybe I really am crazy and need to spend some time in a rubber room. Or at least a yoga studio.

EKG trace of AFib, with no P waves (the normal hump before the high spike), and a heart rate of 150. Provided by James Heilman, MD. CC BY-SA 3.0.

AFib is impossible to diagnose, except by EKG while you’re in the process of having an attack. This is why I’ve gone so much of my life without a diagnosis. Some AFibbers, like me, may go many years having short-lived, undiagnosed minor attacks. But others begin their AFib with a major attack that is immediately diagnosed. Lucky bastards.

Those of us with short-lived attacks eventually have our day of reckoning. One day an attack occurs that doesn’t quickly go away. And that’s when we head to the emergency room, get hooked up to an EKG, and get our elusive diagnosis. From that day on we are vulnerable to having more of these long-lasting, major attacks. It’s the major attacks that can kill.

My cardiologist said there was no known reason for me to have AFib, as I have an otherwise strong heart, and am in overall good health. This is a terrible thing to say to a hypochondriac. No hypochondriac wants to hear that they’re in good health.

However, what he meant was that in many AFib patients the cause can be traced to an underlying condition, such as hypertension, a damaged heart, or obesity. But in patients like me the cause is a mystery. We’re an anomaly, and are sometimes termed Lone AFibbers. And I’m not lying about that.

My diagnosis of AFib has come as a surprise to me. It’s a pleasant surprise in one regard, as I now have the justification all hypochondriacs seek for the complaints we make. But it’s unpleasant when I consider the ramifications of having such a serious heart condition.

One of the unpleasant ramifications is having to pop pills several times a day. These mutherfucking pills have side effects, such as dizziness, depression, memory loss, lazy eye, swivel neck, molting of skin, chrysalis, and spontaneous limb detachment. I’m adjusting to them though, so I should be getting back to my regular routine soon. Which includes lots of naps.

The drugs don’t guarantee I’ll never have another major attack. In fact my cardiologist indicated that I probably will have another major attack. He indicated this by nervously having me sign a waiver promising not to sue him. Apparently, the drugs only postpone the inevitable. The best I can hope is that they’ll keep me out of the emergency room for a very long time.

I also hope the drugs will help me to live longer than Mother Nature says I should live. I know it’s not nice to fool Mother Nature, but I don’t like the alternative. But if one day, in spite of the pharmaceuticals, I succumb to AFib, don’t worry. I’ll be very happy on the Other Side.

For then I will possess the fullest justification any hypochondriac could ever own.

Heart Gone Wild

About a week ago I was schlepped to the hospital by ambulance at the lovely hour of four in the morning. Along the way, the ambulance driver managed to hit every bump in the road he could find. It was sort of like riding a wild beast. Or like riding my heart, which had also gone wild.

“AFib,” the EMT advised her partner, as she interpreted the EKG. Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) occurs when the top half of the heart marches to the beat of a different drummer from the bottom half of the heart. It results in a wild, anaerobic dance that will make your ventricles turn on their afterburners, while your lungs struggle to catch up.

I’ve been told that AFib is not usually a fatal condition, but that it can lead to a massive stroke if your blood is prone to coagulating. Which is no problem if you’re a hemophiliac descendant of ancient British royalty.

My wife handed my wallet, containing my driver’s license, insurance card, and everything else that gives me permission to live, to the EMT. While laying supine, I watched her place it on a shelf above my head and to my left. This was the last I saw of my wallet. Either the ambulance crew or the hospital staff lost it. Both point fingers at each other. I suspect that it bounced out a window after hitting one of those bumps, on the ride to the hospital.

“AFib,” they confirmed at the hospital. They poked my arm a dozen times until they found a vein. Then they fed some poison down a line, designed to reduce my heartbeat, which was racing along like a hummingbird in a meadow of May flowers.

I kept shaking violently, from hypoxia. They told me to stop shaking. I managed to force my arm to sit still, but then my feet erupted in quivers.

“You MUST stop shaking sir!” they yelled again, as if I was doing this on purpose. I stopped my feet, and then my head shook. I stopped my head, and then my belly contorted. I finally managed to stop everything. But then my lungs and breathing got all shaky. This was the funnest game of whack-a-mole I’ve ever played.

The poison went to work, and my beats per minute came down closer to 100, the safe upper limit. But not close enough. A doctor ordered an RN, over the phone, to administer a more powerful drug. The RN looked scared. He flat-out refused, claiming that perhaps something was misheard over the phone. But finally, after much coaching from his peers, he relented. I retracted slightly as he approached my bedside with his sinister vial of venom in his trembling hand.

