Archive for medicine


Life’s Ups and Downs

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Just take a pill! Just drink a shot!

If you watch TV advertising these days, it seems as if the country needs help going to sleep and waking up, and with plenty of things in between.

Like my lovely wife so astutely pointed out, “It’s like this country has turned into one big Elvis Presley.”

Yeah—or Michael Jackson.

Meaning, TV advertisers look at us like the late rock-and-roll and pop stars, who infamously would take gobs of pills and other meds to sleep, and gobs more to get themselves back up, and gobs more just to get through the day.

I’m uneasy as to where we’re headed.

Last night it struck me. I’ve never professed to be a fast learner.

It was a commercial for a sleep aid that set me off. I started to think of the fancy-shmancy “sleep number” beds and other sleep aids I see advertised, which led me to think of the 5 Hour Energy spots and others similar.

The 5 Hour Energy commercials stick in my craw. They dismiss coffee as either taking too long to prepare or not “lasting long enough.” Why bother with coffee, the ads say, when you can just grab a shot and down it on your way out the door?

It makes me uneasy to think that we can so casually promote ingesting things into our body to wake up and again to go to sleep.

Look, I know a lot of people need help getting to sleep. I have been the victim of insomnia on many an occasion. I also know popping pills to assist in sleep can be dangerous. I can only imagine how much more dangerous it becomes when you combine that with downing energy drinks during the day.

It all seems just so unnatural.

No, thank you

And as far as these fancy, expensive beds go, who can’t sleep on a bed? A regular, good old-fashioned bed?

I can hear the bad back people right now.

Yes, I know some sleep better on firm mattresses and some sleep better on soft ones.

Fine. but do you need to spend thousands of dollars on a bed? Just buy a new mattress for a fraction of the cost.

And as far as waking up and getting through the day, try getting more sleep—naturally.

Something about swallowing a pill at night to come down and slugging a shot of God knows what in the morning to get back up, seems like a dangerous path down which to go.

Are we turning into mini versions of Elvis and the King of Pop?

That’s Pop—as in popping pills.

If we are, count me among the anomalies, thank goodness.

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The Two Jakes

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The other night, I sat for over an hour and got caught up on the life of my daughter’s Godfather’s son. I hadn’t seen him since he was a toddler, so I had about 20 years of his life to get filled in on.

Sadly, it took the young man’s death to present this opportunity.

Jacob Lank was 22 years old, handsome, and by the accounts of his friends who shared stories of him Tuesday night at the RG/GR Harris Funeral Home in Livonia, very mischievous and a prankster.

But he was also fiercely loyal, a wonderful big brother and smart.

He had great character, his friends said. One called Jacob “brave.”

His little sister, Maddy, talked of how Jacob—Jake, really—and she made up a Leprechaun named George and how Maddy, as a youngster, would write George letters. And George would write back, to her amazement. He even left her some lucky charms, which she said she still carries with her to this day.

Turns out the letter writer was Jake, posing as George the Leprechaun. This went on for some time before Maddy caught on.

But this was no prank. This was a big brother lovingly feeding the fantasies of his little sister, in a harmless but endearing way.

Jake Lank just turned 22 on March 8, about two weeks before a single car accident took his life.

I didn’t know him beyond his pre-school years, but by the time the tributes were finished Tuesday night, I felt two sensations: that I felt I had known Jake all along, from his days as a toddler; and that I REALLY wish I had been in his company as he turned from teen to young adult.

I said as much to his dad, Mike Lank—one of my best friends.

“God, I wish I knew that kid,” I told Mike.

“So do I,” he said.

I got Mike’s meaning.

Before the tributes, Mike took to the podium and said that, as parents, there’s a side of your children that you really don’t know—the side his or her friends see.

So when Mike said, “So do I,” he meant that he wished he had known the side of Jake that his friends had spent recalling in the days between the accident and the visitation Tuesday.

Jake was the oldest of five kids in the Lank family. The three next-youngest siblings each spoke of how awesome of a big brother Jake was.

There were tears, of course. But there were also a lot of laughs—far more than the tears, actually.

A funeral home filled with young people is a gut-wrenching scene, because it’s a sure sign that the deceased was equally as young.

But it was those young people—over an hour’s worth—who painted the picture and filled in the gaps about Jake Lank.

By the end of the evening I was glad that they were there, after all.

I now feel like I know Jake Lank, albeit too late.

Like Mike said in front of the crowd, “This sucks.”

Doesn’t it.

But I’m glad that little toddler turned out to be such a great kid.

