Thursday, July 26, 2007

A stroke of Nalgenius

It seems trite to say that this is one of those "only in the Midwest" stories, but it does seem unlikely that this would happen in, for example, Newark. Or Long Beach. Bear with me.

It's a month ago. We're at Target, the one near Miller Park in West Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Of the three Milwaukee-area Targets we see fit to patronize, the West Milwaukee Target is the only one with a layout I can wrap my brain around. There's another Target, about four miles away whose layout is exactly the opposite of the one in West Milwaukee. This is a problem for me, because my wife is liable to send me out to Target to buy, say Sensodyne-brand toothpaste, because my autopilot will send me to the Sensodyne location imprinted in my brain, and I will return home with an acetylene torch, which might void the warranty on her electric toothbrush. So I go to the one in West Milwaukee.

None of this is especially relevant to the story that follows, but now you have some insight into my shopping psyche.

As I was saying, it's a month ago. We're at Target, the one near Miller Park in West Milwaukee. We're looking for something that comes in at a cross between a messenger bag, a backpack, and a purse, for Gretchen (to carry around her acetylene torch). Our three-year-old, apparently confident that she's mastered her tricycle, which she has owned for a month and can almost pedal up a 2% incline, decides to check out the bicycles in the next section over. "Checking out," in this case, means touching each one to see which is most likely to fall over on her so that she can injure herself, and we can sue Target for negligence and get an out-of-court settlement of 300,000 tubes of Sensodyne toothpaste. Somehow, Sylvi manages to escape the section with out breaking any bikes or bones. My wife survives another unsuccesful search for the perfect bag (enabling us to adopt bag shopping as a hobby for the indefinite future), and we go on with our day.

Halfway home, we realize Sylvi's water bottle is not in the car. Not, under ordinary circumstances, an especially big deal - only we're rapidly approaching nap time, which means that she's adopted the timbre of voice known as the International Symbol for Three-Year-Old Meltdown, namely a whine on par with a Boeing 717, or possibly a tornado siren. Plus, it's a real, live three-year-old-sized Nalgene bottle, which is de rigeur for hip three-year-olds at the zoo. So I employed the lose-lose option, which was to drop Gretchen and Sylvi off at home in a futile attempt to distract her from the trauma of Water Bottle Loss long enough to get her to nap, and I went back to Target in a futile attempt to locate the water bottle - an effort that involved an overly long conversation with the disinterested person manning the lost-and-found and a 25-minute wander through every aisle I remembered walking through earlier.

A month passes by. Sylvi has gotten over the trauma, but also has lost her status as Best-Appointed Toddler at the zoo. Still, she's hydrated, so it's all good. Gretchen has found a bag that can accommodate a driver's license, chapstick, a couple of diapers, and five years' worth of receipts, or the new Harry Potter book ("Harry Potter and the Sensodyne Brand Toothpaste") if you take everything else out of it. Now, we're at Target looking for a bag for me. My laptop, anyway.

Not only do we come up with a laptop case, but as we traverse the luggage aisle, Sylvi notes, casually - as though she had just been waiting for a trip back to the luggage aisle for the last month in order to point this out - "Oh, there's my water bottle."

Not only had the water bottle not been thrown out, taken by someone, or sent to lost-and-found, it hadn't been moved. It was still half-full of water.

And after we got home from Target today, Sylvi took a nap.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Spinning off again into Outer Blogospace

Not that our fourteen loyal readers were necessarily complaining about the littany of Crohn's-related posts, but on the off-chance any of you were getting tired of references to my surgical scar and my pants size, we've decided to add a new 19 Minutes spin-off to the blogosphere. There will, naturally, be some cross-posting, because a) I'm not that creative, and b) really, you can't read too many references to my scar.

But it seemed to make sense to put some of that material in a place where people with some interest in health-related material might find it. So Crohn's stuff moves here, and we now return to writing about infomercials, comically bad drivers, and belly button lint.

Speaking of which, there's much less room in my navel these days for lint, on account of my scar.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The weighty responsibilities of pants

One of the odd side effects of Crohn's disease is the vague sense of emasculation you get. If you're a guy, anyway. And not literally. But my crack medical team has me taking calcium supplements, which Walgreen's packages in a very manly pink-and-purple box. If the color scheme wasn't enough, they're called, helpfully, "Calcium for Women." It's cool, though. They taste pretty good. Better than the fish oil capsules, anyway.

My real preoccupation, though, is a strange level of concern with my pants size. Seriously. Compare the number of references to my pants in this feature before April (9) to references since the surgery (4). Okay, not a good example. But really, the fear of dropping a pant size or two is always out there, since it represents losing weight, which in turn represents my intestines, again, trying to kill me. A heavy thought to lay on Dockers, to be sure.