But then he glanced up at my heartbeat monitor and exclaimed, “Whoa! It’s down to 85! How’d you do that sir?”

“Just laying here, I guess,” I shrugged. Or maybe when my heart saw how nervous he was, it decided to start behaving.

As my heart rate decreased, I felt increasingly better. I asked the RN if I’d be able to ballroom dance after I left the hospital. He said he didn’t see why not. I said that I did. Hell, I don’t know how to ballroom dance.

Suddenly I was feeling great and wanted the hell out of there. But no, I was attached by an IV line. I was a prisoner, at the mercy of the hospital. And the doctor on the phone wanted me admitted as an in-patient, for observation and further testing.

I looked around for my wife to rescue me. And that’s when I remembered. No visitors were allowed in the ER, due to coronavirus social distancing restrictions. She was at home watching TV and enjoying life without me, as I lay enfettered upon a gurney.

While warming my back there, I overheard lots of talk about the coronavirus. The RNs were cussing mad. They were bitching about our country’s lack of preparation for this pandemic. They expressed fear and outrage over a lack of testing, masks, and ventilators.

And they seemed to harbor resentment toward every patient they deigned to lay their eyes on. We would be the death of them, and their clinched jaws betrayed a calculus that weighed remaining on the job, against cutting and running for the high hills.

They shook their heads in dismay when relating a story about a patient who had all the symptoms of coronavirus, but was refused a test. He was refused because he had not recently been in a foreign country. It was steups all around, at this news.

Their fear was contagious as corona itself. I realized I was likely sitting in a petri dish full of Covid-19 germs. A hospital is not a good place to avoid a virus during a pandemic. I tugged at my IV line, but hell, they put that goddamned thing in pretty tight. And besides, I’m squeamish.

Finally an orderly came and wheeled me away from those future zombies, to my hospital room. The corridors of this medical facility were eerily deserted. In fact, I thought I glimpsed a few ghosts. “No visitors are allowed,” the orderly explained in a haunting whisper. “Coronavirus,” he breathed the word long and heavy.

The next few hours consisted of me loafing in bed watching Trump on the hospital room TV, as he delivered an uplifting press conference of false hopes and fulsome reassurances. And in the bottom-right corner of the screen, the Dow was falling like a stone over the Grand Canyon.

I finally received an echocardiogram. Which found nothing wrong with my heart, except that it was hollow like my head, and echoed a lot. Hmm, a mystery. So what caused my AFib? Later, a thin doctor with an Indian accent strode into the room and recommended that I see a cardiologist.

That was last week. Exactly one week later my heart went wild again. But this time my wife stuffed me into her car, rather than an ambulance, and trundled me to a better hospital.

There I received drugs to tame my heart, and all kinds of erudite medical advice. In one tidbit of twisted medical wisdom, my emergency room doctor told me that my condition was so serious, I should not be in the hospital. Huh? Not with the coronavirus going around, he pointed out. Hmm, I had a hard time wrapping my head around that strange concept.

But I guess these are the days we live in.

I’ve gotta level with my readers. My heart’s been giving me a run for my money lately, and I’ve been wondering if I’m close to cashing in my chips. I think I have to slow down. Perhaps sit out a few hands.

Part of that slowdown may include cutting back on blogging. So you may see a few less posts, comments, and replies coming from me in the future.

Okay, now that all the whooping, hollering, and gunshots fired in the air have died down, don’t expect me to go away completely. I’ll still be around, lurking and smirking in the shadows. And I also have a backlog of posts just festering to cover the blogosphere, like some kind of skeevy motel room bed rash.

But overall, things are likely to get a bit more quiet around these parts. Unless I’m like Colin, who says he’s going away, then stays and throws a party. Hey, what’s that all about, Colin? 🙂

But no, I’ve got to get some rest. I need a little more napping for awhile. And I might just up my meditation game, wax fey, and persuade my jumpy cardiac nerves to settle down around a stick of incense. I think it may help.

So it’s time for me to be like Manjushri, take a ride on a wild beast, and settle the fucker down. I have to go off and tame my heart gone wild.

In case you’re interested, here’s a little video about that dastardly heart condition, AFib:

Angry Blood Pressure

I don’t have anger issues. No, I’m not an angry old man. But I do worry a lot.

I’ve been worried about my blood pressure. It’s been too damn low. Not so low that I have to see a doctor, but pretty close. Maybe I’m prehypotensive, if there is such a thing.

I damn sure don’t want to see a doctor. Those quack bastards would run all kinds of expensive and time-consuming tests, and then tell me that either there’s nothing wrong with me, or that I’ve gotta have a heart transplant. I know their game. They’re in it for laughs and money.

