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Lis is in Washington DC for a conference, Elizabeth Bear([livejournal.com profile] matociquala) is in Boston for a signing at Pandemonium Books ([livejournal.com profile] pandemonium_bks), and I just went with my parents to visit my grandmother and grandfather in Marblehead.

My grandmother has Alzheimer's, and I don't much like it. My grandfather is dealing with it okay, all things considered, but their kids who are reasonably local -- which is most of 'em (the farthest one away is Providence, Rhode Island) do try to make sure to visit a fair bit to help take some of the stress off of Papa. Besides, they like their parents, and Nana is still Nana even if she does get confused as to where she is, when it is, who you are, and what you just said.

She mentioned several times that she wanted to go home. She asked Papa to complain to the manager because she didn't like the room we were sitting in. She told us several times that she didn't feel comfortable entertaining in someone else's house, but she'd LOVE it if we came over to HER house in Marblehead, because she had a GORGEOUS house. At another time, when Papa was explaining that this WAS their house, that they'd lived in it for fifty-two years, she said, "Oh, yeah, big shot rich man -- says he owns a house."

Have I mentioned that Alzheimer's terrifies me? Well, it does. I'm hoping they come up with a cure for it before Mom gets it. And I'm REALLY hoping they come up with a cure for it before I get it.

Anyway, it's funny what Nana does and does not lose track of. She ALWAYS knows that she's married to Papa Tunny, who is a good man, and adorable, and whom she loves very much. She doesn't always RECOGNIZE him, although she almost always does.

The weird thing is -- I think she only vaguely recognized me, and only intermittently. But she wanted to know where my wife was, and when I told her she was at a Christopher Marlowe conference in Washington, DC, she said how my wife was SUCH a smart girl, and so pretty, too. I couldn't do anything but agree wholeheartedly.

See, I think she doesn't always remember ME, but she remembers Lis. Even though I was there and Lis wasn't.

It's possible, of course, that, in her mind, Lis got conflated with one of her daughters, since I guess you could see some similarities -- all of her daughters are black-haired Jewish women, as is Lis, so it's possible that Nana just remembers Lis as among her daughters, and thinks of me as "one of the guys who married one of her daughters," rather than me being the grandson and Lis being the one who married in. Which would explain why, at family gatherings, Nana always seeks out Lis to tell her that she and her husband should come over and visit, rather than telling ME. It really is kind of adorable -- I guess there's not much of a question that Lis is an integral part of our family.
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I'm feeling dizzy, feverish, muscle aches, chills, and sweaty palms. I can't find our thermometer, but I suspect that I'm running a fever.

This is good. See, yesterday and today have been completely nonproductive days for me. I fell asleep for several hours yesterday afternoon, and I didn't manage to shower and dress before Lis left for work this morning.

So I was worried that I was falling back into a depression.

But, nope! I'm just sick! Yay! Normal sickness! Nothing weird or long-term crippling! Hooray!

Also, Go Sox!
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As many of you probably know, I was dreading the trip to Europe, because I don't like travel. But then I went to London and Italy, and there was lots of neat stuff, and I had fun, and saw cool things. I've now been home for about a week and a half (and I still haven't blogged about Trieste, yet), so, what's the verdict? I had fun, so, would I do it again? Was the good parts of travel worth the hassle and inconvenience? If I could somehow go back in time and make it so I didn't have to go on the trip, would I go on the trip, anyway?
Read more... )
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You know, I don't know if I entirely believe in "detoxing" as a process. Mom does it, and it seems to help her, but, in general, it seems to me that our bodies are pretty darn good at detoxing themselves on a regular basis.

Still, it doesn't seem entirely ridiculous that we may, on the whole, put junk in our bodies somewhat faster than our liver and kidneys and all can get it all out, and that maybe every once in a while going through a regimen to try to give our bodies a chance to catch up on the backlog.

What I don't understand is the notion that, while you go through that process, you'll feel worse for a while before you feel better. What I've heard from people is that, as your body is purging the toxins, you feel really crappy for a couple days. And I don't understand why that should be.

Right now, however, that's how I'm feeling.

My joints ache, more than usual, my throat is scratchy, I'm coughing and sniffling, and one of my eyes is bloodshot. And I'm kinda sleepy.

This is a constellation of symptoms which usually means, "Something or other, not overly serious, is generally wrong." Allergies, a cold, any of a number of things like that.

But what I think it is is "detoxing".

Because I was out in the sun on vacation. I wore sunscreen, of course, and a hat and long sleeves, but I still got something of a tan.

