health care

Some Statins, Stat!

Earlier this week, I wrote about my wife’s summer-long ordeal with her bored general practictioner, who spent his COVID Vacation searching through her medical file to find shit to tamper with. I also touched on tipping your servers and hookers. Well, not tipping your hooker, but the economics of prostitution. Although you should probably tip your hooker. And no, not “just the tip.”

Regardless, after living through Wife’s own medical-solution-in-search-or-a-problem, I probably should’ve been more on guard when my own doctor asked to set up a phone call. To be fair, although I’d like to be a writer, a chronicler of the human condition, I’ve never claimed to be all that observant.

Doc wanted to talk to me about cholesterol medicine. Doc’s been wanting to talk to me about cholesterol medicine for quite some time. A few years ago, I went in for something, probably gout, and he pulled a “Hey, I don’t give a flying fuck about what you came to me for, your cholesterol’s a smidge high, so let’s randomly prescribe you some statins.” 

Sure. Why not? He sent me over to the pharmacy and I left with the drugs that very day. On the way home, Wife told me I miiiiight want to look up some of the side effects of statins. Umm, okay. I’m sure I’m not the only person who approaches the medical profession with confused acquiescence. 

Okay, here’s what my robot overlord, Google, tells me are some statin side effects:

They might spike blood sugar. Hmm, I’ve been prediabetic for five years.

Liver damage. Hmm, I’m a borderline alcoholic.

Kidney problems. Well, at least it won’t make my gout worse.

At least I’m at Kaiser. One of the reasons I chose the Kaiser, aside from my love of old-tyme handlebar mustaches and pickelhaube helmets, is that you can see your test results online. Back when I was on a different plan, my doctor would tell me something in my blood was “a little elevated,” which could mean just about anything. 

“So it turns out there’s some extra lead in your system.” 

“Yeah, Doc, I came to you for a gunshot wound.”

But at Kaiser, I can see precisely where I am and, even better, what the standard range. When I got home from the “quick, take these drugs before you ask your wife about it” appointment, I looked more closely at my last blood test. The standard range for cholesterol is listed as anything under 239. My horrible, sky-high cholesterol that needed drugs right the fuck now was a whopping… 219. 

Except, you see, it’s not just a matter of overall cholesterol. You’ve got to look at the good cholesterol versus the bad. Your HDL, or good cholesterol has to be over 40 or else you’re unhealthy, and mine was only at a measly 52. Oh, and that LDL, it’s the bad cholesterol and we should really look for a way to get it under 159. So maybe some drugs will improve my reading of… 150.

I’m not saying I’m the picture of health. But if all of my cholesterol readings are within the range that’s deemed “normal,” it doesn’t seem to be something I should be pumping my body full of side effects for. Sorry, Kaiser Wilhelm, if you don’t want me making uninformed decisions, then maybe you need to not let me see the information.

Why are they giving me pills to fix something that ain’t broke, especially if there’s a good chance it’ll break something else? I mean, if I take these pills to drop my cholesterol from an “on the high end” 219 down to an, I don’t know, 200? While at the same time spiking my blood sugar and losing both my vision and my feet to diabetes, I wouldn’t necessarily call that a “win-win.”

So I came home with the prescription but never used it. That worked for a while. Doctor got his kickback from the pharmaceutical company and I kept my liver. Actually, the next two times I got tested, my cholesterol went down, first to 199 then to 189, despite never touching the statins. Maybe I’m so magical that just convincing myself I needed to lower my cholesterol was enough to do it. It’s some Jedi magic. 

Or else maybe my cholesterol fluctuates inside the normal range. There’s a reason it’s called a range, right?

But eventually they caught onto my duplicity. Not because my cholesterol changed, but because I never refilled the prescription for something I’m supposed to be taking every day. Or maybe they were onto me because my blood sugar didn’t spike enough. “People who take our drugs can’t be as healthy as you are.”

After a year or so, doctor sent me a nastigram that I better take my fucking medicine like a good fucking boy. I ignored him, so he referred me to the big boss. I started getting emails from some random dude, inside Kaiser, listed as “Pharm.” That might stand for pharmacist, but I assume he works for Big Pharm, which is where this entire push must be coming from. My doctor needs to get a new Porsche or something, and the gout medicine people just ain’t willing to cup his balls the way he likes on the reach-around. I mean, if there ain’t kickback going all the way up the wazoo, then why the hell are we not only prescribing cholesterol medicine to people who don’t need it, but actually following up to ensure that said individual is taking said unnecessary drugs. 

By contrast, I also have asthma (hurray, mid-forties!) but I’m really bad about using my inhaler. Not the emergency inhaler. I use that one often. But there’s an inhaler I’m supposed to use every day that will prevent the need for the emergency inhaler. Problem is that when I’m breathing fine, I forget. So that’s another prescription I’m supposed to fill every six months or so but regularly go two years between refills. And not a single email from doctor nor pharmacist nor Pfizer lobbyist. Because if you can’t breathe, meh. But if your cholesterol is normal, well then that’s a problem we need to solve! 

So there I was, foolishly accepting the call from a doctor with way too much time on his hands, knowing full well that he had some drug kingpin breathing down his neck to make sure he gets all his little cretins hooked, and wouldn’t you know it, he doesn’t want to ask me how my breathing’s going with all of the fires going on, like the snazzy new “Glass Fire,” proving that I’m a fucking Nostradamus who nobody heeds. Nope, what he really wants to talk to me about is how important it is that I get my normal cholesterol under control.

This time, however, I was prepared for the statin conversation. I asked for clarification, like why the fuck am I supposed to risk making some of my medical conditions worse in order to fix a problem I don’t have. It turns out that cholesterol medicine ain’t got shit to do with controlling cholesterol. Studies have shown that prescribing statins to people who don’t need them severely lessens the likelihood of, I don’t know, heart attacks and stroke and scurvy or something. 

Honestly! Why, the drug company who has the patent for this drug has run bazillions of tests and, wouldn’t you know it, they all came back proving that their product rivals only the flush toilet and electricity in the advancement of the human race. And the proof is that, when they prescribed it to people who didn’t need it, those people ended up STILL not needing it. It’s kind of like saying that stitches help people who’ve been stabbed by a sword, but our tests show that unstabbed people who were given stitches ALSO didn’t exhibit signs of sword punctures. Stitches greatly reduce your chances of bleeding out in a medieval dungeon.

My doctor assures me that the DHS has signed off on this whole cholesterol-medicine-for-non-cholesterol-purposes thing. And boy howdy, if COVID has taught us anything, it’s that government agencies devoted to our health always know what they’re talking about.  Like when the virus was airborne for, like, an hour before the CDC took it off their website because the president complained. A week later, it was airborne again. Hopefully you weren’t breathing in deeply for that week that the virus was noncommittal. 

And yeah, I know that the Department of Health Services ain’t the same as the Center for Disease Control, but the only reason we’re focused on the latter is because they’ve kept us hostage all year and we’re suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. Even if the DHS whims can’t keep me chained to my refrigerator for the next fortnight, my eyebrow’s still rising over them suggesting what we really need in this world is more random, never-ending prescriptions. Those bacteria ain’t gonna develop antibiotic immunity by themselves, y’all! For all I know, the Orange One has a bunch of stock in the statin company and that’s why they’re now suggested for everything from hemorrhoids to gunshot wounds.

Then again, I’m just now realizing that the DHS is the British single-payer system. Shit, is my doctor running my blood tests in metric? Maybe that’s why my numbers don’t match what he’s saying.

Or maybe he’s talking about the other DHS, the American one that likes to look at your browser history. In which case I better get me some statins, because unlike some mamby-pamby doctors and pharmacists, you DEFINITELY don’t want to ignore the suggestions of the water-boarders. 

Then again, if it’s the Department of Homeland Security, then they need to update their sales pitch.

Lower your cholesterol! Avoid heart attacks! Now with fewer anal probes at the airport!!!

Sold!

Pandemic Pill Pushers

I worry about all the professions who are suffering during COVID, workers who can’t go through their normal day-to-day routines.

We hear a ton about the Uber and cab drivers, although I’m sure they’re all getting bonus shifts with Doordash. What about those retail cashiers, the restaurant servers? Am I the only one who struggles with what to tip for takeout orders? Look, I waited tables for most of my twenties. I know those servers get paid shit and rely on their tips to survive. My standard tip is 20-25% and you have to be phenomenally shitty to get less than 15%, but the most “serving” you’re doing on takeout is grabbing the bag, already prepped by the line chef or expediter, neither of whom are likely to a sniff of whatever tip I left. Is that worth 15%? I didn’t get my iced tea refilled once!

I still tip, but only as a nod to solidarity. And taxes. Did you know your server has to pay taxes based on what the government thinks you should’ve tipped him? If the bill is $100, the government is adding $15 to his W-2. Think about the next time you stiff a server – he actually lost money by serving you. 

But for takeout? I don’t know, man. I usually err towards 10%, enough to cover the stiffers and the IRS, but not enough to work as a dialogue about quality of service. Yeah, I feel a tinge of guilt, but I figure I’m not taking up one of his tables for an hour. He should be able to burn through 30 or 40 orders in an hour, as opposed to five. 

But then the restaurants are going to twist that little guilt knife by only giving me “pre-filled” options of 15%, 18%, and 20%. So now I have to write in my 10% number, making me go out of my way to stiff my server. Who isn’t really serving me. Shit, I bought donuts the other day, and she did that thing where they swivel the tablet around so I can select the tip, but then I had to tell her what the tip was and she would select it, so the customers don’t have to touch the screen. What the fuck am I supposed to say? “Write in 10% for yourself” or “No, I don’t think you deserve a tip”? So I told her to select 15%, the lowest option and now I just tipped more than I tip for takeout to a lady who only put six donuts in a goddamn box!

Donut-shop swindlers notwithstanding, making people write in any number below 15% probably results in more people paying zero.
“Skip” is just as easy to hit as “20%.”

I’m not here to talk about the servers though. At least they’re on most people’s radars. Some of them were probably laid off and reaping the rewards of the bonus unemployment before Congress yanked it away after a heartfelt and impassioned debate about the long-term consequences and short-term tradeoffs associated with paying people more to not work than they would make working. Ha ha, just kidding, politicians never articulate arguments for or against their actions, preferring the more nuanced “nan-nah, boo-boo.” Democrats wanted a $3 trillion bailout, which Republicans wanted $1 trillion, so they settled it like adults and made it zero. Maybe somebody should’ve given them a “$2 trillion” button.

