Thursday, July 29, 2010

You’re Forgetting “Zebra Fever”

I am having a rough few months. The kind of rough that would make Munchausen Syndrome patients jealous. It started with my botched infusion in April that led to the lumbar puncture experience from Hell (and the resulting migraine) and continued with bronchitis at the end of May that is hanging on despite five rounds of antibiotics and two inhalers.

Last week I experienced my second official migraine. I have gotten increasingly severe headaches over the last couple years, but with the immune deficiency diagnosis those headaches were put on a backburner. Well, until April, when my head exploded, and the emergency room doctor warned me that I might start getting migraines more regularly.

He wasn’t wrong. I was hoping that last week was a fluke, but yesterday I noticed nausea in the morning, neck pain in the early afternoon, and a monster headache right after lunch. I went home after work, crawled into bed, and waited for the sweet release of sleep.

This morning my headache was present but somewhat better. However, the neck pain continues. I can barely look left or right. So I decided to follow up on the advice my immunologist gave me back in April – find a neurologist.

After speaking to several people, I was given the names of a few doctors that I was interested in approaching. I went to the website for one doctor, and was pleased to see they had an online form to schedule a preliminary visit. Among the information they requested was the following: “Primary Disease/Condition.” I scrolled through the dropdown menu, which was surprisingly inclusive and appeared to contain at least 300 conditions. These conditions included:
  1. Cat Scratch Fever
  2. Dandruff
  3. Deer-fly Fever
  4. Fox-Den Disease
  5. Human Mad Cow Disease
  6. Little League Elbow
  7. Montezuma’s Revenge
  8. Parrot Fever
  9. Psychopathy
  10. Sociopathy
  11. Washerwoman’s Sprain
First of all, I think we can now empirically prove that animals are making us sick.

Second of all, I’m pretty sure that Washerwoman’s Sprain is a 19th-century Dickensian invention, similar to Consumption.

Third of all, would a true psychopath or sociopath really go to a neurologist (or any specialist), look at a list like this, and think, “You know what, I should probably let them know I’m a danger to society.” I watch “CSI: Law & Order,” and I can tell you that they would not.

Fourth of all, I have always liked the word “Micronesia.” (No, this is not related, but I don’t have another list in which to insert this fact.)

And finally, I was dismayed that among the 300 conditions, there was not one mention of the following:
  1. Primary Immune Deficiency Disease (PIDD)
  2. Common Variable Immune Deficiency (CVID)
Not that they are exceedingly widespread, but you’re telling me that more people have PARROT FEVER than an immune system disorder? Considering how many children (and adults) go undiagnosed, I find that unlikely. This is why PIDD patients are considered the "zebras" of the medical world - they appear to be an average, run-of-the-mill horse until you take the time to look closely. Something that most doctors do not do.

However, I have a proposal, one that should make everybody happy…

If we call it Zebra Fever, can it be put on that list?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Guilty Pleasures

When news that Lindsay Lohan was being sent up the river hit the front page of every reputable and disreputable news source, I had one thought: why have I never been arrested?

Celebrities make it seem really, really easy. To wit:
  1. Martha Stewart spent time in the pokey for lying to SEC investigators.
  2. Paris Hilton violated parole and was sent to the clink for several weeks.
  3. Paris' BFF, Nicole Richie, spent 82 minutes of a 4-day sentence in the slammer for driving under the influence.
  4. Robert Downey, Jr. rode the prison carousel several times for possession of drugs in the late 90s.
Everybody's doing it!

You hear about celebrities being pinched on gun charges, accused of not paying taxes, committing sexual assaults, punching photographers, stiffing contractors and other unsavory acts.

Now, if I were a character on "CSI," the investigators would punch my name into the system and find no record whatsoever. And unless they've been hiding some pretty big skeletons, I can say the same about all of my family and friends.

For instance, this picture of me is hardly going to show up in the New York Times:

So am I boring?

Nope. I'm just not rich or famous enough.

Yes, regular people commit crimes too -- otherwise we wouldn't have what some people call a "prison epidemic." And my experience is likely colored by a solidly middle-class upbringing that protected me from some harsh realities. But the people being arrested in Hollywood aren't from a lower socioeconomic class. They aren't living in dangerous neighborhoods, dealing with violence on a daily basis. They aren't undereducated, with uncertain futures.

Just the opposite. Celebrities can have anything they want, any time they want, and in any quantity they want. There is no such thing as "no" in their universe.

A study released in 2006 demonstrated that celebrities have a higher rate of narcissistic personality traits than the general population. Put a narcissist in an environment with access to excess, and the recipe is deadly. And for someone with an addictive personality to be surrounded by assistants who double as friends, friends who double as an entourage, and parents who manage you instead of parent you, that leaves you without a safety net or a support system.

I actually feel for Lindsay Lohan. From all appearances, she has a father that can't shut up about her to the press and a mother who partied right alongside her. She grew up too quickly. She is a 24 year-old that could easily pass for late 30s, thanks to alleged drug and alcohol abuse.

As my mother always says, "I
t’s a shame that Drew Barrymore and Robert Downey, Jr. can’t take her under their wings."

I guess that's one solution.

The other is what Judge Revel is doing: sending her to prison and then an in-patient rehabilitation facility, following the violation of her probation. It was a good decision. People often claim that the legal system is harder on celebrities, but in this case Lindsay had three years to comply with the terms of her deal. Since she couldn't do that, prison time and rehab is only right.

This isn't a case of schadenfreude. I truly hope that she gets clean. She once had a promising career, and at 24, has decades of time left to work.

Hollywood (whose products I so thoroughly enjoy) along with the nouveau riche/old money/filthy rich upper class, foster a toxic environment.

Lindsay is going to have to learn how to survive it.