Archive for category: Medicinal Properties

Double Sickness

07 Aug 2006
August 7, 2006

Stay away from sledgehammers. One minute I was minding my own business and the next I had a fever and chills. I’m now going on Day 5 of this routine.

Still from Ok Go's Here We Go Again

Ok Go’s Here We Go Again cured me.

Depressing as being sick can be, being so sick that all you want to do, all you can do is watch TV can lead to complications. Even with cable, searching for a good movie that will transport you to some sunny beach on the Riviera is hard to find. It must have been “Incarcerated Movie Week” on Turner Movie Classics –1930s penitentiaries and angry convicts with smuggled guns. It’s enough to make you stir crazy (and wish you’d received a lighter sentence, like pink eye).

When you’re sick you want to know that there is a wonderful life to look forward to when you recover. But channel surfing doesn’t help. Did you know that should you die your loved ones could be saddled with your excessive funeral costs that could amount to $6000—$7000 (depending on which Life Insurance commercial you happened to be watching)? My friend Don told me not to believe those things. “You can get a funeral for less,” he advised. Thanks Don. Good to know. But let’s save the details for when I’m positive I’m going to live.

Instead, I’ve turned to the Net for my R&R (respiratory recovery). And true to form I am starting to feel better already. Take a look at this music video (thanks Airbag). I can’t wait until I feel good enough to try that on my own treadmill.

Update: I just got back from the doctor’s and it’s good news. More than likely I have a sinus infection. Apparently, my strange Saturday, when I thought I was getting better, was a key clue. “Double Sickness,” when a patient starts to get better but then gets worse is indicative of bacterial infections. I thought the indications for my special malady were a fever made worse by sickening commercials.

You Can Judge a Doctor by His Magazines

03 Jun 2006
June 3, 2006
Illustration of me as an eight year old

First impressions are important. I discovered this copy of Ferrets magazine in my doctor’s waiting room.

A visit with a new doctor always brings some hesitation. It’s like a first date. Will you like him/her? Will he be kind and gentle? Will he be on time? You are primed for qualitative first impressions on this your first date –I mean your first appointment.

As I sat in my new doctor’s waiting room I looked around. Value judgements start at the front door. A doctor’s outer office is a guide to his inner and innate medical practice. Is it contemporary and au courant or has he no design sense at all (proper design habits tell me if he is current with other more salient medical practice). And then there are his magazines. You can tell a lot about a doctor from his periodical treasure trove.

Are they up-to-date or from the 1980s? Do they speak to his political tendencies? The Nation is always a good sign. The New American is not. You are hoping for a long-standing relationship so being a good physician and a like-minded citizen can be important in establishing a rapport.

I rummaged through his magazine stack for evidence of just who this man was. And there underneath Golf Digest lay the current issue of Ferrets magazine!

I scanned the cover. “Ten Ferret-friendly destinations.” “Interior Decorating, Ferret-Style.” Here was everything I needed to know about these animals. But what did this tell me about my physician-to-be?

I pondered how this discovery might affect our initial consultation. We had yet to meet face-to-face. But I was already starting to “know” him. Was this too much information? How would I feel about divulging my personal medical history to someone with this interest?

This was so out of the ordinary I needed to investigate further. I gravitate towards iconoclastic people and this piqued my interest. While I knew nothing about ferrets, perhaps this guy might be on the ball, medically speaking. I began thumbing through the issue. When I reached the middle of the magazine I came upon this centerfold. Ferret owners love their animals. Should I judge a doctor by his covers (or his centerfolds)?

Just then his nurse came out and said “Mr. Gates, the doctor will see you now.”

I’m going to suggest to Blue Cross that their next In-Plan Doctor’s Guide be cross-referenced with each physician’s magazine subscriptions. It’s the only way I can make an informed decision.

A Different Sort of Time

15 May 2004
May 15, 2004

She looks a little tentative. I focus on her eyes, looking for clues as to why she is here. I notice she is clutching a small stuffed animal in her hands. We are both waiting.

Hollywood Squares is blaring on the TV. X has just won the square. I must concentrate on waiting, but the volume is too high and distracting. It takes me 30 minutes before I get up enough courage to cross the room and turn the thing down. I’m quite relieved no one objects. My angst is at the rim.

A nurse in her operating room scrubs walks nonchalantly across my path. Her hands are cupped together. Something small and encased in plastic comes along for the ride. She is delivering something to someone.

I am aware of everything as I wait for my wife to get out of surgery. My neck is stiff. I’m sitting in the audience of an off, off-Broadway play, more like community theater. Before me are construction workers, bureaucrats, husbands, and mothers, all part-time actors on stage. And I wait for each of their stories to unfold before me.

