Saturday, January 11, 2014

Newt Beginnings

"Dr. Beeblebrox! How good to see you!"

It's better than being viewed.

"I have some news for you! You have a new physician. His name is Newt... Malcolm Newt."

What happened to "Doc Holliday?"

"I'm sorry to say that he was gunned down at the Not-Quite OK Corral. It's a sad story, and one that will not bear the telling.... But now there's Doctor NEWT!"

You seem quite excited about him.

"Well, he seems a little more stable and he doesn't wave around a sawed-off shotgun in the office like Philastus did. That was a little unnerving!"


I hadn't been to the good doctor's office in over a year. I probably wouldn't have gone at all if my prescription hadn't run out two months ago. The nurses renewed my blood pressure medicine twice before saying that if I didn't come in that they were going to sent Guido out looking for me. Guido had gone looking for me before, so I acquiesced.

On Monday I went in for my blood work, making certain that they drew enough for the creatinine and ferritin check. Having not had a pointy-thing shoved into my arm for a year made me a little apprehensive. The Lab-tick used a number 23 needle instead of the usual number 21. I hardly felt a thing. She was sporting a black eye, though, when I came to. She was not clear about what had happened.

Yesterday morning I went in to see Doctor Newt for the first time. He has only been on the job since the first of the year, so I was one of his experiments. I did not mind, however, since he was one of my experiments as well.

We went through the usual formalities, the typical poking, prodding, and prostrating that accompany an annual physical. He wanted me to disrobe and put on a pair of paper shorts for the physical, but I told him that it was January of the coldest winter in three decades and that I would rather keep at least half of my body covered while he examined the other half. Besides, that amount of sans ropa would have been too much familiarity on the first date.

My creatinine was at 1.88, a little higher than a year ago (1.77), but lower than it was eighteen months ago (1.95) I appear to be rocking back and forth between 1.6 and just shy of 2.0 over the last five years. My kidneys show no further signs of disagreeableness. So, I guess that I have damaged them about as much as I am going to do. Dialysis is probably not on the horizon any time soon, if at all.

As I suspected, my ferritin was up, since I have not had a phlebotomy in a year or so. I measured 264, 110 points up from a year ago. I only had one phlebotomy during the past twelve months, and that was shortly after last year's annual physical. I think that I will need two of them this year, perhaps six months apart. Of course, if the Red Cross would forsake their misguided notions that there is something wrong with my blood, I could take care of this myself by donating my iron-rich blood to the bank instead of having it contaminate some landfill in Utah Valley. I am certain the boys and girls at the Infusion Center are anxiously awaiting my arrival next week. Cake, ice cream, party favors, together with the usual back-slapping and hose connecting. What fun!

Then, on a sudden, Doctor Newt became quite serious. "Zaphod, I have looked over your blood work and there is something that is troubling me. It's your Mean Corpuscular Volume."

There is something about my blood that's MEAN? Is this going to affect my personality? Am I going to inadvertently lash out corpuscularly at someone when I least expect it? Am I going to be loud about it? Woe is me!

"No! No! No! No!" he said, as he answered all four questions at once. "This part of the report means that you have fat blood, with really large and muscular red blood cells, larger than anyone else in the world."

How large are they?

"Well, really large. As far as I can tell, you only have three red blood cells now, but they are really efficient. At any given moment you have one red blood cell in your heart, another one in your arteries, and the third in your veins. Every heart beat they change places, kind of like musical chairs. The good news is, when you have a phlebotomy, they will syphon out one of the cells and reduce your iron by a third. I suppose that you will only need a phlebotomy every six years or so."

Something to look forward to..... And I suppose that there is bad news.

"Oh yes" he grinned, "There is always bad news. They are going to have to use a bigger needle to get the little sucker out. I suspect that it will be about the size of a fire hose. I have already made the order to US Steel for it. The needle will be ready next week. You may want to prepare yourself."


"Dr. Beeblebrox! How did it go? How did you like our little Newty?

