Saturday, December 27, 2008

Lot's Soup

I have decided that the slings and arrows of life aimed at other people can have a direct effect on my own. Several weeks ago, T-ma fell in her room upstairs, breaking her hip, the femur, just below the ball joint. The medical team suggested that there were three possibilities: first, they could glue and staple the bone back together and wait six months for the bone to mend; second, they could perform a hip replacement, after which T-ma could be up and about within 48 hours; or third, they could stick her out in a nearby snowbank and let nature take its course. I love it when physicians make the choices that they want so clear to the people they are talking to. There is a kind of mental and emotional manipulation going on here that suits these fellows to a tee (or tea, depending on which side of the pond you are from). T-ma thought the snowbank sounded fine; Trillium suggested that the hip replacement had appeal; and I pretended to be mute.

Visiting people in the hospital has almost always given me the willies. I don't like the places in general, and the outfit wherein the operation on T-ma was performed didn't do much for me either. I am not convinced that hospitals are anything more than a vast repository of microbes and viruses waiting to descend upon and invade the bodies of anyone coming for services or those who are visiting those who have already been served. I mentally (and quite possibly physically) cringe every time I pass through the doors of a hospital.

After a few days of recovery, T-ma was sent off to The Shire, a local rehabilitation center where she could receive physical therapy on a daily basis, so that she could one day return to the Mount Kilimanjaro that is our house (we have nothing but stairs). Medicare volunteered to pay for twenty days in The Shire, figuring that in that time she would be fully healed. During the twenty calendar days that she has been there, six of them were weekends, meaning that she received no therapy on those days. This left 14 days of therapy in order to bring about total recovery. In the beginning there seemed to be some confusion as to whether or not there should be any stair-practice, a curious development inasmuch as that particular skill is absolutely vital on Mount Kilimanjaro. Eventually the doctors said that stair therapy should be part of the mix. One attempt at walking the stairs was made; great protestations were heard; and stair therapy became passe. One day I took the opportunity (as a good son-in-law) to chat with Tiny Tim, The Shire therapist. I found him in the tulip garden attempting to tip-toe around answering my questions directly.

"Well, she complained about about the stairs. There were too many of them [six]. There were just as many going up as there were going down [again six]. And when I suggested that she had to do this twice a day, she hit me with her walker."

"Well, Tiny Tim, she is 86..."

"At least that explains why she hit me with the walker that many times. Do you think she was trying to make a point?"

"No doubt." I then suggested that she might be ready to try again. She had said as much to me a few minutes before. Tiny Tim visibly winced, but promised that he would attempt another session with her that involved (gasp!) the The Shire Stairs. I don't think he has, as yet, broached the subject directly.

Other than the fact that I have usually attended Trillium in her daily jaunts to the hospital and The Shire, I have been affected in another way. For a couple of weeks we made it our practice to visit T-ma in the late afternoon, about four or so. Leaving The Shire about five-thirty meant that we would have to race home and quickly throw a meal together (when I say "we" I really mean "she"). I decided that I should be gallant and offer to take us out to eat somewhere. Trillium agreed. We have now visited every fast-food slinging establishment in the valley, along with a few other places that we had long ago dismissed as being the poster children for the County Health Department. I cannot imagine that this has been good for my ferritin count. I am actually beginning to lose the svelte lines of my youthful 66 year-old well-toned body and am starting to look like a spokesman for a Michelin Tire Commercial.

Christmas day we went up to The Shire to visit T-ma. We went around noon since none of our children could pull themselves away from their happy hearths to visit the tropical depression at Mount Kilimanjaro (that is a little unfair, since most of them showed up in the afternoon, notwithstanding the blizzard going on in Utah). We arrived just at lunch time as it turned out. Before we went into the dining room, T-ma regaled us with her adventures with The Shire cuisine during the previous four weeks. From her tone, I would have thought that the nutritionist (who shall remain Nameless) would be sporting about 86 lumps of one sort or another. One of the nurses said that since it was a light day, many of the inmates having been furloughed for Christmas, we could eat lunch with T-ma. I thought to myself, "Well, here we will find out the truth of the matter. I will know for myself, just how petulant my mother-in-law really is".

The main course was a chicken Caesar salad, the chicken was hot and redolent with lemon-pepper seasoning. I thought it a little strong to my taste and thought to chase it down with a glass of red punch that was on the table.... (eeeek!) .... (gaaasp!) ..... (I am at a loss for words). I believe that that concoction destroyed 9,345,294,567 of my brain cells in about 2.576 nano-seconds. I switched to water. The second course arrived shortly thereafter. Soup, a kind of green sludge with assorted colorful flakes floating about in it. A lady in back of me was served before we were and immediately broke in to a tearful fit about the soup, that it burned her mouth, that she needed baby food, and a dozen other such exclamations.

"She's such a whiner," T-ma said. "All day and all night. You'd think she was lying in a snowbank somewhere." About that same moment, our soup arrived. "Oh, my heck!" shouted T-ma as she took a spoonful, "This stuff is battery acid laced with salt. Here Zaphod; you can shovel this down," she said as she pushed the bowl in my direction.

"I have my own, T-ma. Thank you very much anyway," I sweetly replied, pushing the bowl back in her direction. I then demurely sipped my first spoonful from my own bowl and nearly gagged. I almost shouted out, "Oh, my heck! This stuff is battery acid laced with salt," but I did not care to validate my mother-in-law's assessment of the products of The Shire's lumpy chef. In order to be as supportive of the healing process as I possibly could, I consumed the entire bowl of soup with a bit of flourish, hoping that the salt would somehow ameliorate the torrent of iron consumption that had been going on in my life since T-ma had been incarcerated. I could not think of any other reason why I should slurp it down.

Salt causes iron to erode away. That is why we go to the car wash frequently here in Orem. It only seems natural that consumption of vast amounts of salt would cause a reduction of ferritin levels. After spending seconds on the internet, Googling the connection between hemochromatosis and high-sodium diets, I found nothing conclusive that would verify my hypothesis. There appears to be an open field here, one that suggests that someone with an entrepreneurial spirit could become independently wealthy in a few short weeks if they could only make that scientific connection between salt and iron. My ambitions are somewhat more modest. I asked the chef for the recipe for the soup. I have copyrighted that recipe as "Lot's Soup"; that's the ticket! When the break-through comes, I will be ready with the cure.

By the bye. When I have some sort of an injury or illness that might require a stay in the hospital or a rehab center, just stuff me in a snowbank somewhere. Everyone will be happier for it.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


A couple of days ago, I walked on to the gang-plank of the "Flying Dutchman" and with a hardy crew of rambunctious teenagers, joined the "Krrrrakin" and "Calypso" in a foray to Salt Lake City to see the lights on Temple Square. For the record, my friend and counselor Gerry and I spent most of our time sitting in a nice warm visitors' center while everyone else enjoyed the season in the cold outside. Other than the good conversation, this trip was memorable for two reasons.

First, this is an annual trip that we make to Crown Burger, thinly veiled by the two-block hike to Temple Square. It is hard to imagine any December passing without an ingestion of a Crown Burger Combo of some kind. It is always fun to see the consternation of the servers when thirty of us troop through the doors. The "Crown Burger" is a regular, Whopper-sized, sandwich, but loaded with pastrami on top of the patty. The heme iron count is enormous. I could hear my arteries hardening with every bite. The french fries are good, the drinks are great, and the company is fabulous. I sat with Marja the Flying Finn and regaled her with the prospect of her husband having to do what I have been doing for the past five years. She took it quite well, under the circumstances. The problem with this little tradition is that the Infusion Center is going to be crowded when I go in next month.

Second, on the way down (or back, I can't remember), Calypso mentioned that she had been reading this blog of mine; I gave her the URL last Sunday. I asked her if she enjoyed it. She said that she laughed out loud on several occasions. At some point she became quite serious.

"Ju kno, Zaphid, dis flax zeed ol, cout be a-gibbin' ju de proztate canker. Zome peoble zay, 'Jes' oderz zay 'No'. De whol flax zeed, she be okay. Fizh ol, dat be fine. Flax ol, dat be a-gibbin' ju a glant de size of... oh I don' kno... de moon."

Oh, goody! The moon, which was gibbous at that very moment, heading towards full, 14% bigger than it has been all year, was shining down on us all. My skeleton was beginning to shine through. An ominous portent, I tell you. I decided that flax seed oil needed a little more exploration before I put another drop of the stuff between my lips.

My reason for taking flax seed oil had to do with my blood pressure. The oil apparently tends to make my blood vessels all silky and shiny, kind of like what a good shampoo does to your hair. The blood is really happy to flow through such slicked up tubes and feels a lot less anxious about going from one organ to another. Hence, lower pressure. When I got home I asked Trillium about the flax seed oil and prostate cancer connection. She said, "Oh yes, that's true, but only in rats."

Rats? As it turns out, this had been discovered by William Goldman many years ago. Apparently, little tiny rats living in Uruguay happened upon an enormous field of flax, which they then devoured without hesitancy. This ingestion caused their prostate glands to grow to the size of a Volkswagen. What the field studies forgot to communicate was that the rats themselves grew to be the size of a 747, without the wings. The little charmers weighed about forty tons, and a fifty-foot rat trap was used to catch them (there is, however, absolutely no explanation as to who actually built these traps). If you don't believe me, Google it yourself. The Rats Of Unusual Size lived in a swamp just outside of Montevideo, noted for its flatulence (the swamp, not the city). Wesley and Buttercup did not spend their honeymoon there (neither the city nor the swamp).

I decided, therefore, that since I have enough trouble getting behind the wheel of the Mustang as it is, that I would, for the time being, reduce the amount of flax seed oil that I am consuming on a daily basis. I am down to one cockroach-sized tablet now.

Calypso suggested that I could take fish oil instead of flax seed oil, and that would work just as well as the flax seed oil. Trillium agreed. My problem is that when I eat fish of any kind, except halibut, the ghost of that fish haunts me for days, reminding me how fishy the fish was. When I made my little complaint about the hourly post-it notes my stomach is wont to send me, Calypso said, "Der iz a zort of fizh ol dat ju kan et like candiez. It iz Finnizh Fizh ol. Talk to de Marja. She kno'z watz wat."

