Monday, October 19, 2020

Parkinson's update & where do they get those long drug names


(671 words)

My neurologist just prescribed me Amantadine to go along with my Pramipexole and Levothyroxine. Or as I call them, the little green one, the pink one and the medium tan one that tastes like the bottom of a farmer’s boot.

That’s three pills, 17 syllables.

The Amantadine is supposed to improve dexterity in my left arm, which Parkinson’s has rendered as useless as a deli window salami. Side effects include vivid hallucinations in 50 percent of the patients.

An Amantadine-taking friend of mine warned me of this. He has them. I asked him to describe what he sees.

“You see whatever’s most on your mind. With me, it’s roofers. We’re having new roofs put in on three of my properties so I’ve been thinking a lot about roofers.”

I wonder if I’ll start seeing naked waitresses bringing me trays of food and drink. That’s been a persistent fantasy of mine since puberty and the years have done nothing to diminish its potency.

Either way, I’m glad we don’t live in a house with a leaky roof.

There was good news from my neurologist. She says I’m beating Parkinson’s. Those were her exact words: “You’re beating Parkinson’s.”

“I can tell by looking at you you’re doing great. Still strong. Most patients at your stage (5 years since symptoms appeared) are showing significant struggles. You display none of those. That bodes very well for your future.”

I’m gratified, but I wonder if she’s taking drugs with side effects that include overly exuberant diagnoses to anxious patients.

I don’t feel like I’m beating Parkinson’s. Distracting it, maybe.

I know it’s one of those things that’ll be uppermost in my mind until the day I die, which leads me to fear I one day might transmit the disorder to all those naked waitresses I’m hoping will appear in my hallucinations.

I wonder how long it’ll be before the number of pills I take outnumber the number of fruits and vegetables I eat.

Or alcoholic beverages I guzzle.

I think every pill comes with prudent instructions to avoid alcohol.

To which I say, how the hell am I supposed to do that? I work in a building that has three bars lavish with booze. I daily stroll past two of them on my way up the stairs only occasionally succumbing to temptation’s pull. 

What am I supposed to do? Heave a grappling hook up onto the roof and scale the walls?

No. I’ll not let a little pill boss me around. I invite it into my body — my party — and I expect it to play nice with the other guests. 

I think I’ll begin to worry when I top 100 syllables in daily pharmaceuticals.

A big chunk of that could come if I’m ever diagnosed with melanoma. The skin disease is treated with Talimogene laherparepvec (tal IM oh jeen la her pa REP vek). I imagine the name hula hoops twice around the little pill bottle.

Then there’s OnabotulinumtoxinA, which sounds less like a treatment for debilitating motor skills and more like one of the brain puzzlers used to stump final round contestants at the National Spelling Bee.

Where do these names come from and do the smock-wearing namers ever try to name a pill Phil?

Well, it turns out the naming of a generic drug is highly regulated — and informative. Each syllable tells a story.

Reliable web sites — are there any other kind? — say “Pharmaceutical names are assigned according to a scheme in which specific syllables in the drug name (called stems) convey information about the chemical structure, action, or indication of the drug.”

So, conceivably, there are men and women who have committed to memory vowel-devouring words of up to 20 letters. I have no idea of how to identify these people by sight but if one day one them becomes my partner in a high-stakes game of Scrabble, man, you’re going to hear about it.

Because a rose by any other name is still a rose.

Same goes for Dapagliflozin.

Related …

So, okay, I have Parkinson’s

The suicide pill 

Prince & the Nation that pees purple

In the ring: fighting Parkinson’s with boxing

Deep sixing heart attack plans

Thursday, October 15, 2020

My KDKA spot goes pfft

(726 words)

Our daughters made a nice impression on some friends this weekend and I was happy to share the compliments.

“They said you were charming, poised and articulate,” I said, sensing right away they were experiencing proud surges of youthful self-esteem. It was heady praise.

It’s why I felt momentary shame when I instantly pricked their ego-expanding balloons.

“You know,” I said, “when people say things like that, they’re not complimenting you. They’re complimenting me and your mother.”

It’s true. A child is unworthy of genuine compliment until they’re about 25 years old and are out and about in the world. Until then, most everything they are — how they look, how they act, what they have — is a result of parental influence.

I can say this because I understand an increasingly big part of who I am is a direct result of someone else.

That’d be Kevin Miscik.

Kevin’s owned Lapels, a fine men’s clothier in downtown Greensburg, since 2002. That was around the time when I dressed year-round like a guy who was always available to help a drinking buddy move a porch couch.

That all began to change when Lapels opened.

I guess I bought my first shirt there in about 2003. Most of you have seen it. It’s the vivid Tommy Bahama floral print shirt I’m wearing on the cover of “Undaunted Optimist.” The plush black sports coat was another of Kevin’s recommendations.

It’s because of Kevin I’ve become a bit of a dandy, this at an age when most men are beginning to transition from tailored business suits to elastic waist band warm-up duds.

Prior to Covid, I’d been doing a lot of public speaking and needed to look sharp. Plus wearing fine clothes gave me confidence. And it was all thanks to Kevin. 

He and his associate Bob Nolan seemed to take pride when they found just the right garment to compliment a new sports coat I’d purchased for a high profile public appearance. 

So today was going to be a big day for Kevin and I. I was scheduled to appear via Skype on KDKA’s “Pittsburgh Today Live,” for a segment that was to run later.

I was very excited. It seemed like a great opportunity to promote my book. 

I told Kevin.

“Oh, that’s great!,” he said. “Stop by the store and let me find you a shirt so you’ll look your best.”

It was very generous. He picked out the playfully dashing Luciano Visconti number you see in the picture and wished me luck.

The appearance on a popular regional TV show never felt to me like a sure thing. Dates were changed, calls went unreturned.

Then all of a sudden it became a sure thing. We were set to do a 4-minute segment today at 10 a.m. Just yesterday, I ran through some topics with the host and followed up with some scripted talking points.

After some initial nervousness I believe I settled into some lines and sight gags that would ensure a winning appearance.

Then out-of-the-blue (the black actually, it was 8 p.m.), came the soul-deflating e-mail. 

“Unfortunately,” “cancel,” “disappointing,” “final say,” “so terribly sorry” were some of the key phrases. It ended with a plea: “I hope you understand.”

In fact, I do not. 

Evidently, someone must think I’ll be bad for business, that I’ll drive viewers away, or that I’m the kind of crass opportunist who’d use my time to shamelessly plug things like the businesses of my friends.

(I plead guilty on that last count. I had positioned the little sign I’m holding above so it would appear on the Skype shot right above my head.)

It’s all good. I bear no grudge.

My heart has no room for hard feelings — not as long as it’s consumed with the toxic smog of lost opportunities, hurt confusion and the rising tide of bile belched forth from deep in the soul where once pretty dreams go to die.

So it’s not unlike those Friday evenings when the bartender says I’ve had enough.

But don’t feel bad for me. I’m confident other opportunities will arise and the good times will resume their roll.

Feel bad for Kevin.

See, I’m keeping the shirt.

Related …

I drank alone

I get screwed by Bay Hill … again

Praise, