Sunday, April 26, 2015

Dealing With a Disaster

For the past few days we folk in Nibley, Utah have been dealing with a minor disaster. I say minor, because homes are still standing, and there were no great cataclysmic upheavals, no significant destruction of physical property and (to my knowledge) no loss of life.

Our water supply became contaminated with diesel fuel.For a couple days were were on a "Do not use" order, now we are down to just "Do not drink". After first notification, the local stores did well in water sales. I admit I was in the line grabbing a couple cases of bottled water (all the larger containers were sold out. It is noteworthy that I did not see any fighting over water, and sale prices were left in place).

Now, as I said, this was really a minor disaster. No fires, no tumbled buildings, no rising death toll. Mostly a considerable inconvenience - not being able to run the dishwasher, or washing machine, or take a shower, Rationing the water for flushing toilets. Taking sponge baths... camping in essence.

But in spite of not being a major disaster, the valley response was impressive.  Individual homes in neighboring cities have opened there homes, offering Nibley residents a place to shower, do laundry, or fill water buckets. The Logan recreational center offered their shower facilities for free. At least one local hotel offered a deep discount to Nibley residents. I recently learned there were some businesses which for the past couple days have kept coolers stocked with sodas and water, which they have offered to Nibley residents for free.

For our church meeting today, a young man (16'ish years old) took the initiative to make sure we had bottled water available in our meeting houses for our services.

It is encouraging - inspiring to see so many people respond so quickly and voluntarily to see to  the needs and basic comfort of others.

Way to go Cache Valley!

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Secret I Discovered in "Meet the Mormons"

It took three viewings before I saw it.

I went and saw "Meet the Mormons" in the Theater with my Kids. I enjoyed it... mostly. I mean it is a great story, six great stories actually, of six amazing people who have done and who are doing great things in the world. As documentaries go, it was well done, well filmed, good flow, good music. fin, light, inspiring.... What's not to like?

Well, there was this part of me that was watching all these amazing people and looking at my own life, thinking, "what a loser. You haven't done anything like that. Your just one more average nobody, living a d+/c- life, earning a paycheck, breathing air, and not really making a difference.

Still, I enjoyed it, so, when it went on sale, I bought it.

On my second pass through, I think I managed to watch it the way the filmmakers intended it to be watched. Maybe I was able to set aside my Social issues, and just watch and appreciate the six  people they highlighted. Perhaps, I realized that what I was seeing was the bits that were carefully picked to tell the story, that these people weren't perfect in real life, that what the producers were trying to show was the ideal, something to work for.

Whatever the reason, I was able to just watch and celebrate the accomplishments of the individuals, and feel inspired to try a little harder.

The next day I watched it again, and that is when it happened. I noticed something I had missed the first two times. I noticed all the other people. I mean really noticed them. The various members of  Bishop Sullivan's congregation, his wife and his sister. Ken's family and colleagues, Bishnu's father and his daughter. I was truly struck by the over-arching thread of love, respect, kindness, friendship and service. Each individual was extraordinary to me. Can you imagine what this world would be if we all treated each other the way these people did?! Glorious Indeed!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

A New Insight Into Addiction

First, a little back story:

About a year ago, The change of Companies brought a change of insurance providers and plans, and a consequent change in handling of prescriptions (actually I found myself questioning the legality of this from an anti-monopoly perspective...). The new insurance provider doesn't allow 90 day prescriptions from a local pharmacy, only through CVS mail order. a 90 day is the same price as a 60 days prescription. So you are essentially forced to use the CVS pharmacy. Additionally the new insurance doesn't cover Pentasa, which I was taking for Crohn's.

I was thus moved to Balsalazide. And I have been going downhill ever since. It started with Reflux problems, which I suspect were triggered by the Balsalazide, but so far the Dr. aren't interested in that theory.

I was put on a a few different proton pump inhibitors to deal with the reflux, but long term use of them seems to trigger Join and muscle pain. (Going on and off the meds a few times on my own, I have established at least a correlation to support these therories of mine).