The doctor told me she’d be in the operating room for about 90 minutes. The closer that deadline approaches the tenser I become. Time moves slowly when you demand something else.

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Sorry, Wrong Number

20 Oct 2003
October 20, 2003

We got home the other night and there was a message on our answering machine:

This is [garbled] from “Dr. X’s” office. Your insurance company has approved your prescription for Vioxx. You can call your pharmacy to arrange for pickup. Also, the doctor wanted me to tell you he spent 17 minutes with your insurance company in order to get approval. If you have any questions, please call our office.

Yes, as a matter of fact, I did have some questions. There were a few problematic things about this message. First, I didn’t remember having a prescription for Vioxx, a fairly new and powerful anti-inflammatory. Last Spring my endodontist tried to prescribe it for the pain I had after a root canal. But my insurance company refused to authorize it.

I remember how surprised I was when the pharmacist informed me of this. It was my first pharmaceutical refusal–ever. I assumed my insurance was the best my meager salary could buy. It never occurred to me they had their limits. I was shocked and mistaken. Case closed. After paying for a few overpriced tablets out-of-pocket, I decided to stick with an over-the-counter analgesic. I was sure this had nothing to do with my latest Vioxx message.

The doctor’s office had obviously made a mistake when they called me. I had recently seen a Dr. X, but was this the same Dr. X I had seen? There were many doctors with that last name in the phone book. The message giver had left no phone number and no first name to confirm. What should I do? If this prescription wasn’t for me, then someone in pain was waiting for it.

Finally, no matter who this Dr. X was, it was unsettling to know he had made his co-worker inform me that he had overspent seventeen whole minutes advocating for a patient in pain. That was most painful for me to hear.

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A Pain in Any Case: A Parable for the Ides of March

15 Mar 2003
March 15, 2003

location of tooth #12Over the course of the last month, the pain in my lily-livered liberal all-American heart has only been exceeded by the pain in my #12 all-American tooth. Each conveyed a kind of dull, background ache as I carried on my daily routine. When focused on other things, like coding Web sites or writing, the discomfort seemed to disappear. But when I sat quietly for a moment, with no outside interference, I felt #12 pulse rhythmically.

As things started to heat up in the Persian Gulf, so too did the searing in my upper jaw. I drove 40 miles in a driving rain to my dentist (a holdover from my life in a nearby city). X-rays ensued. A little decay behind a deep filling but he didn’t think that should have cause this much pain. To be on the safe side, he’d start with a visual check and replace my aging filling.

“Hmmm,” he said, as he rummaged around my mouth. “There’s more decay than the X-ray showed. That’s not unusual. Even Superman couldn’t tell without going in and looking directly. Yes, that could cause your pain.” That was somewhat assuring. It wasn’t just in my head. He gave me a nice new porcelain-colored filling (my daughters want to know what those older, mercury-filled “dark spots” are on my teeth). And we hoped that would be the end of it.

For two glorious days I was pain-free. This coincided with Saddam’s destruction of his illegal long-range missiles. Inspections, both in the Gulf and in my mouth seemed to be proving a success.

But then, as negotiations for a new U.N. resolution seemed to falter, my pain returned. It was time to take the next step. While Colin Powell tried to persuade African countries on the Security Council to vote pro-American, I, too, was in deep negotiations to secure a good (and gentle) endodontist. For the first time in years, the words root canal entered my lexicon. I hadn’t been “here” since my last one twelve years ago. And things had obviously changed.

It’s no longer a two-day procedure. My newly found specialist, Dr. Eda Elbirlik, uses all the latest technology including digital X-rays. No film and as soon as the technician runs behind the ray-proofed screen and you hear that beep, the image appears on the doctor’s computer monitor. I was intrigued. I was to be her very last patient for a while. She was nine months pregnant and due momentarily.

After concise analysis of the data, though, she was not convinced #12’s time had come. “I’m a conservative…” I winced. Political identification is rampant in this city but, really, medical ethics should prevent it from entering the examination room. “…in these matters. I don’t want to start the procedure only to find out it was the wrong tooth.” I relaxed.

She did further tests as she tapped and applied hot and cold to each tooth. The pain was not localized, that is, we couldn’t tell which tooth it was coming from. The nerves are all interconnected. Nothing. Nothing out of the ordinary. She was gentle as she worked and made sure I was not in any undue pain.