He was.... Oh, I don't know... What can I say?.... Maybe he was... hummm..., disarmingly charming? I suspect that's the case..... I'll let you know next week.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Ex Post Facto

In the middle of June, I dropped into "Doc Holliday's" office to see what kind of condition my condition was in. As I reported earlier, all my vitals were apparently okay, save that my ferritin was up to 123, a figure that would not have stirred a muscle in my physician's countenance in years past, but since having a couple of run-ins with my sister, he gets a twitch in his left eye every time I come in for counselling on my hemochromatosis.

"Boy! 123! That seems a little high!" This from a fellow who once thought that 409 was not only a great car, but a swell ferritin count as well. "You probably ought to drop down to the Infusion Center and give them a pint."

Last week I did so, much to the delight of everyone in the building. They had a banner, a cake, and a few momentos for me as I swept into the office. "Oh! Doctor Beeblebrox! Please take Room #1! That's how we feel about you!"

There are six cubicles in the office, all of them numbered except one. #1 is not numbered. I headed toward the unnumbered cubicle a little hesitantly when the Angel of Mercilessness said, "Yes! That's it! It's how we feel about you!"

"Hummmm", I thought to myself. "So this is how it's going to be. I am the cypher of the week."

A few minutes later she breezed to my side with a rather green looking fellow. "Doctor Beeblebrox, this is Igor. He is learning how to perform phlebotomies. You don't mind if he watches what I am doing, do you?"

"No," I replied, "so long as he doesn't touch me."

"That's fine, then, because we don't let Igor touch any of the patients yet. He has a rash."

The phlebotomy went as expected. The usual amount of screaming, unconsciousness, and whimpering ensued, with only faint traces on the walls and curtains of the cubicle where the spray hit. The uniqueness of this session was in the running commentary for Igor's benefit, as AOM described in excruciating detail every step in the procedure. There were no surprises at all. I think that I was a little tense throughout.

The first procedure was to take my blood pressure. "117 over 76. Very good Zaphod! Pulse 88! Wow!" The excitement in the room was tangible. Just think. A little lysinapril makes everyone happy.

Then came the sting of stings. "Igor, we use a local anesthetic for two reasons. One, the stuff really stings a lot, and it is really fun to watch Doctor Beeblebrox's eyes dilate and bug out like they do when I give him the injection. Two, it does absolutely nothing to kill the pain in his arm when we stick the really big needle in. It just tickles me every time he passes out." I decided to pass out before she gave me the placebo.

When I came to, she was commenting to Igor about the metaphorical properties of the blood bag and various insects in the wild that feast on the warm-blooded critters in the forest. I thought that I could use another moment of unconscious quiet and promptly dozed off for a second time.

A few moments later, Igor was putting a cold can of root beer on my tray along with a package of Lorna Doones. Actually, he tried to give me two packages of Lorna Doones, I suppose to make up for the fact that he had not brought a cup of ice to go with the soda. The Angel of Mercilessness came to explain to Igor that after the phlebotomy it was necessary to take my vitals again.

"117 over 76! How extraordinary! Blood pressure.........."

"No, that can't right! Let's do it again..... 117 over 76. Okay..... Pulse..... 137!!!!?"

"Third time's the charm.......," she said, as she ramped up the equipment again.

I could not resist. "What's the problem?"

"Your pulse rate was 88 when you came in and it nearly doubled by the time we were done."

I said, "When I came in here I did not have a garden hose hooked up to my arm!"

"True, but your blood pressure did not go up. If you had been traumatized, your blood pressure would have gone through the roof, not your pulse rate," she said nervously.

"But you took a liter of blood! There is nothing to have under pressure! My heart is having to work overtime just to get any circulation at all!"

"Oh! That seems logical... Oh look!.....," she said, point to the vitals machine. "117 over 76, pulse 136..... Great! It's coming down!"

"Terrific!" I opined.

"Okay, then. If you can stand up without failing down, you can go home."

