Tag Archives: Health and Fitness

“No, This is Not an Oregon Trail LARP”

From Tuesday through Friday my family and I are participating in “Trek,” which, in the local dialect of Mormon-speak, is interpreted to mean “hiking and camping with handcarts, hymns, and harmonicas.” Just like our pioneer ancestors. I joked that this event was a cross between a Mormon Pioneer cosplay and an Oregon Trail LARP, but I’ve been told that this is not the case, and no, I’m not allowed to pretend to have died of dysentery so I can go home.

If it sounds like I’m making light of it, that’s because I make light of pretty much everything. Especially things of which I’m frightened. Camping in general has lost its appeal for me. Hiking? Sounds suspiciously like work. Doing them together, so that after a long hike you get a crap bed and food you carried and zero long soaks in a hot bath? Let’s just say it’s not Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup math.

I am not, however, a heartless, spineless fool who cannot see the benefit in these things. Sandra and I have been given the opportunity to walk the trail our ancestors walked one-point-six centuries ago, and we get to do so with all four of our children. The window of opportunity for this activity is pretty much this year, or never. Our kids are growing up and growing out. If we want to be miserable, all six of us, together in Wyoming, this is the time to do it.

Am I making light again? Perhaps.

We won’t have “electronic devices” with us, which is Trek-speak for “no phones, no music-players, no movies, no laptops, no getting any work done Howard, and if you want to take pictures the camera must only be a camera, not a smart-something.” If I want to tweet anything I’ll have to write it by hand in my journal, and carefully count the characters on my fingers to make sure I don’t use too many.

I am issuing an electronics exemption for my Fitbit, which I will be wearing for the whole trip. I have it on good authority that the pioneers had 1) odometers, and 2) timepieces. Besides, this is the damaged one (the replacement from the manufacturer is still in the packaging) and the repair scars I’ve inflicted upon it exemplify the old saw about thrift:

Use it up, wear it out. Make it do, or do without.

PioneerFitBit

That particular aphorism probably dates from after the time period in question, but only because during the time period in question you didn’t need to say such a thing, because it was what everybody did without some pithy rhyme as a reminder.

In this spirit, everything I’m wearing, carrying, or packing is newly acquired for this trip EXCEPT for the anachronometer on my wrist. Especially the shoes, which I have already broken in and stress-tested on a 22,000-step day. If my ancestors had crossed the plains in boots like these they really would have sang as they walked.

The point is that I’m going dark for four days. We’ll be back on Saturday, and I’ll be refreshed and ready for my presentation at the Salt Lake Public Library.

DiedOfDysentery

They Know What To Do, But You Have To Tell Them

There was a minor medical emergency on Friday night at World Fantasy. I share my account of the events, and my role in the process, because the event pointed up the fact that some people don’t know how to respond to this sort of a problem.

I didn’t do very much, and anybody could have done what I did, but somebody should have done it ten minutes earlier.

I was engaged in a late-night conversation in the lobby bar when one of the bikers with whom we shared the hotel approached our group.

“You guys, man… you guys gotta take better care of your own.”

“I’m sorry, what’s wrong?” I was puzzled. He seemed frustrated and worried.

“One of your girls, she’s sick drunk outside. She needs her friends to take care of her.”

At this point I excused myself from the conversation, and strode quickly out the door and around the hedge to where we’ll-call-her-Jane was sitting slumped against one of the bikers.  A couple of other people from the biker event were standing close trying to wake her up and get her attention.

I read her name tag, leaned in (without touching her) and said “JANE, WAKE UP PLEASE.”

No response.

“I’ll be right back.” I strode into the hotel, marching with purpose to the front desk.

“There’s a woman on the bench outside, and she’s non-responsive. It looks like alcohol overdose.” (Note: I used the word “overdose” because I wanted to make sure they took the problem seriously — not because I have any medical training in the matter.)

That conversation was the point at which my involvement effectively ended. Hotel security arrived within seconds. They DID touch Jane, checking for a pulse, and attempting to roust her by loudly explaining that unless she answered them RIGHT NOW, they were going to have to call an ambulance.

They called an ambulance. Summing up, after an overnight in the hospital Jane was okay, but I didn’t see her back at the event until Sunday night. Apparently the alcohol didn’t agree with one of her medications. (See? Not an overdose. I was wrong!)