When I finish the bottle of flax seed oil that I presently have, I will go to the fish oil that tastes like candy. Hopefully by then I will not have a PGOUS.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Mile-stone... er... An Iron-stone

You will recall that I had a phlebotomy a couple of weeks ago, and very little to do afterwards until last Tuesday (yesterday) when I went in to see "She-Who-Shall-Remain-Nameless" to have blood drawn for the ferritin check. Other than spending fifteen minutes reading "wrong-headedness" in print (Time Magazine), the blood letting was uneventful. I have to say that "Nameless" managed for the second time in a row not to cause me any alarm whatsoever when she let the needle fly. I did not feel a thing.

Today, before going up to the hospital to visit T-ma (a broken hip from a fall last Sunday; a hip-replacement yesterday), I received a phone call from "Doc Holliday" informing me that my ferritin count had dropped to 392, well within the normal range. He suggested that I wait until January before I have another pint drawn, and two weeks after that before I have my ferritin level checked again. Gee, and I was well on my way to being fear-free of the needle game. I was actually starting to look forward to these pleasant little outings.

What this means, of course, is that I will have even less material to draw upon when I am writing my entries to this blog. What an insufferable situation. I had just gotten used to the idea that I would only have to "Google" myself some information about once every other week. Now, during the month of December, I am going to have to do something bizarre every week without the benefit of my cast of characters. This does not bode well for the entertainment value of my writing. The cynics are saying, "Well, we are not certain there was much in any event". Point taken.

All that can be said that this point is that I am certain that my sister will be glad to hear that her brother's organs are safe from all mortal danger, at least from the eight-pound Cafe Rio Steak Burrito that I had for lunch today. I am certain that that particular brand of cuisine will probably require an extra visit to the "Infusion Center" come January.

My readership may be interested to know how it feels to be normal. I haven't a clue. Hemochromatosis is only the tip of the abnormality iceberg that is your correspondent. I am happy, however, that I have gone through this process, that there is some truth to be learned and there are effective ways of dealing with medical problems.

What to do now that my entries will no longer be as informative and more widely spaced? Well there is my other blog "Dancing on the Edge" which is a disease that everyone can contract and bemoan together.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Non Ferritous Sequitur

I have been experiencing a dry spell of sorts. I am between phlebotomies and am two or three days away from another blood withdrawal to check my ferritin count, and thus a week away from having any kind of a report from “Doc Holliday”. I thought, “Well, maybe it is time to find out a few more things. Maybe it is Google-time at the Beeblebrox household”. So this morning I went on line to find out just how much iron I am losing per day through my skin, my hair, and my fingernails. The answer is simple.

According to those who actually spent time investigating this sort of medical information for a living, normal human beings shed about one milligram of iron per day. I wondered if a person with serious iron-overloading actually sheds more. It seems reasonable that it would be so. A German outfit located in Germany (that seems right), says that normal people have about 65 (+ or – 25) mu-mols of iron for every 100 grams of dry weight skin. I have a question. Where did these German scientists get 100 grams of dry weight human skin? Think of this. A normal human being sheds his or her skin (about 22 square feet) every other day, at a rate of 7 million skin flakes per minute. I am told that if you gathered up all of the skin flakes shed in a week from every person on the earth you would have a pile of dead cells three stories high. Apparently there is no want of experimental materials.

Given that there are plenty of dead skin cells to work with, the little German project at least is plausible. The report goes on to say, however, that those people with hemochromatosis have significantly more iron in their skin. Now this seems intuitively correct, but has this been scientifically proven? I mean, when our little Herr Professor Doctors were ferreting about in their thirty foot pile of dead skin cells, how did they know which ones belonged to the iron overloaded class? Did they use magnets (my favorite technique)? Did they wait for the 1 cell in 250 to migrate toward the north? What? How? This is a puzzling conclusion and one that requires further research. Don’t expect any results any time soon.

Now, is this the sort of stuff that inspires my family or anyone else to rise up and take notice of my carefully crafted prose? No! It is what follows, the stuff that has absolutely nothing to do with my affliction, except in the most ancillary of ways. While I was trying to find out how much the entire skin of a normal human being weighs (9 to 10 pounds, but I don’t think that is dry weight), I happened upon a website called “The Analyst”, a digital naturopathic “.com” that was filled with all sorts of informative and really repulsive data. The article on Hemochromatosis (Iron Overloading) seemed to be fairly accurate. I recommend it.

What I found particularly interesting, however, ensconced between the elaborate charts and the rather erudite Glossary, was this little story.

When Jacob was finally given an exit visa by the Russians and allowed to immigrate to Israel, he was told he could only take what he could put into one suitcase. At Moscow airport, he was stopped by customs and an official shouted, "Open your case at once."

Jacob did what he was told. The official searched through his case and pulled out something wrapped in newspaper. He unwrapped it and saw it was a bust of Stalin.

"What is that?" he shouted at Jacob.

Jacob replied, "You shouldn't ask 'What is that?' - you should ask 'Who is that?' That is our glorious leader Stalin. I'm taking it to remind me of the wonderful things he did for me and the marvellous life that I am leaving behind."

The official sneered. "I always knew you Jews were mad. Go, and take the bust with you."

When Jacob arrived at Ben Gurion airport, a customs officer said, "Shalom, welcome to Israel, open your case, please!"

Jacob's case was once again searched and not surprisingly the bust was found. "What is that?” asked the officer.

Jacob replied, "You shouldn't ask 'What is that?' - you should ask 'Who is that?' That is Stalin the rat. I want to spit on it every day to remind me of all the suffering and misery he caused me."

The official laughed, "I always knew you Russians were mad. Go, and take the bust with you."

When Jacob arrived at his new home, his young nephew watched him as he unpacked. Jacob carefully unwrapped the bust of Stalin and put it on the table. "Who is that?" asked his nephew.

Jacob replied, "You shouldn't ask 'Who is that?' - you should ask 'What is that?' That is five kilos of gold."

Now that is my kind of blog.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Ken Youse Hold .... on to Your Wallet?

Given the nature of my little affliction, there is bound to be some repetition in the events recorded in this blog. I have attempted to keep things interesting, perhaps somewhat entertaining, as the weeks and months have rolled along. I have contemplated how in the world I was going to obtain enough material to make a weekly entry. How many times can I go to the Infusion Center to have a pint taken before the rhetorical well runs dry? It's hard to say. Thus far, the boys and girls over there have been quite accommodating, providing me with vast amounts of anecdotal tidbits with which to regale my readers. How many times can I take "Doc Holliday's" name in vain before the "Cease and Desist" order arrives at my front door? Its hard to say. I have been circumspect, choosing to rename everyone cleverly (or, as it is in one person's case, I have chosen to name her "Nameless", and so she shall remain).

In terms of my experiences with the staff at the three major major institutions with which I have to deal, these, too, have proven to be a rich source of grist for my verbal mill. I have hopes that I can continue on without droning excessively about my condition. In the present moment, however, I do need to follow up just a bit on an item that was left hanging a posting or so ago. That this has to do with the staff of two of the three major institutions with which I usually deal is merely coincidental. What follows below has only a faint resemblance to what has gone on before, but I suspect that it does so because of the smoke and mirrors in operation by the various parties concerned.

You will recall (if you can't, there is a place where you can go to review) that I had been to the Infusion Center twice before they finally billed DMBA and Medicare for the cost of hauling my blood out of me, and then out of the door. DMBA, however, was not as forthcoming with the payments as the Infusion Center had hoped, leaving then with the indelicate option of having to deal with me directly about the $70.22 shortfall. Before they actually sent me the bill, however, they thought to try alternative methods of recouping their losses. There was at least one attempt to make the whole process a more lucrative enterprise, but that ended in failure when the town fathers of Spanish Fork discovered that there were clandestine operatives salting an old, played-out, iron mine near Thistle, with my blood. They probably would have gotten away with it had not the rats in the mine begun to hum James Taylor songs in the middle of the night.

When the notice to "pay or else" arrived in the mail from the Infusion Center, you will remember that I called DMBA to find out exactly why I was having to pay $35.11 each time I had my blood taken, inasmuch as it was in their financial best interests to have it done. My contact at that time was a young man who introduced himself as "Gernrnnantily". After explaining what I thought was an exorbitant co-pay for the procedure, the fellow sent me off into the netherworlds of "Will You Hold Please" while he consorted with his supervisor. When he returned, he apologized for some sort of mal-function that had taken place in the "data entry palace" of the mystical land of DMBA. I asked him what I should expect. He said, "In no time at all your bill with the Infusion Center will be satisfactorily dealt with. These topographical errors are easy to resolve." Not only did I worry about the nature of the "topographical errors", but also what "in no time at all" actually meant.

Being the trusting, non-cynical soul that I am, I let the whole thing pass, anticipating that I would never have to have a verbal exchange with Big G again. This past week, however, I learned for myself once again that the truth of Lily Tomlin's aphorism, "No matter how cynical you become, it is never enough", had not become passe. Wednesday, I received a dunning notice from the Patient Services Department of the hospital suggesting that if I did not pay the $70.22 due them, I might find additional reasons to take advantage of Medicare's services, that my personal topography might have to be rearranged by someone with a very large magnet (the threat was specifically aimed at my medical condition; think of that!). I decided that my best course of action was to call DMBA again and find out what was up.

A new fellow, "Firmenansy", answered the phone. I began to explain all that I had originally communicated to "Gernrnnantily" about the billing. After a minute or two of listening to my prattle, he asked me if I could hold; he needed to talk with his supervisor. I told him I would wait. I do not know whether the length of time on hold is indicative of anything at all, but I am beginning to think that it requires some effort to come up with a fabricated tale that will momentarily satisfy the patient on line. "Firmenansy" was equal to the task.

"Well, Mr. Beeblebrox, the problem here is that the hospital has been billing us using a code that is reserved for "Out-Patient Medical Pfijmleyt" instead of using the code for "Lab Tbnllkonr Kndfdjkoeu". All you have to do is communicate that to your health provider and that should solve any and all topographical problems you may be suffering".

