Archive for the ‘Health’ Category


Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

I went in for my annual wellness screening today — one of the perks of being a faculty member is that you get free testing of blood chemistry, etc. annually.  The testing also includes BMI, blood pressure, back flexibility, and muscular endurance (crunches).  Last year the guy measured me, said “You’re 5′ 6″,” and wrote 56 inches down for my height.  I was amazed when the results came back and there was all this advice on how to lose weight so that I wouldn’t be obese any more.  I figured this year I could grow 10 inches and do a lot better.

So the girl measures me, and writes down 6′ 7 1/2″.   I had to point out to her that I was closer to 5′ 7″.   They had the measuring tape on a wall with a conduit down on the floor where my heels were, which is where I got the extra inch and a half, but I’ll take it.    At 6′ 7″ and 144 pounds, though, I would have been getting information about how to kick my anorexia.

Okay, I made a New Year’s resolution

Wednesday, January 9th, 2008

Yeah, I did. I resolved to quit buying and eating confinement-raised animals.  Chickens at least, preferably also pigs and cattle.  I’m an omnivore, and have been all my life with only about an 18-month hiatus some 30 years ago.  I have no particular problem with killing innocent chickens, piggies, cows, etc. and eating them.   However, I do have a problem with torturing them first.

I don’t need to go into the whole Confinement Animal Feeding Operations story — suffice it to say that I think animals ought to be able to run around, see the outdoors, that sort of thing.  I already eat mainly eggs from chickens raised by a friend in the Chemistry department.  I frequently ride my bike past his place and see the chickens running around out in the field.  Damn good eggs, too.  He also sells chickens, and this year I plan to start buying them.

Of course, there’s a problem here — I’ve been in the habit of eating a mesquite-broiled chicken breast (you get them at Sam’s Club, frozen in a bag) every day at lunch.  I can’t afford to eat a breast from a wild-and-crazy-running-around-loose chicken daily.  So I’ve switched to Boca burgers for lunch.  My concern for the treatment of soybeans is limited at best.

Now I also like pork occasionally, even sausage.  What to do?  Well, there’s a meat processing place right in Pocahontas.  It’s the kind of place you can take your deer around to the back to get made into chops or whatever.  They also have pork chops, loin, and 12 kinds of brats.  Seems likely that these would be from local, wild and crazy pigs, eh?

So yesterday I went to Reis Meat and picked out some chops and some brats, and I asked the woman at the counter, “Where do the pigs come from?  Are these from local pigs?”

The woman looked a bit confused, but then she answered.  “Oh, no, no they aren’t.”  My heart sank.  Damn, they get their pigs from some giant operation in Nebraska or something.  She continued with, “They’re from Bollinger farms down by Bloomfield.”

Yeah. In other words, about 50 miles away.  I don’t know Bollinger farms specifically, but I did some reading on the web — there have been some bills in the Missouri legislature recently about confinement operations — and it turns out that there are some large-scale confinement feeding pig farms in the state, but they’re all in the southwest part, not near us (or even 50 miles away).  So, unless someone out there knows different, I’m pretty sure my pork chops came from pigs that, like the ones I see around here, are sort of lolling about in muddy farmyards.  Not maybe the ideal existence, but then again, well fed and not locked in a stall too small to turn around in.

As a colleague was pointing out, there’s also venison.  I know a number of people who hunt — maybe I should try it.  I certainly don’t think it’s more ethical to eat animals that other people kill than to kill your own.  For that matter, apparently you get a discount on chickens from my friend the chemist if you help slaughter them.

So, we’ll see where this leads.  I may wind up on a tofu-only diet, or I may become Nimrod the mighty hunter.  Stay tuned.


Tuesday, December 4th, 2007

Well, it’s official. I went to see my hotshot coagulation specialist in St. Louis again today, and he reiterates that I’m unique. Most people who get arterial clots in their kidneys get them because of blunt trauma or heart disease. Neither of these apply to me. There are a few studies out there of people that have arterial renal blood clots not caused by those, but all of such people (and there aren’t many — the largest study had N=12) either smoke, have high blood pressure, or have a history of coagulation problems. None of those apply to me either.

