Tag Archives: physiology

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.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, environment, health, humor, nature, science

Alcoholism and Life

I grew up with an alcoholic father. Some might debate this but he drank a fair amount, did terrible things to us and grew violent. It was not pretty and it marred us with scars we bear to this day. My mother went back to school at one point and worked as an alcohol and drug abuse counsellor so she knew the signs well. It’s interesting, before she moved into that line of work, the men she dated were all alcoholics.

I also had a friend who became my best friend and lived across the alley from me. We got into various types of trouble together, went to parties, and drank underage, as most of our friends did. I cannot tell her tale as to what pushed her too far. It could be an easy statement of physiology though easy is not the way it was. By sixteen she was an alcoholic with a host of embarrassing events under her belt, making difficult for her friends to be around her. I asked my mother what to do (and I have to say my mother was very good about not berating us for drinking underage) so she gave me some pamphlets to pass on to my friend. One was a checklist of behaviors that could indicate you’re an alcoholic. Some of the statements were: do you not remember what you’ve done while drinking, do you pass out after drinking, do you feel the need to drink every day–things like that.

Of course, giving a teenager such pamphlets didn’t go over that well and as high school grew towards its end and my friend also became pregnant (facilitating a quick marriage), we also started to grow apart. I couldn’t help her and she was going to need to help herself. I don’t know if she was embarrassed by her alcoholism or felt that I judged her (and I confess that I did at that time) but we eventually lost contact. It was only many many years later that she made the effort to contact me, having been dry for a long time, with grown and growing children. I then had to get past the wall that I had left behind from that time.

In high school I had also started dating a guy who I went with for a year and a half. He was two years older than me so he was finished while I was in grade 11. And he worked at a pub. I looked old for my age and could get into the bars without being ID’d. (Oddly enough, after I turned legal age, I was ID’d often.) He too became an alcoholic, drinking too much and too often. I don’t remember if that’s what broke up the relationship but it was a contributing factor.

I’d seen enough alcoholism by my mid-twenties, including an Irish couple in Vancouver who were on a self-destructive path through their drinking.  We also stopped being friends. And there are others, those with the red splotchy faces, the abusive tongues, the rude behavior that had driven friend and family away. I would often talk to these people, if they were friends, expressing concern but when they continued along their way I felt I didn’t need to be in the path of their abuse either.

I was arrogant enough to think I’d never be an alcoholic because I didn’t like alcohol that much and I was aware of it. That may have been the case but I wasn’t aware of the abyss in my soul and where it was sucking me to. I was unhappy and single, while all my friends were in couples. I hated myself, my eating disorder was out of control. On top of it, I’d fallen in love with a man who didn’t love me and inadvertently probably rubbed the fact in my face with his patronizing way.

Before I knew it I was drinking to drown the pain and perceived loneliness. I stood in the back of a poetry performance night one evening, crying (from my broken heart), then going out to my car to drink a cider, then coming in and crying, and repeating in progressively drunken way. I went to a camping event and proceeded to get so drunk that I didn’t know what I did. In essence, I had a blackout. Then on New Year’s eve I went to Blaine to some friends’ party. Bored and feeling the loneliness around all the couples there, I decided to drive back to Vancouver to another party.

Lucky for me, some friends braved my wrath and took my keys away. I later passed out and left the next day. Shortly after that night I was thinking of my life and realized I teetered on the edge of becoming a full fledged alcoholic. The brink was close and I was sliding over it. Also lucky for me, with that realization, I started to reassert control over my life.

And two friends at that time, drew straws to see who would approach me and say I had a drinking problem. The loser got to come up to me, probably expecting me to tear into her. But when she said, we think you have a drinking problem, I said, Thank you for being such good friends to tell me. You have the right, if you see me out of control at any time, please tell me.

And after that, I did try to control it, and not drink to cover my problems. Alcoholism, though, can strike for a number of reasons. Some people are physiologically more susceptible. Others make it part of their lifestyle. Others use to flood the hollow spots. It is the duty of anyone who is friend or family to say to the drinker, You have a problem and you need help. But as always, it is up to the person to change and hopefully have the support of friends when they take that path. I learned some valuable lessons about drinking and about me. I wouldn’t want to go that road again.

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, driving, family, health, life, memories, people