Thursday, February 12, 2009

Sweating Cannonballs

About twice a week TG2 and I go to the Orem Rec Center to play racquetball. Both of us are trying to lose weight and we think that by vigorously exercising for an hour or two a week we will be the Biggest Losers. To date I have gained three pounds. I have no idea where it is coming from. The up side is, however, that I may very well be dropping my ferritin level by playing.

On our way back home Monday TG2 asked, "Hey! Can you sweat iron?"


"I said, 'Can you sweat iron?' Kind of like sweating bullets".

Being a clever sort, I replied, "Actually, bullets are typically made of lead and brass; not much iron in them. I suppose that I could sweat cannonballs, if it were possible to perspire the iron out of my body." Being a dutiful father, I decided to find out just what the relationship was between sweat and iron-overloading.

I went on-line this morning, or at least tried to. We have been having trouble with Comcast's feed to us. I called their service center last week and a fellow came out to check our system. He tried to tell me that it was because of the 437 splitters that I have on my house lines that my signal wasn't working properly. He also testified that the splitters I was using were not especially for the internet and therefore would not serve. I told him that I had put that system together over two years ago and did not begin having any problems until a few weeks ago. He became very quiet. He went about his business which took him out to our phone/cable box at the southeast corner of the house. From there he made his way through the snow to the box in my neighbor's yard and from there to the pole on the fence line that holds the main lines high in the sub-freezing winter winds of Utah Valley. After a few minutes the technician returned to inform me that the problem was probably due to some antiquated connectors on the pole and that in a day or two someone would come out to our place and change the divider out so our signal would be proper. He left and we have not heard from Comcast since. What does this mean?

What it means is that when I went on-line this morning to look up the connection between "sweat" and "iron", I discovered that there was no connection between me and the server. The net result in all of this is that I am going to have to make up something. My guess is that exuding iron molecules while playing racquetball is probably not possible. Would I not come back from the Rec Center looking like I had just rolled around in the dirt in St. George? What is true, is that I look like I should be put under the dirt when I come back from the Rec Center.

I have decided, however, that I did deplete some of my iron-overload last Monday as a product of TG2's mad racquetball skills. The first iron loss took place as the result of a rather magnificent volley early in the first game. TG2, mustering all of her strength, leaped for a fast ball that was sliding by my left side. She whacked me and the ball at the same time. She hit me on the thumb-knuckle of my left hand, scraping off three or four million skin cells with that singular blow. Iron loss! I also had immediate subcutaneous bleeding that eventually decorated my hand in various shades of puke-green and yellow. I would like to think that that event constituted a mini-phlebotomy, but alas it was not to be; the bruise was simply absorbed by my pancreas.

Mid-way through the second game (I was now playing with my right hand), TG2 made another one of her magnificent grand slams, accelerating the ball to a speed approaching Mach 4. The ball hit me in the middle of the back of my head, bounced off the ceiling, ricocheted off three walls and eventually came to rest in a corner where it lay smouldering. TG2 was laughing hysterically. I was trying to figure out what all of the skinny brown snow was drifting about the court. It was my hair! Another massive iron-depletion!

We finished the third game and began the trip home. This, as you will remember, was when she asked the question about sweating bullets. My left foot started to pain me some and by the time I reached Star Gazers Point I felt the need to pull off my shoe to see what was going on. By the look of things, I was again the victim of another of TG2's athletic skills. At some point she must have stepped on my foot, squashing the pinky toe. It was all red and the nail looked like it was ready to fall off. Hooray! More major iron loss!

For those of you hoping for something more insightful, I apologize. I had hoped to be more insightful, I really wanted to be more informative, but Comcast is the culprit. I know that out there somewhere is some hemochromatosis scholar who is on the cusp of discovering the connection between the second sweat gland behind everyone's right earlobe and iron overloading. Oh happy day! But not today.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Two Notable Iron Reductions

This week I had two major iron-reducing procedures. The first was my regular phlebotomy at the local Infusion Center. I was attended to by the "Pink Lady" who was jovial, to the point, and managed to analyze every joke I told. I persisted at my vain attempts at veiny humor because there was, in the three-sided cubical across from me, three or four people who looked like they needed cheering up. Some sort of procedure was going on over there and it wasn't a blood-letting. I don't think it was a blood-getting either. Given the rather grim countenances twenty feet away, I suspect that there was something rather serious transpiring, far more significant than the little iron-depleting exercise I was going through. The "Pink Lady", in her attempt to keep me cheerful during my soap opera with the 14-gauge needle, regaled me with the significance of all of the letters that were printed under her name on her tricked-out name tag. She had an RN degree, a Bachelor's of Nursing, and a credential of some kind that meant she was a master mechanic in all thing vascular. She told me that she needed all of that sort of book-learning in order to administer chemo-therapy, something that regularly happened at the Infusion Center. Suddenly I thought I knew what was happening across the way and why everyone was more than willing to be jollied up by my gasping humor.