So the Uber drivers are probably thriving and the servers will find a way to muster through. But what about the prostitutes? 

Meh, the prostitutes are probably fine. At least the illegal ones. For once, they’re economically better off than their legal counterparts in Nevada. I assume the brothels are shut down, but the place of business behind that dumpster on Broadway remains just as accessible as ever. It’s always on Broadway, right? Doesn’t matter which city, the whores hang out on Broadway. 

Plus, it’s not like their johns are overly concerned with health and cleanliness. I have a friend who’s a deputy DA, and one of the hookers she used to prosecute on a regular basis charged extra for sex without a condom. So I can have sex for twenty bucks, or I can have sex AND chlamydia for forty? What a bargain!

 Plus, you’re not allowed to kiss a hooker, right? So might as well keep that mask on.

So maybe the prostitutes are okay. But what about the drug dealers?

And before you tell me that pill pushers should be in the same boat as hookers (that ain’t a boat, it’s a yacht, baby!), let me clarify that I’m not talking about the same dealers you’re thinking of. The guys pushing meth and heroin are probably fine. I’m talking about doctors and Big Pharm.

You would think that primary care physicians would be overworked and malnourished during a medical emergency like we’ve faced the last six months, but it might turn out to be the exact opposite. Sure, those ICU Units are filled to the rafters, but the guy or gal you go to for the sniffles or tennis elbow is stuck twiddling their respective thumbs. After all, we’ve been told that all non-emergency situations don’t matter and are wasting the medical community’s valuable time. I went three months without allergy shots, and I don’t think my allergy doc was being drafted into front-line duty. So sorry about your pancreatic cancer, Grandma, but Aiden once drank a Corona, so you need to give your hospital bed up to him.

So now none of us are calling those doctors who normally take Grandma’s temperature long enough to refer her to seventeen other “specialists,” thereby maximizing insurance premiums whilst minimizing efficiency. Now those general practitioners are bored, and the news is doing their job for them, cause ain’t nobody questioning that 20% increase in insurance premiums this year. And just like a teacher who decides that the only time to clean the house is the day before grades are due, when doctors are bored, they find shit to meddle with. And since they’re probably not allowed in the Admiral’s Lounge with all the cool ICU doctors and patients, they fill their time consulting those nanobots they placed in our bloodstream the last time we peed in a cup.

What? There isn’t supposed to be blood in my urine? And I’m not supposed to put it back in my body when I’m done?

My wife got hit with BDS (Bored Doctor Syndrome) first. Her blood has always tested positive for a clotting risk. But her “askew numbers” have pretty much stayed consistent since her early twenties and she’s never had blood clots. It was certainly something we kept an eye on during her pregnancy, but if anything, overreacting to her bleeding risk is probably what caused them to radiate her after delivery, subjecting her to seven hospital trips over the first six months of Daughter’s life. So maybe sometimes we shouldn’t tinker with phantom ailments. 

I run into this all the time while I’m curling. We time the delivery to determine where the rock should end up and whether or not we need to sweep it. But you still have to watch the rock, walk alongside it. Sometimes the ice is frostier on one route than another. You gotta be ready to start or stop sweeping as the reality on the ice amends what your stopwatch told you. You can’t just say that it’s blood platelets was 3.6 seconds so the diabetes will end up right on the button.

Sorry, mixed my metaphors there, but you get what I mean. And in normal times, the doctors understand this, and don’t go out of their way to fix problems that only exist in the data.

For the most part, Wife’s blood issues are like a birthmark – always there with no discernable affect on her life. If the numbers had gone up as she got older, or if she ever experienced any of the many symptoms listed in the brochures, we would’ve done something. The health issues she does have, like some lactose intolerance that leads to some nasty IBS after a Starbucks trip, has nothing to do with blood clots. But obviously they aren’t concerned with that, because IBS isn’t covered by most insurance plans. Somehow that’s considered a “quality of life” issue like a boob job. Unlike boners, which are TOTALLY covered by insurance. Because, I suppose, senators have trouble getting it up. But let me tell you, needing to visit the toilet every five minutes is every bit as destructive to the libido as a little flaccidity amongst friends.

But somewhere in her medical file bored doctors were thumbing through, it said that Wife has clotting potential. So they called her up and told her that, you know, what with all this COVID stuff… 

I didn’t really see the connection, seeing as The ‘Rona attacks the lungs, not the blood. But you’ve heard the media reports. Everyone who dies is either old or had a pre-existing condition. What they don’t report, however, is whether that pre-existing conditionis in any way related to COVID. Hey, did you hear about that 25-year-old who died two days after catching the ‘Rona? Yeah, but he broke his arm as a teenager. And that teenager who got it? Her orthodontist said she had braces.

So whatever. Wife decides to play along with their blood-thinning regimen. But then she sliced her foot on a boat prop, so she had to wait a week. Seems a pretty big loophole there. All she has to do is cut herself once a week and she won’t have to go on blood thinners. Then again, if the shit they’re about to give her is going to turn her into a hemophiliac, maybe it ain’t worth it. Unless we get some medieval duchy out of it.

Instead of following my advice and becoming a cutter, Wife finally goes on the blood thinners. In addition to pills, she must give herself shots in the stomach. What the fuck kinda home remedy is that shit? I get allergy shots every few weeks and never once have I been expected to plunge that shit in myself. Aren’t there trained professionals who can give shots? Or are they too busy going through old medical boxes next to the Ark of the Covenant to sell Nefertiti on some meds?

Every few days, she gets her blood tested again. Fortunately they don’t make her take it out herself. On her first test, she overshot her mark. The number that used to be too low is now too high. This could be a great time for them to step back, realize Wife knew what she was talking about, that these were phantom numbers to begin with, an anomaly that remained consistent with no symptoms for twenty years, and that they were trying to fix a problem that didn’t exist, quite possibly creating a new problem, whereby my otherwise healthy wife now has to steer clear of a wall corner lest it break her skin and cause her to bleed out on the floor with nary a Russian orthodox month in sight to cure her.

Or, you know, they could just cut her down to one shot a day, then test again on Thursday.

So for the last month or so, Wife’s been heading to the lab to get her blood taken every three days. They adjust her dosage, rinse, and repeat. The good news is she doesn’t have to give herself shots anymore. The bad news is she’s never gotten down into the “healthy” range. Again, they’ve made her less healthy. Or maybe they’ve just made her equally as unhealthy, but on the other side. She’s gone from having slightly viscous to slightly runny blood. No big deal.

Except that all of those blood tests have her bruised up like a heroin junkie. She’s always had this problem where the technicians can’t find her veins. Sometimes they need to stick her three or four times before they get the good stuff. Add to that the fact that they won’t go in where the earlier bruises are and it wasn’t too long before they had to take blood out of the back of her hand! I’m a blood-giving pro. I don’t give two shits about getting shots, but holy hell, that sounds excruciating. Especially if it isn’t doing jack diddly to improve her health or quality of life. And since they haven’t done anything about her IBF, she still has to wipe with those hands!

So I should’ve been on guard, a couple weeks after Wife’s regimen started, when my doctor wanted to set up a phone call. 

Check here to hear about my own frivolity. At least I won’t bruise ya!

Coronavirus Lockdown Journal Part 2

It’s academic time right now.

As I write this, my daughter is sitting next to me, working through a store-bought “Kindergarten skills booklet” that appears to have been written for kindergarten skills back when I was in kindergarten (Which is edible: paste or vegetables?), not what they’re doing now. So she’s burning through these. After all, if she can burn through a Dr. Seuss book, I don’t think having her trace the a at the beginning of apple’s going to vex her much. We’ve limited her to one page a day in some books, but we still have to give her enough busy work to get through the recommended one hour of morning Academic Time before our magical robot overlord, Alexa, tells us it’s time to move on to our next time allotment.

Such is life in what I’ve dubbed Quran-geddon(tm).

Is that how trademarks work? Can I just throw a ™ after something and now I get paid if anyone else uses it? In whatever quid pro-quo replace US Dollars in the sportless future when Alexa finally tells us it’s okay to go outside.

But just bear in mind I occasionally have to help my daughter with some of these things. So if I suddenly write, “no, baby, it’s six, not five,” assume I just gave Daughter instructions that included the “fuck-stain shit sickle” intended for this post.

I haven’t checked in since last Friday, back in the nascence of this Brave New World. I picked up Daughter from daycare and told her that her school and softball and dance class were all canceled, along with that little trip to Disneyland we had planned for this week. Then she and I spent about 72 hours in line at the grocery store in order to buy seven items, because the rest of the world was purchasing the entire store. The only thing they weren’t buying at that time was corned beef. So I figured I’d wait and come back after the weekend to buy that.

Oops.

To be fair to the hoarders, that’s totally on me, and I should know better than to wait until March 16 to buy corned beef. Although usually there’s a shit-ton of it, even on the 18th when I can buy it on sale.

My second foray to the grocery store showed some some through-lines from the previous trip and some anomalies. There seems to be a run on meat, in many ways the most perishable of items. My local store has filled up most of their meat refrigerators with salami packs, spread out so as to appear like there’s variety, in lieu of the normal beef and chicken and pork.

People are fucking horrible at hermitage. Why aren’t they buying the stuff that doesn’t go bad after a few days? They probably think they’re living off the grid by running a VPN while having their Google Maps giving them directions.

Bread and tortillas also seemed to be in shorter supply on Monday than they had been on Friday. Flour was gone, but sugar was there. Thank God there doesn’t seem to be a run on coffee or beer. All the beans were gone, too. Not sure if that’s a great idea for people with limited toilet paper options.

My family made it through the rainy weekend, but only through inertia. You know it’s bad when the parents are begging the child to watch Frozen II just one more time and the child’s not having it.

We broke the not-then-official quarantine both days. In fact, I’ve left the house for something or other pretty much every day. Usually it’s just a visit to a store or to get some take-out, and it’s substantially less than it would’ve been on normal stay-at-home days. Saturday we hit the bookstore to get the aforementioned workbooks. I also found a cool Marvel Comics 1000 dot-to-dot book. That’s for Papa while Baby works on her minuscule 20 dot-to-dots. Holy crap, they take a long time! “Daddy, I’ve already done, like, five and you’re only at, what, three-fifty?”