I did, but waited a week before going to see the lab-tick over at the Medical Center. I went in at noon today in order to have some blood drawn for the ferritin check. LT looked me over and decided to take my vitals. "Hummmmm! 117 over 76.... pulse 135!!!!!!!"

I said, "Don't worry about it. It's coming down."

She took the sample; I didn't flinch... a lot. Trillium was waiting for me in the foyer.

"That was quicker than a heartbeat," she said.

Yes, indeed.

Friday, June 17, 2011


"Dr. Beeblebrox, I have good news and bad news!"

"Oh? What now?"

"I have prodded every orifice, thumped every organ, monitered every function, sampled every gland and you seem to be in fine shape."

"Is that the good news or the bad news?"

"Well, not all of that prodding, thumping, monitering and sampling is what you would call fun. The bottom line is that there is going to be less of a bottom line for me during 2011 and 2012. I had to tell my wife that we have to go to Tucumcari, New Mexico, for our vacation instead of the Grand Bahamas."

"Is that the good news or the bad news?"

"I know that you are going to post all this stuff on your blog site and that you are going to refer to me, as you aways do, as 'Doc Holliday', so I am not going to get any advertising perks from all of the funny things you have me say. You make me out to be a rather entertaining guy; I think people would like to visit with a doctor that is entertaining. But they don't know where to find me....."

"I'm sort of ambivalent about whether that is good news or bad news."

"Anyway.... Your cholesterol is fine. I think that the fish oil that you have been swilling down has actually proven beneficial. Your blood pressure is 5 over 2, and your pulse is 7, so apparently you have been doing a little bit of exercising; your blood pressure medicine seems to be working. Your creatinine is at 1.7, so you probably will not need dialysis until you are 187. Your ferritin is at 123. I know that's down 22 points from six months ago, but I think I am going to order a phlebotomy anyway just so I won't get another phone call from your sister. The last time she called I thought that she was going to come through the phone and extract my spleen with her bare hands."

"Tell me about it."


"That was a rhetorical request , Doc. I know all about it already."

"OK, then. Well, I should probably tell you the good news...."

"The good news?"

"Yes..... You have a braincloud."

"A what?"

"A braincloud. It is a symptomless, incurable disease, and you have only six months to live. So I say, 'Live like a king and die like a man'".

"What do you recommend?"

"Well, there is this little island, Waponi Woo, in the south Pacific......"

"I suppose that there is a volcano."

"Yes. As a matter of fact there is."

"I suppose that the only way that Trillium and I can get there is make a raft from four water proof steamer trunks and float there."

"I know of no other way."

"How will this help me."

"It can't hurt. Oh, and there is one more thing."

"What's that?"

"You are going to need an attending physician. That's the good news."

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Well, Hoopydoo....

Yesterday I received a phone call from Dr. Wurlizter's office re-informing me that I had an appointment with DW on the morrow. The caller also wished to confirm that I had already taken care of my blood work.

"What blood work?" I asked.

"The blood work that was assigned to you six months ago when the appointment was made," she replied.

"No one said anything to me about making any such explorations of my bodily fluids," I rejoined.

"Oh, Dr. Beeblebrox, you say the funniest things. The appointment doesn't make much sense, does it, if the Doctor doesn't haven't any results to look at? Besides, if you will look on the back of your appointment card, you will see that there is a statement about getting laboratory work done the week before your appointment," she said with an audible smirk.

The notice was there, of course, but I was not about to let her get away with it. "What makes you think that I still have the appointment card?"

"For the same reason that you have every book that has ever come home with you during the passed 60 years. You hang on to everything that has been made from trees."

She had me there.

"If you can get to the lab in Provo before five this afternoon that will be in plenty of time". I told her that I would try.

At 11:10 StewJam and I went to play racquetball. We played one game. It lasted 40 minutes. The score was lopsidedly in my favor, but for the final 30 minutes I could not get the last point that won the game. I think that SJ decided to end my misery. And misery it was. As I sat there on the floor trying to recuperate, I had an old Bob Dylan song go through my mind over and over again. It was from "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid".