She removed her mask and gave it to me straight. “I want to watch this for a while and see what happens. Come back in 72 hours and we’ll recheck.” I knew this would happen. When I go to the doctor I like to come out of the office with resolution. Again, my tooth’s condition seemed pegged to world events. Everyone was waiting.

Three days later I returned. My pain had actually subsided somewhat. And I had used the time to study it carefully. I was pretty secure that I would once again come out of the office the same as when I walked in. Nothing much had changed. The pain was there, off and on.

But when the doctor sat down she told me she had been studying this case. In examining the evidence she was pretty sure #12 would need a root canal, if not now, within weeks. Number 11 might need one too, but that was less likely. She could do both at once but that would be quite a financial investment (the cost of war pales in comparison to the cost of a root canal on a per capita basis).

I gave the thumbs up. And she prepared for battle.

For those of you who have never had this procedure, let me briefly outline the plan of attack. When the roots of your tooth start to die or become infected, that causes pain. In my case, both tooth 11 and tooth 12 have deep fillings that are very close to the nerves of these teeth. Given the cavity that had formed in #12, it was possible the nerves (or more precisely the pulp under the outer layers of the tooth which contains the nerves) were traumatized and causing my pain. To save the tooth, the dentist removes this area and replaces it with “root canal filling material.” Essentially, after it’s over, you have a tooth with no sensation.

Root canals cannot always save the tooth. During my last procedure in the early 90s the dentist got through 99% of the two day procedure only to suddenly pack up his materials and announce: “I couldn’t save it. You’ll have to have it pulled.” The very next day I sat in a new dentist’s chair and within seconds I had one less tooth. It was scary how easily that tooth came out.

X-ray of the real tooth

I was luckier this time. When Dr. Elbirlik actually opened the tooth, she confirmed her suspicions were correct. The tooth would have gotten worse if it hadn’t been treated. My roots were in the early stages of decay. But they weren’t infected. Like computer-guided bombs we’re shipping to the Middle East, her tools worked precisely. I was hooked up to her command center’s computer which told her just where she was in my roots. The procedure took all of an hour and I was walking out of the office with post-procedure instructions in hand and a lot less money in my bank account.

When I returned to my office the next day and announced what I had just gone through everyone was amazed. “You’re not swollen at all!” they remarked. I was in a good mood. Nothing sours my day like a cloud of uncertainly hanging over my head. While the prospects of an American Empire still clouded the horizon, this was one issue I could check off my list.

And then the phone call. That morning Dr. Elbirlick was reviewing my X-rays. Like her counterparts at our military’s Gulf Command Center, she had been scrutinizing my photos. And she thought she saw a third canal! Most teeth have two. Some have one but very rarely does a tooth have three. I was an anomoly that had to be investigated.

Just when I thought this had come to a sensible and comfortable resolution, I was suddenly back in that chair. She reopened the case as she prodded and picked, searching for that third root. X-rays could only indicate the possibility. It required a direct and observable incursion. Whereas the initial procedure took about an hour, this time I was in the chair for almost two. It was the elusive inspections all over again.

When her visual acuity failed her, she brought in the laser-guided microscope. Where was that third canal? Was it even there? I could see her working in the reflection of the lens. Its distortions only magnified my concerns. She called in her associate, Dr. Hsu, to search with fresh eyes. They wanted to make sure they had inspected every conceivable hiding place. They were searching for a weapon of mass destruction. The entire tooth could be wiped out if this third root went ballistic. The domino effect wouldn’t be far behind. My whole mouth could go down.

But they didn’t want to push and prod too hard. “I don’t want to perf,” I heard her coworker announce [perforate the surface of the tooth]. This military-dental lingo. Was it meant to obfuscate? What was happening? It was tense. Was I an anomaly or wasn’t I? Just where was that third root? Just what weren’t they telling me?

They never found that extra root. They looked everywhere. It might have once been there they concurred, but if so it was calcified now and offered no further danger. I was relieved, if only temporarily. I have thirty-one more teeth. Each region of my mouth could suddenly become a flash point of ruination. I would have to be on guard. Pain would be my global early warning system.

Remembering Those We’ve Lost to AIDS

01 Dec 2002
December 1, 2002

Link and Think for more informationDecember 1 is World AIDS Day. Today I’m taking some time to remember those we’ve lost to this disease, those who are suffering now, and those who are working hard to eradicate it. During this season of miracles, take a moment to visualize how much work it will take to create one more.

Related Links:

AIDS 101
The Access to Essential Medicines Campaign
AIDS: A Century From Now
Bush’s Stance on AIDS Education
Visual Aids
The NAMES Project

© 2001-2015 Jeff Gates ISSN 1544-4074