Tag Archives: health

Learning to walk again

So I have been walking about 25 kms a week the last two weeks.  I have learned a couple of things.

  • My House of Marley headphones rub on my face making a “swoosh swoosh” sound as I walk as the cord rubs across my beard.  Annoying so I am using a different pair.  It’s not like they are so great they are worth putting up with that noise.
  • It is quicker to walk through Nutana and go across Broadway Bridge and then through downtown and then Caswell Hill to get home than any other route.
  • It feels like it should be quicker to go to the University and then across the CP Rail Bridge but I am wrong.

Speaking of the CP Rail Bridge, I learned something while walking that route home.  I can’t go down stairs.  I kind of fall down stairs which was really concerning to me.

To skip back, on December 22nd, I had been consumed by a dangerously high fever for two days.  I was incredibly sick but I also wanted a cold drink so I got out of bed, walked down the stairs and passed out from the top.  I woke up in great pain at the bottom of the stairs with a couple of broken ribs and I realized that despite being declared infection free, the infection was running up my legs.  So to recap, I was laying at the bottom of my stairs, broken ribs, knowing that I was incredibly sick and still didn’t have a cold drink.  Ever since then I have been nervous about going down the stairs.

Since I have started walking long distances, I have learned that neither leg is working like they used to work.  One leg destroyed by infection.  The other leg destroyed by a large hole I accidently burnt in my ankle.  Great job.  Not only that but as I am walking they both respond differently from day to day which seems normal as they are getting into shape.

Yet going down stairs seems to be some sort of mystery and to be honest, it has been terrifying to me.  When I go down the stairs at the CP Rail Bridge at the weir, my heart rate goes up and it I find myself gripping the hand rail going down and instead of going down one step at a time, it’s kind of a controlled fall.

So on Sunday, Wendy and I went down for a walk along River Landing.  Part of it was me figuring out how to go down stairs again.

After shooting this, I found myself heading up and down the stairs.  As much as it freaked me out I made some progress.  Who would have thought when this started that two years later I would figuring out how to walk again.  Yesterday it actually felt like I had two legs again rather than just two things that hurt a lot but didn’t work well together.

The only other problem is that I have is stopping quickly.  It’s like my legs have bad brakes on them.  I am not sure why this is but it’s the next thing to figure out.   Years ago they did some tests on my reflexes on my feet and basically they no longer talk to my brain.  I am assuming that their lack of communication is what is causing me problems.

Other than that, it’s slow progress and feels pretty good.

My leg

I should have posted this sooner but I have been busy and tired.

The good news is that I am not going to die in the next couple of weeks and they didn’t find a fast acting tumor.  So sorry to disappoint those who were hoping for that outcome.  I appreciated the emails.

I did my tests at RUH, was pumped full of radioactive chemicals (sadly no super powers came from it) and was scanned, scanned in the exact same way, then I was scanned again.  Finally I was scanned the fourth time.  I am assuming they were looking for different things.

I did find some time to read my file and it was alarmingly full of errors.  It mentions two ulcers and there is only one.  It mentions my left leg and it is my right leg that the infection is part of.  It doesn’t surprise me.  There has been sloppy mistakes made constantly in how forms and things have been handled.

What’s worse is the amount of nurses and technicians who say, “It happens all of the time”.  That doesn’t make me feel comforted.

So basically after all of those tests (and about $50 in RUH parking fees – tell me again why RUH parkade is the MOST EXPENSIVE IN SASKATOON? It’s not like you have an option to go anywhere else), and a fine cup of Starbucks coffee, I am told that a part of my bone has died and I get to wait until the middle of September to the next step.  Yes I said a month.  That is healthcare in Saskatchewan for you.  You wait months to see a specialist, then you get the rushed tests, then you wait a month to see the results.

Of course no one is really dealing with the infection which beat it’s way past the antibiotic this week.  I am on a yet different one.  No expectation of making me better but I was burning up earlier today and partly from the fatigue, my breathing was really shallow.  Since the inflection is also in my skin and the bone, when it gets bad, it is really painful.  The ankle swells, is extremely painful to touch and the bone feels like it is going to burst.  If you have never felt like your ankle bone was about to burst, it’s painful.

The pain is kind of manageable but the fever makes it so I can’t sleep.  I find myself going downstairs to get some cold water, take a cold shower, drink more water, find another fan (as if that is going to help), go out for a walk, drink more water, take another cold shower…. it’s not exactly conducive to a good night’s sleep.  Then when that doesn’t work, I browse the web.  The markets in Asia aren’t the most exciting reading but you got to do what you got to do.