So, I wasn’t too surprised when the doctor concluded with “I’d like to publish this, if it’s okay with you.” I was going to hold out for co-authorship, but I think that lab rats typically don’t qualify. Meanwhile, he thinks I should go off coumadin after 6 months are up (end of January). He also says that he thinks I shouldn’t bike huge distances, although he concedes that a) he doesn’t know of any actual connection and b) the nephrologist he conferred with didn’t think there was any connection either.

Meanwhile, in other news I helped out at the first Cape Cyclocross race on Sunday. It poured right up till race time, so the course had lots of mud. It’s basically a sort of obstacle course race with bikes — no suspension shocks, but otherwise whatever you want to ride. A good time was had by all. I may ride in the one this coming Sunday.


Sophie has clothes!

Monday, November 26th, 2007

Things are looking up for Sophie, who called tonight to report that she is now at the TESOL school, and has been reunited with her luggage.  She’s in a pretty good mode at the moment.  You can read all about it in her blog.

Meanwhile, Cabell is waiting to find out what the deal is with her recurring blood clots, but at least she has found a new hematologist who seems to be highly qualified.

And I am a couch potato, due to my work schedule at the moment.  I’m on the rank and tenure committee and we have 10 people going up for promotion this semester (yes, it’s like 2/3 of the department).   As a result, I keep having late afternoon committee meetings, which mean that I can’t leave campus till after dark, and thus can’t ride my bike to work.  This no doubt brings joy to motorists whom I have been inconveniencing, but I wish I could bike more.  Oh, and Wednesday morning I have to drive to St. Louis for a magnetic resonance angiogram, to try to figure out MY clotting problem, which is not the same as Cabell’s.  In fact, MY clotting problem is not the same as anyone’s.  I’m a unique f**king snowflake.

How’s this for a Halloween post?

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

Thursday I go to St. Louis to see a coagulation specialist. I had to get all my medical records to take with me, which means I now have a copy of the CD with my CT scans and MRI on it. Yep. This is my brain on drugs:

MRI of my brain

Well, morphine, anyway.  Apparently it’s normal, though.  They didn’t find clots anywhere except my kidneys.

Labor day weekend

Monday, September 3rd, 2007

So, I’m really back close to normal now. Sunday I went for a ride with Tom and Brian, and we did 22 miles. That was the longest since I got out of the hospital, and we worked pretty hard on the hills. I didn’t wear the heart monitor, but I’m sure it was also the hardest I’ve exerted myself since getting out of the hospital.

Today I rode 30 miles, from my house to Millersville and back. I intended to do 20, but when I got to the turning-around point (the foot*), I felt so good that I just kept going. In part it was because today was the first time in ages that I’ve gotten up without a headache. I finally figured out that it’s ragweed giving me sinus pressure, and I took Claritin** before bed. Worked.

So now I’m feeling pretty darn good. I’ve ridden 116 miles in the past 7 days, first time that total’s been over 100 since the hospital. Don’t worry, I’m taking it easy.

I also bought myself some Halt (pepper spray for dogs) in order to train the dog who bit me back in July. Since then he hasn’t come out after me — maybe he knows.

*There’s a mailbox next to a long driveway, and a board cut in the shape of a giant foot on a post next to it.  I don’t know why, but it’s exactly 10 miles from my house.

** Actually generic loratidine, cause I’m cheap.  But the same stuff.  Works well for me, without giving me any drowsiness.

Another milestone

Sunday, August 26th, 2007

Today I went for a 15-mile ride, the longest since I got out of the hospital.   I rode up highway C to just past the Perry County line, and I felt like I could have kept going indefinitely.  That is, if I’d had some food and Gatorade with me.  There isn’t anyplace to buy any on highway C, at least until Altenburg.  And even then I doubt there’s anything open on Sunday morning.  In any case, I’m committed to taking this one small step at a time, so I’ll be keeping it under 20 miles a day for another week.

