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.