So, at least there’s that.

Note: Jake was an organ donor and already, Mike said, the donated organs are saving the lives of others, including a young teen who would have died without it. Very cool.

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Nature or Plastic?

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Lesley Visser, the statuesque, longtime correspondent for CBS Sports, was on my TV screen last weekend. And I barely recognized her.

She had that “look” about her. The one that has, more and more, vexed both male and female celebrities—though more female than male.

The “look” is what we’ll refer to here as “the Joan Rivers Syndrome.”

You know—plastic surgery gone wild.

WHY are so many people in the entertainment industry who appear on stage or in front of the camera allowing butchers to take to their face?

The results aren’t pretty—literally.

Lesley Visser, I thought, was an attractive woman in her 50s who was aging quite well—and naturally. Yes, she had a jogging accident in 2006 which required some surgery to her face, but what I saw last weekend as she did some pre-game NFL playoff work, was above and beyond the call of duty, so to speak.

She’s hardly alone.

Even Marie Osmond—yes, Kewpie doll-cute Marie Osmond—looks to have gone under the knife. And I thought her Mormon beliefs would have forbade such work.

The Joan Rivers Syndrome is hard to pinpoint. You can tell that someone who’s afflicted with the Syndrome has had something done, but you can’t quite narrow it down to anything specific. Rather, the entire face has an unnatural puffiness to it. The eyes are more almond shaped. The lips are thicker. The skin has a smoothness to it that makes it resemble something that the folks at Madame Tussauds came up with, using their magic wax.

The Syndrome victims look, at the same time, like they went 15 rounds in a boxing ring, and had their face ironed. It’s a strange combination, which is why it looks so grotesque.

I don’t know why those who opt for plastic surgery think the “after” looks better than the “before.” In fact, the “after” makes them look like they are suffering from some sort of glandular disease.

THIS is why I named it Joan Rivers Syndrome


Dolly Parton, who has a new movie out with Queen Latifah, also has Joan Rivers Syndrome (heck, let’s start calling it JRS for short).

Heather Locklear, another one.

And on and on.

Wayne Newton, among the men, maybe looks the creepiest nowadays. How ironic, for if anyone has a job for life in the entertainment industry, it’s Wayne-o. Yet he opted to have his face reconstructed, and when I saw him last year on “Dancing With the Stars,” I was appalled. Even natural facial expressions like smiling looked weird, thanks to JRS.

The worst part is that the plastic surgery can’t be undone. Once the knife is lowered, its work is oh-so-permanent. And for the worse.

Give me the celebrity who chooses to let nature take its course, rather than the one who causes you to want DNA to prove their identity.

Oh, if you want to look at some more plastic surgery catastrophes, click HERE. Good luck.

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Jack’s in the Box

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The people who get us talking about things aren’t always those who you’d like to actually talk about those things with.

Dr. Jack Kevorkian was one of those people.

Kevorkian, “Doctor Death,” was laid to rest the other day and no matter what you thought about him or his ideas, you’re a liar if you say he didn’t get you talking and thinking about assisted suicide.

But would you have liked to have lunch with Kevorkian and rap about it? Unlikely. Kevorkian had to be an assisted suicide physician. He just looked the part: a long, drawn face, boney body—he looked like a gothic character from an old book of nursery rhymes.

Kevorkian wasn’t just a man’s name, it was a word that became part of our lexicon, used by people in all fields to describe a variety of situations.

I remember the NBA coach Don Nelson commenting after his team beat the Pistons in Detroit. Nelson said it wasn’t appropriate for Pistons fans to overreact to the loss, which came on opening night.

“This is no time to pull a Kevorkian,” Nelson said.

“Call Kevorkian!” people would playfully and kiddingly tell their pals when something would go awry. Stand-up comedians had a field day with Doctor Death.

But it was all very serious, of course—Kevorkian’s little machine and what it could do and why it was doing it.

I think Kevorkian had a good idea that he took in a wrong direction.

Dr. Kevorkian, dressed like Mr. Rogers, with his “death machine”

How dare any of us tell someone who is suffering from excruciating pain as a result of a terminal or otherwise debilitating illness, that they ought to keep living?

This is one of those issues, like capital punishment, that’s easy to take an unfavorable view of, until it hits close to home.

You can be anti-capital punishment, but what happens when a loved one is killed by a scumbag?

You can preach pro-life to Kevorkian’s “patients”, until you see a spouse wither away, out of their mind with pain and with the quality of life of a gnat.