Meanwhile, in a display of optimism, I’ve ordered parts for my new bike.  It’s a Surly Long Haul Trucker.  The frame is built for touring.  Steel alloy so it’s springy and comfortable.  High stem so you’re more upright.  Braze-ons to attach every conceivable kind of pannier, rack, fender, etc. and for three bottle cages.  I plan for this to be my commuting bike as well, so it should get a lot of use pretty soon.  I can hardly wait.

Meanwhile, I just rented a van so that our friend Dillon can drive Cabell’s stuff and cats up to Madison, then drive Sophie and her stuff from St. Paul down to here.  I’ve loaded the van with Cabell’s stuff, all but the cats.  They’ll go in carriers as far to the back as possible, so that Dillon can turn up the radio and ignore their pitiful cries.  Mainly Pandora’s, that is.  The others give up and sleep, but she can wail for eight hours straight.

And in a final upbeat note, yesterday was the first time in a month that the high temp was below 90, and today looks likely to be relatively cool as well.  I was getting really tired of near-100 degree days.

More or less back to normal.

Thursday, August 23rd, 2007

So, I’ve been out of the hospital for about 3 weeks now, and I’ve been feeling more or less normal for about 2 weeks.  And I’ve been back on the bike for a week, during which time I’ve ridden about 60 miles total.

I feel pretty good.  My main problem now is that I think every little twinge is the first sign of my body breaking down in some major and alarming way.  I feel like I just can’t trust the thing any more.

Back on the bike!

Friday, August 17th, 2007

Yes, yesterday I called my doctor and asked him if I could start riding again.  I suggested 10 miles a day, down from the 30 I was doing before.  He suggested 5.  So this morning I rode … well, actually 6 miles, because my cycle computer is broken and I know where the 3-mile turnaround is, but not 2.5.  It feels great to get out on the road again.

He also said I could drink in moderation.  Me: “Can I have a glass of wine with dinner?”  Doctor: “Yes, but not the whole bottle.”  So call me Mr. Moderation.  Or Dr. Moderation, if you prefer.

I have an appointment with him again in 2 weeks, and we’re going to discuss where I might go in St. Louis for further diagnostic expertise.  As in, why the hell did this happen?  I’d like to find out.

I saw a co-worker in the hall yesterday, and she asked how I was, and then said, “Well, now you’re going to have to change your diet.”  To which I said “In what way?”  She didn’t have a direct answer for this.  I was puzzled, but then later, I was thinking that she probably imagines that my clotting was related to cholesterol or something in the arteries.  Actually, my HDL and LDL levels are great, and my arteries are totally clean (except the ones in the kidneys with the blood clots).  About the only thing I know I should do with my diet is reduce consumption of green leafy veggies that have lots of Vitamin K.

I’m a mystery wrapped in an enigma…

Tuesday, August 7th, 2007

The good news: I went to see the doctor and my INR was 2.7, which is in the range he wanted it.  The puzzling news: the results came back from the hematologist and I don’t have factor V Leiden.  So what the heck is my problem?  Nobody knows.

My doctor did take me aside privately and point out that one risk factor for renal artery blood clots is cocaine use, and did I possibly…?  I had to disappoint him there.  Note to students and other young people reading this: Drugs are bad.  Don’t do them.  I don’t even use caffeine.

I just read “Searching for the Sound,” by Phil Lesh, bassist for the Grateful Dead.  Drugs were part of the very structure of the late 60s and early 70s, and a lot of people came to very bad ends because of them.  Almost invariably, it was heroin that killed people, though — Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, even Jerry Garcia much later.   I never did any heroin. Lucky me.

Anyway, still no clue why what happened to me happened to me.  I’m somewhat better, but still not feeling very good.  It sucks.