Knock, Knock, Knockin' on Heaven's Door

Over and over again.

About two in the afternoon I went over to the Swiss Chalet in Provo where they extracted several vile vials for the blood tests, including, I might add, a ferritin check. The little vixen hurt me again.

Today at 2:00, I went to DW's office. They took their pound of Discover Card flesh and then ushered me into the cubical where they weighed me (I guessed 232) where they discovered that I am 236 in regular clothes instead of my PJs. Four pounds of clothes, keys, and wallet! Who knew?

She then prepared to take my blood pressure. "117 over 79", I said.


"That's what my blood pressure will be".

There was a moment of silence. "That is exactly what it is. How did you do that?"

"Know thyself, the philosopher saith".

Doctor Wurlitzer breezed in a moment or two later. "Everything's fine. Your creatinine is down from 2.0 to 1.8. At this rate, your kidneys will outlive you by 25 years".

"Lovely," I replied. "As long as I have something to look forward to. And my ferritin?"

He breezed out of the cubicle for a minute or two, and then breezed back in. "It is at 145. Well within acceptable limits."

"You don't know my sister," I muttered.

I have been trying to figure out how my ferritin could have gone up 25 points per month during the last three months when the previous three months it had hardly jumped a point. I suspect that it has to do with being sick for the past month. It is a case of false ferritin count caused by my body fighting the muck that I picked up while visiting the hospital. In any event, I am not particularly worried about it. I will probably have it checked in March. If it goes up again I know where to leave my excesses.

In the meantime I'll keep Knockin on Heaven's Door with StewJam. Tomorrow is another day of wheezing with a racquetball racket in my hand. With any luck at all SJ will whack me in the side of the head and take care of the next year's worth of phlebotomies.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Well, okay....

I have been accosted on every side about why I have not been writing. It is because I have no grist for the mill. For three months I have been waiting for my semi-annual checkup with the kidney-me-not doctor. I am going to have my ferritin checked at that point. For the ghouls who really want some blood-letting of some sort in this posting, all I have to say is they need to take about a quart in order to run all the blood tests that I am supposed to get. So, they will get a read on my ferritin and in the process reduce my ferritin. What a dilemma! If the ferritin is high, should I get a phlebotomy? Would I not endanger my health by reducing my iron excessively? What to oh my oh me!

Is that enough angst to hold you for a while? I see the doctor on Wednesday. Who knows when his nanobots will have the results! I suspect that I will not have a lot of ferritin this time around because I have been eating nothing but plastic. I need some meat!!!!!! Chris gave us an Outback gift certificate for Christmas. They will be the first to know that my ferritin is fine. You will be the second.... or so.

Well, that's the news from Lake Irony. I am feeling pallid. I need to go lie down.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Depositing Iron in a Time of Financial Crisis

I have been waiting for the economy to turn around for the United States and the world, not because I have been suffering financially, because that is not the case. For 40 years I have not been investing in the stock market, I have been investing in iron and it has paid off.

Actually, only nine percent of my savings portfolio has anything at all to do with the stock market. The rest of my investments are in bonds, iron bonds. This is wisdom inasmuch as the fact remains that no matter what I do my vested interest in iron continues to go up.

Bonds have an interesting aspect to them. They are, for the most part, a stable commodity. They generally do not perform spectacularly; there are no wild swings in value. When I originally started my savings program, 60% of my investment went to guaranteed funds, usually the money market. Seldom did that money make more than 5% per year. 30% of my investments were in bonds, long term bonds I think. At some point because of the way DMBA makes its little course corrections, all of my money market funds became invested into short term bonds. These have done well, no matter what the economy has done. About four years ago I began receiving payouts on my savings and investments. Several thousands of dollars have been paid out, and yet today I have more money in my portfolio than when I started requesting the payouts.

This of course has its counterpart in hemochromatosis. For the past three years I have been actively drawing on my duodenal iron deposits and expending them like a drunken sailor. Actually, more like a drunken sailor that has been beat up, slashed, and left for dead. My iron deposits dropped like Wall Street on Black Tuesday every time I had a phlebotomy. My ferritin count starting at 827 plummeted to 46.8 as of six months ago, and three months ago it again dropped to 45.7 which I have attributed to completely eliminating chocolate from my diet.

