Monday, May 05, 2008

That darned National MS Society slogan

Remember how I whined and whined about the National MS Society's lame new slogan ("MS stops people from moving; we exist to make sure it doesn't.")? It showed up in an odd way in an article about a local MS walk fundraiser. Snip:
MS interrupts the flow of information from the brain to the body and stops people from moving. It is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system.

As lame as the slogan is, it's even lamer as a description of the disease. Someone who reads this could be excused for developing a fear that a family member, coworker, or employee with MS might some day, without any warning, suddenly be frozen motionless like some kind of neurological Pompeian. Should they be permitted to venture out in public unescorted? What if MS struck as they were crossing a busy intersection? What if MS struck as they were driving a car? Would the car freeze too?

Might scare up a few more research dollars...

Thursday, May 01, 2008

In the news: gas tax holiday plan makes silly season sillier

Even though I'm a pinko treehugging liberal pantywaist, like many others of my kind, I've had a kind of soft spot for John McCain. Even though we'd prefer to see a democrat in the White House, we secretly think to ourselves that he'd be a huge improvement over the current administration, that he's somehow above the kind of right-wing pandering that was, at least until the 2006 mid-terms, the Republican's ace in the hole. Well, if there were a number of thinking people out there that might have been potential McCain democrats, that number should be significantly lower in light of his proposed federal gas-tax holiday.

There are all kinds of reasons why it's lame in terms of economic policy and absolutely moronic in terms of energy policy. Tom Friedman explained them well in his NYT piece yesterday. Snip:
[W]e borrow money from China and ship it to Saudi Arabia and take a little cut for ourselves as it goes through our gas tanks. What a way to build our country. No, no, no, we’ll just get the money by taxing Big Oil, says Mrs. Clinton. Even if you could do that, what a terrible way to spend precious tax dollars — burning it up on the way to the beach rather than on innovation?

The McCain-Clinton gas holiday proposal is a perfect example of what energy expert Peter Schwartz of Global Business Network describes as the true American energy policy today: “Maximize demand, minimize supply and buy the rest from the people who hate us the most.”

I'm not surprised that Hillary Clinton would get on board with this (remember how her husband drew down the Strategic Petroleum Reserve back in 2000 when oil was going for $40 a barrel?), but somehow I expected better from McCain. Will Obama be able to explain to ordinary Americans why saving them maybe $50 on gas is such a stoopid idea?

Interstim update

As they used to say of Ragu spaghetti sauce (or was it Prego?): It's in there. Last Monday, we woke up at 4:45 a.m., so we could be at the hospital by 6:00. I was still on the fence as whether to put in the permanent device, but it seemed like there wasn't any downside to going ahead (except possibly for the cost to my HMO), so I did. Unlike the initial implant, I got to be under general anaesthesia, which put me a bit more at ease. By 8:30, I was waking up in the recovery room and thinking about how great that first cup of coffee would taste.

To control the permanent device, I received the small blue gizmo in the picture. It's got a small LCD screen on the front and a plug-in antenna for communicating with the Interstim device. I place the end of the antenna over the small bulge in my tush where the device lives, hit the 'Sync' button on the blue gizmo, and if I've positioned the antenna correctly, the blue gizmo beeps and I can switch between the 4 stimulation programs stored in the blue gizmo, as well as increase or decrease the stimulation level by small increments. Cool.

The four programs stored in the blue gizmo were put there for me by the Medtronic guy, based on what worked for me during the trial period. Because the permanent set-up is more sophisticated than the trial device, it can do some additional tricks. Most notably, the permanent device can be programmed to cycle from full stimulation to no stimulation and back to full stimulation over a short period of time. This prevents the nerves from acclimating to a constant level of stimulation, which would diminish the device's effectiveness. The 4 programs on my blue gizmo were all set up this way. Unfortunately, though, this ended up being a significant annoyance, because I was feeling the stimiulation not just in nether regions, but also in my right foot. When I'd be off my feet, say at work, I could feel and even see my foot flexing and relaxing as the level of stimulation cycled up and down.

This cycling wasn't something I could control from my device, but yesterday I had the urologist's nurse Jenny (or possibly Jenni) turn it off. See, the urologist has an even cooler big blue gizmo for controlling my little blue gizmo. It looks a bit like an overgrown Palm Pilot, complete with stylus. Jenny (or possibly Jenni) taps on the big blue gizmo's screen, and it wirelessly transmits instructions to my little blue gizmo, turning off the cycling in my 4 programs. Again, cool.

The thing that's less cool is that I'm still not sure if it's helping or not. I still pee as often as I used to (maybe 15 times in an ordinary day?). I still have to go urgently. I still can't quite empty completely, even if I spend ten minutes in the can pressing my hand into my lower abdomen. I'd say the urgency is somewhat lower, meaning when I feel like I hafta go, I have about 8 seconds to get to the bathroom instead of 5. But I also feel like my bowel function has improved slightly as well, though that has at least something to do with my more regular (get it? regular?) use of Miralax (which I am pleased to be able to now purchase OTC, which allows me to use the brand-name stuff instead of the generic stuff I got when it was prescription-only, which seemed to have a bitter taste and which seemed to leave me comically flatulent).

I got my staples out on Tuesday, and by next week I'll be able to bend, stretch, and swim as much as I like. This is good, because since getting the trial device a few weeks ago, I haven't done much by way of physical activity, and I can tell: I'm a bit wobblier, stiffer, and flabbier than I was a few weeks ago.

So the jury is still out on this thing, but at least I feel like I'm close to getting back to ordinary life, such as it is/was. This is good, too, because it's finally spring, and not a moment too soon.