The laughs come when they tell a sniveling, worried hypochondriac like me that, hey, after all those tests and all that anxiety, you little crying snot-faced pussy, there’s really nothing wrong with you. Now go home and drink a glass of warm milk, you fucking wimp, and let me tend to the patients who really need my help.

The money comes when they do find one little thing wrong. They can use this as an excuse for any ol’ open-heart surgery they might dream of. Consumer Reports once did some research on this, and found out that many of the procedures recommended by heart clinics and cardiologists are unnecessary, dangerous, and a waste of money.

So I’m doing my very best to avoid seeing a heart quack, by exercising regularly (lots of walks and hikes), and eating right (lots of sugar on that bland-tasting fibrous cereal).

The sleek and sable Omron 10 Series Upper Arm Blood Pressure Monitor, with 2-User mode, 200-Reading Memory, Backlit Display, TruRead Technology, and BP Indicator LEDs. It’s a hypochondriac’s dream.

I have one of those Omron blood pressure cuffs. It’s one of the more expensive types that goes around the arm, rather than the wrist, because I’ve read that they’re more accurate. How in the hell can a little cuff around the wrist give an accurate reading? But an anaconda-sized arm cuff? Yeah! That squeezing fucker really means business.

One recent morning I tested my blood pressure, and nearly fell out of my chair. Not from alarm, but from weakness. I was feeling wan, under the weather, and thought that maybe my feeble-fucking heart was finally giving out on me. So I strapped on the Omron. And my suspicions were confirmed. It read 93/70.

This was it, I shuddered. This was the big one. I damn near called 911, until I remembered how much I hate doctors. So I did a little Googling first, and found that blood pressure isn’t abnormally low until the top number drops below 90.

So I set up the Omron next to the phone, and kept monitoring throughout the day. Finally, later in the day, it barely peaked above a hundred. Dr. Google says it’s normal for blood pressure to be lower in the morning, and to rise over the course of the day. But I suspect it was really all my anxiety that raised that top number up. It’s a good thing I’m a hypochondriac and can worry about these things, or I’d be dead by now.

I felt relieved, but kept the Omron set up and handy.

Then the other day, my wife came home from the auto dealer, after having routine warranty-required service on her new car, including an oil change. They gave her a big-long, bullshit report on all the things they claim to have inspected and supposedly did. I noticed on this report that it said oil change intervals are “recommended at 10,000 miles or eight months, whichever comes first.”

My heart exploded. Those lying, mutherfucking cocksuckers! I raged (to myself). The warranty manual that came with the car clearly recommends oil changes at 10,000 miles or twelve months, whichever comes first, and not eight months. Those bullshit bolt-twisters are trying to take advantage of our ignorance, and get us to come in more often for their mutherfucking expensive oil changes!

All kinds of expletives, imprecations, and invectives inveighed across my brain. And all over this teeny-tiny pathetic little attempt at fraud that I detected. Boy was I pissed. And all over nothing, really.

And that’s when I remembered that people who get pissed off real easy over little things, tend to be prone to heart attacks. Yeah, that’s true. Just ask Dr. Google.

Well, fuck.

And then I remembered my Omron. So I strapped it on, while ranting and railing in my head about those mutherfucking, con-artist car mechanics. I wanted to see how high I could push the systolic.

Wouldn’t you know, I popped it up to 124/69. Not bad, eh? Not bad for me, at least. That’s prehypertension territory. I felt kind of proud.

So maybe I just need to have more anger in my life.

But then I remembered that high blood pressure is bad for you, too. So I killed my inner rant. 20 minutes later I checked the bp again. Now the top number was down to 112, but the bottom number was up to 77. Could it be that repressing anger lowers the systolic, but raises the diastolic?

Who the hell knows? I really don’t know what the answers are to this heart thing. I guess I’ll just keep on with my exhausting exercise program and eating my fucking fiber, and staying as calm as possible in this fucked-up world.

I’m hoping to get a few more decades out of this beating bastard, until I’m some dried-up dotard who can barely stand and walk. And then I won’t give a damn about my heart. In fact, I’ll probably be cheering for it to give out.

So perhaps that’s when I’ll become an angry old man.

Cranky Pants Battling Autoimmune Disease

I know a Canadian lady with autoimmune disease. Her name is Cranky Pants. She’s cranky, because she’s in constant pain and discomfort from this disabling and difficult disease. And she wears pants. And even her dog has autoimmune disease. And her dog is also cranky.

Cranky has started her own YouTube channel, where she talks about this disease, and invites discussion. If you have autoimmune disease, such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, IBD, or any of the others (heck there’s about 80 of them), or if you suspect you may have this health condition, I think you’ll find Cranky’s YouTube channel informative.

