March 15th, 2010


Sometimes, the best way is the ugly way

Ahoy, pirates of truth and beauty. I don't usually bring you my health troubles, but I want to do a bit of that now to illustrate a problem I see with our culture. In short, we're too squeamish about the ugly truths of reality, and that sometimes causes more suffering.

For instance, I've more-or-less just come out of a long, frustrating period of bad health. I'll not bore you with all of the details. Suffice it to say that recovering means I'm having more of my old nemesis: muscle tremors in my legs. For almost 20 years now, I've taken baclofen to calm these, to limited and inconsistent success. To explain these briefly, since my brain is no longer connected to my leg neurons and muscles, whatever signals still bounce around there go unregulated and cause feedback loops: tremors. The baclofen breaks these feedback loops by suppressing the repetitive nerve action. Good? Well, it only works so well. Of course, you wouldn't want it to work perfectly, or all the nerves would quit working altogether...meaning I'd be kaput.

Back to the problem. When I was in rehab and had this problem explained to me, I naturally hit upon a brute force solution. Why not simply cut my Achilles tendons, the ones in my groin, and those connecting my quads to my knees? Then the muscles could twitch all they wanted, and my legs would remain blissfully limp forever.

Well, as you might have done, my doctors blinked, waved their hands, and looked at me as if I was asking them to cut off my head. They told me in no uncertain terms that DOCTORS JUST DON'T DO THAT. My hippie rehab specialist even cringed and gave me the 'Why do that to your beautiful body?' speech. Duh, I tried to explain, my injury is permanent, so I won't ever need those muscles...and I haven't. But they were adamant that this would be tantamount to Civil War surgery and that I should take the drugs and stop talking like Dr. Frankenstein.

Here I am, 19 years later, still with nothing from my legs but jerks and tremors that keep me awake for days and make eating and using the bathroom problematic at best. At least one thing the fevers of autumn did for me was to take my mind off of my normal crap. So, have I changed my mind in all of that time? Fuck no. How much money has been spent on medicine (which only partially helps) when all that they could have done was an office procedure, a cut and snip here and there? I understand the reluctance of the doctors; they hope, pray, or even expect a cure for complete spinal cord injuries (although I would surely not be able to afford that). To go down what they see as a one way path (repairing cut tendons ain't easy either) is to them like selling your car because the taillight is out and no replacements are available. But goddammit, people, I've been waiting for this 'cure' for longer than pop stars have been alive. They should have been able to get over their ostensibly ethical aversions to elective surgery in this case.

Let this be a lesson. Don't let people be strung along by half cures, little white lies, or loveless relationships when a clean cut, moment of uneasy truth, or painful breakup will save them (and maybe you) years of torture. Ethics are great, but look at the bigger picture.
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