Sunday, March 29, 2009

45-year-old Male Presenting with Chest Pains

Reading those words on my own chart in a hospital I had no intention on visiting last Monday brings a flood of thoughts and emotions: fear, mortality and embarrassment. Suddenly the economy, the futility of partisan politics and the AIG hate-fest are meaningless. OK, it’s not a chart on a clipboard like on TV, it’s on a computer screen, but it has the same effect.

A week earlier I pulled a trapezius muscle. Not from working out, playing sports or aerobatic heroics. No, from self-induced whiplash when I accidently hit the cold water in the shower and got a quick ice splash on my back. Like I said, embarrassing. To compound things, because that's what I constantly do, I also strained my neck and back performing an exercise incorrectly I was given by my chiro.

I felt like an idiot, because that's what I constantly do, so my plan was to take some Advil and walk it off, at least figuratively. The pain started to fade (that false sense of quick rebound healing like when I was younger), then came back with a vengeance. By Thursday night I’m not sleeping – I can’t find a comfortable position no matter how I sit or lay. And my breath is shallow because it hurts to inhale (like with bruised ribs after missing a payment to Citibank).

So I try to see my doc on Friday but they’re all booked up. I schedule an appointment for Monday and take some more Advil. By Sunday, I’m a zombie – the no sleep thing is catching up – so I go to a clinic (my vitals are fine), get some muscle relaxants and finally get some rest.

I decide to keep my doctor's appointment on Monday afternoon because the relaxants may be knocking me out but the pain is rock solid. It’s radiating straight through my chest, like William Tell aimed too low and a little to the right. No shooting pain down the arm, no pressing weight on my chest, no indigestion. This is not a heart attack.

They check my vitals as they always do and the blood pressure is up (it's never up) and my pulse is 100. What? 100? Wait a minute, it was fine yesterday and it's never been that high.

They immediately give me an EKG. Great, shirt's off for the ladies, while I'm sitting down, before I've worked off the winter weight. Yes, even in situations like this I can't shut down my vanity gene.

My doctor says my EKG is normal. Whew! But that’s just a snapshot in time so it isn't exactly reliable. And because of the pulse rate and difficulty breathing, she's a little concerned about a pulmonary embolism. A what? Where’s Wikipedia when I need it? It’s probably nothing but still best to get it checked out. Getting a stat CAT Scan at a regular lab is about as likely as [insert fast economic turnaround joke here]. Would I like an ambulance, to call a friend or to drive myself to the ER. The latter is not recommended. Thanks, Regis. I think I'll phone a friend.

Here’s my real problem: I’m an analyst and have an eye for detail. I give so much information during a doctor's visit I confuse even myself. But the pain is real, my heart rate is elevated, and I'm getting unexpected stressful news. I'm on my way to the hospital instead of the office. Now I'm starting to panic. Good lord, what if none of this pain has to do with my hypersensitive startle reflex and poor direction-following? What if there is a blockage of my pulmonary artery caused by a clot that dislodges and embolizes (travels) to the arterial blood supply of one of my lungs? (OK, I wasn't thinking that - I looked this shit up when I got home). But no wonder my pulse is elevated.

No. Namaste. Breathe. This is another bone-headed self-injury. I’m fine. Right?

Right. Five hours later, I learn I am fine. I’m more than fine. I'm ecstatic. They ruled out the scary stuff, one at a time:

  • Check my vitals as soon as I get there - I'm already getting better

  • Another EKG - it's all good. I'll take two snapshots in time

  • Blood work comes back great (enzymes that can be released after a cardiac incident are not found, and organ function is normal)

  • Chest X-ray is taken and looks good from both the front and side angles (thank God because I quit smoking in 1996 and I know it’s not a guaranteed get-out-of-cancer card free but we’ve got the big C on both sides of my family; luckily, we don't have heart disease)

  • Just to be safe, let’s rule out that pulmonary embolism with a CAT Scan. We’ll just inject you with a radioactive solution so we can get a good look. Sign here, please. I’m now Peter Parker but my web slingers aren’t yet active (Yes, I tried). Wait a little while and the results are awesome

  • Go home, take it easy, don’t lift anything, here are some meds better than Advil and stay away from the office for three days (bonus!)

So I’m lucky. I have comprehensive health insurance that covers all of this, a doctor who thinks like I do (better safe than sorry), and an incredibly efficient hospital (Howard County General) right up the street. They were fantastic. They moved me through each station, with some waiting in between back in the lobby and not on a metal chair in a cold hallway. They even apologized for the backup. I thought I’d be there all night. I was out in hours. They were fast.

