Personal Health Update

I wasn’t exactly handed a winning ticket at the Genetic Lottery. As a kid, it would have taken less time to list the parts that did work as they should have. But things got under control and I am generally fine these days1.

However, God personally hates me and wants to make sure I know it. Which is why I belong to the statistically improbable demographic of young people with recurring kidney stone problems despite relatively healthy dietary habits2.

On a nearly regular basis, about once every two years, I get to enjoy the pain of childbirth, minus naming process and postpartum hormones rush.

On the plus side, with the years, the routine has started to take the edge off (or I am developing a much higher tolerance to pain): when a stone episode strikes, nowadays, I just casually recoil in a fetal position for a couple hours at a time while waiting for it to pass after a week or so; years ago: I would longingly stare at a kitchen knife while considering my options for self-surgery on the spot.

The other good thing is that I have learned to recognise early symptoms (as well as the time they are likely to occur: mine always happen in Winter, for no reason any specialist has ever been able to explain satisfyingly), which helps preventing me from making bad decisions… such as embarking on a 15 hour trip home to San Francisco from Paris via London (aka: the Story of my First Stone). Testament to the good old pre-911 days: when some security guy at Heathrow noticed the sweaty, grimacing guy waiting for his plane, went and asked “Sir, I must ask you: have you been consuming any drugs?” and got a near-hysterical answer of “No, but if you have any, I’ll take them!” through gritted teeth… he just walked away as he came.

These days, once the chest pain shows up, I would know better than trying to lob it with, for sole comfort, 2 aspirins and a cup of boiling hot tea purchased on the Eurostar.

Three days into the current episode, I finally went for a consultation at my nearby hospital: a CT scan confirmed the obvious and I was sent on my way with the usual advices and a couple prescription drugs.

Incidentally: I paid ¥5,000 (less than $50) for a full consultation and a CT scan, both of which took a grand total of 40 minutes, from the moment I stepped into my neighbourhood clinic. The actual cost, pre-universal-coverage, was ¥19,000, or about $200 (for that money, a US CT technician won’t even spit on you): dear US readers, aren’t you glad you live in a country gloriously free of such pesky Universal Healthcare and reasonable health costs.

Anyway, all that to say that I am slightly incapacitated at the moment, and lagging on communication (although oddly productive on whatever I manage to put my mind to, in between two bouts of holding my abdomen, wondering if downing a bottle of Draino might help). It will get better and I’ll catch up on email and everything, soon (i.e. anywhere from next week to next year).

That’s it for the immediate personal health update. Everybody with a normally working pair of kidneys and zero interest in the practice of hobbyist medicine at home can (and should) stop reading right now. Trust me, there’s nothing interesting under the fold.

  1. beside that violent twitching on the left side of my face and the regular furball coughing, that is []
  2. people in their twenties who barely drink a can of coke a month aren’t supposed to get kidney stones, let alone chronic ones []

When leaving the residence, this morning, I found a note in my mailbox.

Under a delightful MS-Word Clipart-esque depiction of what your mum’s 60’s medicine cabinet might have looked like, sat an ominous “Urgent Warning” about the evils of (illegal) drugs, in big bold red letters. Promising resident researchers somewhat decreased health and much decreased freedom of movement, should they choose to ignore said warning during their stay in Japan.

The thoughts going through my head were, in that order:

  1. “What’s so ‘urgent’ about that warning? drugs are bad? Quick, somebody gets the message to Syd Barrett and Janis Joplin before it’s too late.”
  2. “You mean there are drugs within a 300 mile radius from here?”
  3. “Wait, what is this note doing in my mailbox. OH MY GOD THEY ARE ONTO ME!!!”
  4. “No, seriously, where are the drugs? And how come nobody’s told me anything?”

I am back.

Or more exactly: I am back closer to an internet connection. Still somewhere down south, albeit in a more family-oriented settings.

These five days in the boondocks were absolute paradise and helped reminding me that, was the choice to come down between: big city and the internets on one side, friends, sun, fresh veggies, cheap wine and homegrown on the other, I’d easily slide toward the latter as a permanent way of life.

During my blissful stay in the heart of French Aveyronais region, I:

  • ate lots of delicious homemade food including chlada felfel, aligot, moroccan brownies and much more.
  • spent entire afternoons on a sun-drenched deck reading, chatting, smoking and overall doing absolutely nothing requiring electricity or a phone line whatsoever.
  • stunk to high-heavens of lemongrass essence the entire time, but didn’t get bitten by mosquitoes once.
  • spent hours excitedly exchanging musical tips and hundreds of bad-ass 70’s funk tracks
  • had to climb up a ladder to get to my bed (when I didn’t opt to stay in a hammock outside).
  • walked through a [small] open field of odoriferous plants with strangely shaped leaves and got to sample last year’s crop.
  • realized that buying and fixing a house somewhere deep in the country, away from civilization, wasn’t only a way to live a healthier, cheaper and simpler life: there are a few perks on the side.
  • spent a whole night playing poker while a fierce Summer thunderstorm raged outside (complete with flickering lights, blown fuses and all).
  • met Chucky, the mellow schnauzer, who has never been quite the same ever since he accidentally ate half a pound of mushrooms found drying under his master’s bed.
  • made two gallons of frozen margaritas and brought a few more converts over to the church of the Holy Citrus Tequila Cocktail.
  • did many other things that shall remain safely out of read from potentially underage eyes…

Back in P-town this week-end.

Does effervescent codeine taste like crap or what?

Having to stomach the incredibly bitter aftertaste nearly offsets the pleasure of absorbing pharmaceutical-grade mind-numbing painkillers.

What’s with French meds and bubbles? Can’t they just make them into tiny little pills you swallow, as the rest of the world does?

Must be the Champagne factor…

Do you feel it too?

This warm and fuzzy feeling of well being all over your body, the sensation you are constantly swimming through mellifluous pink cotton clouds, this uncanny inclination toward benevolence and understanding when confronted to the vast dumbness of this world…

It’s seasonal…

Yep: cough-syrup season is upon us!

Chalk it up to a simple equation involving roughly 2 weeks of time, 50 pages of yet-unwritten report and 500+ pages of reading material… Blogging just hasn’t been a priority round here lately.

What has been a priority, though, was the quest for any combination of chemical aides, likely to make the required 250 hours of studies in 10 days, a technical, if not quite reasonable health-wise, possibility.

Thus, in the spirit of killing two heart-attacks with one stone, and without further ado, the first episode of:

Dr Dave’s Guide to Chemically-Enhanced Studying in Japan

The definition of cruel is when your friends, over at your house for some lo-key, yet highly inebriated, bbq dinner, drunkenly (and unwittingly) opened that one very special bottle of Piper Heidsieck Special Millesime.

No. Hold on. Cruel is when it turns out they drank but a glass and left a full uncorked bottle sitting there for you to mourn in the morning.

Inhumanly cruel, is when all this takes place in the middle of your shot at reaching ascetic enlightenment, and subsequent self-imposed ban on all forms of alcohol consumption.

If I end up not drinking off that bottle today, I will personally write in a demand for a medal from the British National Temperance League.