Wednesday, June 30, 2010

I am Ironman - A blood drive coordinator's story

A week ago a writer for the American Red Cross asked me if I would consent to be interviewed by him for an article to appear in their Newsletter, Vital Signs. I said that I would be happy to oblige him on Wednesday afternoon at 2:00. The fellow was prompt, pleasant, and seemingly engaged. We spoke for about an hour. He took copious notes. He took copious pictures. He subsequently wrote copious copy for his newsletter. I include the entire text of his resulting article, carefully modifying the names of everyone concerned so as to preserve the carefully crafted avatar that I have developed during the last two and half years. I also have added a little commentary to clarify some of the daft things that he said that I said. I have been interviewed by reporters many times before and I was not surprised at the innocuous misrepresentations which managed to creep into the article. The title of his piece that serves as the title of this posting was of his own devising. Not bad, but it has been used before…. by me.

As a writer and American Red Cross blood drive coordinator, Zaphod Beeblebrox’s stories about his battle with hemochromatosis goes to show that sometimes life truly is stranger than fiction.

Actually, the truth is that fiction is stranger and funnier than life. Those who are familiar with my vapid style of writing are painfully aware that all of the things that I say about my battle with hemochromatosis cannot possibly be true. It is also true that my comments about the medical professionals with whom I deal border on libel. Hence, the carefully disguised names of people and places, including my own identity and address.

After doctors told Beeblebrox in 2008 about his dangerously high iron levels, the 67-year-old decided to create a website to document his thoughts and experiences which included frequent therapeutic phlebotomies. His writings, fused with a wry sense of humor, helped him deal with the fears surrounding the seriousness of the hereditary condition.

You know, I am really an old guy, but in August of 2008 I was only 66. I realize that a year’s worth of error is not a tragedy, but come on… a year’s a year! The only time I even mentioned my current age to the interviewer, I said that I was 68. Even that was not entirely true because I do not move into that ethereal realm of ancientness until the middle of July. How he worked the math on that one I cannot imagine. If he looked at me and said, "That guy is really 67", he would have had to conclude that I was 65 when I began the blog. If he looked at me and said, “That guy isn’t 68; he doesn’t look a day over 67”, then we would have to conclude that that he was referring to my age at the time he interviewed me when he said that I was a “67-year-old”. If that is the case, we ought to send this guy down to the county fair to guess people’s weight.

Not long after the diagnosis, Beeblebrox was asked to help coordinate Red Cross blood drives at his local church. While he couldn’t give himself, he was eager to recruit others who could. He also knew the assignment would make great fodder for his website called Hemochromatosis Tales.

“Hemochromotosis Tales!!!” This guy’s better at titles than I am, and far more accurate. Still I think that the subtitle, “and the Renal Road to Happiness” constitutes some of the finest prose I have ever generated.

“During the last year before my mother’s death, she must have had at least 100 [blood] transfusions which helped extend her life. That extra year when she received blood gave her extra time to get certain things squared away and taken care of prior to her passing,” said Beeblebrox. “It’s not hard to see the value in blood donation. My wife is a nurse, my mother-in-law needed blood when she had a hip replacement, so almost everywhere I look, I see real-life examples of why it’s so important for people to give blood.”

This is mostly true. I did, however, go into great detail about how my mother probably contracted the osteomyelitis that eventually destroyed her bone marrow. It was an unabashed frontal attack on the shoddy medical treatment that she received when she was having several of her lumbar in her spine fused. I suppose that even without names and places the ARC would have been looking at serious law suits from the AMA and other groups had they been as articulate as myself in his article. As an act of verisimilitude, the writer inserted a [bracketed] word to show that he was quoting me exactly. I do not know nor do I care if I said "blood transfusions" or not. My question is, "Why would he have to clarify what I meant by 'transfusion' when his audience was a pack of blood drive coordinators?" What other kind of transfusions are there? It is certainly not going to be confused with transfusions of doughnuts, Lorna Doones, or Barq's Root Beer.

In addition to witnessing how blood helped his mother, Beeblebrox noted that his involvement with the Red Cross started at an early age in Garden Grove, CA where he learned first aid and how to swim from Red Cross-certified instructors. And when Southern California wildfires raged throughout the counties near his family’s home, he vividly recalls the local Red Cross volunteers who would help fill water tanks to assist with the firefighting efforts.

