Sunday, December 20, 2009

Heppy Holidays

My all time favorite Christmas card was sent to me years ago by my dear friend, hepatitis C advocate, Brian Klein. Santa is visiting the Betty Ford Drug and Alcohol Rehab Center. Everyone is standing around while Santa is reaching into his gift bag and asks, "Who wants a shiny new liver?"

Sometimes we just have to laugh at ourselves.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Waiting for the Doctor

My mother lives in the Southwest. During a recent appointment, the wait for her doctor was excessively long. Bored, she started looking around the office. She found a prayer wheel scratched into the linoleum on the floor. She figured that someone had gotten bored and decided to etch some art into the floor. Either that or they needed to pray.

I told her it was a good thing that she hadn't discovered hash marks on the wall, like one of those prisoner-of-war movies. Once time when I was working at a well-known hospital, a patient had been left in a room for so long that he fell asleep. No one told the doctor that he was in the room. It was Friday and everyone went home. The staff found them when they were turning off the lights. It was a horrible mistake for which there were many apologies.

When my daughter was little and we ran out of things to do, I would blow up exam gloves and do a puppet show. What do you do to pass the time at the doctor's office? Wouldn't it be great if they passed out Nintendos or puzzle books for everyone?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Appropriate Humor

My life took a little unexpected turn. While visiting my mother for Thanksgiving, she developed congestive heart failure and had to be hospitalized. My blog got set aside - sort of. Humor is a huge part of my family's life and we laugh our way through hospitalizations and colonoscopies and bone marrow aspirations. It's how we cope with fear and anxiety. I think it is a good thing - as long as we aren't laughing enough to jiggle our bodies during a medical procedure. That is a good time to stay still.

Anyway, I thought about the blog, and what I want to write about is this: when my mother was admitted, the nurse was joking around. I thought she was funny and totally appropriate. She made me feel at ease. However, another family member had the exact opposite experience. He felt the nurse was out of line. He felt she crossed over a line, during this time of grave concern.

Although we had different experiences, both were valid. What came up for me is the question, when is humor not appropriate? How do we know when to make a joke and when not to? For instance, after the attack on the Twin Towers, humor virtually disappeared from the public for about a week.Then it returned and we started to heal. How did we know how long to maintain our humorless vigil? I don't know, but we did.

Enough seriousness. Someone rescue me with a joke, please, before my liver starts to cry...

Monday, November 23, 2009


The average child laughs 400 times a day; the average adult a mere 25 times daily. I think this is tragic. Laughter is a scientifically proven health-enhancer. It boosts the immune system, helps with pain, fights depression and creates great wrinkles around the eyes and mouth. Okay, perhaps that last one isn't so great, but I'd rather laugh my way to the plastic surgeon's office. Heck, who needs plastic surgery when one is happy!!!!! So, pick up the comics, watch I Love Lucy reruns, rent "Some Like it Hot", or spend time with friends who make you chuckle.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

More Things We Don't Want to Hear

 I have witnessed many liver biopsies and they have all been uneventful. In most cases, the patients seemed completely relaxed. On one occasion, the patient said, "Let's get this over, doc," after it had already been done.

In spite of the fact that every liver biopsy I've seen has been smooth, I could not resist poking fun at it. Here are some more things we don't want to hear our doctors utter during a liver biopsy:
  • "Better save that. We might need it for the autopsy."
  • "Accept this sacrifice, Oh Great Satan."
  • "Oops. Who knew that the liver was on the right side!"
  • "There's a first time for everything."
  • "I wish I hadn't drank so much last night."
  • "Missed again."
  • "It looked so easy on the video."
  • "I'm not a real doctor. I just play one on TV."
  • "Shoot, I dropped the sample and have to do it again."
  • "I wish I had paid more attention in anatomy class."

