Running down a dream: Merry Christmas

It has been kind of a quiet, slow Christmas Eve for me. I went for a walk because it’s been such a beautiful day outside although I didn’t get very far because of my incessant back pain.

I’ve got this cornucopia of chronic pain problems which my Department of Veterans Affairs doctors have yet to sort out, or rather, I have yet to get those doctors to dissect them  for me. One of the biggest concerns I have right now is having those medical minds figure out whether my back pain is from “structural issues” as one neurologist stated or from a perhaps not-so-rare but still relatively unheard of spinal cord injury condition known as “arachnoiditis.” It is an inflammation of one of the spine’s different membranes which can result from a number of situations and for which there is ultimately no cure. In its most repugnant forms it bears a resemblance to progressive neurological diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis. Paralysis can develop and it is incredibly painful.

My last MRI revealed that I have arachnoiditis but my previous neurologist believed it to be “scarred over.” Thus, not a particular issue. That neurologist now has moved on and my most recent neuro specialist believes my back pain is caused by the spider-sounding arachnoiditis. Perhaps some of you might wonder why I am concerned, but, really?

With all my health-care providers “practicing” medicine hoping to eventually get it right (I’m sorry that was just too easy, kind of like lawyer jokes), I have been given a variety of potent concoctions which these medical personnel surmise will help me in one way or the other. I have come to the conclusion that one of those drugs should perhaps be stricken from the shelf.

I speak of Neurontin, actually the generic form Gabapentin. It is a drug that has long been used for treatment of epilepsy. However, it has also had a fairly lengthy history for being controversial. This is especially due to instances where drug company reps were accused of encouraging doctors to use the drugs for non-approved uses such as in chronic pain. I took Gabapentin previously when doctors decided to pile one pain drug continually on top of the next until I just had to say “No to drugs.” At least no to nothing but drug therapy. The result was my having a non-VA doctor perform a procedure known as “anterior cervical diskectomy with fusion (ACDF)” in a non-VA, Catholic-run hospital. It was my second cervical disk operation and in this one the doctor removed disks and replaced them with a titanium plate grafted with a piece of bone from the illiac crest of my hip.

A lot of different pain later in nine or so years I was prescribed Gabapentin again, this time for neuropathic pain in my foot and hip. I can’t see that the particular drug does anything to improve my conditions but it definitely takes me for a wild ride in dreamland. These are not nightmares per se. I can describe the dreams as disturbing at times and certainly vivid. I will spare several of the adventures into “Neurontinville” I  have taken in recent months but will try to describe this morning’s strange story line.

In the dream I was at a courthouse  like the one of my youth.  Everyone came outside to observe a ceremony, for what I couldn’t tell you. But the main feature involved firing a “Polaris missile” at a no longer used or unwanted structure in a harbor. I can just about bet you the missile wasn’t really a Polaris missile as it was more the size of a MK-44 torpedo. (On which I sat once. Don’t ask.) At the last second, the missile was accidentally spun around and fired into the surrounding neighborhood, creating a very breathtaking explosion and fire. A fireman, whom I think I knew, came by talking on a walkie-talking saying there was a conflagration in progress. When I say breathtaking, I mean vivid and in living color. I felt it was my duty as a former firefighter to go to the scene and don a bunker suit and join the fight. I did all of that except for the fighting part because of my rather long absence away from the job (27 years) I had some retraining to do. That was where I was stuck — looking at manuals — until waking up. Oh the humanity.

Well, at least I can say I wasn’t dreaming about people like Texas State Rep. Leo Berman, whose rerun trainwreck of an interview with Anderson Cooper earlier this year was replayed on Copper’s show last night. I can only describe Berman, who despite apparently being educated and being a retired military officer, as clueless. Berman introduced legislation to require presidential candidates to show their full birth information. Not that this particular issue is of a major concern to the Texas House of Representatives.  Which reminds me, all new candidates for especially high-profile elective offices expect some challenges, but the office of Neil Abercrombie the Democratic governor of Hawaii since Dec. 6 apparently has become the repository for all things relating to the birth — some such as Berman think happened in Kenya — of President Barack Obama. I have to say from the story I kind of like Abercrombie given he called the reporter back at 11:30 p.m. worried about deadlines. You don’t see too much of that any more.