So right now for treatment, they are treating my vascular system in my legs which seems wrong to me since I don’t think I have a vascular problem.  The problem I have is that I have a massive amount of antibiotic resistant infection in my bone marrow and when the antibiotics stop and the legs swell up, everyone goes, “vascular problem”.  Yet when I am on antibiotics, the swelling goes away.

So after I lather on a “powerful steroid” leg to deal with the itchiness of the Coban wraps tomorrow. I realize that no one really seems to have a grasp at what is wrong with me despite me getting worse.  The weird thing is that for one of the very few times in my life, I have no idea what to do.

For someone who doesn’t trust others very well, this is a long way out of my comfort zone, what’s worse is that I fear that it is costing me my leg.

No wonder I don’t sleep well most nights.

Update: Progress!  I only have the Coban wrap on the leg that needs it (I am really happy with that).  Am working on seeing if I can get into the infectious disease specialist that everyone thinks I need to see.

Lack of sleep’s impact on a MLB season

This is fascinating.  A lack of sleep has a huge impact on plate discipline for ball players.

After finding a spike in swings outside the strike zone throughout the 2006 to 2011 seasons using FanGraphs’ O-Swing Percentage stat, Vanderbilt’s neurology and biostatistics departments replicated that research for the 2012 season. The study showed 24 of 30 MLB teams posting higher O-Swing rates in September than in April. Combining results for all 30 teams produced an average O-Swing rate of 31.4 percent in September versus 29.2 percent in April.

That plate-discipline erosion over the course of the season, the researchers say, stems from fatigue.

“Think about the tools required for a batter to swing at a strike versus a ball,” said Dr. Scott Kutscher, assistant professor of sleep and neurology at Vanderbilt. “It’s reaction time and fast judgment. Both of those have been shown to be very sensitive to fatigue. Baseball has a unique schedule, a long season where players are frequently traveling and playing nearly every day. It’s an ideal setup for chronic sleep deprivation.”

This is the part where old-school baseball men roll their eyes. Today’s players take charter planes on every road trip. The second they deplane, they’re whisked onto buses waiting on the tarmac to take them to their hotels. Those hotels are four- and often five-star palaces, where you can get any service imaginable. Want a bellhop to stand at your bedside and make ocean sounds with his mouth until you fall asleep? No problem.

Compare those travel arrangements to what ballplayers experienced back in the day. Pick up The Glory of Their Times by Lawrence Ritter and you’ll get not only one of the best baseball books ever written but also harrowing accounts of travel in the early 20th century, when players would sleep fitfully on noisy, all-night trains, arrive in the next city by morning, then start a doubleheader a few hours later. Hell, read Jonathan Abrams’s interviews with retired NBA legends on their travel nightmares in the ’50s and ’60s; baseball players had it no better, other than maybe being a few inches shorter and thus not quite having to eat their knees on five-hour flights.

No matter how exhausted you were after a long journey back then, no one would dare ask for a day off just for being tired. And while athletes, coaches and managers, and the overall culture have evolved some since then, most players still won’t dare ask for a night off on fatigue alone.

“I’m going to be honest, that’s tough,” said Nationals center fielder Denard Span. “Especially when you’re a certain age. You only have a certain amount of time in the big leagues. Maybe when you get older, when you’ve been around for 10-15 years, you’re in your upper 30s, maybe. But as a young guy, it’d be hard for me to go in there, volunteer and say, ‘I’m tired.’ I’ve had managers come up to me and say, ‘If you’re tired, let me know.’ But I’m not going for that one.”

Even with enlightened managers, the combination of wanting to play and fearing repercussions when they don’t play dissuades players from using the fatigue card. Like Span, Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis has never asked out of the lineup because he’s felt tired. As a catcher, Ellis knows he can’t and won’t be in the lineup all 162 games. But when Dodgers manager Don Mattingly tells him he’ll be sitting the next day, Ellis often gets upset anyway. Toiling in the minors until age 27 and not landing a starting job until 31 will do that.

“I’m always going to have that mentality as a player that this could all get taken away at any time,” Ellis said. Even sitting out 15 days on a recent DL stint made him antsy and anxious. “Just seeing other guys catch, other guys play, that’s something I should be doing. I want to be out there as much as I can, making up for lost time, for the later start that I got.”