My body treats melanin as a toxin, and clears it as fast as it possibly can. Whenever I get a tan, a couple days later, I feel really crappy like this, and the tan is gone the next day. Actually, it's been neat. Over the course of the day, I've been able to see the back of my hands getting blotchy as patches of melanin are cleared, and lightening in color.

Nothing much I can do about it, I think, except drink plenty of water, which I am.
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You know that thing where you're in enough pain that it really hurts to move, but you have to leave to go to work, so you start moving and are about to go to work even though you really want to stay home and just sit still because you hurt?

I hate that.

Still, I'm in less pain that a lot of my friends, and y'all manage to get most of what you need to get done done, so here I go off to work. A couple Tylenol will help.
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Today, my arthritis is really bad. So why am I typing? I think the typing, to a certain extent, helps keep my joints moving and hopefully less painful in the long run. Besides, as long as I don't use my left thumb or left forefinger much, it doesn't hurt THAT badly. Still, as I'm a lefty, it's suboptimal.

I actually kind of like "cold and rainy" weather, except for the arthritis bit.
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I know of only two things which have a real track record of helping with weight loss -- amphetamines and tobacco.

Those both have dangers. But the medical establishment assures us that being overweight also has dangers.

So it seems to me that someone really ought to compare the relative dangers of:
1. Being overweight
2. Smoking regularly, to the extent that it helps suppress appetite enough to lead to weight loss
3. Taking amphetamines to the extent that it helps to suppress appetite and increase metabolism enough to lead to weight loss
4. Bariatric surgery

If I worked for the tobacco industry, I would commission studies to quantify these things, and find a way to demonstrate that smoking was healthier than not smoking.

Of course, if I worked for the tobacco industry, I would have been working for marijuana legalization since the late eighties when it became clear that the anti-marijuana rhetoric also hit tobacco (and, in fact, was MORE true of tobacco than of marijuana). In any case, if it WAS legalized, the tobacco industry had all the agricultural, manufacturing, and distribution to benefit.
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While Boopsie was staying with [livejournal.com profile] felis_sidus while we were in Florida, Boopsie started on a quarter-tablet of Pepsid to help with stomach acid, which may be one of the reasons she's not been eating.

Boopsie doesn't like getting pills -- she'll struggle and resist a bit. However, she ALSO will remind me if it's time for her pill. See, as much as she doesn't really LIKE the pills, she is, in some way, aware that it's good for her. Basically, she trusts me, Lis, and [livejournal.com profile] felis_sidus -- and she figures, if one of us does something like that, there's a good reason for it.

So, tonight was the first time I gave her the Pepsid. And she took it, and then walked over to her food bowl to nibble a little at it.

It really looked like a thought process -- "I've now had the thing which makes my stomach hurt less, so I will now eat." That she associated the pill with feeling better and with being able to eat.

Well, first, of course, I hope that it's working and DOES work like that. But there are a couple interesting, more general ideas this raises.

Boopsie identifies "Thing Trusted Person Has Done" and "Me Feeling Better". And she identifies "Pill That Makes My Stomach Feel Better" with "Stomach Feels Better."

Is it possible for a cat to have placebo effect benefits? Do cats have that level of cognition?

And, if they do, should animal drug tests be double-blind? Are they already?
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A five-part plan:

1) The government pays for really basic stuff. Basically, if you feel ashamed when you hear about someone dying from a lack of this, it's paid for. If it's cheap and does a hell of a lot of good, that's the stuff we're talking about. Basic checkups without significant tests, tooth cleanings, real basic stuff.

If I hear about someone dying because they couldn't get open heart surgery, that makes me sad, but not ashamed. I'm aware of how expensive that is. Or not getting a transplant -- again, sad, but not embarrassed. So those sorts of things wouldn't be covered.

This would just be a billing code. A hospital or doctor's office could just bill this stuff to the government, and it would be paid promptly.

2) People could form into negotiation blocs who could negotiate lower rates from drug companies, hospitals, doctors, and so forth. If you wanted to, you could sign up for whatever bloc or blocs you wanted to be in, for a small fee (which would basically cover administration and negotiators' salaries), and, if you were a doctor or hospital or whatever, you could sign up for the same bloc which would mean that you'd agree to the rates they negotiated. As a doctor, your benefit would be that there would be a group of people who would count you as a preferred doctor.

Actually, I don't know how necessary this part is. After all, if you were a doctor and WEREN'T part of the bloc, you could still agree to take whatever fee the bloc charged, in order to poach customers. Which would also be fine.

