Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Iron Cross

I am not much for awards for personal heroics, but I had an experience last night that demands, in my mind at least, that there should be something done of an outward nature to reward the people in question.

A few months ago, I was ironically asked by the leaders of our Church to be in charge of the semi-annual blood drive wherein our 3500 members are given an opportunity to donate to the American Red Cross. There was a great deal of humor generated when the officers of the Church discovered the nature of my genetic condition. A few wanted to know if it was contagious and, if so, would I infect them. They apparently have some sort of fear of needles as well.

In any event, I have spent the last couple of months coordinating the arrangements between the ARC and the Church so that the building would be ready for them to set up their equipment and to have sufficient donors there to make their visit worthwhile. In times past during the last five years, about 25 to 30 units of blood have been donated at each session. Anita, my contact, was certain that we could do better, but nothing up to this point had proven effective. I said that I would do what I could. She, by the way, also found it outrageously humorous that I was to be the person in charge.

Without going into all of the particulars, I will simply say that by the time the drive started at 3:00 yesterday afternoon, we had 118 people pre-registered to donate blood. By the time of the end of the drive, at 8:00 PM, the Red Cross had been able to collect 78 units of blood. They had skeptically only brought 80 pieces of equipment to the affair, thinking that our estimates were just a little high. They were surprised and pleased. I hope that they don’t expect greater things in the spring. I did, however, learn some things from the experience.

First, it is not a good thing to have a cold, the flu, typhoid fever, mad cow disease, or malaria just prior to coming to give blood. The ARC considers that state of affairs a sanguinary sarcasm of the first order and treats the afflicted one with a certain degree of contempt. Of course, each individual had been given a 20-page booklet to read when they first registered, in which the mad cow disease was specifically mentioned. Some of the workers were certain that not everyone was taking the required time with the booklet. I frankly thought that they were just extremely fast readers like Evelyn Wood. I wonder if she gave blood fast.

Additionally it is important to know that if you have spent any length of time in a foreign country like Zimbabwe, Cambodia, Outer Mongolia, or New Mexico, you won’t be allowed to give blood. New Mexico is included on the list because most people working for the American Red Cross do not realize that the place is really a State in the United States. This fact is complicated by the fact that President Ulysses S. Grant said, while travelling through New Mexico, “I understand that we fought a war with Mexico for this desolate piece of property. I think that we ought to fight another war to force them to take it back!” One fellow served as a missionary in England several years ago during the mad cow scare and he has never been allow to donate blood since. He came last night to see if the prohibition was still in effect. It was and the ARC ushered him out of the building by enticing him with a bale of hay.

Some of the potential donors had blood vessels that were too small. When I go to the Infusion Center, the ghouls there use a 14-gauge needle on me. There is a virtual torrent of blood that pours though that stainless steel needle. I asked one of the nurses last night what size they were using. She said that they regularly employ a 16-gauge needle. Any larger than that and the blood vessels don’t cooperate, she said. I began to wonder why the Infusion Center chose to deal with me as they have. Maybe at 6’4 and 230 pounds I can be drained with less finesse.

I was startled at some of the developments during the night, events which were treated with such a baize attitude that I concluded that these were regular happenings at these organized blood-lettings. I was sitting at the registration table, minding my own business, when I heard a “thump”. I turned to see what was going on and there was a young mother who had just given blood, on her hands and knees. She had blacked out on her way to the refreshment area. She was propped up on the floor, with a little pillow and a bottle of water until she could recover sufficiently. Not five feet away was an empty gurney on to which I thought she should have been placed, but the attendants simply made her comfortable where she was. Her baby boy and her friend that she had come with sat on the floor next to her. They were there about 25 minutes. I propose that this girl be given the “Iron Cross” for her pains. This award for valor was first given by the Prussians in 1813 in conjunction with the Napoleonic Wars. I think that since she had to suffer there on the floor rather than on the gurney that her medal be upgraded to the “Grand Cross of the Iron Cross” for her troubles. A lovely and appropriate tribute.