I was beginning to wonder if my time was worth $35.11 a pop, if I had to go through this sort of thing every time I went to the mine-salters. But, having been retired for nearly five years and having little or nothing else to do with my time, I decided that I should continue my efforts, notwithstanding the accumulating billable hours. So, taking "Firmenansy's" recommendation, I proceeded to call the Patient Services Department to provide the appropriate information that would keep everyone happy.

"Wad jouse want?" said a voice that sounded like it would be wielding the afore-mentioned magnet.

"I'm calling about my bill.... "

"Pay up or die!"

"But I don't think that I owe what you say I do. You see... "

"We don haf ta need to 'see' nuttin' here, but the color of yer dough. Pay up or die!"

"But DMBA said that the bill was not submitted corr...... "

"We ain't da billin' d'partmn'. We do da collect'n. But I kin translate ya..."

"What? Translate?"

"No... dats not it... translate..., transpose..., transfigure..., transmogrify.... "


"Ya! Dats it! Ken youse hold?"

I held... on for dear life. Finally, the voice of the unflappable "Queenie" (not her real name, but close enough as to make no never-mind) came on the line.

"Yes, Mr. Beeblebrox, what can I do for you?"

I explained everything that I had discussed with Big G, Big F, and BIG-BIG, again trying to make sense out of what had happened in the billing. I commented on the various billing codes and what DMBA had said about them. I then asked if there was anything she could do for me as far as the Patient Services Department was concerned.

"Oh yes. I am just now taking that account away from BIG-BIG. You won't be hearing from him again unless you say something unflattering about me in your next blog." (Note that I have been the quintessence of decorum in this matter.) She continued, "You wouldn't mind if I had a chat with DMBA myself, just to be sure that I have all of the right information?"

"No, not at all. Please do!"

I hung up the phone hoping for the best. About thirty minutes later, I received a return phone call from "Queenie" informing me that I would not have to pay the $35.11 per phlebotomy; that had been a problem with DMBA's computer, a problem that apparently BIG-BIG was able to help them with in some way.

"Now, Zaphod, you owe me one."

"Yes, I do. What do you recommend?"

"Could you cut down on the Barq's a little? Say, down to only eight or nine cans each time you come?"

"I think that I could maybe attempt to try to convince myself that perhaps or maybe that Sprite would do."

"No, Beeblebrox! Eight or nine cans period. And only ten or twelve packages of Lorna Doones. You're killing us over here. Its either that or you are going to have to cough up the $35.11."

It is clear that I am going to have to stop at Carl's Jr. on my way home next month.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Angel of Mercy

I made my way down to the Infusion Center last Friday to have another pint of my preternaturally ironized blood drawn ("clink, clank, clunk"). I was greeted by a new crew. I supposed that I had worn Nurse Chappell and her buddies out. The head nurse was wearing a red smock; I had never seen one of these before. I quipped, "What does the red smock mean? Is there some sort of medical significance to the color code around here?"

"It's Friday," the Lady in Red replied. "Didn't you get the memo?"

"No, as a matter of fact I didn't, and apparently no one else in the office did either," I answered, looking around the entire complex at all of the powder blue, pastel green, beige, and other warm earth tones decorating the staff.

"Well, it is Friday and we are having a special celebration that demands that I wear a red smock today."

"Oh! What might that be?"

"Today we have a new Registered Nurse on the floor and she has never drawn blood from a patient before. You are her first."

"And the significance of the red smock?"

"It is difficult getting blood splatters out of our uniforms. I figured since I was to be the tutor of the new RN I ought to be prepared for any eventuality."

"And why am I being graced with a Newbie?" I asked with a quivering lip.

"Because if she screws up and douses the planet with your iron-rich plasma, nobody loses anything. We have to throw the stuff away anyway," she answered with a sweet smile.

"What colored smock is she wearing?"

"She is the one in the powder-blue smock. She is far more optimistic than I am."

So what happened to the pure white dresses that the nurses always used to wear when I was younger? The attire of the Candy-Stripers, I could understand; any errors on their part could be explained as Art Nouveau decorations. When I asked Trillium to marry me 42 years ago, she was dressed in white on the way to work at the hospital in Duluth, Minnesota. LPN's in Minnesota in those days wore white uniforms, and clearly had enormous confidence in their skills. It was the doctors who wore pastels. "Danger, Will Robinson!"

As I was waiting for the troops to show up with the various sized needles, tubes, bags, rubber webbing, the rubber ball, and the mop bucket, I thought about Lord Nelson's great ship of the line, "Victory", and his practice of painting the decks with red paint in order to minimize the psychological effects of having body parts and such scattered everywhere in the heat of battle. This may have made for effective warfare, but it seemed to me that the practice of wearing a red smock to a blood-letting bespeaks of a frame of mind that does not lower the blood pressure of the patient.

Speaking of sea-faring stories and such, one of my favorite songs by James Taylor is called "The Frozen Man". James wrote the song as a whimsical response to a tabloid headline that he had read several years ago about a sailor who had been found in a chunk of ice and whom the medical ghouls were contemplating resuscitating. The lyrics follow:

The Frozen Man

Last thing I remember is the freezing cold
Water reaching up just to swallow me whole
Ice in the rigging and howling wind
Shock to my body as we tumbled in
Then my brothers and the others are lost at sea
I alone am returned to tell thee
Hidden in ice for a century
To walk the world again
Lord have mercy on the frozen man

Next words that were spoken to me
Nurse asked me what my name might be
She was all in white at the foot of my bed
I said angel of mercy I'm alive or am I dead
My name is William James McPhee
I was born in 1843
Raised in Liverpool by the sea
But that ain't who I am
Lord have mercy on the frozen man

It took a lot of money to start my heart
To peg my leg and to buy my eye
The newspapers call me the state of the art
And the children, when they see me, cry

I thought it would be nice just to visit my grave
See what kind of tombstone I might have
I saw my wife and my daughter and it seemed so strange
Both of them dead and gone from extreme old age
See here, when I die make sure I'm gone
Don't leave 'em nothing to work on
You can raise your arm, you can wiggle your hand(unlike myself)
And you can wave goodbye to the frozen man

I know what it means to freeze to death
To lose a little life with every breath
To say goodbye to life on earth
To come around again
Lord have mercy on the frozen man
Lord have mercy on the frozen man

That little song went through my mind as I sat there waiting with Trillium for the The Lady in Red and her cohort, the Girl in Glacier Blue, to show up to do the messy deed. Why wasn't I going to get an "Angel of Mercy," dressed all in white? Even William James McPhee got one of those and he was almost dead. LR and GGB showed up after about 15 minutes full of enthusiasm and thinly veiled anticipation. I could tell that LR had put a fresh coat of ScotchGuard on her smock. What happened next almost defies description.

Never have I been treated as kindly as the "Angel of Mercy" treated me during the next half hour. She freely admitted that this was her first time doing a phlebotomy, but she had been a nurse for more than fifteen years. She explained things cheerfully as she went along, answering my jocular, but nervous questions about what was going on. When it came time for the first injection, the one that would numb the area around the vein that she was going to poke, I made my little half-joke about my phobia about needles, even the 20 gauge one she was about to use.

She said with a wonderful smile, "Oh, this is not that big; you should not even feel the needle going in. It is a needle that we use on infants so as to not hurt them. It's about a 28 or 30 gauge, if not smaller."

"So this is not going to hurt?"

"Yes it is going to sting a bit, but it won't be the needle. It will be the local anesthetic. That juice smarts when it goes in."

No one had ever told me that before; I had always assumed that it was the needle. I began to wonder if some of my other bad moments with needles were of a similar nature.

As she was getting ready to put the 14-gauge "doo-dah" in my arm, I joked about the "Bad Needle Technique" (still abbreviated BNT) that I had received a couple of months back and how I feared for any tuna hooked like that.

"Well," she said, "I haven't ever done a phlebotomy before, but I am really experienced in performing IVs. We shouldn't have any BeNT problems today!"

I waited for the jab, the pinch, the sting, the flickering lights. They never came. Apparently "AoM" put the anesthetic exactly where it was supposed to go, unlike others I could mention. In one fell swoop, "AoM" had swept away about half of my agonies about having my blood drawn.

What a day! I felt so good afterward that I took my first and only Angel of Mercy, together with T-ma, to Carrabbas for dinner. Grilled chicken with garlic mashed potatoes, together with a Caesar salad. Not much digestible iron there, and if there was, I didn't care. I had a friend in the needle business.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Blood-iron Reducing Techniques

Go to any other web site dedicated to this topic and you will find suggestions far less painful than the ones I am going to articulate here. Most will talk about diet, the sorts of things one should or should not eat, which supplements one should or should not ingest, and what sort of remedial activities actually will cause a loss of ferritin. Most of these are innocuous and generally affect nothing but your whole way of living your life. My modest proposals will be as effective as those proposed by the pantywaists at other websites, but far more memorable.

I personally recommend bike-riding. Barnacle Raff and I do that from time to time and as counter-intuitive as it sounds, free wheeling can bring about a sharp drop in ferritin. The first two forays that Raff and I took involved hardly more than getting into his truck, with our bikes loaded up, and managing to avoid mid-morning traffic on our way to the Riverwood Shopping Center. I have to say that the potential for a cost-effective blood-letting had been on the street both times we made the trip. Unfortunately, Raff's driving skill are prodigious and I neither went through the windshield nor was I ejected from our vehicle at impact. I did over-hear some blood-curdling screams from various parties along the way, but I have not discovered whether curdling one's blood actually affects the ferritin count. The trips from Riverwood to Vivian Park were not exactly fraught with danger, except for the occasional "mountain trail" that Raff likes to take. I saw several boulders with my name potentially written all over them in my own blood; rich iron deposits those.

The trip from the BYU Motion Picture Studios down to Utah Lake, however, was far more promising and productive. Last Thursday (not yesterday, but a week ago), Raff picked me up and because the weather was just a little nippy, he decided that we ought to do a longer, flatter, but warmer excursion. Hence, the Lake Effect. The ride began well, but there were far more travelers on the path than what I was used to. Raff decided that we needed to go about 10:00 so that we would avoid the ice on the path. There was only about a two-mile stretch that had any ice on it. What he had not foreseen, however, was the three-inch pile of leaves that made the path a bit slimy in places. Out of the 14 miles we biked, only 13.99 miles had this problem. Hence, when we came upon the two skateboard enthusiasts with their dogs on their forty-foot leashes pulling them down the trail, the opportunity for ferritin iron reduction was realized.