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Things We Don't Want to Hear

A friend sent me a list of things that one wouldn't want to hear during surgery. I'll provide more of the list in future posts. Today, I want to discuss one of the phrases, "I wish I hadn't forgotten my glass." This actually happened to me before my first liver biopsy. It was in the 1990's. Two weeks before the procedure, a well-meaning friend told me the gruesome details of her liver biopsy. She said it was the worst pain imaginable and although she had never had a baby, she couldn't imagine anything worse. She didn't stop there, but you get the picture.

I was a wreck worrying about the biopsy. The day of the procedure, I could barely walk, my legs were quaking in fear. Then the doctor arrives and says, "Damn, I left my glasses at the office." I replied, "Seeing is very important. You are not doing this without your glasses." So, we waited another half hour while his assistant ran over to his office to get his glasses.

In the meantime, I am hyperventilating from fear. The glasses show up, he does the procedure, and it's over before I can say hepatic encephalopathy. It wasn't bad at all. I wish I had seen the You Tube video of Gerard's liver biopsy before my procedure. It is very reassuring. I have provided a link to it.

So, two things you don't want to hear before a liver biopsy are:
Damn, I left my glasses at the office
Liver biopsies are the worst pain imaginable

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Hep C treatment wasn't all bad. I had a patient who loved the hair loss. She had very thick hair and for the first time in her life, her hair was cooperative. When her treatment was over, she said she wished she could keep that side effect.

HCV treatment was the easiest weight loss program I was ever on. I was never hungry and I didn't think about food at all. It's all a matter of perspective. Did anything good come out of your hep C treatment?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Telling our Stories

I believe that our stories can heal us. Karen Blixen wrote, "All sorrows can be borne if you tell a story about them." I tell my story so I can laugh. The situation may not be funny at the time, but hindsight is a humorist.

The second time I was undergoing treatment, I tried vainly to stay at the top of my game. I put sticky notes on nearly everything, attempting to remind myself of things I didn't want to forget. I even put a sticky note on my dashboard to remind myself to buy gas. One evening, on my way out for a relaxing evening of a hot tub soak and a massage, I ran out of gas. I had planted the sticky note right on the low fuel light. Even at the time, I had to laugh.

What are your stories?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Pondering the Liver

Some ancient cultures believed that the liver was the center of life. The Greeks thought that the liver was the source of love and passion. Author, Mary Roach, wrote in Stiff that if the liver maintained this prestige, cars would be sporting bumper stickers such as "I Liver-symbol NY" rather than "I Heart-symbol NY". Ponder that!

Something else I wonder about: why do people eat liver? Why eat an organ that basically filters out what the body needs to keep out of its bloodstream? Maybe it is because the onions taste better that way.

What do you ponder?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Laughter is Medicine

Laughter heals. Just in case I need to convince you, there is scientific evidence backing this up. The ground-breaking research on laughter was conducted by William Fry, professor emeritus in psychiatry at Stanford University. Starting in the early 1960's, Professor Fry studied the therapeutic benefits of laughter. He was able to show the immense physiological benefit that laughter provides. Fry discovered that laughter changes brain patterns, stimulates the immune system, and reduces stress hormones.

Although Professor Fry is retired from Stanford, he is still pursuing activities that make him laugh. Dr. Fry said, "that a minute of laughter is equal to ten minutes on the rowing machine." I assume he means actually rowing rather than just sitting there. So, if I row for 10 minutes and watch 30 minutes of I Love Lucy, is this equal to 310 minutes of working out? Imagine when I tell my doctor how much exercise I get!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Laughing our way to health

What's so funny about hepatitis? Heck, nothing at all. However, I am not going to let that stop me from finding something to clown around about. I figure I can either laugh or cry, so why not laugh? Hmmm, let me think about this. Choice number one: Think about having hepatitis C, cry, feel awful, my face gets puffy, my eyes redden, and I feel tortured. Versus choice number two: Don't think about having hepatitis C, poke fun at myself, manufacture endorphins, have tons of fun, feel better. That's an easy choice for me to make - don't know why I had to think about it.

So, what's funny about having hepatitis? I don't know but I figure if I create the space, the humor will come.