You know how when you buy a new car, you suddenly see it everywhere?
Last Friday I went to the doctor and got a round of blood tests done. I'm very healthy, with one exception: I'm low on Vitamin D.
The doctor sent me a message this morning saying that half her patients have a Vitamin D deficiency, and that I should start supplementing.
Honestly, I was going to try the ten minutes of sunlight a day approach first.
Today, as I flipped on some Tivo to entertain myself before making dinner, the first segment on the Martha Stewart show i started out with was about...you guessed it...vitamin deficiency. Starting with the stat that about, yes, half of us have a deficiency.
The expert brought up an interesting fact that those of us who live further North are bound to develop this deficiency much easier because the sun rays are less direct. (I was kind of wondering if those way South have the same issue, but they didn't say so.)
He recommended 10 minutes of sunlight a day for lighter skinned people and 30 minutes of sunlight a day for darker skinned people. Acknowledging that we've all been trained to lather on the sunscreen per dermatologists, the strong message was that this short amount of time in the sun per day was not very risky, and would deliver the Vitamin D our bodies need to avoid problems with osteoporosis and even cardiovascular issues later!
How do you get your Vitamin D? And do you know your levels?
So today, a weekend when I was supposed to stay in, hermit-like, to recover from my ongoing decrepitness of the last 6-8 weeks, I had one errand I had to run.
And damned if I didn't get rear-ended at a stop light!
The guy in front of me wasn't going, so I finally honked at him. Just as he took off, bam! Someone who wasn't paying attention to the actual cars on the road, but only the color of the light, hit me. Two things happened: I bit my lip, and my head flipped back against my headrest. No airbag, no hitting the steering wheel, nothing very substantial.
In fact, when we pulled over, my car's rear bumper was merely scratched (thank you Honda!) His car's front bumper was much worse off, even cracked through at one place. Kind of serves him right, right?
Now, I haven't gotten into many accidents in my life, the worst one being within my very first year of driving when I in fact did bite the steering wheel and break some teeth.
It is always shocking and disorienting. And me with a head already a little fuzzy with congestion.
But of course I'm thinking Natasha Richardson. Is one's head hitting the headrest of one's car (which is, in fact, the entire purpose of the headrest - to prevent whiplash) the kind of head injury that can seem innocuous, but really be life threatening?
Without Richardson's recent, tragic death I doubt I'd be giving this a second thought, but instead I'm waiting to see if a headache or blurred vision comes on.
So far, so good, three hours later.
So, the question is: Unnecessarily stressful paranoia? Or the good kind of paranoia? What has Natasha Richardson's skiing accident wrought?
So I broke down and went to the doctor yesterday. Having been sick for six of the last eight weeks and feeling like it wasn't just allergies for much of that time, I was hoping for something definitive.
Gimme an infection, gimme something treatable. But all I got was what was not wrong with me. No pneumonia (good thing), no ear infection (good thing). Might have bronchitis, although it's actually quite complicated to figure out if it's bacterial or viral.
So, then came The Bad:
I became one of the patients that basically bugged my doctor into writing prescriptions. By the end I had her prescribing me both antibiotics, in case I have the kind of bronchitis that they would help, and steroids, to treat my allergies, plus some Flonase (a steroidal nasal spray) for ongoing allergies as needed.
Now, I've had great experiences in my past using steroids to treat my allergies. One shot and a few days of popping pills, and those allergies...which make me miserable despite taking Zyrtec daily...were eradicated completely for four months! I know people talk about the potential side effects of steroids, but that's typically referring to long-term use. My step-dad takes them for his Crohn's Disease, and I know they have problems if you use them in an ongoing fashion. But as I said to the doctor: "Once a year, one shot and four days of pills? Would that really have much negative effect?" And she admitted that the chance was small, but of course still possible.
I didn't realize that the reason steroids work so well on allergies is that they suppress your immune system, I thought it was more about their anti-inflammatory qualities. That did give me pause a bit, but then I said well hey...antibiotics should work just in case I've got a little somethin' somethin' eh?
I am not one of those people who always want antibiotics. I'm not sure the last time I ever took them...perhaps 3-4 years ago for a sinus infection that I ignored for week until my entire face hurt in its very bones.
But I just feel like I've got one shot to kick whatever this thing is outta me, and I wanted both antibiotics and the steroids to do it.
Obnoxious patient wanting pills to solve problems. Not my usual modus operandi (usually I'm an avoid-the-doctor-altogether-eventually-this-will-go-away-on-its-own kind of gal.) That was the Bad.
Gotta give Kaiser its props. I love the way they post your test results online and then email you. I had my blood drawn at 11:30AM yesterday, and by the time I got up this morning most of the results were in, with a few more tests being posted later in the day. You can compare your current results to past results in the system; you can click and find out more about the test in questions.
It is pretty awesome.
Oh, and my blood work came back very healthy, thank you. Other than I might have rickets.
I spent last weekend up in San Francisco, something I do very rarely. It was a gastronomic delight, as we visited four different restaurants and had four different wonderful meals over the course of the weekend.
At one of them, Palomino on the Embarcadero, I noticed this note on the menu:
Now, at first glance, this didn't bother me at all. After all 4% of a $40 lunch bill is $1.60. I would gladly pay $1.60 so that restaurant workers can have health care benefits. If I can afford to eat at this restaurant, I can afford this surcharge.
Of course counter-arguments are that many businesses tacked on surcharges when gas prices were so high, one assumes because they were potentially temporary surcharges. But this one is permanent and legislated.
There are more, obviously peeved, diners sounding off about it at Eater SF.
