Friday, April 27, 2007

In a Perfect World

"Experience is just another word we give for our mistakes" -Oscar Wilde

In a perfect world
there would be no
In a perfect world
there would be
to work on.
No unsculped rocks
or uncut grass.
No skin cancer
or traffic jams.
Priests would have already said
all of their sermons.
Or at least we would already
know better.
No screaming children.
Our meals would be pre-portioned.
You would always arrive on time.
There would be no need for militaries.
Everything would be
disgustingly manicured.
There wouldn't be the
of wondering
what mistake you might make next.


Friday, April 20, 2007

The Forbidden Itch OR Look, but Don't Scratch!

The spring is here, everyone’s out in the park or jogging, playing with their dogs, throwing Frisbees, finishing exams, no reason not to suck up the sun, sit back, relax and smile…Unless, of course, if you’re like me and are miserably itchy with hives. I LOVE spring! It’s usually a time when I am feeling like a million bucks, however, this year, completely spontaneously, I’ve become terribly allergic to it. My body is covered in raised red welts which I want to scratch and scratch and scratch…yet that scratching will only make it worse. It is the forbidden itch.

I had no idea what it was at first. It started as a clump on my neck. I speculated that it might have been a spider that crept up on me, vampire-like in the night, that bit me several times. That would have been tolerable but instead my anatomy started being increasingly populated by these little pocks, not just on my neck but everywhere! So I sought some professional medical help.

When I went to the doctor, as is typical, I waited in the room after having already waited lots in the waiting room (you always find out every room is a waiting room). The nurse called my name took me in and I was all excited for her to diagnose me right then and there but no, she was only to be as a hostess, someone who merely ushers you in, not who serves your meal. I’d have to wait to see Her Doktor. He took one look at me and all he said is “you’re having an allergic reaction.” I wanted to be sure he had it right. How could he be so sure so fast? I was expecting him to do some blood tests or maybe pour chemicals and put litmus paper on my skin to see what colour it turned. But the doctor merely looked at me and said “you’re having an allergic reaction”. No further details. "Are you sure it's not scabies?" "No" he confirmed. "Well, that's good," I thought. I've had scabies before and those are no fun either. At least with hives you don't have to cake your entire body for an entire day and wash all your sheets and sit around feeling violated by a parasite.

Sidenote: I once went to a camp where there was a scabies outbreak and almost everyone got it. I now laugh about it but I didn't then.

So I took the piece of paper that he scribbled something illegible on. It had percentage symbols and fractions on it and I just hoped that the pharmacist was going to be able to read it because I simply wanted a cure.

At the Pharmacy I passed the sheet to a Pharmacist named Sultan and had him try to decipher the goobledegook which surprisingly he had no problem with. “This will take me about an hour to prepare. I have to mix several things.” He said it so matter-of-fact, I couldn’t think of a question to ask. “Ok” I said. “I will come back in an hour.”

When I got back the woman rang up my bill. (Wow, prescriptions are quite expensive aren’t they!? especially if you don’t have a medical plan!!)…She said “How are you today?” I said “Oh, itchy but otherwise great.” “Yes. My dear! It looks like you’re breaking out in hives! My grand daughter has gotten them before. She gets them pretty nasty.” I then quickly summarized …well I thought it was this and then I thought it was that my whole mystery adventure into the world of irritating allergic rash reactions and we both speculated where it came from. “You know, if you just started taking care of a cat…I know my grand daughter is allergic to cats and that’s what she figures it is for her. Maybe it’s that.” Hmmm, I thought. I DID just start taking care of that cat one day prior to the first flair up. Concidence? I think not.

I then when home and Googled “Hives”. Of course I began to get all these links to the rock band “The Hives”. I skipped past those and went to the ones that had things like “get relief from your hives” kind of ones. This is where I found out that some kinds of hives, specifically Angioedema, can be pretty serious, causing the internal organs, such as the throat, to swell to the point of asphyxiating its victim. It's called "anaphylactic shock". Luckily, I don’t have that kind of hives and will not require being rushed to Emergency anytime soon. I was reading the common symptoms: new medications, diet, pollen, dust, etc. when I noticed amongst them “cat dander”. I had to look up dander but I instantly identified the word “cat.”

Maybe it’s the cat. Maybe it’s the spring pollen in the air. Maybe it’s all those hormones from teenagers making out after school, because now it’s warm enough outside to do it in the woods. But unless it gets worse I won’t bother going to an allergist to find out. I’ll just take my meds and hope for the best, sporting my loose clothing and prescription skin paste.

I Googled “hives” for “Images” and got this picture which is a good resemblance to the texture and colour of my own hands, arms and neck right now. It’s not quite as bad but still wickedly beastly nonetheless. I don’t like them.

Now I’m going to take a cold shower and apply ECTOSONE 0/1%CR+1/4% MENTHOL ¼CAMPHOR.

Anyway, hope all of YOU had an excellent day!

Friday, April 13, 2007

5 Things to do in Las Vegas

Elvis is leaving the building!! I'm going to Las Vegas baby! Wait. No, I'm not...but I know someone who is!!

I am vicariously excited.