The usual practice for the patrons of the trail is that those traveling on foot are supposed to hunker to the right while we on bikes pass by them on the left. This practice can vary according to those who are walking and those who are riding and who really thinks that they own the walkway. In other words, anyone traveling along the Provo River Walkway probably ought to anticipate some sort of major injury about every third trip.

The boys on the boards were coming toward us about the same speed we were going towards them. They were engaged in activities other than watching out for Raff and me. I suspect that they were texting each other. In any event, one fellow was on the right side of the path with his dog checking out everything within forty feet on the left. The other fellow was doing the same, but with the orientation reversed. The dogs, of course, had minds of their own (perhaps the four travelers only had one mind between them) and were wandering around to see what the other had discovered. Raff and I shouted at the two boys that we were coming through. It was then that it became clear that the fellows had earbuds inserted as well, listening to KDAVOLA. It was then that things went awry.

Raff slammed on his brakes. As it turned out, he had tried to stop on the .01 mile of the trail that had neither ice nor leaves on it. I, however, was still on frozen tundra. I began to slide and fully expected to hit my 77 year old friend in the back with all of the iron-overloading that still could be measured. I did the only thing that I thought that I could do: I laid my bike down, and did a magnificent "tuck-and-roll" off the path and into the bushes next to the river. On the way down my left knee struck the asphalt. When I got up from my tumble, the two boys and Raff were very solicitous, hoping that I was not seriously injured. When it became apparent that there were no grounds for a personal injury suit, the four-some scampered off to continue their reign of terror elsewhere.

Raff said, "Are you really okay? Do you want to head back?"

"No," I replied, "I think I only scraped my knee a bit." I pulled up my left pant leg and discovered that I had a about a four square inch patch of missing skin on my kneecap that was quietly weeping ferritin.

"Wow! Are you sure you can go on like that!"

"Sure," I replied. "This is all part of my regular iron-overloading therapy. It is facing the Krrrakin that I am worried about." I went to the Krrrakin cave this morning and I was happy to discover that my graceful descent from my bike into the undergrowth had done no damage to my bonal arrangement. So, for those of you looking for new ways to eliminate ferritin from your system, find a place to go bike riding that has lots of sharp protrusions along the trail and a bevy of mindless teenagers multitasking. In no time you should be able to remember exactly what things the other websites have to say on this matter.

If this has been helpful, I may add blogs on cutting fingernails with a lawnmower (I have done this very thing) and giving one's self a haircut with a chain saw (I have come close on several occasions). Remember, it is in the loss of skin, blood, fingernails and hair that the body sheds its iron.

In an hour I go to the Infusion Center to have Nurse Chappell take another pint. I may be less ouchy about the process today.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Trillium and I have been somewhat concerned about the security of our computers. We have a wireless router with Comcast which has been effectively isolated to a few computers in the house and a few specific visiting laptops when they show up in the possession of our relatives whom we trust explicitly. In doing so, I am certain that we have taken away some hangers-on in the neighborhood who could tap into our extremely strong signal. Interestingly enough, even though we have six people on our block who could have regularly picked up on my router signal, Trillium has some problem getting the signal in the "Dungeon" where she has her workroom.

Safely ensconced in our little world of cyberspace, we have not been overly concerned about anyone attempting to hack in either. Both the Comcast box and the router have "firewalls", devices so spectacularly safe that it is supposedly impossible for anyone to secretly invade our personal computers from the outside. Additionally, we have spyware, adware, and virus detectors that are updated at least once a day. We are safe.

I assumed that much the same could be said of our various accounts on the web, like this blogspot, for example. Chris and Trillium, however, have had various encounters with unwelcomed guests on their sites. Chris decided to go "private" which effectively eliminates anyone whom he does not specifically invite. It is a pain to log in every time, but I understand his concern. Trillium, being deeply concerned about pictures and such, decided to put a tracker on her site just to see where her hits were coming from. It has taken her a little while to recognize that some of the odd cities were actually our regulars whom the tracker hasn't quite figured out yet. A little disconcerting at first. Some of the hits floored her, however. Who does she know in Quebec? Who is the guy in Clearwater, Florida, who is checking out my little bouquet of forest flowers? Trillium decided that she might want to go private too and encourage the others on our lists to do so as well.

I have decided not to go private, however. I figured that what I had to say about Hemochromatosis was for the entire world and not just for those who are close to me. Might I get hacked? Probably, but as Trillium pointed out to me this morning, no one is prepared to read everything I have written, much less comment on it. In other words, I am "Iron-walled". My prattlings on my genetic disease put the reader in a comatose state after the first four sentences. I doubt that there will be more than six people who will get to this point in my diatribe today, much less comment on it.

What a gift! To be able to compose such a heavy prose that nothing can break through it! I ruminated in another posting, wondering if my blood were musical. Some of my kindly correspondents thought that I was born with music in my blood. But the truth of the matter is that my blood is in my writing. Mason Williams wrote a song years ago about the poet Dylan Thomas, sung to the tune of "London Bridge is Falling Down":

Dylan Thomas is dead and gone
Dead and gone
Dead and gone
Dylan Thomas is dead and gone
His blood turned to words.

This is me. The Man with the Iron Prose.

Just for the record, I have had visitors from Germany, Australia, and a slough of cities I have never even heard of, much less had contact with. Who are these people? I have no idea, but they probably ought be concerned about the effect of my Iron Prose on their internet connection. Some day all of this stuff is going to reach a critical mass all around the world and "Wham": rust everywhere.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Duty-free Iron

I went to see the "Krrrakin" this morning at Louis' Bone Emporium. He seems to think that my hip is doing nicely, feeling that he is finally whipping me into shape. As each "snap", "krackle", and "pop" resounded throughout the the "Krrrakin's" cave, I thought about the last fifteen minutes of the "Terminator" that I watched last night. There was a fellow whose bone structure would have given the "Krrrakin" pause. I am assured by the medical profession that my condition does not deposit iron into my bones, nor will it cause my eyes to turn red and glow in the dark. About the time you figure out a possible up-side to a disease, the boys in white take it all away. I have just about finished watching the first season of the "Sarah Conner Chronicles". I am certain that my affliction is not going to make me look like Summer Glau either. More's the pity.

Later on I went to see "Doc Holliday" for my monthly checkup and review of my ferritin count. Before Trillium and I headed off to California, I had a pint ("clank") drawn at the Infusion Center. "Nurse Chappell" was as chipper as ever. I feel like, when I am talking to her, that having the 14-gauge cannon muzzle shoved into my vein is similar to riding on the "teeter-totter" at Paul Ream Park. My guess is that if I were a little more like Arnold's character in last night's movie, our monthly fist-a-cuff's would have more charm about them. "Doc" said that as part of the treatment program that I should continue to do my monthly thing down at the Center. I don't think that I can maintain the witticisms that frequently.

While on vacation in the Pacific, I had the opportunity of partaking of the cuisine offered up by Carnival Cruise Line. It wasn't bad. Dinner time was the best. The servings are based on the European tradition: small, but tasty. I decided on the second night that we ate there, that I would have two of everything. So, I had two appetizers, two entrees, and two desserts. I took consolation that none of this intake was going to trouble my liver, my pancreas, my brain, or my heart. The officers on board kept insisting that everything was duty-free. "Ah!" I thought, "The perfect vacation. I don't have to fret about anything". All diseases and congenital afflictions remained on shore in Long Beach. When we arrived home five days later I discovered that I had brought back nine more pounds than what I had left with.

I think that I have figured out what happened. It could have been the meals on board ship, but as I said, they were supposed to be duty-free. After a nice breakfast of grits, eggs, fried potatoes, bacon, pastries, milk, fruit, and bagels, I made my way with Trillium to one of the Shoreboats that had been arranged for to take us to Avalon. We walked the crescent from the green pier to the Casino and then back to the place where we were to have our Inside Island Tour. By this time it was about 10:00 and I was feeling a little peckish. We went into a little bistro on the south end of the city and I bought a foot-long roast-beef sandwich. "You have got to be kidding me!" exclaimed Trillium. "I'm on vacation. Besides, its duty-free," I replied. In all honesty, however, I could only get half of it down before the bus was ready to cart us up the mountain, passing the buffalo, and into the airport. It was a bit of a jaunt and by the time we arrived at the former Western Airlines depot for Catalina Island, the first half of the sandwich had been pretty much compacted by the jostling about that had taken place in the bus. While others lolled about in the gift shop, I hammered down the second half of the sandwich.

I was feeling just a little too stuffed at dinner time and Trillium could have been feeling better as well. As a result, we did not join our regular companions at the Destiny Dining Room. We walked about the ship from stem to stern. I think that we enjoyed the fantail the best. Trillium liked looking at the waters of the Pacific being churned up by the ship's engines and the waves that fanned away from the ship into the distance; I liked the fact that the Pizza Shop, the sandwich store, and the ice cream dispenser were about 30 feet away.

The next day, after a moderate breakfast (I left out the grits and added a large omelet) Trillium and I decided to hoof it into Ensenada just to work our joints a little. It was a little too much for us: Trillium had injured her ankle before leaving Orem; I actually had an uncontrollable urge to roll along the sidewalk. About noon we boarded the bus to go out to La Buffadora, south of town. It was interesting. I worked out the rhythm of the spouts by using Mandelbrot's Fractals and as a result got some pretty good pictures. Trillium wanted ice cream, or something like unto it. We ended up with something like Popsicles but made out of whole fruit. I recommended the Lime flavor just because I knew that the little animals that made life unpleasant in Mexico cannot survive the acidic nature of lime juice. They were wonderful. We also bought two carne asada tacos from a little place there. A daring, but wonderful adventure. I watched the girls roll up the masa, flatten them in the tortilla maker, fry them on the grill, and then load the chopped beef and other yummy ingredients into that freshly made tortilla. I assumed that these, too, were duty-free. When we arrived back on board ship, we prepared for dinner. It was two of everything.