Cranky is nice, fun, and helpful, in spite of the name she’s given herself. You can check out her channel and see for yourself, by watching her latest video, below:

Coffee Is Poison

Seems everyone drinks coffee except Mormons and Seventh-Day Adventists. I’m not a religious man, but I think those Morvantists have got it right. Coffee is poison. And an abomination.

My wife is addicted to coffee. When she wakes up to start the day, she never says to me, “Good morning.” And if I initiate by saying, “Good morning,” to her, she replies with a scrunched-up scowl and screechy, “Fuck you!” And that’s because nothing civil is allowed to happen in our house until she’s had her morning cup of Joe.

She once threatened to divorce me if I ever spoke to her in the a.m. again, before her lips have touched coffee.

And that’s the sort of madness that is brought on by this black poison brewed by the billions, around the world. It’s no wonder we live on such a crazy planet. No wonder we have wars, disasters, and global warming. Coffee is the culprit. It makes people behave irrationally. It causes dysfunction and disrupts public safety. And all that percolating java every morning has got to be what is heating up our atmosphere and melting the polar icecaps.

I can’t count the many times people have told me they can’t function without their morning coffee. Really? Why have folks allowed themselves to sink so low as to be that desperately dependent upon this drug? And why let yourself be at the mercy of an industry that cares more for its profits than on your ability to be productive? If you get so destitute you can’t afford to buy coffee, they don’t care if you lose your job and end up sleeping in a gutter. If you don’t have any money, you just don’t get your fix, plain and simple.

Have you heard that Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, is plotting to destroy the world? He’s drank so much Espresso, it’s rewired the neurons in his brain, and turned him into a caffeine-crazed monster. The caffeine has tricked his brain into thinking he can run for president as an independent, and actually win. But what will really happen is that he will split the Democratic vote, and ensure a Trump reelection. And I doubt our planet can withstand another four years of comrade Trump in the White House.

Blame coffee. Coffee will be the death of us all.

Stop the madness! If you want to save yourself, and contribute to the salvation of our big, blue Earth, you must stop drinking big, black mugs of coffee. And you can do it if you put your mind to it. You can kick the coffee habit.

Sure, you may have to slap yourself around for a while, every morning, until your withdrawal symptoms recede. And you may get the shakes and shits and have to fight off the urge to commit mass murder. You may even have to check into a rehab clinic. But with self-discipline and determination, you can free yourself from the demon-pull of java juice.

Imagine how nice that would be. Think of the improvement you’ll realize in your relationships, including with your spouse. Consider all the money you’ll save. And reflect on how proud of yourself you’ll feel, knowing you’ve done your part to fight global warming and Trump reelection.

It won’t be easy for you to quit. So here’s a few motivational slogans to reflect upon, while fighting the urge:

• The best part of waking up is tapwater in your cup.
• You ban coffee, and have richness worth much more than a second cup.
• Fill yourself to the rim: Avoid Brim.
• Be good to your last drop, without one drop of coffee.
• You’ll be starved of bucks when you think work can wait.
• Juan Valdez is a drug dealer. The richest kind.
• A 100% Columbian never needs coffee.
• To be mountain grown, you must grow out of the coffee habit.
• Avoid coffee, and you’ll taste as good as you smell.

The sooner you kick the coffee habit, the better off you, and the whole world, will be. And you will never regret it.

Because coffee is poison.

Try watching this youtube video, for more motivation to quit the coffee habit:

Life Insurance

“Nah, nothing wrong with you except a chest cold. Here’s a prescription for some antibiotics.” Dr. Glimp tore off the worthless script from his prescription pad and handed it to Max, hoping it would appease him.

“Are you sure?” Max intently studied the doctor’s eyes. “I mean, doc, I’ve never had a chest cold this bad before.” He coughed. “Can you look that X-ray over again?”

Dr. Glimp sighed and turned his head so that he faced the X-ray display at a 45-degree angle. He glanced at it asquint for about five seconds. “There’s nothing there!” he declared, turning back.

“Look, I understand your concern. Ever since the Surgeon General announced two years ago that cigarette smoking causes cancer, I’ve been flooded with patients who get worried every time they develop a cough. But if you had something wrong it would be in the X-rays. Your X-rays are clear!” He thumped Max on the back. “Congratulations! You should be happy!” The thump sent Max into an uncontrollable coughing spell for about 30 seconds.

Max paused for a moment after stepping out of the doctor’s office, to catch his breath. He rubbed an achy spot about an inch below his neck. He suppressed a cough, then struggled for a deep breath of fresh air. Was that a wheezing he heard?