A week or so I went into the University Clinic and had another ferritin test done. After six months of not having any phlebotomies and no chocolate, my ferritin count now stands at 58.1, up about 12 points in three months. Of course, I am curious about what I did to have the iron go up and I have concluded that it was the three wheat dogs and the two quarter pounders that I had for dinner the two nights before. At this rate I am going to be in serious trouble in about.... um... thirty years, probably on the very day that my kidneys fall out of my body. I will be kind of like the Wonderful One-Horse Shay.

A Logical Story

Have you heard of the wonderful one-horse shay,
That was built in such a logical way
It ran a hundred years to a day,
And then, of a sudden, it--ah but stay,
I'll tell you what happened without delay,
Scaring the parson into fits,
Frightening people out of their wits,
Have you ever heard of that, I say?

Seventeen hundred and fifty-five,
Georgius Secundus was then alive,
Snuffy old drone from the German hive.
That was the year when Lisbon-town
Saw the earth open and gulp her down
And Braddock's army was done so brown,
Left without a scalp to its crown.
It was on the terrible Earthquake-day
That the Deacon finished the one-hoss shay.

Now in building of chaises, I tell you what,
There is always somewhere a weakest spot, -
In hub, tire, felloe, in spring or thill,
In panel, or crossbar, or floor, or sill,
In screw, bolt, thoroughbrace,--lurking still,
Find it somewhere you must and will,--
Above or below, or within or without,--
And that's the reason, beyond a doubt,
That a chaise breaks down, but doesn't wear out.

But the Deacon swore (as Deacons do,
With an "I dew vum," or an "I tell yeou,")
He would build one shay to beat the taown
'n' the keounty 'n' all the kentry raoun';
It should be so built that it couldn' break daown,
"Fur," said the Deacon, "It's mighty plain
Thut the weakes' place mus' Stan' the strain;
'n' the way t' fix it, uz I maintain,
Is only jest
T' make that place uz strong uz the rest."

So the Deacon inquired of the village folk
Where he could find the strongest oak,
That couldn't be split nor bent nor broke,
That was for spokes and floor and sills;
He sent for lancewood to make the thins;
The crossbars were ash, from the straightest trees.
The panels of white-wood, that cuts like cheese,
But lasts like iron for things like these;
The hubs of logs from the "Settler's ellum,"--

Last of its timber,--they couldn't sell 'em,
Never an axe had seen their chips,
And the wedges flew from between their lips,
Their blunt ends frizzled like celery-tips;
Step and prop-iron, bolt and screw,
Spring, tire, axle, and linchpin too,
Steel of the finest, bright and blue;
Thoroughbrace bison-skin, thick and wide;
Boot, top, dasher, from tough old hide
Found in the pit when the tanner died.
That was the way he "put her through."
"There!" said the Deacon, "naow she'll dew!"

Do! I tell you, I rather guess
She was a wonder, and nothing less!
Colts grew horses, beards turned gray,
Deacon and deaconess dropped away,
Children and grandchildren--where were they?
But there stood the stout old one-hoss shay
As fresh as on Lisbon-earthquake-day

EIGHTEEN HUNDRED; -it came and found
The Deacon's masterpiece strong and sound.
Eighteen hundred increased by ten;--
"Hahnsum kerridge" they called it then.
Eighteen hundred and twenty came;--
Running as usual; much the same.
Thirty and forty at last arrive,
And then come fifty, and FIFTY-FIVE.

Little of all we value here
Wakes on the morn of its hundredth year
Without both feeling and looking queer.
In fact, there's nothing that keeps its youth,
So far as I know but a tree and truth.
(This is a moral that runs at large;
Take it.--You're welcome.--No extra charge.)

