Tag Archives: infection

Tonsil Tales

Back in the good ole days, or so I remember being told, tonsils were removed as often as wisdom teeth, as a matter of course, as an extraneous appendage we no longer needed. I don’t know if that’s true or not but I was scheduled to have my tonsils out at age six. However, my family, always running on the dysfunction track, was derailed the day I was supposed to go in for surgery. My parents were fighting and I never did get my tonsils out for a very very long time.

Creative Commons--Knol

I spent my childhood and teen years getting colds like every other child but I as often got tonsilitis, involving very painful and swollen throat and bouts of antibiotics. By my teen years I averaged four colds/tonsilitis episodes a year. Some of the symptoms can be headache, fever, cough, trouble swallowing, sore throat and chills.  I think I was 18 or 19 when I started to noticed it felt odd when I swallowed, like something was stuck in my throat. When I opened my mouth wide, I could see small lumps of white at the back of my throat that sometimes I could remove with a finger. Basically food was getting caught in the holes in my tonsils. This did nothing for my breath either.

Finally, in art college the tonsillitis got so bad that even my tongue was swollen. I had cankers all over my gums and I couldn’t really eat a thing. Of course I’d let it get too bad, being a student, trying to finish projects and not getting enough sleep. So eventually I went in to the school clinic, telling them I had tonsillitis. They told me, you don’t know that. We’ll take a look. And they took a look and said, you have tonsillitis; why did you take so long?

More antibiotics but that finally decided it for me. I made an appointment to see my family doctor, the one I had had since I was about ten, who had seen me go through bouts of this over the years. I mentioned the holes and the food sticking in them. My doctor didn’t even look in my throat but told me it was nerves. I said it absolutely was not. I’m not a nervous person. Then he told me that lots of people got this. I said, they do? It was this incident of incompetence, plus the one where my doctor told me I didn’t clean myself properly when I went to him about a bladder infection, that I tossed him by the wayside and went to a new doctor. That doctor couldn’t see much in my throat but he sent me to a specialist. The specialist took less than a minute to look at my tonsils and say, “You have holes in your tonsils. When do you want them out?”

And so, at the tender age of 22 I had my tonsils out. And something I realized once I healed from the surgery was that I had never ever been able to swallow correctly. My throat had always been swollen. If I’d had my tonsils out at six, like I was supposed to, I would have missed a lot less school as a kid and not been subjected to so many antibiotics. Luckily I didn’t take the incompetent advice of a doctor who should have retired, and I sought out another opinion. I don’t  miss those tonsils at all.

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Mutants Are Among Us

If you never read the X-Men comics (I grew up on them), then you might at least have seen or heard of the X-Men with one of the recent movies that have come out, the last one being Wolverine (and why they had to make him choose to be Canadian, from the US, as opposed to being Canadian as in the original comics, I’ll never know). In those comics, most of the mutants’ mutations give them a power, to destroy or create, or hold forces at bay.

Sure there are a few unfortunate mutants whose power drives them mad or makes them unsightly and this was portrayed in the X-Men most commonly with the Morlocks who lived underground in the sewer systems. They weren’t pretty and their mutations weren’t always useful. And of course there were those evil mutants and the government mutant hunters, out to get both sides.

Well, it may come as a surprise to many people but there are more mutants among us than we know. A mutation is a deviation from the norm. In biology it means an organism that has characteristics resulting from chromosomal alteration. In genetics it refers to any event that changes genetic structure.

So, in essence, a genetic defect is a mutation. As I learned years ago in anthropology, it is rare for a mutation to be beneficial. Eventually, if enough of a population mutates, the change becomes part of the normal physiology. And usually it’s an adaptation that increases the chances of survival (such as camouflage coloring). That’s as far as I’m going to wander into the world of genetics.

But as for mutants, not only do I know a few but I too am a mutant. Yes, I’m waiting for my spandex outfit to come from Charles Xavier, leader of the X-Men, though I fear I might be more likely to join the ranks of the Morlocks.