That kind of attitude might seem honorable, but Kutscher says players really do need to get more rest, both for performance and health reasons. Kutscher cautions that even when players get an adequate amount of sleep in luxury digs, it might not be the kind of quality sleep they need to get sharp. Many players sleep fitfully or not at all on flights. The best-case scenario for a cross-country flight might be four hours of half-decent Z’s. Then you get to the hotel, maybe grab some breakfast, and take a nap for two or three hours more. That kind of interrupted sleep “kind of leaves you feeling off for the rest of the day,” said Ellis. “MLB always schedules an off day for us when we’re going to the East Coast. But even still, that second-day adjustment is so tough to do. So many guys will show up at the field and say, ‘I didn’t fall asleep until 5 a.m.'”

Though Kutscher’s study focused on hitters and their plate discipline, pitchers can get fatigued as the season wears on, too. We recently discussed relief pitchers’ need for adrenaline, and Troy Percival’s habit of pounding 10 cups of coffee and two tins of chewing tobacco per day just to stay ready to pitch the ninth back when he was an elite closer. Non-closers (and non-eighth-inning guys) can have it even tougher, needing to stay ready to pitch at any one of multiple points in the game, often warming up multiple times a night. If Percival had coffee and chaw, today’s relievers lean more toward energy drinks.

“You’re going to mix in Red Bulls with that natural adrenaline,” said Nationals reliever Drew Storen. “Then after the game you’re just crashing. I guarantee that affects your sleep, having to wind down quickly while digesting whatever you put into your body.”

To make a long story short

“There’s a good chance we’re overestimating the importance of preparation and underestimating the importance of rest,” he said. “The classical thinking is that repetition and practice, the more you do things, the better you’ll be. But we found the opposite. It stands to reason that the more players rest, the more time away from the field they get, and the better it might be for them.”

I would love to see these stats locally on the Yellow Jackets who would be riding the bus, playing, and then heading home.  I wonder what their plate discipline is like after a gruelling trip vs. a home stand.

Neuragen and Neuropathy

Every time I write about neuropathy and Neuragen here, I get a lot of emails about the substance and if it works.  Here is my attempt to explain it.

  • It costs around $45 from Shopper’s Drug Mart.  It isn’t covered by any drug plan but I find it to be worth it.  I keep several bottles around (cabin, two in the house, and one in my car) and they last around a year.
  • You don’t drink it, you just put a drop or two on the nerve that is in pain, rub it around and it works in about 5 seconds.  You seriously go from I’M IN EXCRUCIATING PAIN AND I WANT TO DIE to, I feel like getting a cookie in about 5 seconds.
  • It smells medicinal.  My great aunt lived in a senior’s home in Regina and the entire place smelled like ointment.  I’d fit right in.  It’s not a gross smell but distinctive.
  • You can get it in a spray bottle but I don’t find it works as a spray.  Several others have told me the same thing as well.  The concentrated drops work way better.
  • It isn’t addictive.
  • You can clean it off once you have applied it.  It works as soon as it has been absorbed.
  • Neuragen don’t work with all people.  Lot’s of people have gotten angry at me when it doesn’t work but often they want it to do something for a pain that it isn’t designed for. 

I also use Alpha Lipolic Acid.

I take the pills every morning and night.  They too can be bought at a grocery store (although not the Safeway closest to my house) and are pretty cheap.  They are an anti-toxicant and work to control neuropathic pain.  Outside of the fact that they are kind of gross when caught in the throat, they work well.  

While getting my eyes checked this summer, my eye doctor and I started talking diabetes and he got me on to cinnamon pills which regulate blood glucose levels.  Sadly cinnamon buns don’t work the same way.  The secret to taking these pills is to tell yourself that it is a cinnamon bun and you are living the high life.

I get asked where I hear about these things but most pharmacies have free magazines on diabetes which is a good way to keep up to date on things to ask your doctor about.  He or she has hundreds of patients while I am responsible for my health.  I don’t want to have to rely on him or her to take care of me.  Some ideas they have encouraged, other ideas they have questioned but I am surprised at how many diabetics I know who just suffer from the diabetes without trying anything else.

The Wound Inside

Lukas makes his rounds as a caseworker, delivering meds, gifts and good cheer to participants while exposing the dark history behind the addiction issues that plague Winnipeg’s Aboriginal homeless population. This short film is a chapter from Here At Home, a web documentary about mental health and homelessness that takes us inside the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s At Home pilot project.