As I was wandering about during the drive, I met another donor who, for some unexplained reason was splattered all over his right side with what I am certain was his own blood. When I asked about it, someone said, “Oh, that happens all the time!”

I thought to myself, “You know, I have been giving blood for over a year, both by the pint and by the ounce, and I have yet to be drenched in my own blood, even though I have joked about the possibility.” The fellow was cheerful about the resultant spray, almost as if he had been shot down over Belgium somewhere. Well, I think that someone ought to strap the “Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross With Blood Squirts” around that fellow’s neck. He deserves the recognition.

The last episode concerns a rather large man, young and full of life, who came into the building about 6:30. He was almost the last person to leave the place. He sat strapped to a table for over an hour and a half while the technicians tried to find a vein that would work. They never did. When he got up from the place where he had been tied down, he staggered a bit. I asked him if he was okay. He said, “Yeah, it’s just that my leg fell asleep.” He had track marks up and down the inside of both arms where they had attempted to put in the needles. I had the willies for an hour after that. I decided that the American Red Cross needed to come up with a special award for his valor under fire, as it were. I recommend the “Knight’s Cross with Gold Oak Leaves, Swords, and Diamonds”. Erwin Rommel got that in 1943 and he didn’t have nearly as many holes in him as my friend did.

I arrived home shortly before ten after having put everything away with a few of the brethren. The techs were gracious enough to swab up the blood and iodine, but we still had to put way the tables and chairs.

I think that the next time I go down to the Infusion Center that I am going to ask for the “Star of the Grand Cross of the Iron Cross with Sarsaparilla Sprigs and Lorna Doone Clusters”. It’s about time!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

“Holy Chelating Thistle Milk, Batman!”

I have been suffering a general malaise for the last couple of days and I haven’t been able to figure out what was causing it. I thought maybe it was empathetic sympathy, or something psychosomatic, or a dietary variation of some kind, or maybe just a lightness of blood. I thought, “Well, maybe I should let my readers decide what my ailment is by relating the events of the past few days.” I realize that this invitation may be more than what the Comcast server can handle, but I will blaze ahead untrammeled. The service cannot be much slower than it already is.

A day or so ago, my youngest daughter posted a blog in which she related, with rather vivid detail, her adventures of the day. This included a description of a grievous laceration while washing a fragile piece of glassware and the subsequent medical attention that she received. I was not a little disturbed by this, inasmuch as I get just a little queasy when I nick myself with my razor. The poking, prodding and sewing lesson made me just a little faint. Had this not been followed by a realistic depiction of her own daughter’s projectile hurling episode, I might have survived the reading. I was completely worn out by the time I got to the end. Someone suggested that maybe I picked up what Eva had. I thought not, because I had managed to put myself into the Lotus position in my den when the clan arrived at the house for the wash-down of the car, the car seat, and little Eva. I find that when one of my grandchildren is in mortal agony, Buddhism is the only remedy.

About that same time (that is, a day or so ago and not during the Eva-agony) I decided to watch another episode of Star Trek TOS. I am near the end of the third season and am probably now looking at a shot at the final episodes of Battlestar Galactica once I am done. So I have been diligently watching Kirk and the boys do their thing. There is in the third season an episode called “The Way to Eden”. The plot involves a group of 23rd century hippies trying to find a lost planet where everything is beautiful, where the deer and the antelope are playing all day. As it turns out, the hippies anticipated the deer and the antelope by filling every scene with some sort of musical interlude. In the middle of all of this, Trillium walked through the room and said, “This is awful!”

I replied, “Of all of the episodes this is by far and away the worst. When the guitar player dies in the end, having eaten of the poisonous fruit of the planet Eden, there is a noticeable cheer from the production company.”

“Why are you watching it then?”

“I am a Trekkie. Trekkies take the good with the bad. But I would like a piece of that Eden-fruit right now.” I may have cursed myself in jest. I have not been well since.

