Friday, August 22, 2008

Iron-Clad Humor

It would appear that there are only two people other than myself that are reading my blog: my wife and my youngest daughter. When I was beginning school at BYU, my Freshman composition teacher, Steve Walker (yes, the Steve Walker), taught me that every writer has to be aware of his audience and adapt appropriately. Yesterday afternoon, half of my readership suggested that I was trying too hard to be funny, that the second entry was a somewhat strained effort when compared with the first. I reread both and failed to see the difference. This morning Trillium brought me a four-page paper written by my friend Marvin Payne (yes, the Marvin Payne) that had appeared in Meridian Magazine. "This is funny", she announced. I read it over toast, a piece about rocks, water conservation, and a pioneer what had three wives at the same time each of whom was named "Mary Ann". I found it more droll than funny and told Trillium so. She smiled and went off to her workroom to put the finishing touches on my mother-in-law's new blog.

I have to say that I can make my wife laugh, generally in public, and from time to time in private. I am always surprised when it happens. Trillium is far from being dower and my 41 years plus with her has been filled with a great deal of laughter. But she has a unique sense of humor which I have had some difficulty understanding and far less success exploiting. I may have just expressed a universal truth about husbands and wives.

I have always tried to make people laugh. I think that it is true because that I, myself, enjoy laughing. I find humor in just about everything. This has sometimes been misinterpreted as light-mindedness, perhaps a victory for the gas-giant theorists of my life. I have discovered, however, that together with my desire to have everyone around be in a good mood, I almost always break into joviality when I am under stress or have some kind of impending doom to deal with. This business of hemochromatosis serves as a case in point.

At the first consultation with "Doc Holliday" after I was diagnosed with my genetic condition, the whole business of the "cure" came up. The "cure", of course, is to have one's blood drawn weekly for a time and then on a regular basis. The whole "14-gauge" needle and subsequent "buckshot" jokes derived from that. As I have stated elsewhere, needles trouble me deeply, and I dealt with my cringiness the best that I could. At some point, "Doc" said that I ought to look into giving blood to the Red Cross. I did so. The folks at ARC Headquarters said that at present only those of my ilk living in the Northwest part of the United States (Washington, Oregon, and environs) could donate blood to the Red Cross. The Northwest was accepting blood from hemochromatosis patients on a trial basis. It is now known that hemochromatosis is a digestive condition more than a "blood" disease. The Red Cross told me that my region (Utah, Idaho, and Montana) would probably begin accepting hemochromatosis blood after the first of the year. The financial aspects of this scenario were not lost on me.

When I was considerably younger, the Red Cross was extremely proactive in getting out the blood-donors. The media blitz was extraordinary. Blood drives were being held everywhere. The Eagle candidates of our Stake in Garden Grove, California, were using the blood drives as part of their Eagle Projects, and I, as an avid Scouter did my best to keep up. Notwithstanding my preternatural fear of needles, I volunteered to give blood when any of these drives came along. The Red Cross was delighted for my generosity, inasmuch that my blood type, B+, was somewhat rare and extremely useful (who knew that my blood type was an expression of my fundamental personality and could be passed on to others?) After a few of these visits, however, the folks at the Red Cross invited me not to participate again. Apparently the quart of orange juice, the fifteen cookies and the gurney that was occupied for 45 minutes did not figure into their idea of efficiency, temporal or financial. More than a generation has passed away since I last gave blood; perhaps no one will remember me.

In younger days, I gave blood for money. For a quick pint, the blood bank would give me $25.00. I do not know whether or not they still do. When I went to the "Infusion Center" in Provo, I asked them what they were going to do with my blood, since it was unacceptable to the American Red Cross. The nurse said that they would probably just throw it away. Sad; I could have used the money. What I found out later was they they were going to charge Medicare nearly $200.00 for extracting that singular iron-ladened pint. I thought to myself, "Well, I can save my government a fabulous amount of money as soon as the Red Cross gives the Utah Region the go-ahead to take blood from hemochromatosis patients. I wonder if the ARC will give me $25.00 for my trouble." Then the thought occurred to me, "What if I have to give $12.50 to 'Doc Holliday'?" So I asked him. Trillium laughed, the "Doc" grimaced. Once again, I had only managed to entertain half of my audience.

Trillium suggests that I provide a little information along with my ruminations, so that after I am gone, the other members of my family will know how they are going to go, and when. The blood analysis reports are filled with fun facts, most of which are undecipherable to those with degrees from the School of Humanities. I believe that the medical profession has arranged this on purpose in conjunction with their inability to write legibly. I have already given a little bit on the "Blood Urea Nitrogen" fiasco and the ripple about the "eGFR" results. There are many other delightful aspects of a blood analysis that can set the heart to racing. For now I will focus on the hemochromatosis data.

There are, at present, four components to hemochromatosis testing: Serum Iron, Iron Binding Capacity, Iron Saturation, and Ferritin. What is given below as standards, vary from laboratory to laboratory and, thus, are not really "standards" at all. The information provided is in the parking lot, if not actually in the ball park.

Serum Iron: Men and women in the "normal" range have between 20 to 150 nanograms of iron per milliliter of blood. At least that is what I think "ng/mL" means. As of the last test, my count is 207. "Doc Holliday" says that when the Iron Serum gets to 300, I start "clanking" when I move. The treatment for lowering the serum iron is to draw blood until the level drops to 15. In other schools of thought, this is known as "bleeding out".