I'm not sure I see the difference between calling out the surcharge (allowing angry diners to take their business elsewhere) or raising your prices (where again, diners can take their business elsewhere if prices get too high.)
Are we just angry to be reminded about the ridiculous state of our health care system? If so, then I agree with at least one commenter who said the notice about the surcharge is good if it starts conversations about health care.
I saw the notice. I didn't mind it. I thought it was kind of cool that San Francisco was trying to do something instead of just talk about it.
That was my gut reaction, as an occasional diner in SF.
My friend Stacie has a cousin named Tami who has been diagnosed with Myelodysplastic Syndrome, a bone marrow disorder often called "pre-leukemia". She needs a stem cell transplant as soon as possible, and to do that they need to find a good bone marrow match.
Complicating things is that Tami is Asian-American, and her chances of finding a match are much MUCH higher within the Asian community.
I thought getting your bone marrow tested for possible donation was hard, btu in fact it consists only of cheek swabs.
Joe Paduda from Managed Care Matters caught my eye with his Top 10 Reasons Universal Health Care is Bad. The thing is that he listed the ten reasons without commentary, although some were willing to go at it over whether these were valid or invalid reasons in his comments.
I hope he follows up every single item from the Top 10 list in this fashion!
Here's some interesting data to get you hot and bothered to read the whole post:
Here's what a bit of specific data show (excerpted from the Commonwealth Fund report).
The percentage of U.S. patients who waited six days or more for a doctor appointment when sick was not significantly different from the rate in Canada (23% v. 36%), the worst-performing country
Only 47 percent of U.S. patients were able to see a doctor on the same or next day when sick, versus 61 percent to 81 percent of patients in the four better-performing nations
U.S. patients were less likely than patients in Canada (12% v. 24%) but more likely than patients in Germany (4%) to wait four hours or more to be seen in the emergency department
U.S. patients were less likely than patients in four countries (except Germany) to wait four weeks or longer to see a specialist (23% v. 40%–60%) or to wait four months or longer for elective surgery (8% v. 19%–41%) (Schoen et al. 2005)
Kevin MD pulls out one key stat from a survey cited in the NY Times articles:
"for every 2,000 women age 50 to 70 who are screened for 10 years, one woman will be saved from dying of breast cancer, while 10 will have their lives disrupted unnecessarily by overtreatment."
One of his commenters opines:
"I would still argue it is worthwhile to have 10 lives disrupted by overtreatment than even one life lost from a lack of early detection."
The NY Times article is interesting and full of various, often conflicting, opinions.
Unfortunately the article closes with a truly stupid statement. One I must believe must have been taken out of a much larger context:
"There’s no question on one count: if you get screened, it’s more likely you’ll have a diagnosis of breast cancer."
Um, dare I say no sh*t Sherlock?
Almost 10 years ago now I had a "baseline" mammogram. When I went back at age 40 to have my first annual mammogram, there was a shadow in the film that wasn't there when I was 35. After an ultrasound that found nothing I was told that it could just be some denser tissue, but to be safe I should get re-mammogrammed every six months for a while. I did that for two years. Each time the shadow remained the same, so we moved me back to an annual mammogram, which I've been doing for three years.
The shadow remains, and frankly, I am happy to have this checked regularly and to have an eye kept on it.
I do not feel put out at all, nor did I feel put out by those two years of extra mammograms. It is definitely worth my small effort for that peace of mind...and never did I feel like my doctors, either when I was on Blue Cross nor on Kaiser, were anxious to over-react. An ultrasound was the only additional procedure they prescribed.
When you hear the words “Women’s Health Hero,” who comes to mind? Your 9th grade health teacher who taught you about sexually transmitted infections? The midwife who sat with you through 15 hours of labor? The young Nigerian activist you read about who’s working to end gender discrimination in her country? Or maybe the neighbor who counter-protests at the abortion clinic every Saturday morning?
Whoever your heroes are, we want to know about them! We’ve created the Our Bodies Ourselves Women’s Health Heroes awards to honor those who make significant contributions to the health and well-being of women. It’s a great way to publicly recognize people who make a difference in your life or the lives of others.
The answers to all your questions can be found here.
The deadline is May 1st, 2009.
I will need to think about this some, but I think whoever is out there advocating to choice and health access in America is a hero. Whoever is out there trying to stop female circumcision is a hero. Whoever is out there trying to stop the spread of AIDS in Africa, where an entire generation of young women is being wiped out, is a hero.
On the one hand: Bob Laszewski makes a compelling case that we shouldn't use money raised via an energy tax to pay for health care reform. He's completely right that doing so may not motivate folks to fix the real problem that health care costs are out of control and the health care system is totally inefficient.
On the other hand: Everyone likes to talk a lot about how we should run the government like we have to run our own budgets. But that argument holds absolutely no water, because in real life, some things bring in money, and some things are cost centers, and you don't really care much if you're paying for your health care bill with money you earned on something that has nothing to do with health.
Now, in a business, if you have multiple lines of business, you do want to have individual product lines or services be profitable. Even so, there are always departments that are cost centers, and they have to be paid for from somewhere. There are even products that are loss leaders...because theoretically their market position it easier for other products to be more profitable.
Point being it is hardly unique to the government to have revenues come in and subsidize some part of your expenses that has nothing to do with the revenues in question. What's the biggie?
In other words: It ain't so simple.
And before you jump all over me I refer you to paragraph one: "He's completely right that doing so may not motivate folks to fix the real problem that health care costs are out of control and the health care system is totally inefficient."