While we were there, I asked the "Pink Lady" to let me know what my hemoglobin level was. Inasmuch as I was stepping outside my normal role as patient and doctoring myself by throwing in this extra phlebotomy, I thought that discretion was in order. (Actually, Trillium thought that discretion was in order, but if I gave her credit for everything I came up with, I would be truthful, but not worth very much as far as the public perception of my logical thinking skills is concerned.) My understanding is that 12-14 hemoglobin in an adult male is about right. As might be expected, my level a couple of days ago at the Center was 16 or so, high in almost anybody's book. Phlebotomies are not making me anemic.

Which brings me to micro- and macro-cytosis. My sister commented on a previous blog (and in numerous phone calls) that I might very well be afflicted with macrocytosis along with everything else (actually there isn't anything else except for the iron-overloading, but at the moment I wrote the sentence I was feeling a little sorry for myself). Again, as might be suspected, these two afflictions have to do with the size of one's blood cells, "macro-" being too big, and "micro- being too small.

I went to Wikipedia, my source for all things unknown and unknowable, and picked up the following: "Macrocytosis is the enlargement of red blood cells with near-constant haemoglobin concentration, and is defined by a mean corpuscular volume (MCV) of greater than 100 femtolitres (the precise criterion varies between laboratories)." I followed the definition for the first eight words and then blacked out until the parenthetical statement. I want to know what it all means, but I suspect that it is not worth the effort. But I did want to know in the worst way what a "femtolitre" is. Back to Wiki: "The femtolitre (US femtoliter) is the metric unit of volume equal to 10 to the power of -15 litre, or one quindecillionth (European) or one quadrillionth (American) litre. It is abbreviated fL or fl." I guess that it is kind of like a "nanosplatter", but with a less memorable name. I am now taken with the new and wonderful word "quindecillionth". Should not the federal government be thinking in these numerical terms rather than its opposite as far as the economy is concerned? But I digress...

The Mayo Clinic suggests that there are a number of reasons why a person may have contracted the condition known as macrocytosis. I will comment discretely as I present their findings.

1. Vitamin B-12 deficiency (I have no idea where I am here. I have enough trouble curtailing vitamin C and increasing my vitamin D. Besides, any vitamin having more than five varieties is too hard to keep track of.)

2. Folate deficiency (I suffer this only in the autumn when all of my leaves fall off.)

3. Liver diseases ("Doc Holliday" informs me that if my liver were any healthier I would be stalked by Hannibal Lector)

4. Alcoholism (This could have been a problem in my youth, but I switched to Vanilla Wafers made with artificial vanilla when I was 15).

5. A side effect of chemo-therapy drugs (I, thankfully, do not have to endure this, except in Trillium's van where there is a Cinnamon Air Freshener hanging from the rear-view mirror).

6. Increased blood cell regeneration (A-hah! This comes with blood-loss, whether deliberate or accidental; the bone marrow can't seem to differentiate between the two.)

The boys at the Salad-dressing Clinic have concluded that macrocytosis is not a disease, that it has no symptoms, and there is no known treatment. They will, however, take your money for.... um.... any reason at all. Isn't this fun! Now on to microcytosis!

Micro-psychosis... er .... micro-cytosis is a condition which usually shows up if you have one of the following:

1.Iron deficiency anemia (This... is.... not... my... problem;... clank!)

2. Sideroblastic anemia (I've seen this word before, somewhere, but concluded that I did not fit the profile... at least I don't think I did.)

3. lead poisoning (More heavy metals! The only lead poisoning that I can recall took place in seventh grade when Juanita Barcelona stabbed me in the back of my hand with her pencil. I probably had that coming.)

4. Peridoxine deficiency (This is the sweet name for vitamin B-6. I am no more comfortable with this than I was with vitamin B-12; B-12 is also called Cyanocobalamin for those of you with insatiable linguistic curiosity.)

Now the second iron-depleting procedure that I had this week was a hair cut. As the lovely girl from Richfield was going about her business, she said over and over "Man, you sure have a lot of hair!" I wondered if she meant that in the context of "... for a guy who is five times older than I am!". She wore out three pairs of scissors in the process. As I was leaving, the sweet young thing suggested "Perhaps, Dr. Beeblebrox, you should cut down on your B vitamins, particularly B-essemer." I looked that one up too. Bessemer vitamins are designed to reduce the amount of carbon in pig iron in order to make a higher quality steel. Apparently my follicles are taking over where Geneva Steel left off.