He lit up. Smoking always helped him think better. Was the doctor right? Was he just being a little paranoid after that Surgeon General’s report made headlines all over the country? He fiddled with the pack of cigarettes in his hand, and read the new message he’d been seeing recently, printed on the sides of this product: “Caution: Cigarette Smoking May Be Hazardous To Your Health.”

He mused that he would have never taken up the habit if he had only known. Back in his youth it seemed that every man smoked. In fact many doctors hailed cigarettes as good for your health. That had always seemed counterintuitive to him, but who was he to question doctors? And now he was hooked. A chain smoker.

A tussive urge struck from below and an involuntary cough erupted. When Max regained control he tucked the pack back into his shirt pocket. Too late to give it up now, he theorized.

The coughing kept recurring over the next several days, as Max struggled with his fear of cancer. He knew something was wrong. He felt it in his gut. And it occurred to him that he was going to die soon. He was going to leave behind his wife and his children. His very successful business would not last without his guidance. It would fail, and his family would go broke.

He contemplated what to do. How to prepare for the worst. How to ensure that his wife and kids would be okay. And he came up with a plan.

He justified that if these bastard doctors were wrong in the first place, by recommending cigarette smoking, and then wrong again in the second place, by missing a diagnosis of lung cancer, he’d show the sons of bitches a thing or two. He’d show these damned so-called experts.

Max put the word out that his machine shop was up for sale.

Then he made an appointment with a life insurance company.

The fine folks at Graystone Life Insurance welcomed him into their office. The agent talked Max into a $100,000 policy. And all he had to do was pass the physical. Which involved a chest X-ray.

It came out negative.

It was all Max could do to suppress the coughing while Graystone’s physician examined him. The physician mentioned that his breathing sounded a little raspy. Max told him that his own doctor had diagnosed it as a chest cold. After a quick phone call to his doctor, the physician seemed satisfied and quickly signed off.

And then it was off to visit Huffburg’s Life Insurance, and then Sandsound Life Inc. Then Whistler’s Life. Then Hacker Life, Limited. Then Sputummer’s Life. Hedgeworth’s Life. Kakouphany Life. Emyprean Life. And so on and so forth.

By the time Max finished with his life insurance binge, he was paying premiums on more than a million dollars’ worth of policies. And his wife and children were the named beneficiaries.

He sold the machine shop to my father-in-law. This is how I became aware of this story, many years later.

Max’s wife worried about his mental health. And she felt positively stressed about him selling the business. She knew they couldn’t go on forever, living off the proceeds of the sale. Especially with all those life insurance premiums they were now paying. She nagged at Max to visit a psychiatrist.

But Max ignored her, in his monomania to find ways to provide for her after his upcoming demise that he just knew was going to occur.

Several months passed. His cough had deepened, and his wheezing was sounding more like a whistling now. Max was feeling increasingly worried for his family, and carking more about their long-term future. He walked into the office of Protective Life and breathlessly asked to speak with an agent. He said he wanted to take out the biggest policy they offered.

The agent asked the same routine questions Max was accustomed to, and Max had all the right answers at the ready. He filled out the forms and signed them. Now all that was left was the requisite physical.

The physician furrowed his brow and pointed at the X-ray display. “Sir, I see something like a shadow around your clavicle. And a few other shadows, here . . . and here.” he pointed. “I can’t approve this policy until you have your lungs checked out by your doctor.”

Max returned to his doctor and got yet another chest X-ray. This time Dr. Glimp’s insouciant demeanor disappeared. With a gray face, he told Max that a biopsy would be necessary.

A few days after the biopsy, Dr. Glimp delivered the message Max was expecting.

“Max, I’m sorry to say, but it’s advanced stage lung cancer. I’m really, really sorry I didn’t catch this earlier. It was hidden behind your clavicle. You know, your collar bone. We can try to operate, but this appears to have spread to your bones. Radiation might work, but I don’t know.” He shook his head grimly.

“How much longer, doc, if you continue doing nothing?”

Dr. Glimp winced. He appeared stung by that question. He stammered. “W-w-well, uh, I doubt you have more than, uh, s-s-six months. D-do you have life insurance?”

Max’s face brightened, even as he coughed.

“Yep, oh yes!” Max cheerily proclaimed with a hoarse voice. “Yes, I have life insurance. Yes indeed I do!”

Max died two months later.

His wife retired, and his kids all got good college educations.

Doctors, with all their fine degrees, are not omniscient. There’s much they don’t know and can’t know, and there are many things they’re unwilling to figure out. So we have to trust what our bodies are telling us until clear medical evidence proves otherwise. I believe that’s the lesson we can learn from people like Max.