But Kevorkian went wrong when he began to openly mock those who dared question him, and even though he spoke of “dying with dignity,” he began leaving bodies in vans in parking lots, like a serial killer.

Where’s the dignity in that?

The other troubling thing about Kevorkian’s mission was that it was highly questionable as to whether his goal was to save life or to fuel the decision to end it. In other words, were Kevorkian’s assisted suicides always performed as a last resort, or did anyone with an inkling to end it all get strapped into the former pathologist’s machine, no questions asked?

All told, Kevorkian supposedly assisted in about 130 deaths.

It’s too bad that Kevorkian was the symbol for assisted suicide. I can’t help but wonder if another doctor would have handled it differently. I wonder how different the assisted suicide movement would have looked had Kevorkian not taken it in such a defiant, creepy direction.

But Kevorkian got us talking, that’s for sure. And that’s rarely a bad thing.

Categories : crime, Enotes, medicine, society
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Our Little Early Bird

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I’m not one to get too personal in this space but sometimes you just have to make an exception.

It was 18 years ago today, at 3:57 p.m. to be exact, when the medical staff at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak cut a 2 lb, 14 oz little pipsqueak of a girl out of my wife in an emergency C-section. The screaming, wiggling little thing could have fit in a shoebox but gave the nurses all they could handle.

Our daughter was a preemie, and there was no place better to take care of her than at Beaumont, which had—and still has—an outstanding neo-natal care department.

My wife had been laid up with toxemia in the months leading up to the birth, which wasn’t supposed to occur until sometime in June. But during a routine check-up on Good Friday, 1993, her doctor advised her to go to Beaumont, and not to pass GO and not to collect $200.

We thought there were simply going to be some more tests and that she’d be home by the end of the day.

Imagine my surprise when, the next time I saw my bride (we’d just been married since September and our daughter was conceived on our honeymoon), she was being wheeled out to the waiting room, in a wheelchair and a hospital gown.

So much for being home by the end of the day.

It was soon determined, after getting my wife a bed in a semi-private room, that the baby—our baby not due until early-June—would have to be delivered, by hook or by crook.

They induced my wife with pitocin, which is standard. But after a day of that, it was evident that a vaginal birth was unlikely.

I spent the night with her and the next day, after another morning of waiting for the bun to come out of the oven, and with family in the waiting room, suddenly everything got frenetic.

In a flash, there were more nurses than usual and the bed was being wheeled away and I was handed a blue gown, hat, and mask.

The bed was wheeled down the hall, toward the delivery room. There wasn’t panic, just urgency.

OK, maybe I panicked a little.

Upon entering the delivery room, I was told not to touch anything that was color coded blue. I remember saying, “I will not touch anything blue.” That’s a good time to follow orders.

I held my wife’s hand and I’d never held the hand of anyone so cold who was still alive. The anesthesiologist sat next to me. I remember asking if she was supposed to be so cold. I don’t remember what he said. Probably, “Yes, now shut up.”

Several minutes passed and I heard someone shout, “Sharon, would you like to see your baby coming out?” and they held a giant mirror for her—and me. Only, I looked away. Sorry—too much that I didn’t want to see.

Then, the baby was out and she was being carried to a nearby table. I was told to come see.

The first words out of my mouth, and I’ll never forget it, were, “Is she going to be OK??!!!”

The reason for my concern was the wiggling, purple and red person I was staring at. She was SO SMALL. Turns out she wasn’t even three pounds, which means she wasn’t even as heavy as a bag of sugar. As I said, a shoebox would have been a suitable abode.

The nurses assured me that, yes, she’d be OK.

For about two months, our little girl lived in Beaumont’s NICU, in an isolette, wires attached to her body and often her eyes covered to protect them from the harsh light. Everyday we visited, my wife twice a day—once in the day and again with me in the evening after I left work.

Finally, on June 4, 1993, our little Nikki came home—and even then she barely scraped the scales at four pounds.

Looking back, we should have been more scared, but the staff at Beaumont was so good and competent, and their reputation was so stellar, that I guess our fears were alleviated. That, and Nikki never encountered any serious health concerns while in the hospital; that helped.

Turns out that my wife’s regular doctor had difficulty delivering her because of the position of the baby. Thankfully, the head of the department was in the hallway, purely by chance. And he was summoned, with both my wife and our baby’s survival in jeopardy. He used his experience and skill in safely extricating our child.

This I found out later, and I’m glad I did. I didn’t care to know that at the time!

So Happy Birthday, Nicole. You’re officially an adult. But always our baby.

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