In a few minutes I'm driving him to the airport so he can take off on what's bound to be a sense-stimulating vacation full of lights, casinos, artificial environments and life at large. I've heard of an indoor reproduction of Venice and many other sights to see. As a swap for getting him to the runway and taking care of his little monster (a cat) and a couple of fish, he's lending me his car so that I can visit nice people in Toronto. In poker terms, I'd say this is a good deal.

I offered to find out some last minute tips. Since I can't goto Vegas myself, I compiled a small list of things that I would do so that he can do them for me.

These include:

1. Goto (oh no, wait, don’t) the lobby of the Mirage Hotel, located in the centre of the Strip. There are palm trees, exotic birds, waterfalls etc. It’s an indoor rainforest!! (If only it were open to Mirage guests and others alike).

2. Eat at Emerils in the French quarter. It serves Creole food ex. spicey lobster cheesecake, warm spinach salad, and potatoe crushed farm raised bass. After dinner goto Café Coyote for after dinner coffee and dessert.

3. Goto the Stratosphere Tower, the highest US observatory where you’ll be able to see the whole city, try a reverse bunjee jump to shoot you 160 feet into the air at 45mph. If you survive that ride on their roller coaster.

4. See the Strip, especially between Sahara and Tropicana Avenues. The Mirage has a volcano that erupts every 15 minutes and Treasure Island has a pirate fight starting every 40 minutes after 4pm. (It’s best to walk the strip at night under stars).

5. Shows: a big highlight of Las Vegas is the flamboyant cabaret shows and dances, one of the most widely renouned being the Las Vegas Show Girls. There is also the Blue Man Group to be seen at Luxor and countless other shows.

Monday, April 09, 2007

At the Heart of the Easter Holiday

With this past Easter weekend’s excessive egg-cracking and over-eating –a time when I gather with other members of my extended family (most of which are nurses or in the health profession) for a big family dinner of ham, scallop potatoes, Easter cheese, maple syrup, coffee, fruit, wine, doughnuts, crackers, dips, mustards, custards, pickles and olives, it got me thinking back about my recent adventure to Canadian Blood Services to donate blood when I discovered, to my surprise, that I had over-average blood pressure.

“Nearly 1 in 3 American adults has high blood pressure. Once high blood pressure develops, it usually lasts a lifetime." [1] Click here for link

Of course the indicators are no news to me. Maybe I was just nervous and I don’t really have high blood pressure (blood pressure naturally fluctuates). Maybe I’m just a hypochondriac. But I KNOW I’ve gotten a bit chunkier as of late, I’ve just recently quit smoking after TEN YEARS OF FEEDING MYSELF POISONS, and, well, I like to have a drink here or there, so the correlations are there, whether or not they’re a cause for poor health. It’s better to be safe than sorry. And if there’s an elephant in the room, I’m not going to ignore it.

“High” blood pressure is characterized by higher than 140/90 mmHg, which is your systolic (sis-STOL-ic) over your diastolic (di-as-STOL-ic) pressure. The systolic pressure is what I like to think of as the “Pa!” and the diastolic pressure as the “um” as if the heart is playing a backwards polka beat. The systolic is the pumping out of the blood and the diastolic pressure is the short rest between beats when the blood is being drawn back into the heart. Funny to think: in every heartbeat, there are, essentially, two. “Normal” blood pressure is characterized as between 120/80 when you are sitting around playing Xbox or listening to the BBC and about 140/90 when you’re running to catch a bus because you’re late for work. This information has implications to me.

Short story: I began to be concerned about my health. And considering the spring is coming and it is high time I made some lifestyle changes, I researched about my topic of fear, (aka the fear of heart attack, aneurysm, kidney failure, stroke, amputation or all of the above simultaneously) to overcome that too, with a little help from ‘the net.’

I browsed the internet for some comprehensive tips on how to lower my blood pressure, in order to improve my overall health, and I came across this site, full of good facts, fun quizzes and important tips about blood pressure:

Pitifully, I got a true/false answer wrong on the ‘limit your alcohol intake’ quiz, even after I had just read the section, answering: ‘true’ before properly reading the question, and omitting the “don’t” in:

“People with high blood pressure don't have to limit the amount of alcoholic beverages they drink.”

But after a second try I got it right, and I went on to ace the quiz! So I was no longer afraid of being tested for my knowledge of high blood pressure prevention OR treatment thereof.

So, considering it IS a serious issue, it’s your health!! and you probably don’t want to get high blood pressure for the rest of your life, go take a gander over at the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute [2] and find out whether there are any risks that you could avoid by applying some healthy lifestyle choices to elongate YOUR existence. Click here for link

UPDATE: It's not true that if you have high blood pressure now, you're stuck with it for the rest of your life. I went into Shopper's Drugmart where they have a self-initiated blood pressure test and lo and behold, I didn't have high pressure after all. My reading was 134/82 which is normal. The Pharmacist was very nice and impressed my resting pulse was a relaxed 60. In other words, I am basically a human clock. She told me "you can always lower your blood pressure" and encouraged me by saying it would continue to go down the longer I refrained from smoking, the healthier I ate and the more exercise I got.


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