We also went to a furniture store to finally buy a desk we’ve been eyeing for a while. The vulturous salespeople there are annoying on a regular visit, hovering behind a nearby pillar at all times, ready to pounce with a “Can I help you with anything? Would you like to borrow my tape-measure? Here’s my card. You can call me even though I’ll never be more than six feet away.” They knew social distancing long before social distancing was a thing.

We knew going in that, with both the rain and the Quaran-geddon(tm) diminishing the quantity of customers, the salespeople would be even more omnipresent than usual. We braced ourselves and it still wasn’t enough. We finally glommed onto one just to ward off the other vampires. But their pheromones must not be working, because when she went to go check on something, they descended. Her tape-measure did nothing to ward the hordes off. All is fair in love, war, and commission jobs right before an economic meltdown.

Sunday we went to Michael’s to get more things to occupy Daughter and Best Buy to look at laptops for me. I thought about buying a Nintendo Switch, but they were sold out. I almost bought a PlayStation 4, but I’ve held out this long and the 5 is on the horizon. Fortunately I held firm, although I’m still wavering because “MLB: The Show 20” might be the only sport action I’ll be seeing for a while.

As an aside, I’m worried that MLB is one of the arbiters of when we get to go back to normal. The last time we shut down sports was for 9/11. The NFL canceled its games the following Sunday, and baseball dithered about when it should start up. One week later? Ten days? Then the NFL said they’d return the following Sunday and MLB followed suit the next day. Unfortunately, there is no NFL to act as the leader this time. Maybe the NHL will start up for the playoffs. But if not, it’s all on the MLB, and they aren’t known for being proactive. Last I heard they’re looking at June. That’s totally going to fuck up Mike Trout’s chance to win the all-time WAR title by the end of his career. I know: priorities!

Why isn’t MLB playing? It’s the only sport where players don’t regularly come in contact with each other. Social distancing? Take a look at the real estate between the average right fielder and center fielder. The only time they’re close to each other is when they’re in the dugout, but if there are no fans in attendance, they can just spread out in the first three or four rows of the stands. And they could play all day games because it’s not like any of us are at work. They’d make a killing on TV ratings.

Back to the present, I just had an argument with my daughter about an orange crayon. Because the first orange crayon I gave her to circle all the fucking words that start with an s wasn’t orange enough. It was too yellow. Looked orange enough to me, but that’s coming from a high school history teacher, not a kindergarten teacher. When did World War II start? Kinda sorta 1939, if you’re counting the main European conflict, but it wasn’t until 1941 that all of the major actors came in, with Operation Barbarossa in the summer and Pearl Harbor in December. Of course, the Pacific Theater could have been going on as early as 1931 with the Japanese invasion of Manchuria.

So don’t ask a fucking history teacher what “orange” is.

This has been my life this week. We’re using one of those charts that have been circulating online. One hour of “academic time” followed by one hour of “creative time.” There’s some outside time sprinkled in throughout the day, plus breaks for lunch and chores and quiet or reading time. I usually try to engage in whatever she’s doing, both for solidarity’s sake and to help stick to a routine myself. Of course, I don’t know if what I do counts as academic or creative. Most days, it’s probably neither. But the online time charts don’t put time aside for masturbatory self-flagellation.

It’s not like I can lesson plan during academic time. Well, I could, but by the time the hour was up, it would already be obsolete. The governor says schools are closed for the year and, I shit you not, I received an e-mail from my district the following morning saying, “That’s certainly his opinion.” And now it looks like the AP Test that my students have rightfully been freaking out about is going to change as well. Two separate test dates and they won’t cover anything from the twentieth century. So all of that nineteenth century remote learning I was working on can be stretched out. Plus the AP test will be online now, which means the motivated kids will spend the next six weeks trying to devise ways to cheat instead of studying for the exam. So there goes my pass rate.

I also liked how quickly the e-mails changed over the course of last weekend. Up until Saturday, it seemed like every company wanted to tell me how clean they were. They’ve been scrubbing every surface inside every business. Toilet paper and hand sanitizer might be things of the past, but there’s enough Lemon Pledge for every company, and then some. And when I say “every company,” holy crap! I didn’t even know I had done business with half these guys. How do they have my e-mail address? Has the government just provided every company with everybody’s e-mail address? It’s not like there are civil liberties or privacy anymore, so who cares what the government with our personal information?

Then on Sunday morning, all of the e-mails quickly switched from “look how clean we are” to “hey, we’ll deliver!” My favorite 180 came from Twin Peaks. If you aren’t aware of it, it’s one of those “breastaurants” whose main reason for existence is to see scantily-clad women. Oh, and maybe get some food. Think of Hooters and then take away 60% of each server’s clothing. Although to be fair to Twin Peaks, their food is substantially better than Hooters.

On Friday, Twin Peaks wanted me to know that all of their bikini-wearing servers will be on their hands and knees, polishing knobs during each shift. Wait, that might have come out wrong. They were cleaning everything, is what I meant to say. The message didn’t make me feel much better. In a standard restaurant, I only have to worry about the servers’ hands being clean. At Twin Peaks, ninety percent of their skin is touching everything. Fortunately, they did the economy-wide switch on Sunday. Turns out they deliver. But again, the food’s not their selling point. Customers aren’t missing the french fries, but rather the French maid outfits. And if the Doordash dude shows up wearing bikini bottoms, those fries aren’t going taste very good.

My county wasn’t on stay at home orders until yesterday morning. Then last night, the governor, who thinks he’s the most wonderful specimen of humanity and way smarter than everybody else, put the entire state on lockdown. A dictatorship is okay, after all, if the dictator is dashingly handsome and, let’s face it, better than you. Silly me, thinking we had freedom of assembly.

There seems to be some sort of distinction between “Stay at Home” and “Shelter in Place.” I’m not sure which is which, but the cities and counties have tended to start with one and then go to the other. Maybe one of them is a suggestion and the other is a mandate? I also have no idea which one the state of California is doing. We can still go to get food or medicine. And the good news is that beer is considered food.

I’ve actually taken my growler to my favorite local brewery to be refilled once, and I’m planning to go back. We’re also eating takeout for lunch more often than we need to. Because I’m on salary and I want these places to still be in business if we ever come out the other end of this. What’s the point of the checks that the federal government’s going to send out if there’s noplace left to spend it? Maybe that $1,000 will go to purchasing one roll of toilet paper on eBay.

Can’t wait to see the effect these lockdowns have on things like probable cause. Can a cop pull me over because I’m driving on the freeway? Do I have to make up some “essential” business I’m on my way to? I can’t give him the real answer, which is that that I’ve been stuck teaching academic time to a five-year old and wanted to listen to a grown-up podcast, which I’m way behind on because I don’t have a commute anymore.

We’re also allowed to go out to walk the dog or get exercise. If I don’t have a dog, can the cop arrest me if I don’t seem to be getting my heart into the cardio zone? “Come on, pansy, you call that exercise?”

Scratch that. The cops don’t need to catch you. Sacramento County just came out with an edict to call 311 if we see other people breaking their stay at home orders. Neighbors ratting out their neighbors. Getting more and more Stalin-y by the day.

I’ve got other things to say, but I think I need to flesh out a few thoughts. Better to post it here.

At least the rain isn’t coming back till Monday.

Coronavirus Lockdown Part 1

I’m writing from beyond the pale. I don’t know how long it’s been since society collapsed. After all, what is time but a communal construct?It all flows together once they closed all the schools and restaurants and bars and Disneyland. Since the rationing of bottled water and toilet paper. Has it been a month? A season? Would it still be the year of our Lord 2020, if we were still using those old calendars one might find on a dusty Google drive buried in the corner ‘neath Doordash coupons?

It’s only been a day? What the ever-loving fuck?

A lot’s changed since I finally decided to stop editing my last Coronavirus post to keep up. Back then I said we were overreacting. I still think we are. It seems like every day, they push the envelope. Not because there’s been a massive uptick showing the previous measures were unsuccessful, but more in a, “Wow, the people accepted the last infringement on civil liberties with nary a peep? Well how about if we call it shelter-in-place instead of martial law?”

But whatever. It’s not about us healthy people. It’s about the Baby Boomers next to us in the Target who can’t be bothered to wash their hands, because they’re God’s chosen generation and they’ve never given two shits about what society tells them to do, so why should they start now? I might get the shits, but they’ll die. Everyone under the age of sixty is a Typhoid Mary.

(We had a fix for social security right in front of us and we just couldn’t grab it…)

What was that? Did somebody say something? Never mind.

My family was supposed to go to Disneyland this week. Oops. After they closed, we managed to cancel Daughter’s independent study and her absences from day care and softball and dance. Oops.

On Friday afternoon, they canceled her school for the next month. Then my school canceled, as well. Then her dance class and her softball practices on Tuesday and softball games on Saturday and my curling canceled. Day care is still open (for now), but she only goes to day care two days a week. And let’s be honest, by the time this Friday rolls around, they’ll have joined the End of Days, too.

Which means I’m stuck with her for the next three weeks, at least. So I might as well blog about this shit, because if society isn’t ending, my sanity just might be. I don’t know how often I’ll post. Guessing it’ll get redundant pretty fast. And it’s not like my only-child is going to let me pick up my laptop. So I’ll have to plop her in front of the TV and then I start feeling guilty about my lack of parenting skills. At least until the electricity company tells all their workers to stay home.

Oh, and to add to the fun and frivolity, Mother Nature decided to get involved. We just had eight of the driest winter weeks on record, the trees in full bloom with daily temperatures in the seventies. Then, within twelve hours of schools being canceled, the rain came in. I think that’s what the Adult Entertainment Industry calls a “double-team.”

Still, I need to get some catharsis out. And if, in three weeks, they find me wandering the Nevada desert looking to drown my fears in some radiated dirt from all those nuclear tests seventy years ago, these blog posts will serve as evidence to chalk it up as another Coronavirus fatality.

This past Friday, I decided to go to the grocery store. It didn’t seem a momentous decision at the time. In fact, I decided to pick Daughter up from daycare first. She likes the grocery store, and it usually gives us a transition time before we get home. But clearly I missed the memo that this was the last time to stock up on important groceries before the impending Armageddon.

Holy shit! I expected the canned goods to be gone, maybe the long-term non-perishables. So when the pasta aisle looked like the toilet paper aisles that everyone’s been posting, I wasn’t shocked. Pasta lasts forever and you can do lots of different things with it. And even though I was annoyed that every single Kraft Macaroni n’ Cheese was gone, I shrugged and moved on. I mean, come on people, some of us have young kids and have to go through multiple blue boxes per day. What the hell are YOU using it for? Fortunately I managed to snag the last few Annie’s mac n’ cheeses. It sucks that I have to give my child something less processed. The organic ingredients might be a shock to her system. But at least I made sure some other fucker doesn’t get shit. It’s hoarding season, mother fucker!