The rest of the week went in a similar vein. When we got off the ship in Long Beach, the Customs people asked me if I had anything to declare. I just rolled by them in silence. They seemed to understand. At the airport, since we had not eaten breakfast, I suggested that we have some airport food. Trillium indicated what she wanted. I ended up with a breakfast burrito the size of New Hampshire. This, too, was duty-free since California and New Hampshire have an understanding. When we got back to Salt Lake I found that I had some difficulty getting behind the wheel of the Mustang. By the time we arrived in Orem, my belly-button was chafed raw by the steering wheel.

The following Monday (this last Monday), I went into the University Medical Center to have blood extracted for the ferritin check. The lab technician (who shall remain Nameless), had to fuss around for about 15 minutes trying to find out if it was okay for her to take my blood. I was annoyed. I was not there to sit about waiting for, contemplating even, the sharp, stabbing pain that I was about to receive. I became somewhat agitated, even a little miffed, so much so that when she finally flounced back into the lab and lashed me up, I did not even feel the needle going into my arm. I was waiting for it, I was flinching properly, but all that duty-free iron had dulled my senses.

So now to the bottom line. "Doc Holliday" was accompanied by a pre-med student this morning. The fellow was trying to decide whether he should pursue a career in poking and prodding. I let the "Doc" sing his little song for me, even though both he and I knew that he had sung it too many times already. Again, there was an upside to all of that duty-free iron that had dulled my senses. My ferritin level was at 530, some 61 points below what it had been a month ago. The plebotomies and ferritin checks are to continue for the next six months and in May I will go back in to have my liver, spleen, lungs, heart, and pancreas checked once again for abnormalities. I confessed my diet of the previous week to "Doc". He said "Zaphod, don't get yourself all worked up about this stuff. You are coming along just fine..... although,... you are looking a little puffy".

I have lost four pounds since last Friday. I am not certain how much of that has been duty-free iron. Of all the things that I have been eating of late, it is the most irresponsible.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Lay of the Land and the Sea

This week has been full of adventure. I received a communique from DMBA indicating that the $107.20 charge for my monthly phlebotomy was unacceptable, notwithstanding my extraordinarily detailed analysis of the Utah Regional Medical Center's extraordinarily high overhead for taking my blood and then having to throw it away ("clank"). Medicare Advantage was perfectly willing to pay $72.09, which they coughed up almost immediately (they coughed twice, because UVRMC had dragged their feet a bit after the first phlebotomy in August, and then sent a single bill for August and September). DMBA then suggested that the remaining $35.11 (also twiced)was mine to pay. I was somewhat astonished at the decision. How could this be? Was this my punishment for consuming more than $85.00 in Barq's Root Beer and Lorna Doones? I decided that it was time to call the boys in Salt Lake.

After going through another mind-boggling assortment of answering machine options, I finally made it through to "Gernrnnantily"; apparently DMBA has a similar policy about answering with clearly enunciated given names as does the University of Utah. I finally mustered up my courage and said, "Well, Gernrnnantily, I have a perceived problem with my bill; and may I say that when I suggest that I have a problem with my bill, I mean to say that you are going to have the same problem momentarily after I shrug it off my shoulders on to yours."

"Oh! Isn't that nice!" said the Big G.

I then began my rant about the purpose of the phlebotomies, that they were therapeutic, designed to save DMBA and Medicare the riches of King Midas. Without the phlebotomies, I was looking at a number of debilitating diseases involving my liver, pancreas, heart, and brain, all of which organs were extraordinarily valuable to me. Additionally I was certain that if "Doc Holliday" had to treat any one of the debilitated organs, he and his wife would be spending a great deal of time seeing the rest of the world that they could not afford on the meager hemochromatosis ticket.

"Hmmmm," said G. "Can you hold?"

I responded with my best prostate answer, "If it is not more than an hour or so, I think I can manage." After a few minutes, G came back on line.

"As inconceivable as it may seem, there appears to be a mistake on the way your insurance information was entered into the computer."

"And, how much do I owe? Is there a standard co-pay every time I go to the Infusion Center?"

"I'm not certain," said G. "It could be anything from $.11 to $15.00 depending on which two of digits on your balance the management is willing to deduct from your bill. If they take out the first two, then it will be $.11. If they decide to take out the first and the last digits and reverse the order of the middle two digits and eliminate the decimal point, you would owe $15.00."

"How are these decisions made?" I asked.

"Well, it sort of depends on whether they use a pointy golden needle with a silver syringe attached or if they use a 14-gauge platinum shotgun with diamond pellets on the target that has the "$35.11" written on it. In any event, we will have the results back from the executives in a day or two and we will you know. I am really sorry about all of this. There was just a topographical error." He said goodbye without explaining to me what the topographical error was.

I have made lots of topographical errors in my life, particularly while hiking about in the mountains of California, but I have never been lost nor have I ever been billed $35.11 for taking the wrong trail. I will be waiting with baited breath to find out what really transpires.

In the meantime, I returned to the Infusion Center to have another pint drawn. This was on Wednesday about noon. "Nurse Chappell" was there with bells on ready to put me under the needle once again. She said that she had read my blog, looking for her nurse friend and herself in the various entries. I asked her if she had read every word or if she had merely scanned the verbiage hoping for a lucky hit.

She replied, "You know how I give you that little shot of lanocane just before I put your arm under the drill press?" I nodded in the affirmative. "Well, I don't have any analgesics anywhere near my computer monitor. If you think I am going to make myself comatose reading every word you write without a pain-killer, then you are crazier than you look." (I had forgotten to comb my hair before making my appointment.)

On the way home, Trillium offered to take me to lunch at Carl's Jr. Believe it or not, I said that I would rather not. My experience at Burger King a week or so was still causing me gastronomical nightmares. I said, "But we could stop at Macy's where I could get myself a maple bar."

"Solid iron," Trillium said and we drove home.

The next morning I had an appointment with Louis' Bone Emporium for my weekly adjustment. My internal clock was focused on Friday at 9:00 instead of Thursday morning at 8:15. The receptionist gave me a call at 8:30 asking me where I was. I said, "I am having temporal anomalies in the time-space continuum this morning." She said I could come in as soon as I was able. Louis has been having some difficulty getting my left hip to stay where it is supposed to be. Thursday morning he stretched me out on "The Rack" and began singing "This Nine-pound Hammer", a ditty written in the 1960s about John Henry, the Steel Drivin' Man. I walked out a few minutes later with my hip completely resolved never to topographically stray again.

After I got home, I called up Barnacle Raff, my neighbor, and told him that I was ready to go on our weekly bike ride (weekly planned, but it has taken us two months to take two trips). We rode from the Riverwoods Mall up the Provo Riverwalk all the way to Vivian Park. "You're doing better today, Zaphod. You made it all the way up and back with only one stop." I told him that I have been resolving all of my topographical problems of late and I find that I am in better condition to deal with the change in altitude.

Finally, Trillium and I are leaving topography behind for a week. Monday we fly to Los Angeles (there is no engagement with the topography at 30,000 feet), to board the Carnival Paradise (ensconced in a cabin so close to the waterline as to invite no suggestion of topography), and to spend five days on a perfectly flat Pacific Ocean (there is a reason why it is called the "Pacific Ocean"). During that time I will be able to consume as much Duty-free Iron as I want. The only downside to the trip is the fact that Carnival charges $35.11 if you get lost between Lido Deck and Deck 6B.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Iron Man 2

The 30th Annual Ironman competition was held in Hawaii this past weekend. It featured the traditional Wakiki Rough Water Swim, the Around Oahu Bike Ride, and the Honolulu Marathon. The winner this past Sunday was Craig Alexander. He accomplished the entire circuit in 8 hours, 17 minutes, and 45 seconds.

On Friday, I became involved in my own Ironman competition. The Young Men's President invited me to come along with the Boy Scouts, ostensibly so that I could guide the boys through the Emergency Preparedness Merit Badge. The event started out with a 15 mile ride from Louis' house, through southern Orem, across Provo, to the mouth of Provo Canyon, up the Riverwalk to Vivian Park. From there, the boys and their leaders went up the steep road into the South Fork of Provo Canyon to Big Springs campground. It was a grueling bike ride, with everyone tumbling into the campsite about 8:15 PM (The whole thing had started about 4:30). My peculiar talents and skills were immediate recognized from the very beginning of the trek when I was handed the keys to Louis' Suburban and asked to drive the truck and the trailer up to the camp site.

Lucky Ben, the father of one of the boys, was to accompany me, riding shotgun in the car. As it turned out, since he is 30 years younger than myself, he had the opportunity of wheelbarrowing most of the camping gear from the trailer up the hill where we were to set up our tents (at least seven trips; a couple a hundred yards each). I have to say that I did carry my own gear, including my rather substantial back pack, my tent, and my aluminum cot. I am determined not to be uncomfortable when I am outside the house.

The first part of the South Fork Ironman having been accomplished, I embarked on the second leg: the water portion. I have been camping with these guys before and they all, both young and old, bring a whole new meaning to the phrase "The Cave of a Thousand Bears". I decided that I would sleep the sleep of the innocent by camping as close to the nearby stream as I could. The water was about a foot and a half deep, and about four feet wide. Inasmuch as we were on a fairly steep incline, the water was fast and noisy. For eight or nine hours I heard nothing but that water rushing by. No snoring of any kind disturbed my rest, even though Lucky Ben had set up his tent not three feet from mine.

The next morning, the boys were to begin the final leg of the Ironman: the Big Springs Marathing. At first, Lucky Ben and Iron Rod (another boy's father) were going to lead the charge up the hill, but Iron Rod needed to make an executive type phone call and needed to go back to Vivian Park to get enough bars to do so. Louis looked around the camp, fixed his eyes on me, and said, "Does anyone here know how to get to Big Springs?" He knew perfectly well that I had been there on at least two other occasions. I was nominated to lead the boys up the hill and back down. Thus I participated directly in the last leg of the triathlon.

I came back not much worse for wear, save for the blister on the knuckle of the second toe of my right foot. It was all of that sassy down-hill skipping that did me in. The boys and their leaders decided that they wanted to bike the return trip back to Orem, even though it had been snowing regularly all morning. Louis handed me the keys to the truck and away we all went.

