WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS

Bishop, our oldest dog … a gorgeous, shaggy Australian Shepherd … had a nasty infection in his foot. It had been there off and on for a long time. Mostly on, rarely off. I’d taken him to the vet several times and he’d had multiple rounds of high-powered oral antibiotics.

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But the infection was back. Again. With a vengeance. The antibiotics knocked it down temporarily, but never knocked it out. As soon as the prescription finished, a few days would pass and the paw would be red, raw, swollen, and obviously painful.

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I didn’t see the point in another trip to the vet or more antibiotics. The vet had no idea what was causing the infection or what would cure it.

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I was feeling that particular kind of helplessness one feels when a pet is sick — and not getting better. When you’ve done everything you can think to do … and it isn’t working. Being me, I had to do something, however ineffectual or lame, so I slathered his paw with over-the-counter triple action antibiotic cream. The stuff I keep in the house for my own and Garry’s cuts and bruises.

Bishop Almost Christmas

The next day, the paw looked nearly perfect. Most of purple mottling and swelling was gone. I slathered the paw again that morning and a second time in the evening. The next day, there was no sign of infection. Unable to believe I had somehow cured an antibiotic-resistant infection with an over-the-counter remedy, I kept applying the cream to his paw for another few days. Then, when there was no sign of returning infection, I stopped. And waited.

When the frame is completely full, your picture is by definition in the middle!

Three weeks later, his paw looks normal. No limping. He will let me hold the paw and examine it without any sign of discomfort. He had that infection for more than a year. I despaired of curing him, yet in less than a week, it’s gone. My son wonders if maybe, that was all Bishop needed in the first place. Antibiotic cream applied directly to the infection site rather than oral antibiotics. Hard to argue, considering the outcome.

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Talk about a Hail Mary pass, this was a classic. I did it because there was nothing else I could think of to do.  It worked. If it weren’t me, I wouldn’t believe it either.

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Pets

cee's fun foto chall

WHAT INSURANCE DOESN’T COVER

Seeing.

Hearing.

Eating.

Breathing.


Breathing.

No one covers asthma medication anymore. A while ago, insurance companies universally decided to stop covering medication to prevent asthma attacks. Most of us don’t have the medication anymore.

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We buy emergency inhalers because they cost around $50 — without insurance. The daily medication which would prevent the need for an emergency inhaler is about $500 for a month’s supply. No one I know can afford it, so we don’t have it.

Breathing, it turns out, is not medically necessary.

Seeing.

Vision is medically optional. Most insurance will cover a routine annual eye exam. A few will cover part of the cost of a pair of single vision eyeglasses per year. That’s pretty much it. If you need bifocals, or anything other than one cheap pair of corrective lenses, that’s too bad.

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Chewing.

Teeth falling out? Need a root canal? Tough luck. Your teeth are entirely cosmetic (bet you didn’t know this!) and therefore, are not covered by medical insurance. You can buy private insurance, but it covers less than half the actual cost of most dental procedures (usually a lot less than half) … and it’s expensive. It is never part of standard medical insurance. They don’t cover dentures either.

Hearing.

What?

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No one covers hearing aids, probably because they are extremely expensive. Thousands of dollars and the average lifespan is four to seven years, after which you need another set. If you are a state or federal employee, or you lost your hearing while serving in the military, you are probably covered. If you are anyone else?

I’m sorry. What did you say? Could you speak up please?


Private insurance plans sometimes offer riders which will cover corrective lenses and basic dental work — a cleaning, x-rays, and a filling. Maybe. Not a root canal or a crown.

No one covers hearing aids.

Classifying hearing, seeing, and anything in your mouth as “non-medical and cosmetic” is standard in the insurance industry. It saves them billions of dollars a year … and leaves you with a bill you probably can’t pay.

What’s the solution? Don’t be old. Or poor.  Especially, don’t be both.

REFRESH!

REFRESH

Today, after having postponed this appointment three times, I finally went for my annual checkup with the oncologist.

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I like my oncologist. He’s a very pleasant, easy-going, friendly guy. Low key. Not an alarmist. Sensitive and sensible. But, in the end, he’s the one who will tell me if I have cancer. Again.

So, as much as I like the guy, I’m not eager to see him. Too much history.

I’ve been doing well. I’ve got more energy than I used to, probably because of all the heart surgery a couple of years ago and having a pump that actually is delivering oxygen to my body. I think my breast bone has finally knitted. I no longer hear it grinding when I move.

Fake breasts

My double round of breast cancer is now 5-1/2 years past. This makes me an official survivor. I have no symptoms, no lumps, no nothing. I have exactly the same chance of getting some (new) kind of cancer as anyone. Maybe a little higher because it runs in my family, but basically, I am (finally) regular folks.

If you think of “refresh” as that thing you do on your computer monitor to clear up garbage and update your open apps? Today was my “refresh.”

I’m clean. My panel of tests are spot on normal. The lab lady found a live vein on the first stab, too!

It doesn’t get better than this.

NERVELESS

NERVELESS

I think I’m losing my battle with the virus that has me in its grip. I feel like I got run over, then the car backed up and made sure I was dead. I’m supposed to go into Boston for the cardiology annual checkup and pacemaker tune up. I don’t think it’s going to happen. I’m wobbly.

out-sick1I’m actually unstable on my feet; Garry is just as bad. Driving 150 miles in two directions doesn’t seem like the world’s greatest idea, so I’m going to reschedule.

I’ve been rescheduling everything, every day. This thing” won’t quit. Sorry folks, I’m down for the count.

MY FATHER: AHEAD OF HIS TIMES – ELLIN CURLEY

Most of us believe that our current beliefs have been our beliefs forever. Of course we know that germs cause disease and that the earth is round. But people didn’t always know these concepts as “facts”. We once thought the earth was flat and had no idea what caused disease. Someone had to propose these “new” and “revolutionary ideas.And someone just as assuredly had to argue against them and give the proponent of the new ideas a hard time.

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My father was a brilliant, innovative thinker in the fields of psychiatry and the social sciences. All he got initially was a lot of grief and aggravation. Even today, only a few academics have heard of him.

His name was Abram Kardiner. He had a long and varied career in the fields of anthropology, sociology, and psychiatry from the 1920’s to his death in 1981. He deserves at least part of the credit for three major contributions: the idea of interdisciplinary studies, the concept of early, “pre-school” education, and acceptance and understanding of PTSD.

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Everyone knows that interdepartmental studies are the best way to thoroughly understand at least history and cultures. Didn’t we always apply the tools of sociology, economics, political history, art history and other cultural history to the study of history? The answer is no. In fact, the concept was anathema until the 1960’s.

When I went to Barnard College in 1967 (the sister school to Columbia University), I was one of the first classes to be able to take an interdisciplinary major. At the time, I was old enough to understand that my father’s struggles at Columbia University in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s had cleared the path for me to be an American Studies major in the 60’s.

My father studied with Sigmund Freud in 1921 and came back to New York to help establish psychoanalysis as an accepted and respected “new” field of science. But he was also interested in sociology and thought that using psychiatry to better understand the individuals in a society would help understand the society as a whole. So he decided to study more primitive cultures (anthropology) to further establish the interrelationships between the individual (psychiatry) and the society (sociology).

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Unfortunately at the time, each academic field was considered a totally separate entity. No one was allowed to stray into another academic’s carefully guarded territory.

For more than 30 years, my father was bounced back and forth between the psychiatry, sociology, and anthropology departments. No one wanted to claim him. He was “tainted” with methodology and ideas from a different discipline. This sounds ridiculous today, but even now, the only department at Columbia that recognizes his accomplishments is the Department of Psychiatry, the department he helped found.

When I had my first child, I enrolled him in play groups and I planned to send him to preschool when he turned three. My father, once again, had been on the front-lines years before, espousing the importance of the first three years of life. He believed that early childhood intellectual and social stimulation was necessary to foster a child’s ability to learn and to adjust socially throughout it’s life. His writings became the basis for Head Start, President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s program which provided pre-kindergarten for all kids. Dad also focused attention on the optimal environments for preschoolers to develop well intellectually, socially, and emotionally.

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Reading to your children, playing counting games, and talking to them — these concepts, now so familiar, became part of the standard of early child care because of my father. He helped prove, scientifically, how important these activities are both for children and for the society.

When a member of our family was ten, he had a tonsillectomy — and awoke during surgery. This resulted in PTSD as well as a myriad of other issues. Guess who was one of the first people to study PTSD and recognize it as a psychiatric syndrome?

You guessed it. My dad! He studied World War 1 veterans and built on Freud’s concept of psychiatric trauma. He published a book called “The Traumatic Neuroses of War” in 1941 but it wasn’t until the Vietnam War, in the 1970’s, that PTSD became a hot topic. Luckily, by 1991, further advancements in this field, building on my father’s work, helped our family cope with the aftermath of childhood trauma.

So, thanks Dad! You cleared the way for me to have the college major of my dreams, a well-educated toddler, and a family member with doctors who could understand and help him. I wish I could tell you your name is now known throughout the world for your amazing contributions.

But I understand and appreciate what you have contributed to society and now, maybe some blog readers will know, too.

THE INEVITABILITY OF ALL OF THAT – AND THEN WHAT?

You can run, but you cannot hide.

Let me rephrase that. I can’t run … nor can I hide.