I was a little more surprised at the carts full of chips. Really? You’re gonna hunker down with those things? How long do you expect them to last once you’ve opened each bag? I don’t know about you, but I’ve never thought of a bag of chips as something that’s going to last me through a nuclear winter.

There was also allegedly a run on girl scout cookies. Usually the last weekend of booth sales are abysmal, as most people are chock full. This past weekend, quite the opposite. It shouldn’t seem to matter, as there aren’t going to be any cookies for sale until next January, Coronavirus or no. It’s like the hoarding instinct, once triggered, applies to anything and everything.

What I didn’t expect was the ground beef to be gone. Sure, you can throw it in with your first batch of pasta, but isn’t there some canned tuna or spam that you can throw in there instead? I mean shit, I was just looking for Friday night dinner and with the rain coming in, this would be the last grilling I could do for a while. What the hell is everyone else doing with it? At least nobody was getting fresh veggies. Maybe because they’re afraid of having to throw it away when it goes bad, which would mean they’d have to leave their house to roll it to the curb.

I’m now convinced that all those post-apocalyptic shows are bullshit. They always go on “supply runs,” which consist of ransacking grocery stores for all the canned goods still on the shelves. If this is what happens when the CDC tells us to wash our hands, there isn’t going to be jack shit on the shelves after the real end of the world hits.

More annoying than what was and was not on the aisles, though, was my lack of ability to get through said aisles. Holy crap! Despite having nothing to buy, I’d estimate that half the population of Sacramento California was in that one Safeway. You couldn’t even get from one aisle to the next if you were at the end near the registers. You’d get to the coffee and have to do a 180, go all the way back to the empty meat section, then head down the cereal aisle. But good luck making it all the way to the Kashi bars, because you’d end up running into the checkout line. And that fucker’s going to box you out like nobody’s business, because he’s been holding that spot since, like, six o’clock this morning and there’s no way he’s letting you cut in line. If you really need some Cheerios, he’s willing to set up a bucket brigade to get it to you, but that’s as much as you’re getting. Now just turn around and go on the Snipe Hunt that is the dairy refrigerator.

When I finally finished and made my way to the promised land of cash registers, the mass of humanity almost made me give up the ghost. All of the lanes were open and none of them were moving. There was a lady next to me who had enough things in her cart to qualify for the express lane. The only problem was that the express lane was number eight and she was in line for number one. She maneuvered past me (in line for register two), made it a couple more feet, then withdrew back to lane one. It was too daunting. Fortunately the person behind her let her back in. Asshole in the cereal aisle would’ve made her go back to the end. I suggested she circle around through the back of the store, but if she failed in that endeavor, she’d lose her spot for sure. After another five or ten minutes (what’s time when you’re stuck in line), she tried the direct route one more time. I wished her luck as she disappeared through lane three. As of the time of this writing, I don’t know if she made it clear to the other side. She might be wandering the Nevada desert looking for the sweet release of an atomic crater.

It wasn’t just the number of people that slowed the progress of the lines, it was what they had in their carts. To say overflowing would be a misstatement. After all, if you have two carts, each filled to the brim, that’s more than overflowing. And if both of those carts are overflowing, then I’m at loss for a descriptor. I wanted to ask each of these hoarders how disappointed they would be if they WEREN’T self-quarantined (sorry, “sheltered in place” sound so much more chic). How shitty would that feel to have a pantry full of garbanzo beans with a perfectly open grocery store a block away that you’re totally capable of going to. Come Monday, the stocks should be re-shelved and nary a customer in sight.

“Dammit,” I hear those people saying, “I’m healthy. Who wants some hummus?”

And what’s the deal with all the bottled water? We still have water flowing to our homes, right? If the Governor shuts down “all non-essential” services, we’re still going to have electricity and water and garbage, right? I consider those “essential.” He can maybe shut down the state-run brothels, though.

What’s that? Whorehouses aren’t run by the state? Was that hooker lying to me when she said it was my patriotic duty to procure her services? I knew I should’ve asked to see her federal worker badge.

Now I know I’m prone to hyperbole for entertainment value, but I’m not at all exaggerating when I say it took us forty minutes to check out once we were in line. The entire shopping process took about an hour and fifteen minutes to get maybe twenty items. Not a good bang for the buck there. Either I need to change my shopping pattern or they do. And we all know it ain’t gonna be they. So maybe I’ll come back next week and buy ten of everything.

It’ll be fun! Ten mac n’ cheeses. Ten spinach. Ten suppositories! Ten bars of soap.

Soap, you say? Yes, there’s still tons of soap. The hand sanitizer has been gone for weeks, but nobody seems to care about the stuff that works better than hand sanitizer.

After returning from the grocery store, I ventured out one more time Friday night. This time to Target for the most important purchase a family facing weeks at home with a small child can make: Frozen II. We had already attempted to buy it earlier in the week. Wife thought she found a really good deal on it, only to bring it home and find out it was the original Frozen, which I’m pretty sure we already have twenty copies of that we’ve watched or listened to ten-thousand times. Well, now we have twenty-one copies that we’ve watch ten thousand and one times. Because when we realized we’d bought the wrong one, it was already in the Blu-Ray player.

But with Quaran-geddon approaching, we opted for the real thing. We tried to be good. Wife ordered it on her Target app to pick up in-store, so we wouldn’t have to interact with the public. Then we waited for it to be ready. And we waited. And we waited. How the hell long does it take an employee to go to the back of the store and grab a fucking DVD?

Finally, Wife sent me to go pick up a copy. She could then return the app purchase as soon as she picked it up.

On my way back from the store, minutes after I’d made the purchase, Wife called to tell me the one she ordered was ready.

When I got home, I got the alert that Disney-Plus was going to be releasing Frozen II  three months early, starting the following day. So, at least in this household, Frozen II is following in the footsteps of its predecessor. Three versions purchased in twenty-four hours. And want to guess how many times we’ve watched it since then?

Oh, and while I was at Target, I also grabbed Knives Out. And some cereal. And an ice cream or two.

Gotta be prepared, after all. I may have been late to this hoarding party, but dammit, I’ve learned from the best.

So I finally made it through Friday. The self-quarantine hadn’t even started yet. Only three weeks (at least) to go.

And the rain was coming.

Coronavirus with Lyme Disease

Hold on. I’ll be right with you. First I have to wash my hands for two full minutes.

Unfortunately, I can’t turn over my one-minute hourglass or touch the timer button on my phone, or else I’ll have to start over.

And the water needs to be scalding. If all of my skin gets burned off, after all, I can’t touch my face.

Okay now, how long is that hand-washing good for? Is it two minutes under the faucet, two minutes out in the dangerous world?

Shit! Now I’ve touched my keyboard to type this sentence. And keyboards were already dirty, disgusting cesspools before the Plague-to-end-all-Plagues reared its ugly head. Nowadays, if I touch my keyboard or my face or a doorknob or a Kleenex, I’m taking my life in my hands. To say nothing of the lives of every other citizen in my house, on my block, in my city, and in my state. Not just the human citizens, mind you. All of our cats and dogs are susceptible. Put a mask on Fido! And you should probably devise a robot to feed the fish, too.

But crap, if I touch the robot as I’m building it, it’ll be just as infected as I am. So I need to make a robot that can then make another robot in a sterile environment. Based on the science fictions I’ve seen, the only way to do this is to make the first robot self-aware, and nothing bad can happen after that.

Oh, and Costco is now out of toilet paper.

Now don’t take this the wrong way, but have we lost our fucking mind?

Don’t get me wrong. Coronavirus seems like a bitch. The WHO puts the death rate above 3%, which is brutal if true. There’s question as to how many might be undiagnosed. But even if it’s not true, 4,000 deaths worldwide out of a global population of over seven billion is nothing to sneeze at. Sorry, bad analogy. But still, 4,000 deaths worldwide must be the worst disease of all time. Unlike that measly flu, which only kills… up to 500,000 people per year?

Clearly someone at CNN was absent the day their math class went over “greater than” and less than.”

But I’ve also heard that it mainly attacks those over the age of 70 with a history of respiratory issues or compromised immune systems. So is it only 3% of people who have been smoking for fifty years? Because if that’s the case, I’d really like to be able to wipe my ass again.

And if it mainly affects people that are already sickly, then it’s a good thing we aren’t letting professional athletes high-five each other anymore. I mean, just look at Mike Trout and LeBron James. Those guys look ready to keel over at a stiff breeze. Make them wash their hands every time they touch a football!

Of course, the death rate isn’t as important as the contagion rate. And the problem with the Coronavirus is that you can get it just by looking at someone with it. Or sharing the same zip code. At least as far as I’ve heard. But who the hell knows? It seems like every other headline in my news feed is about two more infected people in a country of three hundred million. So kiss your loved ones goodbye because statistically, it’ll hit you next. Your only hope at survival is to click on the link. Then go douse your infected finger in acid for two minutes.

Here are just a few of the things I’ve seen reported. Of course, all of these are anecdotal. But that almost makes it worse.

-A local school district just canceled school for a week. Not sure what good that’ll do, since the incubation period seems to be 14 days. Maybe they should just cancel the rest of the school year.

-Starbucks isn’t allowing customers to use reusable cups. Even though they wash them and hand them back to the very customer whose germs it has. This after Starbucks and all of its customers (and detractors) have spent the last decade bemoaning single-use cups as the single greatest threat to the survival of our planet. Can’t wait until California, which banned* single-use plastic bags years ago, tells us we have to start using them again.
(*N.B. We didn’t ban them, the stores just can’t give them away. They need to charge us. But only grocery stores. Department stores, restaurants, sporting good stores, bookstores, Target, and everyone else can give us plastic to their hearts’ content.)

-The four major sports leagues currently playing games have banned reporters from locker rooms. Because interviewing people right out of the shower, when they’re at their cleanest, is a bad idea. Much better to wait until you can get them all crowded into a press-conference room with carpeting and seats that have had thousands of ass-cheeks in them.

-Everyplace is out of hand sanitizer, which I sorta understand, and toilet paper, which I don’t. Even if it’s two-ply, it won’t protect you from a virus. But Costco is limiting the amount of toilet paper each customer can buy. It worked so well for Carter with gas in the late 1970s.