FIRST of NOVEMBER,--the Earthquake-day--
There are traces of age in the one-hoss shay,
A general flavor of mild decay,
But nothing local, as one may say.
There couldn't be,--for the Deacon's art
Had made it so like in every part
That there wasn't a chance for one to start.
For the wheels were just as strong as the thins,
And the floor was just as strong as the sills,
And the panels just as strong as the floors
And the whipple-tree neither less nor more,
And the back-crossbar as strong as the fore,
And spring and axle and hub encore.
And yet, as a whole, it is past a doubt
In another hour it will be worn out!

First of November, 'Fifty-five!
This morning the parson takes a drive.
Now, small boys, get out of the way!
Here comes the wonderful one-hoss shay,
Drawn by a rat-tailed, ewe-necked bay.
"Huddup!" said the parson.--Off went they.
The parson was working his Sunday's text,--
Had got to fifthly, and stopped perplexed
At what the--Moses--was coming next.

All at once the horse stood still,
Close by the meet'n'-house on the hill.
First a shiver, and then a thrill,
Then something decidedly like a spill,--
And the parson was sitting upon a rock,
At half past nine by the meet'n'-house clock--
Just the hour of the Earthquake shock!

What do you think the parson found,
When he got up and stared around?
The poor old chaise in a heap or mound,
As if it had been to the mill and ground!
You see, of course, if you're not a dunce,
How it went to pieces all at once,
All at once, and nothing first,
Just as bubbles do when they burst.

End of the wonderful one-boss shay.
Logic is logic. That's all I say.

Oliver Wendell Holmes

Actually, all of the iron turned to rust, the ultimate pay out. So if I disappear thirty years from now, just watch for the last withdrawal: a little pile of red dust. In the meantime: BUY IRON. You cannot lose.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Kidney Me Not, Part 2

The previous episode of “Kidney Me Not” was admittedly a cliff-hanger, but a witty one with Trillium not only getting the last words, but the best ones. Now on to the really silly stuff.

When it was confirmed that I had Chronic Kidney Disease ("CKD" for those in the know), I began to feel inordinately guilty about my life-style, certain that I have been the main agent responsible for my condition. Now you may say, “Kidneys tend to fail for everyone; the older they get, the less functionality they have.” Yes, that is true, but I had been indulging myself in a way that I consciously knew was damaging to my kidneys.

In 1960 I came in contact with the writings of Dr. John A. Widtsoe, and as part of my study, I read of his considered opinion regarding the negative effects of chocolate on the human body, particularly on the kidneys. In his view, theobromine, a caffeine-like alkaloid, had a negative effect on the kidneys. As a result of reading his book, I decided that I would forego any further consumption of chocolate. For nearly 25 years I was a confirmed rider on the non-chocolate bandwagon, only occasionally eating carob bars as a substitute.

In 1984, however, at farewell party being held for our family in West Lafayette, Indiana, our hostess produced a velvet, double-chocolate, German chocolate cake baked especially in my honor. I am not certain why she did it; I was notorious for my not eating chocolate. I thought that discretion was the better part of valor and I was persuaded to consume a rather large piece.

I had fallen off the non-chocolate bandwagon in a rather dramatic fashion, bouncing three times, and then slipping under the wheels. For the next 25 years, I allowed the bandwagon to roll over the top of me, over and over again, until I was buying huge sacks of Reisens (the best chocolate confection on the planet) to put next to my computer in the den. I enjoyed every minute of every hour, of every day of those 25 years. So when the announcement came that my kidneys were turning in to shriveled lumps of coal, I really thought that I had caused the problem.

When our local organ grinder, Dr. Wurlitzer, allowed me to ask a question or two during the June visit, I specifically asked about the effects of chocolate on my kidneys. He immediately dismissed the whole notion, suggesting that dark chocolate would be good for me. “Buy a couple of bags of Reisens and put them next to your computer. They will do you good!” I gave him a rather whithering look. I was willing enough to take his advice (my saliva glands were working overtime), but I thought to myself that just maybe he was not completely in touch with the facts. As a result, I ignored the serpent's hiss and turned my back on the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil Chocolate. I pursued my determination to knock out chocolate altogether. I told Trillium that just maybe this abstinence would cause my kidneys to get all fluffy and functional again. She gave me a jaded look and took another bite out of her Butterfingers bar.