I actually have several mutations. The major one, that we found out about when I was in the hospital at age 9 with a kidney infection, was that I have four normal, perfectly formed kidneys. They call it a duplex system.  The benefits: well obviously if one goes down I have others to spare, and I can filter more impurities. I think I can filter booze more but I have still managed to get drunk. And for anyone saying, why don’t you donate a kidney, I have a few reasons. I do not handle anesthetic well and every time I’ve had to go under it gets worse. As well a kidney operation is a pretty major surgery and with the rate that Canadian hospitals are infecting people with residual germs and bacteria, I am truly afraid to go into a hospital.

I also have an extra rib, which is quite useless and in fact can cause me pain. If I’m driving for three hours or more the rib will tend to push against my soft tissue and make it sore. It can even happen if I’m sitting in bed and have not positioned myself right. My last mutation is that I have an extra ankle bone in each foot. My podiatrist says that really it’s bones that didn’t fuse when I was a child. They have no benefit or detriment that I can determine.

So, those ares my mutations but I’m not the only one. My sister was thought to have three kidneys but it’s three ureters that she has. I have another friend with five kidneys and I work with someone who has an extra bone in her foot. My landlady has extra muscles in her foot and she was once a dancer. The thing is, we often don’t find out about our mutations unless we injure ourselves or are sick and tests are done. So who knows, you could be a mutant too.

Tom Cruise is a mutant. Yes, we all knew that but he has a physical deformity that in worst cases cause the brain, during development, to not separate into two lobes. Cruise’s is fairly mnor but if you look at his smile you’ll notice he has only one front tooth. It’s called holoprosencephaly if you want to look it up.

As to mutations that give us special abilities, I’d gladly trade in the rib for levitation or controlling the elements. Even if my rib was Adam’s Rib, maybe I could detect all liars and then get a job in the courts. But nah, I’m stuck with the super filtering system of the kidneys and just a pain in my rib from time to time. Maybe in the future, as we mutate to adapt to our polluted, additive laden environment, we’ll get real powers, but I’m not holding my breath.

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Swine Flu? When Pigs Fly

Okay, that’s a little joke but I think we need to keep a few things in perspective when it comes to the spreading fear of swine flu. Fear is spreading faster than the flu and though it is a serious enough illness, it should be treated with level headedness, not paranoia. Panic can be a demon that brings on an epidemic of hysteria.

If the media had existed in its current form in the 14th century when the Black Plague first reared its deadly head, probably more people would have died from fear, from fear mongering, from ostracization than those already-high numbers. The Black Death killed an estimated 30-60% of Europe’s population, decimating society and economy for many years to come. Some 75 million people are believed to have died from the bubonic plague.

These days, we may not get to those numbers because medical care is better. Yet we might get to higher numbers because there are far more people than Europe in the Middle Ages. And many cities are overcrowded, not to mention that many nations still have poor levels of sanitation and health. An estimated 500,000 people die yearly from seasonal flus. Mexico City has 22 million people but the flu has shown in a few other areas of Mexico as well as in Texas. Still, there are only 7 confirmed deaths by the WHO as of yesterday.

That’s not many yet. In fact, 150 people out of a population of 110 million is a pretty small percentage. However, every death is a rent, a loss of life and grief for loved ones; that should matter. We do have to be cautious but not crazed. People aren’t getting these from pigs, no matter what the name indicates. Eating pork won’t make a difference. However, one thing that humans learned over the centuries that cut down on the spread of disease and infection was that cleanliness makes a difference.

We’ve moved out of the polite era, when everyone was taught manners, coughed and sneezed into handkerchiefs, washed behind their ears and washed their hands because parents instilled it into their kids. We’ve become lackadaisical in this modern, free age, but what you can’t see can indeed hurt you. When it comes to hygiene we must still be diligent.