And just for added kicks, I learned while I was in the ER that my company started laying off 10% of our workforce. We knew it was coming, we just didn't know who or when. It didn't help with my stress but honestly, I wasn't thinking about work. If it was me, they could wait to deliver the news. Turns out it wasn't me. Do they have a pill for survivor guilt?

So why do I share all of this? Because I imagine there are people out there like me who feel like a hypochondriac when describing their symptoms, or rule out a visit because of the inconvenience, a busy schedule, warped priorities like work before health, impatience, money, fear or a dozen other rationalizations of why you won't go. Yet we all know it's always best to get it checked out because the alternative just isn't worth it.

Getting older may not always be fun, but as long as I'm getting older and still here, I'm doing something right.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Juno was a friend of mine...Comcast, you are no Juno

Saying the Comcast Town TV commercials are annoying is an understatement; like the incessant claims made by all providers regarding their lightning-fast broadband service, reliability and having the best HD options are overstatements.

If it were my first 100 days in office, I think I’d pass Executive Order #13507: If you pay for cable or fiber optic services, advertisements reminding you nine times an evening where all of your money is really going are prohibited.

The unenjoyable, infectious, seemingly never-ending Comcast Town songs are reminiscent of (but don't come close to) the song performed at the end of the movie Juno. That song I liked. It’s a cover of “Anyone Else But You” by the Moldy Peaches. You can see the Juno scene here:

I won’t embed the Comcast commercials. If you choose to suffer, you shall do so by your own hand here:

Dream Big? I can dream how big my bill will get, you unregulated ba$tards.

Mono-tone-ous TV Ditty
Monolithic corporate greedy
Earned the fate of Circuit City

Next time won’t you sing with me?


[wait...the internet is down the 800 number...punch in my account number (where the hell is my bill?)...hit 1...hit 4...hit's ringing!...false alarm, now in a call is very important to them...yes, I do realize you have a web, I don't want to order Summer Slam...aww forget it]

Town can kiss my ass for free

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Dove Beauty Bars – Now Backed By Fake Science

Have you seen the Dove beauty bar commercial? Not the real beauty campaign. That’s actually refreshing, where they feature normal, natural, healthy body types instead of Hollywood waifs.

No, this is different. The image above, captured from their television ad, appears to be a woman under a black light or special lens of some sort that can highlight a horrible skin ailment caused by soap. But the caption says it’s actually an artistic dramatization. Of what? Cooties? No, it's "soap scum" left by ordinary soap, while Dove leaves nothing.

So you just painted it on to illustrate? Wow. I guess I could just use Photoshop demonstrating my new miracle tanning product and just pop up an "artistic dramatization...results may vary" caption and I'm golden.

Seriously, if you can only demonstrate this through art and not an actual picture, you’re kind of full of crap and really leaning towards false advertising.

I was intrigued, and of course skeptical, so I spent some time on their web site reviewing the science. You can too: Video Gallery

You can see a lovely demonstration of the science behind soap scum with Dr. Christine Lee, who introduces herself as a PhD chemist who works in product development for the Dove brand. So it’s not independent research, but at least they’re up front about it.

The scientific demonstration: soapy Dove is smeared on a mirror and soapy soap is smeared on another mirror. Then each is spritzed with ordinary tap water from a spray bottle, and the soap leaves more "residue" then Dove.

So if I shower and don’t use my hands to wipe off the lather, I may be left with more residue than if I use Dove.

Dr. Lee even describes soap scum as the combination of soap materials from a “normal” cleansing bar with the calcium ions found in hard water.

So was that normal tap water hard? They didn't say.

I looked up hard water on wikipedia. Hard water doesn’t produce lather when used with soap but can produce white precipitate (scum). So it’s not a total BS claim, but it is "stretchy."

If you have hard water problems, perhaps Dove will do you well. I have no hard water problems, or issues with any of my soaps. I actually use Lever 2000 for all my 2000 body parts, made by Lever Brothers, the same company that makes Dove. I’ve also used Caress, also made by Lever Brothers. They also make Lifebuoy. So how could they in good conscience produce these other products that leave a disgusting film? Probably because the whole campaign really is BS.

I’ve used Dove and it’s quite nice, except I’ve found it dissolves down to nothing much quicker than regular soap. Perhaps Lifebuoy can use that in their campaign.

Me? I’m cheap. I’ll risk the scum.