Well, yesterday I received a little booklet from the American Association of Kidney Patients called “Kidney Beginnings: A Patient’s Guide to Living with Reduced Kidney Function”. I thought to myself that this was rather a quick response to my first blog on my renal problems. Everyone is reading this thing! Then I remembered that the first bills from Dr. Wurlitzer had just cleared DMBA. Those guys have probably been reading my blog and have set the AAKP on me. In any event, I want to share a few tidbits from the publication with you.

On page two the authors present “Kidneys 101”, a guide to show my kidneys are supposed to work. I quote, “Kidneys are like a 24-hour cleaning machine for your blood”. I was immediately reminded of an article that I had just read in the newspaper about a new telescopic eye implant. “Hummm! A seeing machine. At what point does a person become the Terminator? Does the telescope glow red? What next? Bionic knees, shoulders, hips, and toes? I then pictured Alice Krige’s character in "Star Trek: First Contact". Nothing left but the brain stem.

Needless to say, with all of these bizarre associations going on, I was losing focus on the text of the pamphlet. The next sentence read, “Kidneys are twin organs shaped like kidney beans.” At that point I wanted to know which came first, the kidneys or the kidney beans. Which was shaped like the other. I had a deep and abiding compulsion to go on the internet to find out who was sillier, the authors of this ridiculous pamphlet or me... I controlled myself; I kept reading. I was happy to learn at the end of the first paragraph that “People can live a near normal life with as little as 20 percent of their total kidney function.” Hooray for me, I have a 17 percent margin.

I raced ahead in the booklet to find out if there was anything I could do to help out poor Bob and Tom. The next part of the pamphlet, however, was directed at those things that I could do to help the medical profession make it through the current economic slump. Then, and only then, did the authors gave me a few hints:

1. Keep your blood pressure down, lower than 120/80. I just put on the cuff and my current blood pressure is 43/2. I guess I’m okay on that one.

2. You may need iron supplements to avoid anemia. Frankly, with hemochromatosis that does not seem to be an issue.

3. Avoid Alka Seltzer, Milk of Magnesia, and Enemas, or any combination thereof. Ew!

4. Avoid herbal medicines, folk remedies, witch doctors, and chiropractors. Well, there goes my whole health program!

5. Take it easy on protein. They suggest eating a deck of cards instead of a three ounce steak…. Or something like that… Maybe it was that a three-ounce steak is about the size of a deck of cards… Whatever…. They’re all insane.

6. Exercise appropriately. I get out of bed in the morning and I climb back in at night. That’s enough aerobic exercise for me.

7. Limit phosphorus. I have to anyway. If I don’t, I glow in the dark.

8. Watch your potassium. Bummer! I like French-fried potassium. It’s the best!

9. Be careful about fluids. Quoting the manual, “Remember fluid is found in such unexpected things as jello, watermelon, gravy, sherbet, and many other places like outdoor ponds, irrigation systems, swimming pools, and kitchen faucets.” Wow! Everywhere you turn!

Trillium tells me that I ought to avoid magnesium, too, in addition to the “Milk of” recommended in #3. How does this all affect my diet? Where would I acquire vasty amounts of magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium?

CHOCOLATE! Saith the deponents.

So… no Reisens; no velvet, double-chocolate, German chocolate cake; no licking my wife’s fingers after she eats a Butterfingers candy bar; and, horror of horrors, no tri-tip steak, double-dipped in hot fudge sauce. Life has just ground to a halt.

Oh! And by the bye. I just received the report on the ferritin check that I had a week ago. I am now at 45.7, a drop of 1.1. This is without any phlebotomies for three months. According to “”, an ounce of chocolate contains six times the amount of iron that an ounce of sirloin has. Hmmmm! Have we discovered a ….