Here’s the salient point, the take-away for you, and for any convention-goer who finds themselves in a similar situation: HOTEL SECURITY KNOWS WHAT TO DO, BUT SOMEONE HAS TO TELL THEM THERE IS A PROBLEM.

When I returned to the group I’d been conversing with, they treated me as if I had done something amazing, like I performed CPR, or a field tracheotomy. Guys, I didn’t even call 911. I thought about it, then realized I didn’t know the address of the hotel. All I did was take ownership of the problem for just long enough to hand it off to the folks who knew how to solve it.

To be fair to the bikers, they probably see a lot of friends overdo the consumption, and they take care of those friends on their own. They’re a tight group, and they know each other. Still, the moment one of them realized that Jane was out cold, they should have called hotel security.

I’m an Eagle Scout. I can staunch bleeding, and feel for a pulse. I can do the Heimlich, and though my CPR skills are rusty, if I’m the only guy around who can do it, I’ll do all I can. But the critical skill in this particular situation, and in most of the convention medical emergencies I’m likely to run into, was the ability to speak clearly.

Oh, and the ability to decide to speak.

You can do this.

 

 

 

Thoughts on Aughts

There’s an old man who comes to the gym in the mornings. He has a walker with an oxygen bottle, and bears visible scars from open heart surgery and a pacemaker implant. Monday morning I loosened up in the hot tub, and the two of us talked.

I learned that he had his first surgery in early December of 1999. I was reminded of my bout with myocarditis that same month, and how, as I lay in the Intensive Care Unit at UVRMC, the rooms around me were full of what I have come to call “gray people.” Their skin was literally deathly pale, and I assumed that the majority of them were going to die there.

I asked where this man had gone for treatment back in ’99, and he told me he was at UVRMC, and spent most of December in the Intensive Care Unit.

One of those gray people not only survived, but did so for a full decade at current count.

The last decade has been huge for me. I started a new job, rose to prominence, and then quit to do the same thing again. I created Schlock Mercenary, and Sandra and I had two more kids.

All of this in a decade.

I don’t know what my elderly friend at the gym has done with the ten years the doctors, God, and/or the Fates gave back to him, but I’m sure they are precious.

Whine about the “aughts” if you must, but as we begin the second decade of the twenty-first century, know that at least two of us are really thankful for the last ten years.

What Will Finally Fix Health Care

You know what will finally fix health care?

Information.

For centuries good health care has not really been about seeing a doctor or a surgeon. It’s been about getting the right information to the right person at the right time. Okay, sure, often that person WAS a doctor or a surgeon, but often it was not. And the smarter we got as societies, the longer and better we started living. The pattern still holds.

These days we have ready, free (or as close as makes no difference) access to all the information our doctors do. (Except patient records — HIPAA says that would be a violation of privacy, and I agree…)

What we, the patient-class, the uninitiated do NOT have free and ready access to is trusted gatekeepers who will filter the good information from the not-so-good. You know, doctors who will tell us that although our Google search on these symptoms was flawed because we left out “night sweats,” or something like that.

Assuming we haven’t all succumbed to Bird Flu, Swine Flu, Nanocancer, or the Andromeda Strain in the next 200 years, I firmly believe that our descendants are going to look back at our primitive, 21st-century discussions and wonder why we wasted so much time and money when what finally fixed Health Care was information we’d been sitting on for decades.

We will probably always need a select few, skilled practitioners of the dark and arcane arts of medicine, but most of what we need to be healthy is a correct diagnosis, and the alignment of simple treatments with sets of symptoms.

That’s just information.

I’m not belittling what my doctor does. He’s worked hard to throw terabytes of information into his head so that his miraculously synaptic brain can quickly process my complaint and prescribe the treatments I need (and proscribe the things that are hurting me.)

But it’s still just information.

Okay, not when he whips out his scalpel and removes a mass from my forearm (had that done in January. Ouch.) — that’s skill acquired through years of practice. And we’ll always need somebody with that skill set to complete certain treatments. We’ll also always need other things that cost money, like new medications, fancy devices for irradiating tissue, and diagnostic tools. But those things don’t need to cost what they currently do. Not once we fix the flow of information.

I’m not proposing anything radical here. I’m not really proposing anything. I’m arm-chair quarterbacking, only instead of yelling at the television about the choice of plays, I’m yelling about how the game should really be taken into orbit and played in three dimensions by guys in armored EVA suits.