I considered that perhaps other aspects of my diet may have had something to do with my lack of well-being. My breakfast that day had been composed of two pieces of rye bread toast and two glasses of 1% milk. I discounted that as the source of my problems inasmuch as I have that just about every morning. For lunch I had an entire head of lettuce, cut into four pieces, and slathered in blue cheese dressing. I decided that it was not the lettuce because I have that item frequently at mid-day. The dressing? What could possibly be wrong with a condiment laced with a boat load of mold? In the evening I had a 14 ounce rib-eye steak, perfectly grilled on our brand-new four burner barbeque, followed by freshly sliced peaches on angel-food cake covered in Cool Whip. Nothing evil there!

That leaves us with lightness of blood. Is it possible that my body is reacting to the fact that I now have less than 20% of the original amount of iron that filled my organ tissues a year ago? Could it be that I am going through withdrawal? Am I experiencing iron deficiency anemia? In the midst of my own personal agony last night, however, I discovered that “Doc Holliday” and I have been going at this hemochromatosis thing all wrong.

Last night I wended my way over to the church for a series of Boy Scout Boards of Review. The Krrrrakin was there and after I mentioned that I was feeling poorly, he said, “Oh! I have something for you from Calypso. I should have given this to you months ago, but it got lost among my tentacles.” He then handed me a rather moist piece of paper. It was an article from the Wright Newsletter, entitled “How you can benefit from the 3 things I never knew about milk thistle”. Wow! Am I in the mood to learn!

The third revelation in this little essay by Kerry Bone states that a group of Italian scientists (not to be confused with the German ones who determined how many skin cells are sloughed off by the human population of the earth every day) had discovered that “silybin”, a plant chemical found in milk thistle, could be used as a holistic method of removing iron from hemochromatosis patients. Dr. Bone reports that by ingesting 600 mg of silymarin every day (200 mg three times a day) a patient with hepatitis C can reduce his or her serum ferritin by 15%. Now, there are several things that troubled me about this procedure even before I went online to do a little research of my own.

First, how do you think the Italians would pronounce “silybin”? That’s right! “Sillybean”! Boy, that fact really breaths a lot of confidence into the theory! Second, how does one go about milking a thistle? The plants here in Utah are huge and they are physiologically opposed to anyone dinking around with them. Even with heavy leather gloves on I have found myself filled with spines as I have tried to pull the little hummers out of the ground. Thirdly, I don’t think I am really prepared to contract a bad case of hepatitis C just to download a little iron.

As it turns out, however, the seeds of the milk thistle (I think that I shall forevermore call these “sillybeans”) have long-established medicinal value, particularly in cases of liver damage. It has also been useful in treating those people whose eyesight is so poor that they cannot distinguish edible mushrooms from the Amanita or Death Cap mushrooms. “Sillybeans” can help with lowering cholesterol, with checking effects of type II diabetes, with reducing growth in prostate cancers, with reducing the deleterious effects of a hangover, and with ameliorating withdrawal symptoms of those addicted to opiates, particularly during the Acute Withdrawal Stage. Since the Miracle Whip Institute suggests that these are all viable applications for the “Sillybean”, it must be true.

With regard to the value of milk thistle in treating iron-overloading there is a virtual war raging in cyberspace. My buddy “wpat007” shovels down milk thistle every day. Some doctors support him, others think of him as dancing on the edge of eternity. Frankly, being somewhat familiar with the practices of Buddhism, I think that we should all take the “middle road”. Along with everything else that I have discovered about the plant, I have learned that many parts of the milk thistle are edible. Here are a couple of ancient recipes which I will probably try the next time a milk thistle pops its ugly head up in one of my planters:

“Around the 16th Century this plant became quite popular and almost all parts of it were eaten. The roots can be eaten raw or boiled and buttered or par-boiled and roasted. The young shoots in spring can be cut down to the root and boiled and buttered. The spiny bracts on the flower head were eaten in the past like globe artichoke, and the stems (after peeling of course) can be soaked overnight to remove bitterness and then stewed. The leaves can be trimmed of prickles and boiled and make a good spinach substitute, they can also be added raw to salads.”

Yummy! So like Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus, you too can have the best of both worlds.