Here’s the best thing to do to avoid swine flu, any flu or illness in general: wash your hands well, often, and with soap and water. Cover your mouth with your arm or a tissue if you cough. Use tissues for your nose. Wipe down surfaces with disinfectant. If you cough or sneeze, don’t do it on others. Wash your hands often. Don’t kiss pigs.

Usually influenzas hit the very young and the very old. So far, this flu has killed men in the 25-40 (or 50) age range for some reason. Tomorrow I fly to LA. I’m not worried. After all, I’m healthy. I don’t have a compromised immune system or any illness that weakens me. My lungs (the area to worry about most) are very strong. I’m not flying to Mexico. Even all the people that the flu infects each year do not die from it. Planes are very good incubators of infections/colds in general. A closed space with a lot of people. It’s best to be vigilant about hygiene whenever flying.

There have been questions why the mortality rate would be higher in Mexico than elsewhere. If it’s Mexico City, well, there are 22 million people, as I said. When I was in Mexico in the late 80s, the smog was so bad that birds were dropping out of the air and you could taste it. Add that on top of other respiratory problems and a flu that attacks the same area and it’s not surprising that more people may die in Mexico City (and any other overpopulated, polluted city center) than in other cities.

Flu shots have been given for quite a few years now, optional but encouraged for the young and old. I predict we’ll see more people getting flu shots this year in general. However, a viable vaccine for this current flu would take a few months to work out and perfect. If this doesn’t turn pandemic, then it will have abated by then.

Symptoms are similar to other flu symptoms, fever, runny nose, coughing, sore throat, nausea, possible vomiting and diarrhea, lack of energy and appetite. (More severe cases may deal with respiratory problems and death.) Don’t jump to conclusions if you develop some of these. If you have been to Mexico or in contact with someone who has, watch your symptoms, call  your doctor’s office if you’re worried, or if it is a child or elderly person who is ill. If the fever goes beyond a few degrees or you have trouble breathing, then you will probably want to get checked out. Children and the elderly are always at risk. Eating healthily, drinking plenty of water and getting adequate sleep will keep your immune system strong.

Becoming crazed with fear is a more likely way to get sick than just taking sensible precautions. And when the latest scare is over, continue following good hygenic habits. After all, in many ways we don’t want to go back to, or repeat the Middle Ages.

Update as of 10/15/09: There is an awful lot of hype about this flu and to this date there are fewer people who have died from it than from other flus. However, the high-risk group does seem to be 20-year-olds and early 30s. Each person will have to decide if they need a flu shot or not but as a healthy female, who isn’t pregnant nor in that age group, I’ll forego the shot and take my chances.

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The Mutant Tooth

Addendum on the traumatic dental surgery. It’s Friday. Yesterday I went in because my tooth and gums were hurting more than the other days. I had taken a Tylenol with codeine and by the time I went in the swelling was partially down and the tooth wasn’t hurting. They said that it looked okay but to call if I was having problems today.

I went home and then by evening my tooth was hurting again. I took another Tylenol and another and another, every two hours. I kept waking through the night with throbbing pain, in time to my pulse. I kept taking Tylenol. This morning when I finally woke up from brief spates of sleep I was so swollen that my right eye is closing. My top lip is sticking out and my nose is being pushed to the side. The inner lip is swollen.

It feels as if someone is poking my lip while slowly shoving a not sharp knife up my nose. My head hurts and I feel nauseous. Needless to say that in about an hour I’ll be going back to the specialist, again.

Problem is, I can’t take sulfa or “cillin” antibiotics. And for some reason, having not had antibiotics in ten years, this will be the third time this year. I just hope to god that they only have to give me antibiotics because I’m completely freaked about them going into my tooth again. This is as close to torture as I want to get.

I also have to officiate at a wedding tomorrow and now worried that I’m going to scare the wedding guests. Update later.

Which was that they had to lance the infection and stick in a “drain” and give me antibiotics. I also had somehow popped the sutures so they sewed me up again.  I took a Tylenol 3 and then slept. Finally, there is no pain and the swelling is going down but not yet gone.

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