Marathon Heart

My father-in-law, Jake, has worked and played hard all his life. He was a machinist, and his job involved heavy lifting, hard sweating, and complex mental absorption. Back in his day, he was a man of brawn and brain.

He married his sister-in-law when he was 24, enduring all the internecine slings and arrows this relationship with his brother-in-law’s ex-wife generated. He accepted his two nieces as his own daughters, and had several more children with his sister-in-law.

Then his wife’s parents died, leaving three children of nonage. He happily took these three underage orphans into his already crowded home, and raised them into adulthood.

In those early days of the Cold War, the aerospace industry was booming, keeping machinists like Jake very busy. His average work week was about 80 hours. And the overtime pay allowed him to support and raise his large extended family, which he did cheerfully and without complaint.

Then he went into business for himself and prospered even more. His machine shop earned a nationwide reputation amongst those who needed the kind of specialty work his shop performed.

He kept very busy within those metal walls of his shop, toiling away long hours, doing the heavy lifts, sweating, straining, and responding daily to all the challenges before him.

And then abruptly at the age of 60, he retired. This man with a busy mind and active body suddenly found himself with nothing to do. But he didn’t twiddle his thumbs for very long.

Jake turned to athletics. He began competing in marathons and triathlons. He put all his mettle into this sport for the fleet of foot, and set world records for his age group.

Not only did he win many trophies and accolades, but his cardiovascular health benefited from this new hobby of his. He was in tip-top aerobic shape.

He was also an avid hiker in his retirement years. He took me with him on several hikes, and I always struggled to keep up with his fast, enduring pace. Sometimes I even had to persuade him to stop and take a break, lest I collapse.

But in his early 70’s Jake had to slow down, and then finally stop. All the heavy lifting from his machinist career, and all that post-retirement marathon running was catching up to him. His joints grew spurs and the discs in his back compressed.

He began using a cane. And now, at age 89, he’s traded the cane for a walker. Yet even with a walker, he is barely able to stay upright. He’s fallen several times and hurt himself, and has had to be helped back up to his feet. He dreads the future. He fears that soon he may be confined to a wheelchair.

Yet his heart, his heart! Oh that marathon heart of Jake’s is as strong as ever! He takes no heart medication, yet his systolic blood pressure reading is often in the 90’s, and his diastolic ranges between 45 and 70.

Poor Jake. He wants to die. He hates living like a cripple. But his heart won’t allow him to die. He’s in chronic kidney failure, and his body is bloated with water. But that marathon heart pumps strong as ever.

The doctor says that cancer may have invaded his body. He coughs a lot, and lives in constant pain. He’s incontinent also, due to stenosis in his spine. And even when he can make it to the toilet, he requires help with his hygiene. It’s very embarrassing for this man who prides himself on being independent. This man with the marathon heart.

And he can’t sleep well. But that strong heart of his won’t allow him to die in his sleep.

Jake is a hero to me. But a hero of the Greco-tragic ilk. Be careful, you marathon runners, or you may end up just like Jake. Your strong heart will force you to endure the humility and helplessness of a crippled body. It will keep you alive through the torture of all kinds of chronic illnesses. And the mercy of the grim reaper will be held at bay, while you cry out in pain and plead for the end, every day and every night.

Relax on the couch and watch TV. Eat potato chips. Allow your cholesterol level and blood pressure to rise through the roof. And persuade that coronary to overtake you now, before it’s too late.

You don’t want to end up like Jake.

Man Gives Birth

I had this same look of relief when my kidney stone passed.

I had this same look of relief when my kidney stone passed.

I know what it feels like to give birth. I passed a kidney stone. It’s said that the pain from passing a kidney stone can be as horrible as the pain of childbirth.

Women with children, I feel your pain.

My labor pains began while I was taking a nap. What a cruel trick mother nature played, interrupting my slumber this way. My right side suddenly began to burn like a gasoline fire. Damn last night’s chili! was my first thought.

But it got worse. Worse than any of the napalm bombs I’ve ever spooned out of my wife’s cast-iron dutch oven. Within forty-five minutes my wife was rushing me to the Emergency Room.

By the time we got there I couldn’t walk. I was assisted into a wheelchair, then trundled directly to intake. The lady running the joint began the paperwork.

“What is your name?” she asked.

“OOOOOOOHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!! OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!” I replied.

“Sir, don’t yell at me!”

I heaved up my lunch into a blue plastic vomit bag an orderly gave me, and then tried to explain to her that I wasn’t yelling. This was how I normally talk when my guts are exploding. But all that came out was, “OOOOHHHHHHH! NOOOOOOOOOOOT YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEELLLL! OOOOOOOOHHHHHHHH!”