– We’re now assaulting people who sneeze on planes, or forcing the place to divert. Despite the fact that March is prime allergy month.

-Italy started banning fans from sporting events for the next month. Banning FANS! They’re legitimately going to be playing soccer games in front of empty stadiums. Because if so much as one virus gets loose in a stadium of 70,000, then all 70,000 will be dead by the end of the game. The team with the last fan standing wins.

-In the 48 hours since I started this post, the Italy decision has been followed by every other lemming in the world: the San Jose Sharks and Golden State Warriors, every event in Ohio, and probably, when opening day rolls around, the Seattle Mariners. But the Mariners are still playing in front of fans in Spring Training. But it’s okay, because only old people go to Spring Training. And their more susceptible.

-And this just in: all of March Madness! Holy shit! Bet and pick favorites. Usually the crowd likes to pump up underdogs and get behind them if they go on a run.

I’m reminded of before the Iraq War (the second one), when Colin Powell busted out his Anthrax presentation at the United Nations. He held up a vial and said a teaspoon of that will, like, crawl up inside the asshole of every infidel and treat us like 72 virgins. (I might’ve been paraphrasing). But based on the sporting bans, Coronavirus might as well be anthrax. I feel a little bit sorry for all the suicide bombers. Who would have guessed that all they needed to do to bring the entire western world to a screeching halt was sneeze in an airport.

Or maybe we could stop using The Walking Dead as a medical journal.

Because as far as I can tell, the Coronavirus is a pretty nasty form of the flu. Death rate is definitely higher. And maybe it’s more contagious? But it’s flu season. And really, shouldn’t we be washing our hands a lot during the winter anyway?

Speaking of which, are we still supposed to wash or hands after going to the bathroom? What’s a little fecal matter in the face of oblivion? Heck, it’s not like I was able to wipe with all the toilet paper gone, anyway.

The way people are acting, it’s the Black Death. If you’ve driven on the same freeway as someone, even if you’re in completely different cars with all the windows rolled up and no outside vent running, you are assuredly infected. And did you just look in the rear view window? Now the guy behind you has it. And now you’re both certain to die. Good job, asshat. How dare you drive your car? Quick, buy some hand sanitizer and toilet paper!

Because a 3% death rate means everybody dies. Said by the same people who claim the 2016 polls were wrong because someone with a 30% chance won the election. Percentages are hard, y’all!

A local junior colleges made the news because one of their medical students had been exposed to the virus. They reiterated that the county has no cases yet. So how the fuck was this student “exposed to” the virus? Is the virus going around wearing socks and a trenchcoat? Was it hanging out at the county line, unwilling to cross but waiting for a goody-two-shoes to look in the wrong direction? Seriously, how is one exposed to the virus if nobody around has said virus? Did she see a picture of it online?

I had it right the first time. This isn’t the Black Death. This is the Zombie Apocalypse.

Or maybe, with the run on toilet paper, we’re going for the Mummy Apocalypse.

I don’t want to blame this on the media. But come on, they’ve certainly been at the forefront of fan-flaming. They had such a good thing going with that whole impeachment thing. But with that gone, what’s going to get the people to click on ten different headlines featuring the same general content?

Coronavirus!

Boy howdy, that’s a catchy name. After all, we’ve gone through this rigmarole before, but back then it was called Swine Flu or Avian Flu or SARS. And those all sound comic. Scientific. And let’s be honest, foreign. But corona? That’s something I’ve heard of. SARS sounds like someone banging a gong, but I see Corona at the grocery store. It’s memorable. It’s catchy.

I bet Tecate’s pissed about all the earned media of their closest rival.

There was a poll showing 38% of people not willing to drink Corona, and the media (again, errantly) claimed this was due to the fancy new nomenclature. But if you look closely at that poll, only 4% said it was because of the Coronavirus. The other 34% are just sane human beings who don’t want to waste money on crappy beer. Have I mentioned before that beer shouldn’t need fruit added? I think I have.

Corona’s sales have actually gone up over the same period last year and the year before. Because people are nothing if not impressionable. If Tecate wants to get in on this shit, they better strike a deal to change the name to Covid-19, brought to you by Tecate. Or maybe Dos Equis can get in on the fun by calling it the Most Interesting Virus in the World. I don’t always wash my hands. But when I do, it’s because of Coron… crap, Covid-19.

Hey, did you know you can sing Covid-19 to the tune of “Come On, Eileen”? And… you’re welcome.

Here’s where I admit that I’ve been washing my hands a hell of a lot more often this past week than I usually do. Because it’s out there and it’s not a bad thing to be reminded of during flu season. But we can go overboard. At the bank, a woman demanded that they sanitize the pen before she signed her check. At my school, the librarian is making all of the teachers wash our hands before making copies. He’s got, I shit you not, four different soft-soap dispensers at the sink. I assume he watched which one I used and then used one of the others to clean its nozzle.

An abundance of caution. I get it. But I don’t think it was photocopiers that drove the Spanish Flu back in 1919. And I have yet to see a pen used on The Walking Dead. 

There’s something McCarthyist about the whole thing. Everyone’s got it except you. Greet everyone with suspicion. Wash at all costs to kill the reds, cause the only good virus is a virus who’s dead!

Perhaps we should make a list of who is suspected of having coronavirus. Shut yourself in your house and spy out the window. If your neighbor’s water meter doesn’t go up every ten minutes, then they’re a bunch of filthy coronas.

We can give said list to John Procter. He seems like he’d do the responsible thing. What’s that? He’s been dead for 300 years? Hmm, put your lists and theories out on Twitter instead. Seems just as reasonable.

So, after canceling schools and sporting events and flights (I saw that airlines are canceling and combining flights to lessen exposure, but doesn’t that just put more people on each flight?), what can we do? Some people have taken to fist bumping and elbow bumping in lieu of shaking hands. Howie Mandel allegedly only first bumps because he’s a germophobe. Um, okay but… fist bumping is still skin to skin contact. As are your elbows, if you’re wearing short sleeves. And sure, your elbows haven’t been grabbing doorknobs or anything, but you also haven’t been washing them as regularly as your hands, have you? And you had this brilliant idea to start pushing open doors with those elbows to avoid grabbing those doorknobs. In the same spot that every other Wisenheimer is putting their elbows to open the door.

We’re also not supposed to touch our faces. But come on, that’s not real, right? Everybody touches their faces. It’s instinct. Right now my face feels fine, but if you tell me I can’t touch it, there will immediately be a colossal itch on my cheek, the type that feels like an inchworm burrowing into my skull. I just NEED to scratch it. AHHHHH!

I think that whole “don’t touch your face thing” is what they throw in to avoid coming up with real answers. Hey, why’d this perfectly healthy hermit who’s been inside since the first Bush Administration contract this communicable disease? Eh, he probably touched his face.

It’s like when your dentist asks if you’ve been flossing. Because nobody actually flosses regularly. We floss when something’s stuck in our teeth and the night before we see the dentist. And we touch our face to adjust our glasses or run our hands through our hair or put an Airpod in our ear. Or, back in the Dark Ages, to cover up our mouth and nose when we were sneezing or coughing. But now I’m being told that’s a big no-no, because now those germs are in my hand. We should instead sneeze into our shirt sleeve. Somehow that’s more sanitary. Perhaps the dried snot on my sleeve will become a way to signal that I’m woke.

To quote The Verve in The Freshman,  “I won’t be held responsible. She was touching her face.” I’ve heard conflicting theories over the past twenty years that that song was about either a drug overdose or an abortion. Turns out it was a CDC memo this whole time. And I guess when the Divinyls were singing, “When I think about you I touch myself,” they were actually wishing death and disease upon you.

So now we’ve successfully “self-quarantined” ourselves from any other human contact. Want to know another word for “self-quarantine”? It’s called staying home. Just like we’ve always told people to do with the flu. But it sounds fancier now. “Stay home” is a suggestion. “Self-Quarantine” is a directive. Maybe it’s not a mandate yet, but the niggling conspiracy theorist at the back of my skull thinks the government is paying very close attention to how this self-quarantine is going. Holy shit, they’re playing sports in empty stadiums?  Just wait when we tell them that bath salts fucker was really a zombie.

And yes, the niggling woke-dude at the back of my skull knows that we’re not supposed to say “niggling” anymore.

The last time they made up this large-scale of a “quarantine” was the Cuban Missile Crisis. And that wasn’t a quarantine either. It was an embargo. And this doesn’t feel like a “self-quarantine” either. The local news just reported on someone leaving a block that was self-quarantined. A block! An entire row of houses! Being volun-told to not venture out of their house. Because one person might or might not have “been exposed to” a particularly gnarly flu.

I overheard two people talking.

“I’ve heard someone might have tested positive for it in Elk Grove”

“Well… You live in Elk Grove, don’t you?”

Elk Grove, by the way, is a suburb of 200,00 people that encompasses close to fifty square miles.

Then again, they’re freaking out because Los Angeles County, with a population of four million, has twenty sick people. And they’re banning San Jose Sharks games because 50 people out of the 2,000,000 who live in Santa Clara County have it. And some 80-year old died.

As an aside, how many people have the flu right now?

And what about us poor souls whose seasonal allergies go crazy this time of year. How dare we show ourselves in public and make all those people worry? The wheezy cough. The weepy eyes. Why, I must be a zombie, mustn’t I?

Allergies, my wife and child can attest are not contagious. But the time for subtlety and nuance is over. It’s Coronavirus’s world now, mother fucker!

It’s like the old saying:

First they came for the toilet paper. But I was stocked up on toilet paper, so I said nothing.

I Am Gout

I have gout.

Maybe I could have come up with a better hook. Some quip or background story about the course and curse of my life. But nah. When your foot’s swelled up like a goddamned softball and the thought of walking fifteen feet to the bathroom brings on a bout of shakes and sweat like day three of a detox, necessitating a military-style gameplan complete with analysis of terrain and supposition of barriers and where-the-fuck-is-the-dog-because-as-soon-as-I-get-up-she’s-going-to-plop-herself-right-in-front-of-my-route, well, you learn to just keep it simple. I have gout.

Besides, it’s a phrase I have to repeat twenty times a fucking day when I’m having a flare-up. You get used to it.

“Why are you limping?”

“I have gout.”

“What happened?”

“I have gout.”

“Hey… Umm.. Are you…”

“Yes. I have gout. I am gout. I am Groot.”