An NSAID was added to the regimen, after which things have taken a serious turn for the worse. The past couple weeks have been agony.

The primary, root symptom is a sort of spasming in my upper abdomen, right around the solar plexus. This have been fairly constant, and ranges from moderately uncomfortable to excruciatingly painful. Presumably as a result of this, Muscles elsewhere in my body tense up as a sympathetic response, leading to pain through my back, and radiating into my chest and lower abdomen.

Curiously there appears to be a certain weekly cyclic nature to it, Tuesday it is quite mild, By Wednesday evening it begins to increase in intensity. The increase in discomfort/pain continues through the remainder of the week, Peaking somewhere late Saturday or early Sunday. Then late Sunday or really Monday the intensity declines somewhat. I am very curious as to what is driving that.

Anyway, two weeks ago I finally went to insta-care who referred me to the ER (concerns of pancreatitis among other things). They weren't able to give me a diagnosis (not uncommon for abdominal issues. But they were really great!). They threw the whole pharmacy at me to try and alleviate my symptoms, mostly stuff focused around indigestion and ulcers. None of it seems to be helping my symptoms, but  it has added nausea, loss of taste, loss of appetite and fatigue, dizziness and exhaustion to my list of symptoms.

They referred me to a Gastroenterologist, who has started down his list of procedures. Of course those all have to be scheduled, so It was a couple days before the Hida scan, and a week after that to squeeze in the Endoscopy (That is this coming Thursday, and I suspect it was only that soon because the GI told his nurse to schedule it for is lunch break). In the meantime, the pain and discomfort remain.

Last night I hit a new peak (Though the way I am feeling at this moment, I stand a fair chance at beating it this evening). The whole of my abdomen was a mass of burning, swelling and cramping sensations, and the massive piles of drugs were doing nothing but adding nausea to the mix. The Er Dr. prescribed a Narcotic Pain-killer, just in case. I had been trying to avoid using them.
1. Their are only a very few of them, and I want them to be around for the really bad days.
2. I generally try to limit pain killer use, as they can mask symptoms.
3. I have been well indoctrinated on the dangers of Addiction.

This however seemed to meet the criteria of a "Really Bad Day". The instructions were to take one or two pills every 4 hours as needed. I took one, and waited. Nothing.

I took a second one and waited. Nothing.

Twenty minute later, and I REALLY wanted to try a third, or a fourth. I mean REALLY. I stood in the bathroom, holding the pill bottle reading the label over and over, wondering how much fudge room there might be in the dosage restriction.

That is not typical for me. Ask my wife, she has on more than one occasion had to practically cajole me into taking a Tylenol.

But that much pain for that long... It wore me down. I was desperate for a break, just a few minutes of relief even.

This morning, I think I gained a new insight into narcotic and alcohol addiction. Not necessarily every case; we know genetics plays a role in addiction, but how many of these cases of addiction are cases of people in pain, desperately self-medicating in an attempt to just get a break?

An interesting thing about pain; it is - in a way - all in your head. You feel pain because nerves in your body respond to certain stimuli, and send an impulse to your brain.Your brain interprets it and tells you what you are feeling: warm, hot, cool, cold, pressure, pain... That means, everyone's interpretation of pain can be different (extremely so in some cases, such as Ashlyn Blocker's. Can you imagine going crying to her about a second degree burn you got from touching a hot stove and being told "Oh suck it up you big baby"?). One person's paper cut could very well be another's severed limb.

And can emotional pain be just as... painful... for some? How much of addiction is an attempt to deal with chronic pain that isn't recognized, or properly managed?

How can we measure an individuals level of pain, relative to their pain threshold, relative some relate-able standard?

When we talk about solving the growing problems of addiction, of the war on drugs, of dealing with alcoholism, is this another case of hacking at the limbs, rather than the root cause? Would we be better served if that energy was instead directed at a "War on Pain"?