Sunday, April 11, 2010

Beam Me Up, Scotty!

In 1936, the Queen Mary was commissioned into service as an Atlantic Ocean passenger ship. In 1967 she was decommissioned and took up residence in Long Beach, California, where my sister Judie lives. As part of the renovation as a public attraction, the three smoke stacks were removed. They were, and are 36 feet long and 23 feet wide, 62 to 70 feet high, made of one inch thick steel. During her many years of service, the smokestacks were painted at least 30 times. When the stacks were removed and placed on the dock, they crumbled into paint chips, the one inch of steel having long since rusted away. Needless to say, those responsible for replacing the stacks were somewhat dismayed.

Let’s talk about dismay. When I started this blog two or so years ago, my ferritin level (somewhat analogous to the steel lining of the Queen Mary’s smoke stacks) was at 837. With pedestrian steadiness, “Doc Holliday” and myself have cautiously reduced that level. Four or five months ago, I stood at 127; a month or so later, it went back up to 137. I then took matters into my own hands again and had a phlebotomy every month for the first three months of this year. On Friday I went into to see the good doctor and found that my ferritin was now at 48.8! How about that! Everybody who is anybody ought to be happy with that. Friday was also my annual examination and when “Doc Holliday” took off my smoke stacks to see how things were going, he discovered something else amiss. Alas! Alack! Woe is me!

Two years ago, when I had my first serious examination in many years, I noted that the laboratory had exclaimed with some enthusiasm that my Calcium, Creatinine, and Blood Urea Nitrogen were somewhat elevated, indicative of degenerating kidney function. When Trillium and I asked “Doc Holliday” about it, he said, “Well, I not particularly concerned about that now. What I am concerned about is that you are becoming a fat little bunny. You need to walk about; you need to knock off the sweets; you need to eat a bushel of broccoli a day.”

“What about Guacamole Bacon Cheese Burgers, with Emperor-sized fries and drinks (a bushel of potatoes and a 30-gallon drum of root beer)?”

The response was about what you would expect.

One of “Doc Holliday’s” charms is that he generally telegraph’s his concerns and advice by how he dresses and how he combs his hair. If He wishes to chastise me a little, he always comes into my cubicle dressed in a dark suit, white shirt and tie, and a name tag that says “President Holliday”. If he thinks I am going to react negatively, he dresses like a home base umpire. Friday he was wearing a grass skirt, a shark tooth necklace, and had his hair woven into long shiny dreadlocks, waving a large rattle in each hand. Apparently in the confines of his bamboo hut, the good doctor had reviewed my blood work for the last three years and had observed that for each of the last three analyses, my creatinine levels had gone up steadily, one tenth of a point every year.

“At this rate, it won’t be long before you are on a dialysis machine! But I can’t figure it out. You have no indication of diabetes; all of the other blood indicators are just fine. For your creatinine to creep up like this is unnerving; and doubly so because there doesn’t seem to be an explanation for it”. He then shook his rattles a couple of times and turned back to the computer screen. “I think that I am going to send you to a nephrologist, a specialist who knows everything there is to know about the renal system. He will take a lot of blood samples and urine samples… so much so that you probably will not need a phlebotomy until next March”.

Oh! Joy!

I now have a list of local members of the nephrology clan here in Utah Valley and will have to make a decision soon about what I am going to do. I asked “Doc Holliday” when I would be ripe for my first dialysis. He said when my creatinine is at 5.0. I asked him what it was in 2008, 2009, and 2010. He said, “In 2008, it was 1.7; the following year it was at 1.8; and now it is at 1.9. This is a bad trend!” I was really dismayed, until I started doing the math. If my creatinine increases at the same rate, I will be ready for the first blood filter on my 98th birthday! In the meantime everyone is telling me that I have to stop eating chocolate, stop eating potato chips, no more French fries, no soda, no ibuprophin…. In other words, I may just have to ask Jack Kervorkian to drop by tomorrow for a little house call. The terminally ill get to have morphine; why can’t I have a potato deep fried in vegetable oil? It’s cheaper and I will feel better about it.

Monday I will do the doctor hunt. I have five on my list, three of them with names I can’t begin to pronounce. The other two have possibilities: Doctors Terry Wurlitzer and Lenny McCoy. Wurlitzer’s motto is, “There isn’t an organ I can’t fix”; McCoy has emblazoned next to his name, “Take two of these and see me in the next Millennium”.

I may just go to Dr. McCoy. I want to ask him about my liver; you know, because of all of the problems with iron-overloading. I can hear it all now, “Dagnabbit, Zaphod, I’m a physician, not a blacksmith!”


Judie said...

Well praise the Lord and all the Saints! You are now 21 points below my last count. See perseverance does pay off. Now you can start a new blog on dialysis. According to Dr. McClaren (my hemotologist) that is not uncommon, but according to him not serious. However, it should be watched - at least until you're 98. Congratulations bro.....I'm proud of you.

Anonymous said...

Fat little bunny...hee hehhe hheeee!

I think your kidneys are just jealous of all the attention you have been giving your hemachromatosis. Your kidneys are divas!

Trillium said...

aaallllrrrriiiiighty then

Barry said...

Good evening, Zaphod! I recently learned that I was a member of the highly-evolved HH Club. Not to brag or anything, but my ferritin level was/is 1057....and I've managed to accomplish this level of achievement in a mere 56 years! I started weekly phlebotomies ( or was it lobotomies...I really need to pay closer attention to the prescription pad) two weeks ago. Love your blog, including the music! All the best in the dialysis! No offense, but I would just as soon avoid that little jewel.

Rebecca said...

well, I hope that you don't have to go through dialysis.

EisenMann said...

I'm breathing easier. I came back and re-read your post more carefully (originally dazzled by your witty repartee). I thought you were in line for immediate dialysis. I was relieved to see that you might be a candidate in about 30 years. I guess its never too early to make an appointment - especially these days.

Zaphod said...

Just for the record, Terry Wurlizter can't see me for six weeks. He has all of my paperwork; he must be a slow reader. More pedestrianism.

Rusted Nut said...

A Fe drop from 837 to 48.8 is terrific! Cause to celebrate? YES!But not with fatty burgers. Rumor has it that there can be an increase in serum creatinine concentration after eating cooked meat. And, what's this 'fat little bunny' stuff ~ we out here all know men with BIG muscles have higher creatinine levels. !GO ZAPHOD!

Anonymous said...

生活盡可低,志氣當高潔. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .