Thursday, December 08, 2005

Healthy Choices ...

When it comes to healthcare, the world seems to be divided into three camps: Those who want to pop a pill for every little malady (Restless leg syndrome? Really, do we need a pill for that? My apologies to all those who suffer with restless legs, but ...), those who think Western medicine is bunk, and those who fall somewhere in between.

I am an in-betweener.

I believe the body has an amazing capacity for healing itself, if only we would let it, if only we would tap into the pathways that enable our body to help itself, optimally.

I also believe that there are times when we have done such damage to ourselves, perpetrated such abuse on our bodies, that the body says, "Oh, for the love of God. Even *I* can't make *this* better."

And that's when we need doctors.

My father had surgery last night. He was supposed to have surgery on Monday morning, but this was to be a colon resection, and, uh, the site wasn't clean, if you know what I mean. So his surgery was rescheduled for Tuesday. Dad wasn't thrilled, but his surgeon said, "This isn't an emergency procedure. Let's take one more day and you'll heal better later." Sounded good to mom and me.

So Tuesday arrived and I got to the hospital in the afternoon and mom said, "Did you get my message?"


Surgery was rescheduled for Wednesday. This time because dad's potassium was too low. Crazy-important stuff, potassium. People don't think about it, but it helps regulate your heart, so, since dad's a heart patient and since he was going to be under anesthesia for at least four hours, his potassium needed to come up.

Yesterday, Wednesday, we waited around. Potassium eventually came up to where it needed to be, but by the time the lab gave the all-clear on that front, dad's surgeon had a couple procedures stacked up, and dad's became the last surgery of the day, for his surgeon, at least.

His procedure started around 8:30 last night. He was on his way to ICU about 1 a.m., partly a function of the recovery room being closed at that hour, and partly a function of his status as a cardiac patient. The need to watch him closely is greater.

Mom and I talked to his surgeon as he was taken up to his room. The procedure went well. He removed twice as much colon as he planned on (about two feet), and took out dad's appendix, as long as they were in there. His recovery will be similar to when he had his triple bypass. But this time, unlike when he had his heart surgery, he's in for a fair amount of pain.

My father is the kind of guy who doesn't get novocaine at the dentist. But I guess when you have someone slice you open, take out your organs, whack off a chunk, stuff it all back inside, and sew you back up, you're in for a few twinges.

Upstairs, Melody, his ICU nurse, let us in to see him about 1:15 a.m. He kept gesturing to his abdomen. "Pain," he'd say, behind his oxygen mask, his breath causing it to fog each time. "Pain."

He vowed, Tuesday night when I went to see him at the end of visiting hours, that he's going to change his diet from now on. We talked about how we demand far too much of our bodies, cramming them full of red meat and saturated fat. Food is fuel and we're pouring sugar in the gas tank.

"Those steak houses," I said, "The ones where if you can eat the 64-ounce steak, you get it for free? What is that? Our stomach is just bigger than the size of our fist. You can't fit four pounds of meat in there. But we do."

And then we have dessert.

Of course, we're all prone to lapses. Cheeseburgers taste good, dammit! But as long as, overall, we trend toward health, we're doing ourselves an enormous favor. Which isn't really a favor. It's just what we should do.

We really are miraculous machines. Yet we take better care of our cars.

Eat a salad today.

Dressing on the side.


Anonymous Ethan said...

I have been getting a lot of mileage lately out of a local radio announcer who does a spot that start out like so:

"This just in: While gas prices continue to go up, [local car dealer] is giving you the best deals on the cars that get the best gas mileage!"

(He says the italicized part in this incredulous sounding way, like he should smack his forehead at the end and exclaim, "duh!")

Same with healthy living. I was watching an episode of Oprah* recently where some guy explained his dieting secret: Keep eating the same stuff you always do, but change what those foods are made out of. So baked potato chips, rather than regular.

I have been substituting ground turkey for ground beef. My chili tastes the exact same. So does my Tagliatelle Bolognese. I'm hoping that this minor subsitution pays dividends health-wise, we'll see.

I'm getting the turkey that isn't made in bird mosh pits, so that should technically help, yeah?

I just finished off a bag of baked chips. They take longer to polish off than regular, so that seems to be part of the secret. I need to make many more changes before I think of hopping on the scale to check my answers.

* I'm a gangsta, baby, and that's why I can fess up to watching Oprah publicly. In your face, Space Coyote!

2:08 PM  
Blogger Marc said...

Those who want to pop a pill for every little malady (Restless leg syndrome? Really, do we need a pill for that? My apologies to all those who suffer with restless legs, but ...)
There might be better afflictions to pick on. Unfortunately this condition has a somewhat trivial sounding name. However, it is real with real consequences and issues. From the National Institute of Health:

What is Restless Legs Syndrome?

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a common neurological disorder characterized by unpleasant sensations of the legs and an urge to move them for relief. Individuals affected with the disorder describe the sensations as pulling, drawing, crawling, wormy, boring, tingling, pins and needles, prickly, and sometimes painful sensations that are usually accompanied by an overwhelming urge to move the legs. Movement provides temporary relief from the discomfort.

Is there any treatment?

Massage and application of cold compresses may provide temporary relief. Medications such as temazepam, levodopa/carbidopa, bromocriptine, pergolide mesylate, oxycodone, propoxyphene, and codeine are effective in relieving the symptoms. Current research suggests that correction of iron deficiency may improve symptoms for some patients.

What is the prognosis?

RLS is a life-long condition for which there is no cure. Symptoms may gradually worsen with age. Because symptoms are intensified by inactivity and lying down, RLS patients often have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. Left untreated, RLS causes exhaustion and fatigue, which can affect occupational performance, social activities, and family life.

4:47 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

OK, I rescind my restless leg syndrome comment, with apologies to suffers, but my point stands: I think there are ways to treat many afflictions without drugs, at least not as a first resort. But thanks to Marc for the research.

5:42 PM  
Anonymous Q said...

I'm a chemist, and have worked for pharmaceutical companies in my past. Beth, don't apologize for your RLS comment. There are a lot of serious maladies being ignored because "diseases" like RLS are more profitable than curing cancer or making vaccines. I'm not saying RLS isn't annoying if you're afflicted, but you can live with it. America is suffering a brain drain because people like me became scientists to find cures for cancer, diabetes, and other debilatating diseases not create pills like viagra, cialis or Requip® - ropinirole HCl. The drug for RLS. Why do pharmco's choose lifestyle drugs over curing diseases? $$$$$$$$$$$$


6:30 PM  
Blogger Jeff Hunter said...

Why do pharmco's choose lifestyle drugs over curing diseases?

Um, because it's easier. You don't think all those mega drug companies wouldn't like to cure cancer with a pill?

Hope your Dad is doing better. Surgery in the abdominal area isn't fun and it takes weeks before things are somewhat back to normal. I feel his pain (both figuatively and literally).

My daily lunch salad is in honor of your Dad tomorrow (dressing on the top, thank you very much).

7:19 PM  

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