The Rupture

Some of you knew that Wendy has been quite sick with a violent cough.  She got it from Oliver who coughed so hard he would throw up and get bloody noses from his coughing fits.  While I escaped it, Wendy got the brunt of it and and on Friday night around 3:00 a.m. I went downstairs to see if she was okay.  Wendy was both coughing and throwing up.  She was okay and we were sitting downstairs when she went to head back upstairs and go to bed.  I was about to join her when I said that I wasn’t feeling okay and would be up in a minute.  I fell asleep on the sofa only to awake with an amazing amount of pressure in my ear.  The pillow I had grabbed was covered with blood and it was coming from my ear.

I went to the emergency clinic and the doctor prescribed me a lot of penicillin and some anti-biotic ear drops as well.  Over three days it helped but the reality was that the sudden ear infection had ruptured my ear drum and I couldn’t hear out of it at all.  All I hear is a kind of sound you hear when your ears are plugged on a flight and very little else.  Apparently it’s too soon to tell if my hearing is gone or if it will return over a couple of months.   The good news is that the fluid, mucus, and blood that were literally flowing out of my left ear stopped and the infection is done.  I still have about 4 days left of antibiotics that make me sick whenever I take them but believe me I’ll finish them off, I don’t want a return of this thing.

The pain of having your ear drum ruptured is not pleasant.  It hurts a lot, causes additional headaches and has moved from from Advil to Tylenol with codeine.  I also am using ear drops which have a topical pain killer and as I learned today, while I look like a dork, I am also keeping a cotton ball in my left ear.  It helps filter out the static a bit and let’s me hear more clearly.  Losing your hearing in an ear is disorientating (sounds that are coming from the left are only being heard from my right ear which makes me think the sound came from the right) and it’s hard to be out and about in a place like a mall or as I found out last night at Alexander’s, I just can’t pick out the signal versus the noise.

A lot of people have asked me if I am freaked out if the hearing loss is permanent and I  really am not.  It’s not my preferred choice but people do cope with this and do live regular lives. Is it my preferred outcome?  Obviously not but it’s an outcome that people live with.   I expect my hearing to make a slow return over the next couple of weeks but until then I will appreciate the (perceived) quiet around me.  That and maybe develop an addiction to codeine, we’ll see how it goes.

What it takes to be an NFL player

Your body has to take a lot of punishment

The players stick to typical fitness rules: get plenty of rest and eat healthy foods. When an NFL player is watching what he eats, staying disciplined can mean the difference between wins and losses.

"Diet is A-No. 1," said James, who makes sure he has a "rainbow" of foods each meal. "A lot of the guys, we make sure we are getting colorful foods on our plates. If you aren’t eating right, your work won’t materialize into much of anything. You also have to work on hydration, especially when it’s as hot as it is this year."

This off-season has been slightly different because of the NFL lockout, which lasted from March 11 to July 25 (including a one-week extension at the beginning).

Typically, NFL players will work on their own at their team’s facility and possibly visit professionals at a center such as the Michael Johnson Performance Center for periods of around six to 12 weeks for skill-specific training.

This year more than 50 players, including several Cowboys, worked out with Walker this summer, some for up to 22 weeks.

"To really get ready, you have to actually hit people. That only starts in training camp," said Walker, who was a Cowboys strength and conditioning assistant coach for three seasons.

The Ethics of Western Pharmaceutical Companies

By Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele in Vanity Fair

Once upon a time, the drugs Americans took to treat chronic diseases, clear up infections, improve their state of mind, and enhance their sexual vitality were tested primarily either in the United States (the vast majority of cases) or in Europe. No longer. As recently as 1990, according to the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services, a mere 271 trials were being conducted in foreign countries of drugs intended for American use. By 2008, the number had risen to 6,485—an increase of more than 2,000 percent. A database being compiled by the National Institutes of Health has identified 58,788 such trials in 173 countries outside the United States since 2000. In 2008 alone, according to the inspector general’s report, 80 percent of the applications submitted to the F.D.A. for new drugs contained data from foreign clinical trials. Increasingly, companies are doing 100 percent of their testing offshore. The inspector general found that the 20 largest U.S.-based pharmaceutical companies now conducted “one-third of their clinical trials exclusively at foreign sites.” All of this is taking place when more drugs than ever—some 2,900 different drugs for some 4,600 different conditions—are undergoing clinical testing and vying to come to market.

