TB Or Not TB?Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Rosemary and I watched Carol Lombard, Brian Aherne and Anne Shirley in a 1940 medical “dramón” Vigil in the Night which was directed by George Stevens.
The film has some scary scenes (for me and I will explain) of children in an isolated ward who mostly dying of a disease, diphtheria that is mostly unknown now.
Diphtheria was still ravaging the world in the late 40s as I remember that every year we were given a vaccine at school. This vaccine was administrated (very much the way a picador pushes his lance into the bull) as in injection somewhere in the middle of back at the spinal column. This vaccine made me pathologically afraid of all needles. When possible, throughout my lifetime I have taken pills when possible.
I have been brave enough when the rewards outweighed my fears. Such was the case of my donating blood every three months when I was in the Argentine Navy. There was an almost unknown statute of naval regulations that stipulated that donating blood and the presentation of an affidavit confirming the donation gave the conscript a free day the day after. I donated blood at the British Hospital in Buenos Aires. My donation included a “thé completo” which included scones and “sanwichitos”.
But whenever I have to go for a blood test (and that has been frequent in the last few months) I warn the nurse that I have been known to faint at the sight of my blood or the needle.
Doctor … is short, very fit and he sports a military haircut. In Mexico we would have instantly guessed he was a “médico militar” whose reputation in Mexico is unparalleled for brilliance.
Doctor… looked at the vertical striations on my finger nails and told me, “You have psoriatic arthritis.” I thought this odd as I have never suffered psoriasis. For many years I had equated psoriasis with scabies. The medicine used to control this somewhat rarer form of arthritis is called Methotrexate. I was prescribed (and soon found out the folks at Blue Cross will not pay for it) to take it and after a couple of months I felt no relief. Doctor… said that the medicine worked better in conjunction with a daily dose of sulfa. And he added that the Methotrexate was more effective if injected weekly.
Close to nine months later I am in fear of the evening, once a week when I must inject myself (on my thighs). The sulfa did not help but it gave me dizzy spells, a constant bitter taste in the mouth, a loss of appetite and worse of all I did not want to drink my favourite daily tea.
Doctor… told me that any medicine that reduced my appetite was good as I would lose weight! I stopped the sulfa after my GP told me to take it for two weeks then not take it for two weeks to see if there was a difference. There was I was drinking my tea on those sulfa free weeks.
Doctor… had a Plan B and a Plan C. Plan B was to take some pills (with the Methotrexate ) that was known to attack bone marrow if a particular enzyme was not in my blood. I was sent for a blood test (expensive as no BC Medical plan pays for it) that was sent to the US. I did have the enzyme and I soon started to take those pills with no measurable improvement.
Plan C is very expensive and even worse for the immune system than all the other medicines. But plan C cannot be given to anybody who has had tuberculosis. So I was sent to the BC Tuberculosis Clinic on 12th Avenue for a blood test. I was told that if where I was injected became infected it meant that I had TB in my system. I returned next day clean as a whistle. But I was told to come back for a just-in-case chest X-Ray.
The X-Ray technician did her job, smiled at me and told me everything was fine.
A week later I received a letter from the TB Clinic enquiring why I had not returned. They had called my GP who called me to find out what was going on.
The night before my re-scheduled appointment I had visions of them having found some sort of tumor, a cancerous one, or the remnants of an unknown type of until now not virulent consumption. When I left the house I told Rosemary to plan how she was going to spend y life insurance.
After going from one attendant to another, I finally went into an office where I saw a very English and very serious female doctor who told me to close the door.
The of course had found some small lesions in my left lung. I had had pneumonia a couple of years ago. But she was precise in telling me that since I had lived in Argentina and Mexico (she did not use the words “Third World” but implied them) they had to be sure. They did not want me to walk around Canada infecting people left and right, or is that right and left? You see I am a dyslexic.
So I have no TB but my psoriatic arthritis isn’t going away. But then there are some surprising benefits. How many out there can claim not only knowing a former inhabitant of the state of Tabasco but also one who happens to be a doctor who is about to patent a proven method for losing weight?
I might inform Doctor ... that I have Plan D in the works. This plan has me not taking anything and simply grinning and baring it. No more needles!