Since I was the first one to get back home and into the shower, I figured that I won the competition. It only took me 21 hours, 4 minutes, and 17 seconds. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Iron Man

Notwithstanding Trillium's opposition, I bought a copy of "Iron Man" at Costco on Wednesday. We watched it last Friday night. Just for the record, as far as I can tell, there is absolutely no connection between the title character and myself, except for the shrapnel pieces driving toward the vital organs, particularly the heart. Instead of a hole in my chest into which Pepper Potts can stuff her little hand, it is in my arm. Whether Nurse Chappell stuffed her little hand into the hole made to extract my blood is beyond my ken, inasmuch as I invariably close my eyes whenever one of those little steel pointy things gets within a two or three meters from me. Alas, I am not a super-hero, a terrible self-realization.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Steel Crazy After All These Years

A week or so I went out to Seven-mile Pass to sing for a couple of hundred Scouts and Scouters. I had a pretty good time, but as I said then, I really had an attack of iron filings as a result of my wilderness foray. This weekend, I went with the Young Women and their leaders up to my friend and counselor's cabin at Schofield. I had a wonderful time. The weather was perfect; the sky was clear and the temperature just right. The next morning, the sun came up and gently pried my eyes open in the very best way. A short time later, I found myself on the veranda looking up at a mountainside filled with the yellowing leaves of a hundred thousand quaking aspens, mixed in with the reds and browns of hardwoods, the deep greens of the conifers and the deep crystal blue of the Utah sky at 9000 feet. I was in heaven. My main assignment at this little gathering was to play and sing love songs while the girls designed their wedding dresses and wrote what they were hoping to find in "Mr. Right". I doubt sincerely that any of them said "I hope that he plays the guitar."

There were things that transpired that reminded me that I was still conscious of my diet, even though my ferritin count has dropped considerably. On Friday night, the girls were served chicken cordon blue, baked potatoes with the interiors mashed and blended with sour cream and butter (and a bunch of other stuff), and layered with strips of cheddar cheese. There were rolls and Martinelli's, fruit salad and other trimmings. I was quite good. I took pride in the fact that I only ate one CCB and one half of a potato. I had a couple of servings of fruit salad and an inordinate amount of Martinelli's. I was feeling pretty good about my self restraint until they brought me a piece of "wedding cake". It was about five or six inches square; it was the corner piece; there was enough frosting to have made another whole cake; I ate every bit of it in spite of the fact that I knew that the sugar was going to facilitate the absorption of any and all of the iron in my dinner regardless of its source. The frosting reminded me on a regular basis during the night that I had had the temerity to stuff it all down my pie hole. I could feel my liver getting heavier and heavier.

Breakfast was interesting as well. I could smell the bacon all the way down in the basement of the cabin. I padded up the stairs and found bacon, sausage, milk, orange juice, and blintzes. I think that I had only four pieces of bacon, one sausage, a glass each of the fluids and a blintz. I said to myself, "I have been moderate here; I am on the high road to recovery here." The blintz, however, was my undoing. I am not sure what the blintz itself was made of, but the pan of blintzes had been smothered in dark brown sugar, great crusty chunks of it. The blintz smelled so good and went down so well, that I could not think about what all of that sugar was doing with the bacon and that singular piece of sausage. I suspect that they went straight to my pancreas.

As we were getting ready to go home, the young women leaders asked me if I wanted a sandwich for the ride home. I asked if Gerry were having one. He said, "No, I'll be okay." I said that there was no way that I was going to have something to eat in front of my friend and we left it at that. The girls packed up and headed out for Orem. Gerry and I stayed behind to check all the doors and windows and shut off all of the lights and such. The cabin would be formally prepared for winter-time in November.

We had a great ride home, discussing many of the same topics that had arisen during the sessions with the girls. When we arrived in Spanish Fork, I turned to Gerry and said, "Well, you didn't have any lunch, and we have been on the road an hour and a half. How would you like to stop for something to eat?" He, knowing me extremely well, having been on many long trips with me, having survived many a camp together during the past eight years, and knowing my peculiar preferences in fast food, said "Oh, I don't think that I could turn down a stop at Burger King". I managed to cross six lanes of traffic in forty feet and pulled into the home of the Whopper.

Now I know that you are thinking, "Hmmm. This does not sound much like a fellow who is really concerned about his ferritin count. A Whopper has what, eight or ten pounds of iron in it?" I have decided that a Whopper is the best of the great hamburgers because it is cooked over an open flame and not on a grill. Here is my logic. While it is true that every hamburger patty has a vast amount of heme iron, it is also true that hamburgers that are cooked over an open flame have less available iron. As everyone knows, iron mixed with carbon and heated to an appropriate temperature transmogrifies into steel. Therefore, by eating the Whopper I would not be consuming digestible iron but indigestible steel. At least that is what I told myself as I ordered a #1 combo "large" at the counter. Gerry shares my taste in BK cuisine and we soon found ourselves seated at a booth with all of the makings of a late lunch/early dinner.

It went down smooth. As I said to Gerry as I was polishing off the last of the French fries, "Well, I didn't have to grease my lips for that one." We got back into the Mustang and soon I was able to deposit my friend at his doorstep. When I walked into the house, Trillium, T-ma, and three of my daughters were about to leave for Millie's to have dinner prior to going to the Women's Broadcast at 6:00 PM. I could have complained about not having any dinner for myself, but my innards had already begun to complain about the half-baked steel slab that I had just dumped into the cauldron. I did not eat dinner. Instead I watched the last bit of the first "Rambo" movie. I found it particularly entertaining since it was being broadcast in Spanish. I watched the first part of "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle" in Spanish and I decided that it had been bad enough in English. I eventually went to bed. The Whopper was having second thoughts; my tummy was having second thoughts; the gigantic raft of steel had second thoughts. The only one not having second thoughts was me. I kept trying to convince myself that I had not done anything self-injuring, that the steel was not causing the deep bowel complaint, that it was probably the frosting from the wedding cake. As the raft began to break up, the preternatural steel ingots began to rumble about and although I eventually got to sleep, I woke up on several occasions during the night with a moaning and groaning accompanied by grumbling that resembled nothing so much as the sound that would be made by a gaggle of loose cannons sliding around on the poop deck during hurricane season in the Bahamas. I did not really recover from my dance with the hamburger until Trillium stuffed me full of the most wonderful soup this afternoon for dinner.

During the day I had occasion to relate my nocturnal experiences with the BK #1 to my friends. Gerry reminded me of my argument for going to Burger King in the first place was the forge effect caused by the iron and the carbon combination. "That was the real Whopper!" he declared. I am trying to decide if the next self-deception is going cause me as much consternation. I have decided, though, that if my ferritin count goes up next month that I am going to blame it on the wedding cake.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Iron Futures

The stock market has been taking a hit lately, even the S&P 500 where I have a small percentage of my investments. Years ago I decided that I would not be completely dependant upon the vagaries of the free enterprise system. Instead I determined to diversify economically. I thought that if I put most of my savings in Guaranteed Funds, say 60%, I could count on a constant though minimal return on my money. I decided to put 30% into Mutual Funds, specifically the Bond Market. A lowly 10% went into stocks, the afore mentioned S&P 500. I have done fairly well for that 40-year period and even though the stocks are all seeming to tank, my portfolio is still generating revenue. I have friends who have invested in gold, coins and bullion, and have given me to understand that they have gone very well for themselves. I have watched that commodity rise and fall hundreds of dollars an ounce and I cannot imagine anyone being bright enough to keep a handle on the market sufficiently to make money with gold trading. I suspect that the brokers do fine. however. I mention all of this because I think that there is only one precious metal that is making anybody, anywhere, any money at all: iron.

I mentioned in a previous blog entry that there was a time when I could go to the blood bank and sell a pint of my musical blood for about $25.00. That is in 1962 dollars. I hesitate to guess what that would be in 2008 dollars. In other words, I could go to the bank every six weeks or so and make about a third of my monthly salary as an enlisted man in the Air Force just by sitting quietly with a needle rammed into one of my veins for 20 minutes or so. As I indicated earlier, my visits did not appear to be profitable for the Red Cross or any one else, given the amount of juice and cookies that I would eat during the phlebotomy. I suspect, I do not know, that the blood banks must have been making something of a profit, however, when my blood came off the shelf. Certainly blood, particularly my winsome B+ kind, would have had some value to a man who was undergoing some other kind of "-otomy". Would he not be willing to pay a premium for a commodity that he was in dire need of? Would not the blood bank suggest that the blood which they had extracted from me at such great cost to themselves ought to require a substantial compensation? This is free enterprise at work and those willing to invest in a renewable resource like "me" must have thought to do well or they would not have started the bank in the first place. I do not know what their markup was and it probably just as well that I do not know. But every indication is that if you want to make money, buy iron.

Hemochromatosis was invented in 1995, at least that is when the medical profession began turning a coin by specifically treating the disease. I have yet to discover how much my "cure" is going to cost, but you ought to know that every time I go to see "Doc Holliday" I pay five dollars to the receptionists at the front desk. I think that DMBA and Medicare have to pony up a bit more, considerably more, astonishingly more, inconceivably more.... Well, you get the idea. Maybe when I am feeling just a little more effusive, I will run up to the bill box and figure out just how much the "Doc" and his gang are banking every time I go to talk with them. I did think, however, that it would be a helpful begining if I simply told you about the lucrative business of the phlebotomy itself.

To date, I have had two phlebotomies. One in August and again in September. I have already chatted with you about those visits and how well I was treated, how cheerily each of my jokes was received, how charismatic I was made to appear. In the end, I felt that giving my pint was a delight to everyone concerned. I now know that other than sticking the needle in and taking the needle out, with the addition of a couple of mess preventatives, I did all the work. First, the nurse wrapped a piece of rubber webbing around my arm so that my veins would bulge out more than they normally do. After finding a nice plump rise near the inside of my elbow, "Nurse Chappel" (a young Majel Barrett) would slide a "teensey-weensey" needle under the skin nearby so as to deaden the immediate area so that when she put the business end of the sump pump into my arm, I would not scream bloody murder. Once the sandwich-size ziplock bag was hooked up to the needle and the clear plastic tube, I was given a rubber ball upon which to focus my anxiety. "Just squeeze this, sweety", Majel said. Of course, when I did so, all of the rippling muscles in my forearm began forcing more of my blood into the bag. I suppose that the nurse could have created the same effect by pushing all of the blood from my wrists up toward my elbow. But, noooooo... she made me do it. I thought how much this was like milking a cow and that if she had put an electric milker on each of my fingers she could have saved both of us a lot of time and effort. After the pint was taken, the nurse put a cotton ball on the gaping hole in my arm and wrapped more of the rubber webbing on it to hold it fast so I didn't scatter sunshine all over the floor.