Because nothing devolves into a one-line talking tree more quickly than a seemingly healthy forty-something hobbling around like Yoda in Return of the Jedi, right before his cloak withers around his flesh dissolving into the ether. Is that my best pop-culture old man reference? Yeah it is. What, should I have gone with Citizen Kane gasping out about his stupid sled? Well that movie sucked. I don’t care if it ranks #1 all-time. It was boring and can’t hold the jockstrap of Casablanca and The Godfather, the other two that it usually muscles out for the top spot. Yoda’s a better reference, because every Star Wars movie is better than Citizen Kane.

(Editor’s note: By “every Star Wars movie,” I mean episodes four through eight, and maybe Solo and Rogue One. The others don’t count.)

(Editor’s postscript: I can make editor’s notes that say “I” because the writer and the editor are the same person in this masturbatory act of self-publishing.)

My first bout with gout (hey, a rhyme) came in my mid-thirties. I was still single and living alone meaning, unlike now, I couldn’t ask my wife to take the trash can out to the curb just this once. Hoo boy. I remember that Lawrence of Arabia-esque trek toward the curb.

“Aqaba! From the land!”

“Trash can! To the curb!”

“You are mad, sir!”

BTW, Lawrence of Arabia is also a damn fine movie and should be hundreds of places higher than Citizen Kane.

The journey to the curb was bad enough, because at least I could use the trash can as a pseudo-walker. Hobble, hobble, move the trash can six inches. Hobble, hobble, move the trash can six inches. Fifteen minutes later, I turned around with horror to see the wide open expanse of my driveway leading back to my front door. Nary a stabilizer nor support lay betwixt myself and my goal. The December ground was wet with light drizzle that was ongoing, yet still the prospect of getting down on all fours and crawling back into my abode seemed a perfectly viable alternative, and if my pants became shredded and knees bloody, it seemed a small price to pay. After all, I could always shower once I… wait, showering requires standing. Never mind, I guess I’ll just hobble back for twenty minutes and risk pneumonia. They hospitalize you for that, right? Bedridden for the next week sounds like an excellent gameplan during a flare-up.

That flare-up was a particularly bad one. It had started in one ankle, but after a few days of favoring the other foot while walking around, I now had two ankles the size of softballs. Walking around with one painful foot is difficult. Walking around with two painful feet is a simultaneous exercise in futility, frustration, and misfortune. I believe Chasing Amy refers to that as a Chinese finger trap.

That trash night was followed by my first ankle-related doctor visit. Which is saying something, because as a mid-thirties American male, I didn’t believe in going to the doctors for shit. There’s a reason any plan to make insurance affordable starts with making young men pay for it, because everyone knows they’ll never use it.

The doctor brought up this newfangled diagnosis called gout, but she was hesitant to classify my current condition as gout. First she had to run a thousand tests, which required my gimpy ass to drive all over town to different medical offices and hospitals, most of which had parking lots over a block away from the institution. I had to go to the x-ray guy to see if anything was broken, and the ultrasound guy to see if my leg was pregnant. Or maybe she was looking for a blood clot. Regardless, my leg was neither clotted, nor knocked up.

So then the doctor gave me a pill that I had to take once every hour until one of two things happened. Either the pain would go away, meaning I have gout, or I’d get sick as hell. And how about another “Hoo Boy” for that one. I said “sick as hell” instead of “sick as shit” for a reason. Because all of a sudden I was spewing out of both ends like Old Faithful. And believe me when I say it was “all of a sudden.” I went from zero to a million in the time it took me to crawl the ten feet from the couch to the bathroom. What started as a vague sense of “something’s not right” quickly became a pinwheel spinning from ass on the seat to face in the seat to ass on the seat and praying that there would always remain a split second between the two phenomena. But as I kneeled next to the porcelain goddess after the seventh flush, I remember wiggling my toes and still feeling the pain and thinking, “well, at least I don’t have gout.”

It would take five years, and at least three doctors, before that “not gout” designation was reversed. And no, I wasn’t doctor shopping or anything, I was just going from one insurance plan to the next based on whichever one was cheaper. It’s not like I was going to use it, anyway. Although when the second doctor only diagnosed me with a case of “you walk funny, get some orthotics,” I decided to find something more permanent. Plus, I switched to Kaiser, because then if I had to go through another bout of tests, they’d at least all be in the same building,

So now, a decade later, I can just say I have gout. Well, sort of. Because my form of gout doesn’t fit any of the normal descriptions. The only thing that made me finally admit, begrudgingly, that I may in fact have this particular affliction is that gout medicine usually helps me get better.

Gout is a form of arthritis. A flare-up happens when there’s too much uric acid in your blood. The uric acid usually falls toward your foot, creating a dull pain in the toes. And there are a few times I feel that. It’s a deep discomfort, almost a stiffness, that appears in my toes. It makes walking more difficult, but it doesn’t necessarily get better or worse if I walk. It’s always there. And at those points, I think, “Yep, that’s what WebMD and Wikipedia tell me gout is.”

But those textbook gout feelings are rare. My usual modus operandi hits my ankles, not my toes, and causes them to swell up to the point that flip-flops are the only footwear that can contain them. Sometimes, but not always, this is accompanied by a sharp pain in the arch of my foot or my heel, like plantar fasciitis. But usually I chalk the arch and heel up to continuing to wear shoes, and oftentimes an ankle brace as well, which bruises my swollen foot.

Are you uncomfortable yet? Grab some Advil.

Gout is usually caused by diet, and a flare-up usually happens after eating something bad. But mine is usually caused by rolling my ankle. It can be slight or severe. Sometimes I step on a rock and my leg kicks out while my foot stays still, and I know that three or four  days later, my ankle’s going to be spherical in shape. Other times I feel the twinge and try to think back as to what I did over the last few days and can’t pinpoint what exactly I did. Even if I can’t pinpoint the incident, I don’t think it’s usually tied to food.

Except maybe salt. I’ve definitely noticed an increase in discomfort, and even an occasional outbreak, after I overindulge in salt. Whether it’s dinner at Panda Express or processed lunchmeat sandwiches or hitting the sunflower seeds too hard at a ballgame, you can bet I’ll be wearing an ankle brace the next few days.

Oddly enough, though, salt isn’t listed as one of the key ingredients that brings on gout. The magical elves at Wikipedia list red meat and shellfish as the cause. Do I like red meat and shellfish? Sure. Do I eat them a shit ton? Not really. Sure, I love me a hamburger, but my pasta sauce and homemade tacos are just as likely to have chicken or turkey. And while I’m definitely the guy at the crab feed that the organization doesn’t come out ahead on, I can’t afford to eat crab or scallops or shrimp more than once or twice a year. And the type of red meat they they usually reference on the gout sites are the nasty shit – livers and kidneys. And sweetmeats, which I’m pretty sure are fucking brains. Eww. Never ate that shit and probably never will. Definitely never will, now that I know it’ll inflame my gout.

What’s that? Beer is also listed as one of the irritants? Because of the yeast? Why are you bringing that up? Seems completely irrelevant…

So let’s go down the checklist.

Dull ache in my toes? Nope.

Eat a lot of cow brain? Nope.

Discoloration of the gap between tiles? Oh sorry, that’s grout.

After years of reading all of the descriptions of gout and thinking, “that’s not what I’ve got going on,” someone saw me hobbling along and asked if I had bursitis. I said, “No, I have gout,” then immediately looked up bursitis. Well, not immediately, because it probably took me ten minutes to go the fifteen yards to a computer. But “immediately” in gout world.

Bursitis is the swelling of the bursae fluid sacs at the joints. Symptoms include a stiff ankle, swelling of the heel, hot skin, red skin, veins popping out, pain when wearing shoes.  Ding, ding, ding! Winner, winner! I mean, not really a winner, because it’s not exactly a prize, but at least the symptoms sounded a lot closer to what I had experienced off and on for years. Why the hell does everyone want to diagnose it as gout when it’s clearly bursitis?

Hold on, let me read a little further. Causes of bursitis may include… gout. Well, fuck a duck. They might want to add that little footnote to all of the gout descriptions that say it’ll hit your toes first.

I also got it in my knee once. That was fun. While curling (actually, while sweeping), my lower leg went the wrong direction, and three days later, I could barely put on pants. The left knee is still a little bit tender, but at least it has the decency to confine itself to one side of my body, a concession my ankles rarely make. Still, nothing makes me feel quite so alive as those days that I’m wearing two ankle braces and one knee brace. I’m like Cyborg or Robocop, mostly machine with only a trace of humanity remaining.

I’ve become more adept at predicting when these outbreaks will occur. I’ve even been able to avoid a few major flare-ups. I usually feel a twinge in one or both of my ankles, and I immediately cut down on its usage. Sleep on the couch with my foot propped up above my heart for a couple nights, maybe a little ibuprofen and some ice, and a few days later, I’m fine. The acronym for a hurt ankle is RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. I repeat it over and over like the episode of Family Ties where Mallory learns the acronym for SCUBA.

If the twinge is a little bit worse, I can take my indomethacin prescription pills for a couple days. But not more than a couple days. Because if I have to get a refill more than once every two years or so, my doctor might want me to come back in for a closer look. And while I’m now in my mid-forties, I’m still male. Besides, you can’t drink alcohol with these pills. And it’s not just a suggestion, it’s a vomit-fest.

But whenever that happens, whenever I feel the gout coming and can avoid it with a little bit of precaution, I think to myself, “Whew, I’ve finally nipped this thing.”

Then the gout responds, “Oh yeah? You think you’ve got me under control? I hope you weren’t planning on going upstairs anytime soon. And have fun honing your cruise control skills.”

Because if I’m distracted or unable to take it easy for a few days, the gout hits a tipping point, and then it’s going to take a week of indomethacin and ibuprofen, not a day. Or longer. My current discomfort’s been going on for a few weeks. I thought I was getting better after four days and quit the pills for a day or two. Oops.

The last major incident before my current stroll down no-stroll lane came last February. It was the week of the Mock Trial competition at my school. I am the Mock Trial coach. Not much I can do to avoid being out and about for fifteen hours a day. Oh, and the parking garage is a block away from the courthouse, because they used the same ableist, piece-of-shit civil engineer as the hospital. I resorted to using my wife’s grandfather’s cane. Nothing says hip, with-it, and in control of one’s faculties quite like a circa 1970s wooden cane that looks straight from a Tijuana street vendor. Can I get a pimp cane to go with my pimp walk?