She became curt with me. “Sir, I have to know your name, and I don’t appreciate being yelled at!”

Thank goodness my wife was there. She interjected and provided all the necessary info. Otherwise I may never have gotten past this officious gatekeeper.

This little interaction left me worried that the fine folks at ER had no interest in my well-being, but instead were completely focused upon rules of etiquette and record-keeping. And that just made the pain all the more worse.

Finally this bureaucrat wheeled me into the area where all the patients were ensconced. Meanwhile, the fire inside my guts burned higher and higher, and my OOOOOHHHH’s changed to “OOOOOHHHHHHH SHIIIIIITTTTT! FUUUUUCKKKKKINNNG SHHHHIIIIIT! OOOHHHH GOOOOOODAAAAAMNIT!”

“Sir, stop swearing. There are children around here.” the lady instructed me.

“FUUUUCKKK!” I replied. “GOOOODAMMMMNN MUUTHHHERRRFUCCCCCKKKKER!”

Another office lady joined her. “Sir, if you don’t stop swearing, I’m going to have to call security,” she sternly warned me.

I wondered what the hell the security guard was going to do, toss me out of the hospital? Handcuff me?

“OOOOOHHHHHH FUUUUCKKKK, ARREST ME!” I yelled.

The niminy piminy ladies gave up and handed me over to the custody of a male nurse. In between my groans and whimpers I managed to ask if I had been brought to a church or a hospital.

He was very sympathetic and understanding. He carefully helped me into the bed, and gave me the reassurance that my health and well-being was truly a concern in this facility.

After this I was able to relax into a delirium of loud screaming, groaning, and an occasional curse word, fueled by the fiery pain in my side.

At this point, I thought that I either had a bowel obstruction or a ruptured appendix.

An IV was started, and after what seemed like 15 lifetimes, but was actually more like 15 minutes, pain medication began to take effect. My screams decreased slightly in volume. The analgesic really wasn’t that effective. But it did help a little.

Then the very nice, kind, compassionate male nurse, injected a much more powerful painkiller into the IV. It must have been a horse tranquilizer. Within minutes my screams softened, to a more intelligible huffing and puffing and light whimpering. And I was actually able to lie still. That’s when Scott came along.

Scott was another nice, kind, compassionate healthcare worker. He wheeled me into a dark room with a monstrous-sized machine and gently CT scanned my abdomen.

Within a few minutes after the CT scan, the breech baby in my belly must have turned. I suddenly felt a wave of relief, and within minutes the raging inferno inside subsided to low-glowing embers.

It was over. Thank God it was over.

I had to wait around a while for a diagnosis. My wife said she thought it was a kidney stone. I told her she was crazy. No, I advised her that this was a bowel obstruction. That’s exactly what it felt like. Like a bowel obstruction that suddenly came loose, allowing relief. But she stood her ground. And I stood my ground.

Then the doctor came by and told us it was a kidney stone. Well hell.

But at least that mutherfucker had passed. I was happy. Now I could go home, relax, and get some sleep. My pain was a fast-fading memory. A story to recount to bored house guests. An aberration. A small bump in my history of relative good health.

Until the next morning, when my baby from hell returned.

Another trip to the ER. More agony, wailing, and screaming. But at least this time we knew the cause of the pain. It was yet another kidney stone, for crying out loud. And maybe now that the cause was known, they could go inside there right away, with some sort of pickax, and mine the offending boulder out of my belly.

That’s when I received the sad news. The doctor told me it was NOT another kidney stone. She identified it as the same culprit from the previous night. She said that this rock was on a long journey that had only just begun. A journey that begins at the kidney, goes down a very long, narrow tube, and ends in the bladder. A journey of a thousand miles, that begins with the first scream. She calmly advised me that I could expect intermittent periods of agony and relief for many more hours or even days, while this peregrination was taking place, and that there was nothing she nor anyone else on the ER staff could do about it. Except prescribe pain killers.

I was discharged from the ER and left to fend for myself.

And that’s the terrible truth about kidney stones.

I’ve done some internet research and discovered a few more truths. I’ve read that the pain from passing one of these can be more intense than medical conditions such as childbirth, gunshot wounds, and heart attacks. And if a stone is greater than 5mm it can obstruct urine flow and destroy a kidney. But I say, with pain that intense, who the hell needs kidneys anyway? Let those bean-shaped organs die!

Mine was only 2mm. That’s the thickness of a nickel. A very small stone. I guess you can say I gave birth to a preemie.

So mothers, I feel your pain. I know what you’ve gone through. I’m a man whose given birth. And I hope I’ll never have to go through this experience again.