But pants have again been playing on my mind recently. I wore blue jeans today for the first time in more than three months. Not something that should be commemorated with a bank holiday, but it's also not something I ever expected I'd say in my life. Frankly, three hours without wearing jeans used to be a long time. One of the key reasons I've spent a career in public radio is the general acceptance of blue jeans as business attire.

But the abdominal surgery kept me from wearing a belt for a month, and I feel about as comfortable wearing jeans with no belt as I do wearing a monocle, or a New York Yankees cap. And the thing was, after a month, I decided I liked the three pairs of pants in the rotation, none of which required a belt. The beige convertible pants, the beige sort-of-but-not-really-khakis, and the olive linen pants eliminated all the excess angst of the dressing process (which, to be fair, was not much to begin with).

Two months in, I still hadn't worn a belt. But I started getting weary of finding new ways to wear a pedometer, a key card, and a cell phone with no belt, so I gave in. And finally, after three months of wearing the same three pairs of pants at work (with thanks to the patience of my co-workers), I added the jeans to the rotation this morning.

Maybe I'll wash the other three pairs now.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

And on Bastille Day, too

We're pretty sure this is a fever dream, but the "World Cup of American Football" appears to have been played over the weekend, resulting in a football headline of the variety that we're also pretty sure has never before been written:

Korea shocks France

Because you were wondering, we'll note that Korea's big victory was a 3-0 win earned with a field goal (by noted Korean kicker Choi Kyung Ho, no less) with 2:09 remaining in the game, played at Kawasaki Stadium in, um, Kawasaki? Kanagawa? Okay, here's a map:

It will surprise no one that the American team won the World Cup of American Football. It will, perhaps, surprise a few people to note that the previous two championships were won by Japan.

That's really all we have to say about the World Cup of American Football, except that the Swedish team has the following word prominently displayed on its website. We have no idea what it means, but it is worth reproducing:


Monday, July 09, 2007

Notes from the haystack

There are a lot of things that make Crohn's Disease not much fun. Right off the bat, there's the constant desire to spell it "Chron's." Then, there's the onion ring prohibition. And the constant uncertainty over pants size. Plus, you have your minor issues, like pain, fatigue, and digestive distress.

Mostly, though, it's the feeling that the medical world is constantly doing something to you. If they're not taking large amounts of intestine out of you, they're putting probes into you, each one in a place less pleasant than the last. (We're thinking of spinning off a book: "From Colonoscopy to Cystoscopy: 50 Internal Organs to See Before You Die.")

Not a few times during the past eight months, I've gone through a test and felt, with some relief, that they couldn't dream up anything worse... only to find out a day later that not only *could* they dream up something worse, but it's something that strains the boundaries of worse.

But since my surgery in April, the total number of items poking and prodding me has been kept, blissfully, to a minimum. The exception has been one little needle every month. One lonely cc of cyanacobalamin, a.k.a. Vitamin B12. B12 deficiency is a pretty common issue in Chron -- er, Crohn's, and I'd gotten used to getting the shot once a month. I'd also gotten used to my doctors and nurses pointing out that one of these days, I ought to learn to give myself the shots. I thought it was a nice sentiment, and one I looked forward to hearing every thirty days for the next, oh, ten or twenty years.

But at my appointment last month, Sarah, my nurse practitioner, sounded a little incredulous that I'd want to come in every month for the rest of my life, just to get jabbed with a 1 cc syringe. And so I thought, Hey, it couldn't be that painful to give myself a shot, right? I mean, I enjoy removing splinters with a sewing needle, and my favorite part of eating pizza is scalding the roof of my mouth. This is just like that, only more sanitary, right? Right? Millions of diabetics give themselves shots every day. Wilford Brimley gives himself shots. It couldn't be that rough.

So I got the prescription for the syringes. I got the prescription for the B12 (which, honest to God, showed up with a label saying it was for someone named "Myrtle"). I got a lesson from one of the nurses at the hospital, who sent me home with some syringes the size of javelins to practice. She suggested I practice on an orange, but I thought they looked like they'd go right through it, so I practiced on the tires of my neighbor's pickup. Mostly, I practiced getting nervous. And I got pretty good at that.

And so I stalled. I stalled long enough that I went from thinking I could use the B12 to really needing it. I stalled long enough that my mother-in-law, a nurse, came to visit, and I seriously considered just having her give me the damn shot. But she wasn't planning on visiting every month for the indefinite future, and so I settled for having her supervise.

I washed my hands. I cleaned the top of the vial. I cleaned off my skin. I drew 1 cc of cyanacobalamin into the syringe. It's just like burning the roof of my mouth with a pizza, right? Except that it's a very sharp object that I'm about to jab into my gut. Plus, no pepperoni.

The needle was about a half-inch long and it went into the wad of skin almost without effort. And after my hands stopped shaking, I actually pushed the plunger down and gave myself the B12. It was, in all, an enjoyable experience, the First Shot of the Rest of My Life. And I look forward to the energy it'll give me. I might need it, if my neighbor figures out what happened to his tires.