3) There would be health insurance. As in, you pay a monthly fee, and, if something bad happens, they pay whatever your insurance coverage pays for. It wouldn't pay for routine stuff, although the insurance plan could give lower rates for people who demonstrated that they did take care of the routine stuff routinely.

This insurance could be "we pay 80% of your charges, up to a limit, and you pay 20%", it could be, "we pay 100% after a deductible", y'know, whatever. These health insurance plans might be associated with negotiation blocs, but need not be. If they started to pay for routine stuff as well, you begin to run into exactly the same problems we have right now, but, well, if they WANTED to do exactly the things that we have now, sure, they could. Why not?

4) Drug patents would expire seven years after they were approved for sale. That number is somewhat negotiable, if drug companies could prove that they couldn't make a profit in seven years, but whoever was doing the negotiation should be DAMN skeptical.

I mean that we could argue that drug patents should expire ten years, or twelve years, or whatever, as the law. I'm not a financial analyst -- I don't KNOW that drug companies can make a profit, in general, in seven years. But I really, really suspect so. I DON"T mean that an individual drug could be patented longer. Because, if you did that, with negotiations all the time, the negotiators would be corrupt. It just would happen.

5) And the gaps would be filled by private charities. And doctors and hospitals doing pro-bono work. I don't think, in the United States, you could do it any other way. I don't think it would be possible for the government to pay for everything that really ought to be done, and I think that you'd need charity to fill in.

What do people think?
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Check out the link on the story about "Traveling Dentists Help Kids who Need It".

The dentist in question, Dr. Todd Belf Becker, is my cousin.

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Codeine, how I love you, how I love you,
My dear old codeine.
I'd give my lungs to be
Filled wth C-O-D-E-I-N-even know my
Cough is waiting for me ambushin' for me
If I'm out of codeine
The folks at the docs will see me no more
When I skip out on the ER

Codeine, Codeine, I'm coming down with something
Doctor, Doctor, I love the old folk's home.

Um, it's not my best work, and some of it is entirely nonsensical or just vaguely stream-of-concousness, but I'm not convinced that's inappropriate.
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I wonder if anyone, in any culture, ever worked out "diagnosis by smell."

I mean, certain dogs appear to be able to smell certain cancers. And it seems reasonable to assume that diseases cause biochemical changes in a person, and that those changes would lead to their body odors changing.

In its most blatant form, I think "the smell of sickness", in high enough concentrations, is one of those smells, like, "decomposition", which seems hard-coded into our brains. It's just one of those smells that you know what it is when you smell it.

But in much smaller terms, you've probably noticed how the people you're close to change smells when they're sick -- and I'm not just talking about "not showering/not brushing teeth" stuff -- someone who's sick who doesn't do that will smell different than the same person simply being a disgusting slob but otherwise healthy.

And, of course, at a certain stage of pregnancy, you can smell it. Or at least, my father can.

But I wonder if it could be taken further than that.

As I was just now getting ready for bed, and washing my face and arms, I noticed that the sweat on my forearms smelled different than it usually does. I could detect my normal scent, but I also detected a sort of charcoal-y, ashy overtone. Along with a sort of "grass" note.

And I wonder if this sort of thing could be used as a diagnostic aid, or if it ever HAS been in any culture. I mean, if you had a tribal healer who had a good sense of smell, who knew the people in the tribe very well, and who had a lifetime of experience doing this, I can imagine him or her picking some of this by experience.

But how would you pass the knowledge on to another generation? I mean, for common things, sure. "Okay, this is what a basic fever smells like." But that's not really THAT useful.

I mean, I guess it could be useful in a "Hey, Johnny -- you're probably gonna come down with something in a couple days -- why don't you go sleep in the sick tent on the outside of camp so you don't pass it along to the rest of us, and why don't you skip out on this hunting trip where we'll be gone for most of a week" way.

Anyway, this has been another in my ongoing series on "Olfactory Prowess: What Can Smell Do For You?" Brought to you by the Council On Getting People To Respect Our Most Under-Utilized Sense.
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So, a dear friend has pointed out with the enthusiastically hypochondriac glee of the second-year medical student that, if you squint hard enough, what I've been describing on my LiveJournal could be the early stages of whooping cough.

Thanks, dear friend!

But if the codeine-containing cough syrup works, then it's probably not whooping cough, right?