Now if there was just some way I could have my tubes tied.

How to Get Your Ass Reamed

Not this ass, your ass.

Not this ass, your ass.

Physicians recommend that most people over age 50 get their asses reamed. It’s officially called a colonoscopy.

Do not fear the colonoscopy. All they do is ram a long, flexible, roto-rooter snake all the way up your hindquarters and take lots of pictures. They then threaten to post those pictures on the internet if you don’t pay a certain amount of money.

Okay, maybe not. But here’s what many sadistic doctors will require of you:

For about a week before the ass-reaming, you’re not allowed to eat certain foods, such as nuts, seeds, corn, and beans. You’re also not allowed to take certain OTC medications, such as aspirin, Motrin, or anything else that thins the blood. Also, you can’t take vitamins or OTC supplements, such as fish oil.

The day before the sadistic procedure you can’t eat food. You may only drink clear liquids (liquids you can see through), such as chicken broth and apple juice. You can drink tea or coffee, but without milk or creamers. You can also eat jell-o and popsicles, as long as they aren’t red or purple.

Around noon you have to take a laxative, then start drinking an aquarium’s amount of salty, nasty-tasting electrolytes.

The day of the ass-reaming, you continue your fast, and hope for an early appointment time, so you can eat as soon as possible. Meanwhile, you must drink even more of the saline electrolytes. You’ll drink so much of this crap, you’ll feel like you’re floating down a sewer.

By this time your toilet and bowels will have gotten a good workout, and you will be clean as a wet-wipe, inside. But your feelings of pride at this accomplishment will be eclipsed by much stronger sensations of lassitude, hunger, and crabbiness from not having food for the past two days.

Congratulations! The worst is over! Now it’s time for the actual ass-reaming. This will seem anti-climactic after all the difficult prep work you’ve put yourself through.

So they make you strip, and give you a flimsy, worthless gown to wear. Then they wheel you into the room where you get the treatment. This room will be packed with many doctors, nurses, and patients. Yep, you’re just one asshole among many at this point.

They’re gonna jab you with a needle to make you go night-night. But before you drift off, they’ll rip the flimsy gown off your ass like the unveiling of a sculpture. Now you are exposed to everyone in the room: doctors, nurses, other patients (who are probably sleeping, but you never know)–I mean everyone. As the blast of vulnerable feelings, shame, and embarrassment hits you, the anesthesia also hits you, and you conk out.

Next thing you know, you’re waking up and the nurse is telling you to get dressed. Your designated driver whisks you to the nearest restaurant. As you devour food, you do your best to steer the table-talk away from what you just went through.

Because this shit is nobody’s damn business.

Dr. Tippy’s Tips for Treating a Cold

I’ve been battling a cold lately. I think I caught it from Blair, over at Shameful Sheep. She’s just getting over a cold. I believe the cold virus is so pernicious, you can catch it just by reading a post written by someone with a cold. So thanks Blair.

And that means anyone reading this post is going to be next.

So now that you know you’re going to catch my cold, here are some tips from Dr. Tippy, for treating it. But first, please note that I haven’t yet qualified for my doctor’s license in the U.S.A. My medical degree was conferred on me by the nation of Cyberia, which is my native land. I attended Diplomamill University, and graduated Magna Quack Laude.

I take no responsibility for anything, so follow these tips at your own risk:

My tool of choice for treating a sinus infection.

My tool of choice for treating a sinus infection.

If you are feeling painful pressure on any area of your forehead or face, find a hammer and a nail. Drive the nail, using the hammer, deep into that painful spot. This will hopefully relieve the pressure, and eliminate your worries about any sinus infection.

If your body is burning hot from head to toe, clean out your refrigerator, crawl inside, and shut the door. Stay there for at least four hours. This is guaranteed to cool your body down for good.

Treat a drippy nose by stuffing large sponges up your nostrils. Then wrap a big towel beneath your nose and tie it behind your head. Then wear a Fit-Flex Depends upon your head. Then scatter sawdust shavings a foot deep on your floor. Because no matter what you do for a drippy nose, you’re still going to get snot all over the place, and you’ll need all that sawdust to absorb it.

Treat a sore throat by carrying a megaphone with you everywhere you go. Turn the megaphone up full blast, then whisper into it, “I have a sore throat and can’t talk much,” to anyone who tries to engage you in conversation. If they insist on conversing with you anyway, beat them over the head with the megaphone.

A severe cold, left untreated, will typically last 14 days. But if you employ these treatments I guarantee you’ll rid yourself of your cold in just two weeks.

If you want to thank me for all this great advice, simply write “Thank You” on the memo line of the check, after I send you my bill.

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