Friday, May 20, 2011

A Husband Trades an Appendage for Pasta

[“Let Inga Tell You”, La Jolla Light, published May 19, 2011] © 2011

For three brief days, my husband was the happiest gout sufferer in America.

He’d still be, except he didn’t actually have gout.

Why, one might reasonably ask, would one be thrilled to be afflicted with such a painful arthritic condition?

A few weeks ago, Olof woke up one morning with a seriously swollen ankle on which he could barely walk.  He didn’t remember injuring it which he thought he would have since he hasn’t been able to exercise much. Since May of 2010, he has pretty much worked seven days a week.

“We just have a lot of business right now,” said Olof.  “But that’s good.”

“Only if you live to tell about it,” I said.

I have had words with Olof about this, because in addition to not getting as much exercise as his wife would like, Olof has cancelled every appointment I’ve made for his annual physical.

“Just to be clear, Olof,” I’d said for months.  “If something happens to you, I am putting you in the cheapest nursing home I can find.  One of those ones you see on Sixty Minutes.”

But despite being totally crippled, Olof, the ultimate Anti-Patient, continued to refuse all medical care and limp off to work.   Five days later, as I was arranging an ice bag around his ankle (the extent of treatment to which he would concede), I noticed that his ankle seemed more swollen than ever.

“OK, Olof.” I said.  “You’re seeing Dr. No first thing tomorrow morning.  I am willing to make a massive scene at your office if you cancel.”

I’ve written about our primary care physician, Dr. No, before.  As in no alcohol, no sugar, no coffee, no starches and even only teeny weeny bits of whole grains.  She has a particular vendetta against pasta.

Dr. No sent Olof for x-rays and labs, citing a preliminary diagnosis of gout.  If so, she informed Olof, he would have to start eating a diet rich in low purine foods, like coffee, bread, rice, and …pasta.

Olof could barely believe his ears.  Did the “p” word actually cross Dr. No’s lips?  And the “c” word (coffee) too?

He called me as soon as he got back to his office, because despite not being able to walk, Olof was still working eighty hours a week.  Just in case she changes her mind, he said, could I start making pasta every night?  Which, by the way, only he can have?

“You want pasta,” he added, “you’ve got to have your own gout.”

That night over dinner, we began to wonder if Dr. No’s draconian dietary standards could have, in fact, caused gout in the first place.  But Olof was one happy guy.  Olof thinks this isn’t a bad trade-off:  he loses a foot but gains pasta.   The only downside would be that it could make his upcoming  business trip to the UK problematical at best.  As a former Air Force pilot, Olof would sooner crawl on all fours to the departure gate than request a wheelchair.

Meanwhile, Dr. No puts Olof on a two day Shock-And-Awe dose of prednisone.  He did a little better but the ankle was still seriously swollen.

The labs took three days to come back.  Definitely not gout.  All arthritic markers were well within normal limits.  Devastated, Olof asked: can we pretend we didn’t hear the lab results?  At least through Monday, or linguine with white clam sauce, whichever comes first?

Meanwhile, Olof’s ankle gradually got better, but not before Dr. No wisely subjected him to an ultrasound for blood clots.  It may have been a blood clot but by the time Olof was successfully bludgeoned into going in, it could well have died of old age and/or boredom.  Olof, meanwhile, maintains that his medical philosophy has once again been vindicated:   If you just leave things long enough, they will either get better or kill you.  Either of which is preferable to seeing a doctor.

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