How long does codeine take to kick in? More or less than fifteen minutes? Should the cough suppressant effect kick in before the wobbly dizziness?
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So, like many of y'all, I'm down with a Creeping Crud with the following characteristics:
1. A bad cough. This is its primary and most significant feature.
2. An intermittent fever, never getting to dangerous levels, although occasionally getting to the "Wooo, wobbly" levels, and the "lying awake at night coming up with really GREAT ideas for a TOON game, that I can't remember ANY of any more" level. And also getting down to normal, just to mess with you. Oh, and I also woke up having sweating enough that it was dripping out of my hair.
3. Body aches and pains, probably from the fever.

And that's it, mostly.

The problem is that the cough is nasty. Cough suppressants barely touch it. Expectorants don't do a thing. And while there is no nausea with this Crud, you occasionally cough so hard that you start retching. A sore throat presents, simply because of the stress of coughing so much. You can't sleep because of the coughing.

So, I've been trying to find ways to deal with the coughing, especially if it can get me to be able to sleep.

I've sort of found something, somewhat.

If I lie face down, with my head and arms hanging over the edge of the bed, it seems to suppress the coughing. It's hard to sleep in this position, but not as hard as it is to sleep while coughing.

I've got my massage table set up next to my computer, and when I start to have a bad coughing fit, I go over and lie down on it, with my head and arms hanging off the top edge.


It's not a GREAT solution, but it's the only thing I've found that does anything at all. So I pass it along to anyone else suffering from this crud. If you're anything like me, at this point, if I'd suggested gargling with a live chicken, you'd be willing to try it. . .
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I love my wife very much, and she does her best to take care of me when I'm sick. It's just that. . . that kind of thing isn't really her strong suit. I mean, she's working off of a default skill level, y'know?

So, Lis does NOT expect me to, like, cook for her and stuff when I'm in bed most of the day, so, when she got home, she said that she'd go out for dinner and bring me back soup. She was going to go to one of the Chinese restaurants we like, and bring me back a big container of their wonton soup, which is very good stuff when you're sick.

She came back an hour or so later, and said that she'd changed her mind and went to the sushi place instead, and got me udon noodle soup.

I opened it up, and felt slightly queasy. It's a fish stock soup, which makes sense because it's a sushi restaurant. I don't like fish at the best of times (except for a few things, and sushi is among the fish I like, but not fish stock, even at a sushi restaurant. I do like chowder, however, even fish chowder with a fish stock, as long as it has enough cream, butter, and potatoes in it. My food preferences are kind of random and weird). Anyway, while on a normal day, I'd probably like the udon noodle soup, tonight, I couldn't handle it.

The side dish that came with it was tempura shrimp. Which I don't usually eat, and really couldn't handle tonight.

She felt REALLY bad about this. "I failed my 'Get Soup For My Husband' roll!"

However, after that, she went back out and bought me ginger ale and Moxie, which makes up for it. And graham crackers. And she offered to go out to a different restaurant and get me soup, but it was already quarter of ten, and I couldn't see sending her out that late.

But, y'know, soup is usually fungible for me. But not when I'm sick. Normally, if I don't have one kind of soup, I'll have another kind of soup, and I'll like it, which is what Lis was thinking -- and she'd have been totally correct on a normal day. Most days, I would have really liked the udon soup. But, when I'm sick, and I want soup, I want exactly that kind of soup from exactly that restaurant.

So, I'm kind of hungry and soup-less. And Lis feels really bad about this, and I hope that, when she reads this, it doesn't make her feel bad, again. Because, most of the time, her actions would have been 100% reasonable, so I don't hold it against her.

She does so many things so well, and she is such a wonderful person. But, well, we both are aware that "taking care of sick people" is just not one of the things she's good at. But I love her anyway.
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A psalm of the sickbed. The Nyquil is my shephard, I shall not cough.
It maketh me to line down in warm blankets, it leadeth me to the still waters of the toilet if I have to puke.
It restoreth my soul; it guideth me along straightish paths to the kitchen with only some wobbling and smashing into walls.
Yea, though I walk through the shadow of the valley of the Creeping Crud which is hitting, like, half the people on my friends list, I will fear no virus, for thou are with me; thy Tylenol and thy Benadryl, they comfort me.
Thou preparest a bed-tray before me in the presence of the virus (although I can't eat much on it); my Cup-O-Soup runneth over (I'll clean that up later.)
Surely goodness and health shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall get out of this frickin' house some time before Sunday when I have to teach Hebrew school.

(Actually, so far, I've not had nausea. Knock on wood.)


Jan. 5th, 2007 12:20 am
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So I should be going to sleep. (But Lis is still doing stuff in the bedroom.)