What made it even more sublime was that the Mock Trial case involved the defendant’s walking stick being used to bludgeon the victim. Some of the opposing teams joked that I was bringing in an inadmissible prop. Until they saw me walk. Then they asked me what was wrong.

“I have gout.”

But the cane did little to help me walk. It helps when I’m standing in front of the classroom, because then I can lean on it. But when I’m walking, it does virtually nothing to alleviate the basic problem of moving my foot through the air and placing it upon the ground. The amount of weight I put on the foot might doesn’t really affect the amount of discomfort. If anything, the cane makes it a little worse,  because in addition to pain, my foot also lacks strength. The cane fixes the latter, meaning I can walk faster, but does nothing to alleviate the pain, which is now happening more often. I’m sure, with more experience, I could be more effective with the cane, but at this point, I’m still a neophyte. Hell, I can’t even figure out if I’m supposed to use it in the hand that’s on the hurting side or the strong side.

This week, I finally broke down and bought one of those knee scooters. You know the one? You cock your leg and rest the lower half on a raised scooter. Totally fancy, and even moreso, it allows my infected foot to never touch the ground. Of course, it also puts pressure on my knee and must do something wonky with my bloodflow, because when I do finally put the infected foot down, it’s a dazzling shock to the system. A sharp pain from an appendage that thought it was getting the day off.

Oh, and the knee scooter doesn’t help with stairs.

Oh, and it looks really silly. I know, I know. That totally shouldn’t matter. If I’m already gimping around, why am I worried about appearances? Because I’m a vain motherfucker. And generations of badasses from John Wayne to John McClain to John… umm… McCain? have told me that walking with a limp can be manly. Swagger! But only pussies would ride around on a scooter.

Wait, Fonzie drove a motorcycle, right? So all I need to do is invest in a leather jacket! Unfortunately, I just bought a knee scooter, so there’s no fucking way I can afford a leather jacket.

I’ve had a few other flare-ups at bad times. They always seem to happen at bad times, because if it’s a time where it’s convenient for me to slow down, it doesn’t go into Full Gout Mode. They also tend to happen when I’m distracted. When I can feel the twinge and think, “Oh, that’s not the gout. It must just be the…”

One time was in England. I blamed it on all of the traffic circles, because driving a stick-shift on the wrong side of the car is bad enough, but needing to slam out the clutch to go from zero to fifty in a half-second in order to negotiate the two-yard gap in a continuously streaming cross-traffic is not beneficial for somebody with traditionally wonky ankles.

Sorry. Two-meter gap. Yards are outlawed in Europe.

It coulda been the salty Nando’s, too. Mmm… Nando’s. I’d chop off my ankles if it meant I could get a Nando’s here on the west coast.

The ankle got worse and worse, and by the night before we left, it was horrible. And the Bristol airport puts their rental car lot even further away from their terminal than do northern California hospitals.

When we got to the counter, my wife told me to ask for a wheel chair. I was very reticent for the same reasons I don’t want to use my knee scooter. I hate looking like an invalid. I hate needing others to push me around. I’d rather have to let little old ladies pass me than to throw in the towel. Because if I’m in a wheel chair, people will avoid eye contact with me. But if I’m limping, they’ll ask me what’s wrong.

“I have gout.”

But Wife insisted, and there I was, being pushed around by my wife, who was four-weeks pregnant at the time. And a little bit hungover, because we didn’t know she was four-weeks pregnant at the time. Makes me feel like an abusive husband. Barefoot, pregnant, and pushing my ass around an airport.

But it’s a good thing we did that. Because the airport staffers called ahead and when we got off the plane in Atlanta, there was a wheelchair waiting for me. This time it was pushed by an airport employee, because evidently capitalist America hires people for those roles, whereas socialist Britain tells you to do it your own fucking self. The wheelchair pusher had some clout. He pushed me past the milieu and, most importantly, to the front of the customs line. Holy shit, I should ask for a wheelchair more often. Then he took me out of the international terminal onto a tram and all the way to my domestic gate. Had I attempted this journey by myself, it would have taken me three hours. I would have missed my connecting flight. So fuck you, John McClain. If you missed your connecting flight, then Hans Gruber wins. And if Hans Gruber wins, then there’s no incentive for him to get a job at a wizarding school and not one, but two movie franchises are ruined.

“You feel that, Butch? That’s pride fucking with you. Fuck pride.”

Did I just go full Bruce Willis circle on that? I did!

My other experience with wheelchairs came two summers ago when the gout stuck while we were vacationing in San Diego. San Diego in summer. Totally the time one would expect to get hit with a form of arthritis that is exacerbated by the cold. And there’s not even any cow brain on the menu there!

The two places we wanted to take our child in San Diego were the zoo and Legoland, two places not known as favorites of the immobiles. Wife again insisted I get a wheelchair at both places. And good God, y’all, did you know they have hills in San Diego? The San Diego Zoo must have at least ten different elevation changes of a thousand feet or more. The polar bear exhibit is halfway down a hill that is approximately a mile long and at a seventy percent incline (I’m not a geometrist), so if I wanted to see them, my options were either to start at the bottom of the hill and relive the story of Sisyphus or else start at the top of the hill and run some fun experiments on terminal velocity.

And then there was that whole pride thing, again. I didn’t want to make the bus stop for me and take the time to load and unload my wheelchair. I didn’t want to ask for help from strangers, and Wife was busy single-parenting a three-year old who wants to see all the animals at the same time. So there I was, going up a steep incline using the poles of an iron fence to pull myself up, which I had quickly realized was much easier than pushing the wheels uphill. So yay for leveling up in wheelchair faster than I did in cane. But holy crap, if I had to be in a wheelchair every day, I’m pretty sure my upper torso would look like Rambo’s.

The following day, we went to Legoland. Again, we rented a wheelchair. There are fewer steep hills at Legoland, but it seems like the whole damn place is on a slight slope. There were very few places that I felt comfortable taking my hands off the wheels without worrying about gravity pulling me slowly away from my family.

But I did find out one pretty cool thing. Most Legoland rides have a separate line for disabled people. I don’t know if I technically counted as disabled, but I was definitely mobility-impaired, which was the main thing they were concerned with. Or maybe they just felt that since I paid $50 to rent the wheelchair equivalent of rental skis, I shouldn’t have to stand for long periods of time in line.

So I got to go to the super secret disabled entrances to rides, which aren’t really all that secret, but are very, very super. For most of them, you go the then end of the line or the end of the ride, where people get off the ride. And then, just like customs at Hartsfield-Jackson, you’re magically next in line. There were a few rides at Legoland that had a Fastpass-style disabled entrance, where you’d sign up for a time to come back. But unlike the real Fastpass, the time is twenty minutes from now, not two hours. And twenty minutes turns out to be just enough time to skip the line at the ride next door and come back.

Hey, wait a second. We’re taking our kid to Disneyland in March. Maybe I can rent me a wheelchair and become Dad of the Year. I remember all those stories a few years ago that wealthy families were hiring disabled people to skip the lines for them. Can I hire myself out? I assume Disneyland is a bit more scrutinizing than Legoland, but I’ve gotten the royal treatment once before.

Then again, at the rate my last week has gone, it might be wiser for my family to keep me at the hotel. Or leave me at home.

I guess in the meantime, I’ll do what I do best at times like this. Sit in pain and wait for the drugs to go into effect.

Say it with me: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus.

Happy Hospital Hell

I always assumed we were pretty far along the historical spectrum of medical knowledge. Long gone are the days of leeches and bleeding and humors. Can the days of Star Trek scanners and nanobots be that far away?

Then my wife went into the hospital six times over a four-month span. And I now realize that, while we might have progressed beyond whiskey as the primary antiseptic and painkilling tool, we’re still a long way from holographic doctors phasing through your body to grab the kidney stone before solidifying to pat your ass on the way out the door.

I’m going to try very hard to not turn the Happy Wombat blog into vitriol. Let’s see how good my fiction-writing abilities are.

Prior to the 1:00 AM wake-up call my daughter gave us a week before the agreed-upon arrival time (“Hey, what’s all this water doing in my way? Push!”), my wife had never been in a hospital. Other than “just visiting.”  And really, Monopoly needs to change the jail to a hospital. And what the player needs to roll to get out should change every turn.  “Oh, I know yesterday we were paying very close attention to the doubles, but these test results indicate that dice adding up to seven will put you back on the path to Marvin Gardens this turn.” Besides, how many people really visit jail?

The delivery went fine. An hour after they gave her some Pitocin, she was pushing, and an hour later, we had a healthy six-and-a-half pound daughter. The baby, thankfully, has been the picture of health. But once she was out of her mom, things went a little sideways.

My wife had a massive fibroid that we found during the pregnancy. “Massive” must be a medical term, because every nurse, doctor, and ultrasound tech who saw it said, “Wow, that’s a massive fibroid.” Or “I’m surprised you could get pregnant with that massive fibroid.” Or “Seriously, it’s blocking a fallopian tube, so your eggs weren’t even making it to the uterus half of the time.”

This information might have been useful when we were trying to get pregnant. Instead, I had the pleasure of, um, pleasuring myself into a cup. With that came an affidavit that probably made the last Pope resign – “I, the undersigned, promise I masturbated to produce this sample.” The rest of the rules were extensive and comical: do not collect specimen into anything other than the cup, do not put in your pocket, do not expose to light, do not pass Go!, do not slow down for any yellow lights, do not make eye contact with the tech you deliver it to.

So we knew there might be some issues because of the Massive Fibroid (trademark pending), primarily a risk of excessive bleeding. There was supposed to be extra blood on hand, but it never showed up. The baby’s fault for showing up on a Saturday when the main OB/GYN was not on call. What we didn’t foresee, which in retrospect we or someone with a day or two of medical experience should have, was that perhaps the fibroid and the placenta might not play nicely with each other.

Nobody is sure what happened next.  Either my wife tried to deliver the fibroid, which we had been warned ahead of time would be bad, or the placenta was stuck to the fibroid. The result was lots of blood and no placenta. The placenta seemed to bother the OB the most, but everyone else was concerned that the blood wasn’t stopping. This was the moment I was very happy we were not still living with 19th century medical technology, because I’m sure my wife would have bled out.

But instead, I was being asked to make some momentous decisions. My wife was going to be separated from the baby, meaning that I was in charge of the half-hour-old. Because the law and the hospital and health insurance companies don’t know what to do at this point, I could either admit the baby as the patient or having her admitted as an abandon. Naturally I opted for the former.