So, what did all of this cost my insurance company? How much overhead was involved in the extraction? How much did "Nurse Chappel" and her cronies profit by the ten minutes I was in the chair? I have an itemized list.

Building, suite, and cubical of the Infusion Center for 10 minutes: ($30,000,000, amortized over 35 years, at $1.63 a minute): = $16.30
Use of Nurse Chappell for 10 minutes ($25.00 per hour; $.42 per minute): = $4.20
Use of one 14-gauge needle for 10 minutes ($20.00 reusable for a year; $.00003 per minute): = $.0003
One sandwich sized ziplock bag: = $.47, (but they probably paid a bit more because it wasn't used for any of the staff's sandwiches).
One 3-foot plastic tube: = $.67, (but they probably paid more because it wasn't used for syphoning gas from my car in the parking lot; this time)
One really nifty cotton ball: = $.02, (but only because they were able to get it with about 4 billion others)
Two feet of sticky rubber webbing: $1.03, (but only because the alien suppliers from Alpha Centuri were overstocked this month)

If I have done the resulting math problem properly, the total overhead cost for each of my phlebotomies was $22.6903. The Infusion Center charged my insurance company $107.00, making someone a tidy profit of $84.3097. Well, it would have been a tidy profit had it not been for the $87.54 worth of root beer and Lorna Doones that I consumed during the operation. This profit/loss margin is known as "leveraging". They were hoping to make money on me, possibly with the sale of my commodity in mind, but alas, all was for naught since they had to put it in the trash can, the expense of which they also failed to consider.

As I said earlier, I went to the University Health Care Center last Monday in order to have a ferritin check done. Since I did not get any cookies at all during that five minute exercise, I suppose they are on a better foundation financially. "Doc Holliday" called me this morning with the results of my test. "Well, said he, "I have good news and bad news"


"Yes. First of all your ferritin count is down to 591. Another 150 points and you will be down to high normal". I was pleased with that. I started out at 827 and after one phlebotomy dropped to 684, and now I am at 591 after the second one. Another couple of months and I will be completely under control, insofar as the hemochromatosis is concerned.

"That is really good to hear. What's the bad news?"

"You don't have to come to your appointment tomorrow."

"What's so bad about that?"

"Well, I was really hoping to take my wife to the Bahamas this weekend, but I think that I am going to have to put that off for another time."

"I'm sorry things didn't work out for you."

"Oh,that's okay", he said. "The New England Journal of Medicine just identified another genetic disease that I think that you just might have, and it has 'Paris' written all over it. Something about 'root beer and cookie' overloading."

Buy "Barq's" everybody. "Lorna Doones" are going through the roof.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Needle Song

There is only one song about needles that I like. Needless to say, it is a James Taylor ditty. I tried to find a version of it for my player, but it wasn't available. JT spent a little time recovering from one sort of thing or another and this, supposedly, is his take on being tranquilized. I realize that this is not quite the same thing that I do in conjunction with needles, but slightly oblique content hasn't stopped me in the past. Frankly, I'm just waiting for Friday to get here and I wanted to hear the song again; it makes me feel that I am not quite alone in all of this.

Just knocking around the zoo on a Thursday afternoon
There's bars on all the windows and they're counting up the spoons
And if I'm feeling edgy there's a chick who's paid to be my slave
But she'll hit me with a needle if she thinks I'm trying to misbehave
Now the keeper's trying to cool me says I'm bound to be alright
But I know that he can't fool me 'cause I'm putting him uptight
And I can feel him getting edgy every time I make a sudden move
And I can hear them celebrating every time I up and leave the room
Now my friends all came to see me they point at me and stare
Said he's just like the rest of us so what's he doing in there
They hide in their movie theaters drinking juice-keeping tight
'Cause they're certain about one thing that zoo's no place to spend the night
Just knocking around the zoo on a Thursday afternoon
There's bars on all the windows and they're counting up the spoons
And if I'm feeling edgy there's a chick who's paid to be my slave
But she'll hit me with a needle if she thinks I'm trying to misbehave
These are my sentiments just about every time I go to the Infusion Center. I suppose that one of the reasons that I misbehave there, is that I know that I am going to be hit with the needle regardless of whether I behave or not.

Well, after all that, there is another needle song, but it involves Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, and Tammy Wynette. For some of you, that little tune will seem like the Infusion Center writ large.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Iron Music and Diamond Needles

"Olive Oil", a non-family member who now follows my blog, made a comment about the music in my playlist, that she thought it was "great". I was somewhat flattered at first, but then I realized that while I had been choosing my shuffled music for myself, I now had an independent audience to somehow please. Several of my children have been driven crazy by some of the pieces (Burger-Dance" for example). Others have been partially scandalized by my selection of anything by Britney Spears (all part of a first-timer's joke). Other have been so taken with the music that they had to turn it off in order to be able to read what I had written (At least that what they have said.).

Trillium has wonderful music on her blog, mostly classical with a few delightfully orchestrated modern pieces thrown in. Davola really surprised me with his selection. Once, when we were headed north for some sort of activity in New Mexico, he regaled me with a concert of heavy metal music that undoubtedly got my blood and other iron-overloaded organs feeling envious. Nothing in his blog now even comes close. I'm impressed. All of the other family bloggers have music unique to themselves and it gives me great pleasure to visit and listen to their choices.

Each of the pieces I have selected are in order of their selection (even though they do not play in order) and fit with each of the entries I have made. I realized this afternoon that I had not selected one for the "Iron Horse" blog; it was about the same time I was contemplating saying something about the visit that I had with the blood factory today. I searched in vain for a good one. There was a sappy song about an "Iron Horse" by some plaintive crooner who clearly didn't have a handle on his subject matter. By the time you read this I will have deleted it and replaced it with another, less appropriate song by America (if I can find it). (Actually, on second thought, I have left the sappy one in.)

This morning I went into the University of Utah medical center to have blood drawn for another ferritin test. Friday I will meet with "Doc Holliday" again to see how the phlebotomy from two weeks ago has improved my frame of mind and body. Just as an aside, doesn't "phlebotomy" sound like some sort medical procedure gone bad; you know like "flub-otomy". I thought of that after I came home from the "Infusion Center" this last time. The first experience there went well, considering my condition. Two weeks ago, however, the withdrawal went somewhat amiss. That evening I noticed that I had a little red spot on the inside of my left elbow where the needle had been inserted. I didn't think much of it until a day or so later when that whole area was one gigantic bruise. It didn't hurt, but it looked terrible. I asked Trillium about it and she said, "Well, you will be okay, but that is an example of bad needle technique". Of course, that was just what I wanted to hear, "Bad Needle Technique", hereafter "BNT". I think that I must have been the victim of BNT (pronounced "bent") when I was a child. It was all of those BNT needles that gave me the willies. When your doctor uses a needle that looks like it has been designed for hooking a tuna, you know that you are in for a bad time.

Anyhow, I went in for my ferritin check and while I was waiting I thought about how I might wring a blog entry out of the experience. The appointment lasted only five minutes and that included the walk in and back, to and from the car. The only thing I could think of, however, was the First Edition's first hit, "I Just Dropped in to See What Kind of Condition My Condition was In". I considered that if this entry were going to be another "Looking for Space" experience then at least I could bring in a decent song. I finally located it this afternoon and before I loaded it up, I listened to it. I had not remembered it being so "edgy". It was like being with Davola all over again. It could have been a Queen hit for all I could tell. I finally selected a bluesy version by Sharon Jones in hopes that nobody listening could actually understand the lyrics. Kenny Rogers articulates his words; Sharon does not. However, it is possible to hear the tag, and that was all I was after anyway. Enjoy!

I read today about a new technology, a replacement for the CD. It is an "SD", a chip that you can insert into your iPod, if you have one. What a world! I grew up listening to Vaughn Monroe recordings by playing ten-inch ceramic disks on an old Victrola. They were played at 78 rmps (revolutions per minute) and eventually would be called "78s". I have a bunch of these left to me by my mother. The first recording I ever bought, however, was a "45", a vinyl recording that had one song on each side, playing at 45 rpms. I think it was a Richie Valens piece, "La Bamba" or something. I have a hundred or so of these, representing the most popular music of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Between the "78s" and the "45s" were the LPs (Long-Playing) albums, sometimes now called "33 and 1/3s". I have a couple a hundred of these, with folk music and classical music making up most of the titles.

Why have I ruminated about all of these old records? Because the way they are played is by using a "turn-table" with an arm equipped with... (you guessed it!)... a "NEEDLE". The first record player I bought had a sapphire needle; when I really came into my own financially, I bought one with a diamond needle. When the needle sets down on the grooves of the record, the record player then sucks out all of the music. Enough of those "note-otomies" and the record just withers away, unable to provide any more.

I have wondered if my blood is musical, if when they are carting away the trash at the Infusion Center, the custodians can hear my dulcet tones making their way through a rendition of one of James Taylor's songs. When the technicians are analyzing my ferritin count up at the University of Utah can they faintly hear my version of a really good Nanci Griffith or Joni Mitchell melody? I would like to think so. I do not fear for withering, though; the music is in my bones and there is more where that last pint came from.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Romancing the Iron-Horse

In a fit of passion last night, I invited Trillium out to dinner. Both of us were suffering from cabin-fever again and alien food seems to cure us for a while. Trillium's mother was invited as well and we headed out to our favorite "hot-spot", Sizzler. I say "favorite" hot-spot because that is the one place we can all sort of agree on. Sometimes we head off to Appleby's or Magelby's or somebody's other "-by's", but we come back to Sizzleby's because it seems to be safe. We get good parking thanks to T-ma and the menu hardly ever changes as much as the management does. We arrived at 4:45, just in time for the geriatric crowd. (Notice that night-time comes pretty early for the Beeblebrox household.)