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Every year, like a particularly annoying alarm clock, they come around. Annual visits to the oncologist and cardiologist. And my birthday, the rosy bloom of which is greatly diminished as it falls right in the middle of the medical runaround. Such fun!

Needles. Laboratories. Tests. Waiting to get the doctor’s read on life and death. What’s the prognosis, doc? Am I gonna make it for another year?

blood evidenceMy mother hated these sessions. She would watch the doctor’s eyes, trying to read in them what he was not saying. When he said “You’re okay,” did he mean it? Was he hiding the truth?

I’m less paranoid than my mother — from whom they actually did hide the truth. It was a different time and it was still legal for doctors to lie “in your best interests.” I’m more worried about what they may be missing than anything they could be hiding. I’ve been misdiagnosed or not diagnosed often. It’s hard for me to feel secure that they’ve gotten it right.

Tests test what they test. Which isn’t necessarily what’s wrong with me (or you). We can pass every test with flags flying, yet still have something most unfortunate going on. Somewhere. In an organ they didn’t test. Or signaled by a wee little symptom they labeled “insignificant.”

So. This morning it starts. Take some blood. Good luck with that. I frequently don’t have a live vein in my body. I always hold my breath until I see the blood actually flowing into the tube.insane doctor cartoon

“You’ve hit a gusher!” I gush. Sometimes, nothing happens. Then, it’s a duster, a dry hole. Some days, there’s no vein into which anyone can get a needle … or get blood out of. Let’s hope this is not one of them.

Inevitable. I can’t wriggle out of the testing cycle. I would if I could. So, for the next few days, it’s me, a lab, an office, and one more test. Until finally, it’s over for another year. Hopefully.

I shall see you all on the other side. Or, as we say here in America, next week.

HACKING THE PACEMAKER

EPISODE: NCIS – NEED TO KNOW (2012)

Short Synopsis:
Tamer Hassan guest starred as Arms Dealer Agah Bayar.

Tamer Hassan guest starred as Arms Dealer Agah Bayar.

Alan Katzenbach, a lawyer, waits for Gibbs with his client, a chief petty officer named Leland Wiley. Wiley was busted for drugs and wants to trade information he has — which he claims involves national security and Agah Bayar, the arms dealer.

Gibbs is interested. Wiley comes over to talk, but grabs his heart and drops to the ground.

Gibbs comes for the update from Ducky. Turns out, Wiley had top security clearance and his workstation is locked down. They haven’t been able to connect him to Bayar yet.

Abby calls Gibbs to the lab. She tells him Wiley’s pacemaker was linked into a computer to monitor it. Someone hacked it and raised his heart rate up to more than 400 beats per minute.

“Somebody murdered Wiley by remote control,” she says.

What does this have to do with me?

Well, I’m glad you asked. This particular episode so intrigued the heart surgery team at Beth Israel Deaconess in Boston (where I had all that heart surgery in March 2013), that they decided to see if it really could be done. Could you “attack” a pacemaker by remote control? One of the people that performed the experiment was my surgeon.

They did it, though my surgeon pointed out you had to be no more than a couple of feet from the pacemaker to affect it. But you could affect it. So, they contacted the manufacturer who changed the programming to protect it from potential attack. Cool, yes?

In theory, nobody can hack my pacemaker. I am safe from remote terrorists. Which is good, because worrying about it was keeping me up at night.

I find it oddly comforting. Garry finds it disturbing. I suppose I can see where he’s coming from. He doesn’t like thinking about the mechanical and electronic stuff that keeps me alive. It would creep me out too, but I’m a bit of a geek and can detach from it on a personal level and get into the coolness of the electronics.

RBB-pacemaker

It is  kind of creepy. However, it doesn’t matter. No matter how I feel about it, I’ve got this thing in my chest. It keeps my heart beating. If my heart beat on its own, I wouldn’t need the pacemaker.

Every time I go for a pacemaker checkup, they use a little machine and briefly stop the pacemaker to see if my heart will beat without it. My heart stops beating. Talk about creepy. It is an icky feeling. Anyone with a pacemaker knows what I mean.

The blue tooth remote functions work. They are (in theory) more secure than they were before the NCIS episode aired and the guys got curious. Remote functionality is important. After all, I might need a remote tune-up. Blue tooth lets my doctor access my pacemaker from … how far? I don’t actually know. A considerable distance, whatever that is.

Garry — again — doesn’t want to know about it. I pointed out if someone murders me, this is potentially important evidence. He would rather not think about it.

So there we are. Too creepy?

I can feel my pacemaker. It’s in the hollow by my left shoulder. The outline is visible. I can feel the wires, the connections through my skin. It’s impossible to ignore. I might as well find it interesting. It’s part of me, after all.