Well, thanks for letting me talk out all the things which have been on my mind lately. You, whomever you are, are  great listeners. I know a few of those readers, whether all the time or just occasionally, and I’d like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, brothers Ted, Robert and Dennis, and other readers, Tere, (Hope to see you in a week), Judy, Kenneth, Egberto (I got your book today and just started reading it), Sally, Suzie, anyone else who are good friends whose names begin with “S,” Bruce, if you ever read my blog anymore, Ross, likewise, Diane, Philip, any of the other Texas Progressives who bother to read and last but not least Paul who helps make this whole thing work. Back in the USA for Christmas? We will be looking for how the nation looks after a long absence.  Ho, ho ho,  ho, ho, ho.

"Big D:" It Ain't Just a Big City in Texas

One of my “grammar school” teachers once told me not to use the word “ain’t.”

“Ain’t is a vulgar word,” she said.

Too bad she didn’t see me after a year at sea in the Navy. I think I used the “F-word” for every part of speech. I realized how bad it had progressed when I was talking a mile-a-minute to my mother and let a “F” slip before I knew what happened. I just kept talking, though with a red face, and my mother never said a word. She was probably used to this phenom since her husband, my Dad, had been a merchant seaman, and two of my older brothers also spent time on ships in the Navy.

But I’m not here to talk about cussing or even vulgar words, depending on how one looks at words. No, I am here to talk about diabetes, or what I refer to as the “Big D.”

It has been a couple of months since I was diagnosed with Type II diabetes. I guess I was pretty much in denial until the neurologist I have been seeing because of foot and back pain mentioned a couple of weeks ago that “Diabetes is a pretty nasty disease.”

On TV shows you see people, especially in years past, act as if they’ve been told they have the plague whenever they’re told they have diabetes. They act as if they’ve been given a death sentence. Well, maybe they have and maybe they haven’t. If you aren’t scared enough of diabetes, check this out from the “2007 National Diabetes Fact Sheet” from the Centers for Disease Control:

–Diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death listed on U.S. death certificates in 2006.

–The risk for stroke is 2 to 4 times higher among people with diabetes.

–Diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness among adults aged 20–74 years.

–Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, accounting for 44% of new cases in 2005.

–Almost 30% of people with diabetes aged 40 years or older have impaired sensation in the feet (i.e., at least one area that lacks feeling).

–More than 60% of nontraumatic lower-limb amputations occur in people with diabetes.

–Estimated diabetes cost in the U.S. (direct and indirect) in 2007: $174 billion

Are you scared yet? Well, those are kind of scary figures. I am one of those 30 percent of people with diabetes aged 40 and older who have impaired sensation in their feet. So, we tend to get freaked out about our feet and our eyes and our skin. If it’s not one thing it’s another.

Yes, if it isn’t one thing it’s another. If you have this disease, and it is a disease, you have to think that if it isn’t one thing it’s another to keep things in perspective. You do all you can do just to live and then you do a little more. Sometimes you slip. Sometimes you go on. You get hit by a truck. Sometimes you go on.

It is a nasty disease, Doctor. And I’m sure “ain’t” was a nasty word 40-some-odd years ago to my old-fashioned grammar school teacher. But the world is filled with some big nasties. And we just go on. We try to keep our feet clean. We try not get scratches and burns, like I have on my legs from stupid mishaps. We try to eat right. We poke ourselves to make our fingers bleed and check our sugar levels. We take our meds or our insulin. We exercise if we are able. We do all we are supposed to do. Sometimes we slip.

Then we go on about our business of living.