T-ma moves kind of slow, so I generally lead the way to the counter; besides the path has a little bit of a labyrinth aspect to it (I fully expect to run into David Bowie at some point). Last night (or yesterday afternoon, for you of more tender years) I held back, contemplating what I should do.

There is only one reason for going to Sizzler to eat: the steaks (I take that back, there are only two reasons for going to Sizzler: the steaks and the salad bar. I go to Sizzler for the HEME-IRON and, as it turns out, for the NON-HEME IRON.) Should it surprise anyone that the signature Sizzler Steak is served on a hot iron plate? It is a tacit, though significant warning label.

Every once in a while I have the "all-you-can-eat shrimp", but I usually remember too late that the menu item should read "all-you -can-eat of the deep-fried wallpaper paste". I became addicted to shrimp while I was in southern Mexico. I have never had better shrimp in so many ways as I did at the ferry station near Isla del Carmen in 1966. I have never had its equal since. I seldom have the fish at Sizzler; if I want bad fish I go to McGrath's or the Red Lobster. If I want good fish, I go up Hobble Creek Canyon and catch my limit of Utah Brownies.

As I was saying, I held back last night because this was the first time that I had been to a restaurant since my first phlebotomy and I wanted to be responsible. At fast-food places you can be a little less responsible because you have less time to think about what you are doing. At Carl's Jr., for example, I can usually hammer down the $6.00 Guacamole Bacon Burger and the accompanying french fries and root beer in less time than it takes for two synapses to fire in my brain. At Sizzler, there is a rather pedestrian approach to ordering and service that gives one a rather lengthy opportunity to contemplate the eternities and how soon one may be entering into said place if one continues to eat IRON with impunity. T-ma ordered the salmon, a good choice at 1.2 mg of iron for her 7 ounce serving. Trillium ordered the senior steak, a genteel serving of about 3.5 ounces. The cashier said "Would you like to upgrade that to a 48-ounce side of beef for a buck?" I will not repeat Trillium's response because it was funnier than mine. "Well, then," continued the cashier, "would you like to have the salad bar for a buck?" Trillium agreed, but I could tell that she was eying the cutlery and the various pots and pans in which the salad bar was served. I whispered, "I don't think that we get to take those home." If looks could kill.....

I bellied up to the bar ready to place my order. "I'll have the senior steak, medium, with the baked potato and the salad bar." The cashier said, "Hey, you're a big fella; I bet you would like the upgrade." I muttered something about hemochromatosis under my breath; you know how it is when you are uneasy about a medical condition being discussed in public. She leaned toward me and sweetly whispered, "Don't be shy. If you floss afterwards and brush real good, you won't have that problem any more." I paid $31.00 for that piece of advice.

So what happened to my body as a result of our little extravaganza at Sizzler. I will tell you because I know you can hardly wait.

I had the following:

One 8 ounce steak: According to the powers that be, I consumed 8 mg of iron, about half of it heme-iron. I could have done worse. If I had consumed a half-pound of Bambi's mother, I would have introduced about 16 mg of iron into my system. But, I could have eaten Thumper whole and had less than either of the other two, according to Ernst Lucker's article entitled "Content and Distribution of Iron in Rabbit Meat: A Model Study on Nutritional Values and Bio-Analytical Variance" that appeared in "Libensmittel-Wissenschaft und-Technologie" in 1998. (Never say that my readers come away from my blogs uninformed; I am a Google-Blogger.)

One baked potato with butter and sour cream: This apparently would have amounted to about 2 mg of non-heme iron had I not added 3.5 ounces of chicken liver gravy (another 9 mg)

One piece of fried cheese toast: Cold, fried cheese toast is the most vile substance known to man. I took one bite and laid the rest down, probably saving myself the ingestion of .000007 mg of iron.

One plate full of green salad: Lots of non-heme iron here. I had the iceberg lettuce, cucumbers,(mostly peeled), cherry tomatoes, red onions, red and green peppers (a fetish I picked up in New Mexico), a whole egg, a couple of Italian green peppers (the only reason to go the the Olive Garden), and the whole mess slathered in blue cheese dressing. The egg was the killer: 1 mg of iron.

One-third plate of Waldorf salad: It looked good, and tasted okay, but I think that Trillium's is better. I think she puts non-ferrous marshmallows in the bowl with the rest of the ingredients. (Do you know that somebody has actually figured out that one cup of miniature marshmallows has 1 mg of iron in it? When I "googled" for iron content in marshmallows I got 72,000 hits! What a world!)

One-third plate of Macaroni salad: As counter-intuitive as this sounds, macaroni salad (a five ounce serving) as 8 mg of iron. A third of a plate seems like would have slightly more.

One-third plate of Crab salad: I didn't eat much of this. All I could think of was Sponge Bob Square Pants and Patrick softly weeping in the corner, particularly in light of the Bambi allusions above. As its turns out, Crabby Patties have a lot of iron in them, about the same as beef.

One gallon of Strawberry Lemonade: Trillium pointed out to me that all of the vitamin C in this outrageously large amount of juice undoubtedly caused me to absorb all of the iron, heme and non-heme, that I consumed last night. It troubled me all night thinking about it; every two hours or so it troubled me.

In other words, I fell off the wagon last night and under the wheels of the iron horse. Hopefully when I go to see "Doc Holliday" next week he won't notice the tread marks.

(Yes, I know, trains don't have rubber tires on them, but I have been at this a long time and that was the best I could come up with...... Sheeesh!)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Trekking for Iron

Last night was a fireside in our stake for the youth who went on the Handcart Trek during the summer. It began at 6:30 and ended at 9:00 or so. Included was a 45 minute Photostory 3 presentation made from 3000 pictures and videos taken during the three days we walked the dusty byways west of Utah Lake (I am not kidding; 3000+++++++++). I liked the scenes that I was in, for the most part. I did not recognize hardly any of the faces in the presentation. It is not that I am not social, it just that most of the time I was the last person in the line of 200 people strung out along the trail. I can recognize the backs of their heads anywhere.

My mantra on the Trek became "I'm the last dog into the kennel, the last bee into the hive, and the last cricket out of the seagull". I endeared myself to all. We all ate well on that trip; I gained twelve pounds in three days, almost all of it in iron. Inasmuch as one can lose iron from fingernail clippings, hair, and skin, I managed to hold excessive weight gain at bay. I lost considerable iron out of my feet, as the blisters came and went, and as my bronzing technique utterly failed into the first stages of leprosy. I had a few broken nails while pushing handcarts and setting up tents, and there were the hurricane winds that whipped my feathery-soft hair from off my head into the Great American Desert. It is hard to measure iron loss in this fashion; that is, with body parts just falling off into the blue, or brown, or green, or some sort of natural pastel.

After the video presentation there were the obligatory sentimental expressions about how wonderful the whole thing was. Being three months after the fact gives a sort of mystical glow to all of the whining, pain, and filth that we all had to endure at the time. I thought the experience educational. I learned for myself, first hand, that I am getting a little too old for this sort of thing. As I said earlier, I am not certain how much iron I lost on the trail, but my guess is that it is easier to go to the Infusion Center once a month in order to get the desired medical effect, notwithstanding the feral smiles and the eager eyes.

When I arrived home from the fireside, I finished watching "Warning From Space" a Japanese movie about giant star-fish who come to earth to warn us about Planet R, a fiery body on a collision course with our planet (a rot of iron ross, I terr you). I also watched the outtakes from the Trek DVD (How can you have out-takes in a documentary?) I also watched a special feature called "Bandits" with which I had something to do. The "Bandit Dancers" were a mostly anonymous group (wearing bandannas you see) who preferred swaying to the square-dance music rather than enticing iron-loss through the soles of their feet on the dusty dance floor.

After preparing for sleep, I went into my den to turn off the lights and the computer. But what to my wondering eyes should appear, but two bags of candy that Trillium had bought for me at Wal-Mart: a bag of Riesens (chewy chocolate caramel covered in rich European chocolate) and a bag of snack size Almond Joys. Yippy! Skippy!

(Now just a little aside regarding motive and technique in blog writing, from my point of view. All I really wanted to talk about was the candy, but I did not want anyone to think that I am obsessed with candy of any kind. I thought that if I led everyone into the wilds of central Utah for a paragraph or two, and then discuss my somnolent reaction to the products of that experience, that discussing the merits of chocolate would seem normal, perhaps even understandable. Now that I am at this point, I think that the methodology is somewhat flawed. Live and learn.)

I used to look at the pricing labels on products that I was prepared to buy (Ooooo! Ten pounds of hot dogs for a dollar! Ooooo! Ten pounds of margarine for a dollar!) I then began to look at the ingredients (Yeow! Beef lips and pork snouts! Yeow! Hydrogenated lard!) As I grew older and stouter, I began to look at the total calories in the item as compared with the fat from calories. Some were somewhat reasonable (Hmmmmm..... one serving 200 calories; calories from fat 12. Goody! Ten pounds of broccoli for a dollar!) Some, Trillium confided in me, are a little suspect (Hmmmmm.... one serving 200 calories; calories from fat 6,089,867. Yes, but everyone needs to have ten pounds of Polish sausage on hand for emergencies!) Now, as of the past couple of months, iron has risen into my culinary consciousness.

Do you know that Riesens, the finest manufactured chocolate on the planet, has iron in it? It does; seven percent of the daily requirement according to the FDA. You have to eat four pieces of candy to get that, however. The added benefit is that you also take in 170 calories, only 50 of them from fat These calories can be used to propel yourself that last half-mile into camp on iron depleted feet. Your mouth feels so good that you have no energy left to think about what your blisters are saying to you.

On the other hand, snack sized Almond Joys have absolutely no iron whatsoever, nor does it have vitamins A or C, and has no calcium at all. One bar (a serving) has 80 calories, forty of them from fat. The down side is that you have to eat 9 of them to get any satisfaction at all. The up side is that you have to eat 9 of them to get any satisfaction at all.

So what? Well I don't know, except to say that I am reading more than I have in the past. Sometimes I feel informed; sometimes I feel deformed. Most of the time I wish that stuff that really tasted good, actually had some nutritional value. I am discovering that when Trillium's hands have touched what I eat, however, nothing seems to matter. Her company is more important and tastes better and is better for me.