Total Iron Binding Capacity: Because this phrase almost makes sense, most medical practitioners have abbreviated it to "TIBC" just to keep their patients guessing. "TIBC" measures how well a person's blood can transport iron. For men and women, the normal range is 250 to 450 ng/mL (what the heck is a nanogram? It sounds like a Hallmark card for one's grandmother). In my case, my Total Iron Binding Capacity is not good at 195. What I found completely fascinating is that when one has high serum iron (which I do) and low TIBC (which I also do) one probably has sideroblastic anemia (oh joy!), a condition that prevents my red blood cells from using iron. Whether I have this condition or not is irrelevant ("clank").

Iron Saturation: This must mean what it seems to mean, but probably in reference to where the "sideroblastic anemia" is stuffing all of the extra iron that the blood is not using. Maybe this is where "bronzing" comes in. Since one does not excrete iron (a circumstance that would bring a whole new meaning to constipation), perhaps the body is attempting to push the excess iron out of the pores. Normal people (unlike myself) have from between 20 to 55 % Iron Saturation and I have 106.2 % (thus saith the deponent from the University of Utah lab). WOW! I am 100% iron and have extended my ironness 6.2% into the realm of wherever. Needless to say, the medical profession has concluded this to be high ("clank, clank"). It is data like this which compels me to break into nervous laughter. Transferrin Saturation, in reality, is a figure derived by dividing amount of Serum Iron by the TIBC. This is, of course, a mathematical calculation which is outside of the pay grade of most medical types. It is certainly outside of mine; I have no clue what it means so I am forced to make stuff up.

Ferritin: Prior to being diagnosed with hemochromatosis, I though that "ferritin" had to do with the work of private investigators. I have since been disabused of that notion and of what I thought was the accompanying humor. The ferritin count indicates storage iron which is not essential to maintain life. Normal people (again, not yours truly) have a reading of between 17.9 to 464 ng/mL, except for 100% of my readership whose range should be between 20 and 120 ng/mL. It is not that 100% of my readership is abnormal (which does make some sense), its just that 100% of them right now are women. As I reported previously, my Ferritin level is 827 ng/mL. This, according to my own lights, would make me a great private eye, but ("clank, clank, clank") not all that private.

Well, there you have it. My status as of today. I have had one pint of blood withdrawn. I have clipped my fingernails, brushed my hair, vigorously bathed, all of which apparently helps in getting rid of the excess iron. Trillium says that I am more pleasant to be around even though my humor is still a little heavy-handed.


Katscratchme said...

So, what am I? Chopped liver?
I've been reading since you sent me the link.. I even added a comment the other day... I think. Maybe I didn't.. maybe it was on Moms.. but ANYway.. I am reading..

I'm amused that you have B+ blood because I do too. Ah, us happy-go-lucky people spreading joy and rare blood to all around us.

I did like this post much better than your second.. the humor was much more fluid. I chuckled, just a little... :D
Anyway, keep up the work.. good or bad.. At least I have something new to read whenever you do.

Zaphod said...

Don't talk about chopped liver! I will take it personally. If you tried to chop my liver right now, it would break a lumberjack's ax, both blades at the same time.

Trillium said...

Ah ... a new insight: B+ ... BE POSITIVE!! It was a mandate from your blood to have an upbeat personality. Unfortunately, I am A- ... "A NEGATIVE" FOR PETE'S SAKE!! But then you always did accuse me of that anyway .... obviously it is something that I have absolutely no control over. So, there you go. We each have our crosses to bear .... :D

Zaphod said...

Actually, Trillium dear, what it means in your case is that you are always a half-step ahead of me.

shydandelion said...

I have AB+...I am known as the universal's kinda sad that my blood is so selfish...wait! Does that mean that I am selfish?!? Don't answer that...So, if mom is a half-step ahead of you, does that mean you are constantly giving her flat tires?

Zaphod said...

What? I don't understand "flat tires" AB+ must mean that you are ABBY... ABBY-Normal (heheheheheheheh)

Chris said...

It's funny that I also have a fear of needles. It must be hereditary. Hopefully not all of what you say is hereditary. But, if it is, at least I have good warning to stop eating those Iron Bars that I bought from Costco the other day, if not now, in 20 or so years.

Dad, I don't think you are trying too hard to be funny. I think you are just being your normal self. To all the haters out there, stop trying to tear someone down! Sheesh!

Well, it looks like I might have to create a blog too. Let me see, we have Dad, Mom, Becky, Emily, Dara, and even my wife has one. I guess it is time to create one... eventually.

As far as my blood type, to this day, I still do not know what it is. I think I donated blood one or two times in my entire life, both times I did not like. Except for the unlimited supply of orange juice and cookies after. I didn't see any gourney's around. I think they boycotted those after the Days of Zaphod.

By the way, Dad, are you a fan of Britney Spears????

Zaphod said...

No, I justthought all of those different versions of "Satisfaction" were funny.

shydandelion said...

BECKY has a blog?? I had no idea! What is it???

Chris said...

Becky's blog is:

But prepared. You might feel like you are going to church.