It’s not always going that well

If the globalization of clinical trials for adult medications has drawn little attention, foreign trials for children’s drugs have attracted even less. The Argentinean province of Santiago del Estero, with a population of nearly a million, is one of the country’s poorest. In 2008 seven babies participating in drug testing in the province suffered what the U.S. clinical-trials community refers to as “an adverse event”: they died. The deaths occurred as the children took part in a medical trial to test the safety of a new vaccine, Synflorix, to prevent pneumonia, ear infections, and other pneumococcal diseases. Developed by GlaxoSmithKline, the world’s fourth-largest pharmaceutical company in terms of global prescription-drug sales, the new vaccine was intended to compete against an existing vaccine. In all, at least 14 infants enrolled in clinical trials for the drug died during the testing. Their parents, some illiterate, had their children signed up without understanding that they were taking part in an experiment. Local doctors who persuaded parents to enroll their babies in the trial reportedly received $350 per child. The two lead investigators contracted by Glaxo were fined by the Argentinean government. So was Glaxo, though the company maintained that the mortality rate of the children “did not exceed the rate in the regions and countries participating in the study.” No independent group conducted an investigation or performed autopsies. As it happens, the brother of the lead investigator in Santiago del Estero was the Argentinean provincial health minister.

In New Delhi, 49 babies died at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences while taking part in clinical trials over a 30-month period. They were given a variety of new drugs to treat everything from high blood pressure to chronic focal encephalitis, a brain inflammation that causes epileptic seizures and other neurological problems. The blood-pressure drugs had never before been given to anyone under 18. The editor of an Indian medical journal said it was obvious that the trials were intended to extend patent life in Western countries “with no consequence or benefit for India, using Indian children as guinea pigs.” In all, 4,142 children were enrolled in the studies, two-thirds of them less than one year old.

In eastern Europe

In 2007, residents of a homeless shelter in Grudziadz, Poland, received as little as $2 to take part in a flu-vaccine experiment. The subjects thought they were getting a regular flu shot. They were not. At least 20 of them died.

How does this happen?

Overall, deaths from F.D.A.-approved prescription drugs dwarf the number of people who die from street drugs such as cocaine and heroin. They dwarf the number who die every year in automobile accidents. So far, these deaths have triggered no medical crusades, no tough new regulations. After a dozen or so deaths linked to runaway Toyotas, Japanese executives were summoned to appear before lawmakers in Washington and were subjected to an onslaught of humiliating publicity. When the pharmaceutical industry meets with lawmakers, it is mainly to provide campaign contributions.

Degeneration of the Central Nervous System

This is from the New York Times

Two months ago, Boston University researchers found that some deceased athletes who had been found to have A.L.S. in fact had a different disease that, the doctors said, caused similar degeneration of the central nervous system. That discovery, bolstered by data that suggested that N.F.L. players had been found to have A.L.S. at rates about eight times higher than normal, led the researchers to link the players’ condition with athletic brain trauma.

The N.F.L. and the players union said in a release that players with A.L.S., similar to those with dementia, do not “need to demonstrate that the condition was caused by their participation in the NFL.”

Asked whether the program implies a connection between football and the conditions, the league spokesman Greg Aiello said in an e-mail: “It does not address the issue.”

You have 300 pound athletes who can run a 40 yard dash in under 5 seconds colliding in a very violent matter.  While there has always been speed demons (I was stunned when I heard that Deion Sanders ran a 40 in 4.1 seconds and Chris Johnson has had runs this season that have been 20% faster than other running backs covering the same ground), there are more big fast guys then ever before.  Look at the Pittsburgh Steelers o-line under Chuck Noll, they were all around 260 pounds.  Now there are linemen who are 100 pounds heavier than they are.  Even the “Fridge” is no longer considered to be that big of a lineman.  A couple miles and more weight added to the closing speed of any collision does a lot of damage and I think that is what we are seeing happen in the NFL.  Players are bigger, stronger and while equipment is better (especially helmets), it is also lighter.

I am not sure what you do about it other than widening the field (that won’t happen).  While the league is wise to crack down on helmet to helmet hits, how many concussions have we seen that came from hitting the turf really hard or just look at Mike Webster and see what can happen to those guys in the trenches.

Lose It!

Lose It! My brother Lee recommended Lose It! to me.  It’s an iPod Touch/iPhone app that makes it easy to track your calories and then stay within your calorie needs so you can lose weight.  I have been using it for a couple of days and I really like it.  I am on pace to lose 2 pounds a week.  The thing that works for me is that I find that I don’t snack because I don’t have my iPod Touch with me which is stupid but it works.  Check out Jordon Cooper Outfitters for a more thorough review.