Anyway, for the past couple days, I've been down with a variation of the Creeping Crud which is going around. Main symptom, hacking cough. Secondary but more debilitating symptom, exhaustion -- been sleeping fourteen hours a day or so -- ten hours, get up for a couple hours, crash for a couple hours, get up for a couple hours, like that.

And muscle aches.

As creeping cruds go, this one isn't all that bad -- no nausea, no gut problems, no fever. (Some sudden cold sweats and stuff, and feeling either colder or hotter than the ambient temperature would suggest, but nothing bad -- my temperature has been between 98.4 and 98.6 Fahrenheit degrees consistently, which is about my normal temperature range.)

But here's the thing -- in those couple hours I'm up, okay, I'm mainly sitting here reading LJ or playing card games against the computer, but I'm also showering, getting dressed, taking my meds, and usually managing an hour or so of housework. Less than has to be done, but more than I have done before.

From this, we can determine that Creeping Crud < Depression.

I just like making these comparisons, in case someone's reading this who's encountered depression, and not understood what it was, and has, as is very natural, gotten frustrated with the depressed person for not DOING anything. I mean, you see a person who COULD be making their life work, and just not DOING anything about it. Why WOULDN'T you be frustrated?

So, just to note: a Creeping Crud that sidelines you for a couple days is a significantly less debilitating condition than major depression. It is much, much easier to do things with this Crud than it is with depression.

And the depression is pervasive enough that you can't see it when you're in it.

So, if you see someone who is depressed, just remember: that person about as sick as you would be with a medium case of the flu, and has been that sick for longer, and has been that sick for so long that they don't know what "healthy" would feel like.

Now, for those of you reading this who are currently dying of extremely painful diseases, or are sidelined by other pervasive medical conditions which are equally or more debilitating, okay, I'm cool if YOU guys have no sympathy for depressives.

But if you're healthy? Remember what it's like to be sick, and imagine that that was your entire life, day in, day out.

It does kind of suck that a good 20% of my friends list doesn't have to imagine this. . . .
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I've posted a bunch of stuff on Shakespeare stuff, but haven't written much about what's been happening.

So, let me start with my grandmother Grace, since it looks like this is all turning out well.

Early last week, my cousin Meghan convinced my grandmother Grace to see a doctor about the cough she'd had for the past thirty years. Because Grace hadn't seen a doctor for longer than that, so hadn't had a chance to deal with it.

Turns out she has acid reflux, and the doctor put her on Prilosec and the cough went away in two days, and she no longer had heartburn, which she'd had forever and wasn't aware that you're not supposed to have. Which made me feel better, since it only took me fifteen years to figure that out -- well, from when I was sixteen until when Lis told me that heartburn isn't normal and talk to the doctor about it.

And, as long as they had her there, they did a physical on her. And discovered a partial blockage in one of her arteries. So they scheduled her for an angioplasty this past Monday.

In doing the angioplasty, they discovered that things were worse than they thought, and did a triple bypass on Tuesday.

She apparently looked like hell and wasn't accepting visitors on Wednesday, still looked like death warmed over on Thursday, but we saw her today, and she looked, well, entirely normal.

For anyone who's wondering where I get it from, I asked about what they were doing for pain meds for her, and she said that she was on them on Tuesday and Wednesday, but for now, she didn't see the point. Lis keeps trying to explain to me that not wanting pain medication four days after major surgery is actually stupidly macho, and not actually something to be impressed by and want to emulate.

Lis was asking me, "So, dear -- what are the lessons we can learn about avoiding doctors for thirty years from your grandmother's situation?"

I said, "If you avoid doctors for thirty years, you will be tough enough that you can go home five days after major surgery with no pain medication, because you're JUST THAT COOL."

Lis just shook her head sadly.


Jul. 28th, 2006 07:41 pm
xiphias: (Default)
So, you know that thing where you sneeze or cough or laugh or something and you pop something in your ribcage and it feels like a stitch in your side, only right up under the floating ribs and it hurts whenever you move for like a couple days?

Yeah. That thing.


So long as I don't move, I'm okay. I can either lie down on the bed, in certain positions, and read, or I can sit very straight at the computer and type, so that's not so bad. But still. Owie.

Also, I'm not able to cook, which means that Lis is likely to starve since she doesn't like to feed herself. I mean, a couple days ago, she waited for an hour and a half for me to toast and butter an English muffin for her, rather than doing it herself. She says that she does know HOW to make toast in the toaster, but that she'd rather I do it, because I butter it better.

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