Actually, I was quite specific about Carbon Canyon as the place where the wildfires were and the fact that the ARC had been handing out doughnuts. My friends and I were the ones filling the water tanks. Maybe the truth of the matter was that the ARC never has dealt in doughnuts and so my author had to have the workers doing something that seemed more reasonable. All I know is that the ARC no longer deals in Lorna Doones and Barq’s Root Beer. I learned First Aid from an ARC manual as the result having finished all of the fifth grade requirements by December and the teacher had to set me to work on things that would keep me out of trouble. This was, of course, at Richard Gird Elementary School in Chino, California, and not Garden Grove. I learned to swim at the Brea Plunge, where all of the instructors were ARC trained. My Swimmer’s Card was an ARC card. This was not in Garden Grove either. The Garden Grove reference was to my experience as a thirty-year-old donating blood to the ARC. I told him of my phobia of needles and my need to lie on the cot for 45 minutes snarfing Lorna Doones and root bear while I recovered. Eventually the ARC asked me not to return because I was not what you would call cost effective. His eyes may have glazed over at that point.

Nowadays, Zaphod Beeblebrox’s iron levels are higher than the average person’s, but low enough that he doesn’t worry every day about the potential damage to his liver, pancreas, or heart as a result of iron overload.

“Nowadays!!!” What a quaint word. I like that word! That is a terrific word! It’s the kind of word that puts grey-hair on an aspiring writer’s head. Bravo!!!!

As Beeblebrox prepares for the next Red Cross blood drive in September, he still writes about his experiences and is proud to say that in under a one-year time period, the number of units collected at his church drive have more than doubled since he took over as the blood drive coordinator.

True! I am the darling of the ARC!

We’d like to thank Zaphod Beeblebrox for his hard work in coordinating successful blood drives as well as his tales of iron and irony. To learn more about iron or other topics related to blood donation, check out the Health and Wellness section on our website at

Go ahead. Check it out, but it is not as funny as I am…nor as strange.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Kidney Me Not; Part One

I came away from my last visit with “Doc Wurlitzer” in May somewhat morose. I had hoped to find out what was up with my kidneys and what I could do about it. In my attempt to bring the good doctor up to speed, I rattled on for almost 30 minutes explaining my medical history as I understood it. I can only remember three things that he said on that occasion.

1. “That’s nice.”
2. “Give blood and other bodily fluids.”
3. “See you next month.”

The only other sound that I heard was “Ka-ching!”

I went down to the lab where a vicious little vixen nearly amputated my arm trying to get blood. I was also given rather exacting specific instruction regarding the manner in which I should donate my “other bodily fluid” (henceforth to be known as “OBF”). There was no chattiness, no humor, no faint hint of a rumor of friendliness, and not even a glimmer of a possibility of a smile. I was in the stainless steel medical version of Purgatory (or worse). All this in American Fork, Utah, the most cheerful little town in the northern hemisphere. I decided that the next time I went to visit the Grand Siete, I would get what I wanted.

Last Monday at 11:30 in the Provo office I was to meet with Doc Wurlitzer again, as requested in his third utterance above. When I arrived at the desk, I pulled out my appointment card.

“Is your address still 10345 West 20190 North in Panquitch, Utah?”

“I don’t think so,” I replied.

“Who are you again?”

“Dr. Zaphod Beeblebrox”.

“Snorquel Fortenbras?”

“No, Zaphod Beeblebrox”.

“Hortenfrax Snurflhwbbetnmomrtn?” she queried with a puzzled look.

“No. Trying using the spelling on the card,” I said.

“Oh…! Right…!” She pattered away on her computer for a while. “You aren’t in here. Are you a new patient?”

“No,” I said, “I’m rather an old one. I filled out my paperwork almost three months ago in this very office. I met last month with “Doc Wurlitzer” in the Omericon Fark office.” I hoped that my employing the Utah Valley dialect would facilitate matters.

She immediately went into some sort of confab with her fellow receptionists and for about six and a half minutes I was on tenterhooks while they attempted to find out who and what I was. Finally she came back to the counter.

“Dr. Beeblebrox?”

“I think that would be me.”

“Norgleburt Beeblebrox?”

“No, Zaphod. Norgleburt is my second cousin nine times removed. Everyone confuses us with each other. Don’t feel bad, it has been going on for decades.”

“OH! I see now. Is your address still 1842 South Felenctrum Way, Sea of Tranquility, Moon?”

“Close enough.”

“Okay. If you will just take a seat, the nurse will be with you shortly.”

A while later a sweet young thing ushered Trillium and me into an examining room where she took my blood pressure. “120 over 84. Is that about right?”

“Well, day before yesterday it was 90 over 73.”

“You’re an excitable sort when you visit the doctor’s office, huh?”

“Yes he is,” replied Trillium.