Unbeknownst to me, this triggered a health insurance nightmare.  The plan had been to put the baby on my insurance, not my wife’s. But once the baby became a patient at the hospital, well-baby went out the window. This double my wife’s deductible, so we had the joy of paying for much of what happened next. As far as I can tell, the baby’s currently covered on both of our plans, but who the hell knows?

Because my daughter was the patient, my next twenty-four hours were spent in pediatrics, not post-partum. This meant sleeping in a toddler bed about three inches longer than my body. I was also wearing jeans, having thought that I would have time to go home and change after the birth. Add in the two hours of sleep I was operating on, plus quickly learning why it is called a mothering instinct, not a fathering instinct. One fun part, though, was seeing the nurses not quite sure how to deal with the father in charge. They kept asking me how I was feeling and if I wanted any Jell-o or water. “No, I’m fine, my body didn’t just suffer through a live birth. Do you have any beer?”

But my day was a piece of cake next to the recipe for my wife. A dash of ultrasound, a dollop of sedative, swirl in a little radiation, and set to baste in the ICU. The radiation lab stopped the bleeding. The ultrasound checked for both the fibroid and placenta. Turns out the ultrasound needs blood flowing to the region, so the results were inconclusive after the radiation. Probably should’ve done those two things in the opposite order. Oops. As for the ICU, nobody seemed sure why she was there. But where else would you put the woman who has been awake for twenty hours, recently gave birth, and is now beside herself because she can’t see her baby, other than right next to somebody that is up all night with paranoid delusions?

The next day, my wife was allowed to move to pediatrics to actually, you know, see the baby she had birthed. Three days later, mama and baby were released. I was at work, so I missed the whole thing. Had we known more than an hour in advance, I would’ve tried to be there. When a patient is going to be released is an amorphous target, but once it’s set in motion, it’s fast. “We want to keep you here, we’re going to keep monitoring you,” changes to “you’re released, now get the hell out of here because we need that bed” faster than a Denny’s waitress. Turn and burn, baby!

Two days later, she was back in the hospital.  Her body really wanted to deliver that fibroid! When it started coming out on the toilet, she freaked out a bit, but then calmly decided to go to the emergency room. At the emergency room, they asked her a whole bunch of questions based on her medical history (“so we notice your hemoglobin was a little low after delivering the baby”) but nobody seemed concerned with the bodily tissue dangling from her lady-parts.

They also asked if she felt safe in her home. I assume this question is required by law, and that is a good thing.  However, they asked her that question with me sitting right next to her. This certainly violates the point of the question, if not the letter of the law. The comedian in me wanted to crack my knuckles, look menacingly at her, and say “Oh, you feel safe.” Fortunately, right brain convinced left brain to save it for the re-telling.

Once admitted, we stood around waiting for her OB (her actual one this time, not the on-call one) to finish office hours. One tech did take an ultrasound – a vaginal ultrasound five days after giving birth. It showed nothing, probably because the thing it was looking for was HANGING OUT OF HER. I could see it, one of the nurses could see it, but somehow the tech who stuck a wand up past it didn’t notice.

By the time the doctor showed up, we had been in the emergency room for five hours. She then, still without looking at the area in question, assumed it was the placenta and began making plans to admit my wife to the hospital for placenta accreta. Then she looked at it. Oops, turns out it’s not the placenta, it’s the fibroid, something we silly non-medical types had assumed a while ago. The doctor then decided she needed more time to figure out what she’s going to do, so she put the fibroid, which had been hanging between my wife’s thighs for a quarter of a day, back inside her. I wondered if this was the most sanitary thing to do, but again, figured I should just keep my stupid plebeian thoughts to myself.

Around midnight that night, they removed the fibroid without much problem. Bear in mind this was something we were told repeatedly, both during the pregnancy and the delivery, could not happen without so much blood loss as to potentially kill my wife. Everything we had been through that week was to keep that fibroid from coming out. And now it was out, as if nature and the human body knew better than medical professionals.

But we still weren’t done. She kept having fevers after coming home from the fibroid procedure, so she returned.  This was the only time out of the five post-partum trips to the hospital when we didn’t have to go through the emergency room. I had assumed the emergency room was for, I don’t know, emergencies.  You don’t call 911 because of a jaywalker, right? But the emergency room isn’t 911. Most of the doctors cannot admit people to the hospital. So they send you to the emergency room. And the person that’s there for a legitimate emergency, like a fibroid hanging from her hoo-ha, is just going to have to wait because Dr. Not-in-Network really wants a temperature check.

This trip, the OB decided to bring in an Infectious Disease (ID) doctor. Over the next five days, he put her on about fifty thousand different antibiotics. Thus began the hospital procedure we’ve come to know, and why I’m convinced the medical profession still doesn’t know shit. The phlebotomists come in to take your blood about 4:00 in the morning, the doctor comes in at 7:00, looks at the results, says “well that didn’t work,” changes one thing (Antibiotic #6 for Antibiotic #5), then waits twenty-one hours to see if that magically worked. If it didn’t, they change one thing and wait until the next day. Of course, they hadn’t diagnosed her with anything other than fevers. Nothing was in her bloodstream, but why should that stop them from randomly prescribing antibiotics? He’s an ID doctor, so he will use the ID treatment regardless of whether or not the patient has an ID. We don’t ask running backs to pass the football, do we?

After a few days of this, the OB went back into the uterus to make sure there was no lingering fibroid or placenta. Neither of them was there, but afterward my wife’s fever went down. While the doctor was checking around, she cleaned up the uterus with an antibiotic spray. She later explained that the uterus is, understandably, sealed off from the rest of the body. So unlike, say, the kidney or the liver, where bacteria or other contagions would enter the bloodstream and be seen in the daily blood draws, if they were in the uterus, they would stay there. This also means that no amount of antibiotic delivered through an IV would reach and cleanse the uterus. I guess the ID doctor didn’t know that. Or maybe he just thought there’d be no reason for a uterus to be infected just because it had a fibroid that had been hanging out in the open for six hours put back inside. He’s an infectious diseases dude. You wouldn’t expect a Senator from California to pay attention to what happens in Nevada, would you?

For the third time, she was released from the hospital and, this time, we actually felt like we were clear. Until she got a 104-degree fever accompanied by diarrhea and vomiting. This was new. But hey, at least we weren’t abusing the emergency room this time. And the good news didn’t stop there – this  was entirely unrelated to the pregnancy, the fibroid, and the uterus.  Woo-Hoo! Unfortunately,  it was C-Diff, which is potentially deadly. What is C-Diff? It’s when you overuse antibiotics, so you kill off all of the good bacteria in your system. Oops! Who could have guessed that randomly throwing medicine at an undiagnosed problem might have bad consequences? Well, you came in with a runny nose, so we amputated your foot. Hopefully you don’t mind.

Want to know what they use to treat a problem that was caused by overuse of antibiotics? If you answered more antibiotics, congratulations! You can be a 21st century doctor! If you answered whiskey, go back to 1860, you Neanderthal!

We earned almost a month of reprieve after the C-Diff joy. Since then, she’s been back twice. The first time was because her gall bladder was passing stones, which allegedly is common in new mothers. Something, something, when pregnant, the body does something, something, which causes the gall bladder to something, something stones. They needed to endoscope out the gallstones, then remove the gall bladder in a separate surgery.

But nobody would touch her because she was on blood thinners. Why was she on blood thinners? Oh, did I forget to mention she had a blood clot? She got it on the C-Diff trip when they put a picc line in, which is like a surge protector for multiple IV lines. She needed it because both arms were bruised from too many IV’s.

This was also where the proprietary bullshit between the different branches of medicine reared its ugly head again. The hematologist doesn’t want to take her off the blood thinner, the surgeon won’t touch her until the gallstones are already out, the internist won’t remove the gallstones until blah, blah, blah. And a new ID doctor’s wearing a trench coat in the corner, saying “Hey, I got some great antibiotics over here for ya.”

Meanwhile my wife is turning yellow enough to get a walk-on part in The Walking Dead because a gallstone is blocking her liver. And all anybody will do is wait until the next blood draw at 4:00 AM tomorrow

Somehow the magical Oracle brought the warring factions together to remove everything gall related, and nine days later she was back home, having already missed a quarter of her daughter’s life. But dammit, that jaundiced look didn’t go away. Why the heck isn’t the liver getting better now that the evil gall bladder that was bullying all the other poor organs was gone? It couldn’t be that they had just been guessing at why the liver was overproducing bilirubin like it was cornering the market on canary-colored crayons.

One more trip to the hospital for “observation.” Once again through the emergency room. Hey, she’s already missed Fourth of July, our anniversary, and our baby’s first day at daycare, what’s one more indefinite hospital visit?

As always, the true heroes of the medical profession, the nurses, provided an answer.  The off-hand remarks made by the people that actually spend their days in and out of the patient rooms are much more helpful and enlightening than the Almighty Edicts delivered from upon high by Hugh Laurie wannabes once a day.

“They’ve got you on Xarelto while you’re having liver problems?” one asked.

Why? Is that a bad thing? Yep, blood thinners can cause liver problems. Have I mentioned “oops” yet?  So the hematologist reluctantly takes her off of Xarelto and, magically, her liver gets better. So she is released with… Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?… Another blood thinner! This one, we promise, won’t affect the liver. But it did. And as a bonus, she also had to shoot this one directly into her stomach.  Fun stuff.

So she gave herself shots for two weeks and the yellow came back to her skin. No relation, whatsoever, the hematologist assured us. I’m sure a liver specialist would blame it on the nonexistent gall bladder. And the ID Doc would have some pure antibiotics straight off the boat from his guy in Thailand.

With family photos approaching, she tried something kookie-crazy and took herself off the shots for a few days. What do you know? Her skin color faded. The hematologist actually said there was no connection. Now, I might’ve hyperbolized a few things for storytelling purposes, but I guarantee you this is legit. When confronted with a clear pattern correlating blood thinner to skin color, she assured us that there was no causality whatsoever.

Uh huh, whatever you say. Just like your body can’t deliver a fibroid. And antibiotics cure everything. Thank God we’ve come so far in our medical knowledge.

So now my wife is just going to take some aspirin to keep the blood flowing, while hopefully giving the liver a chance to get better. If that works, she might be able to go back to normal. Maybe even knock back a little whiskey. I hear that cures everything.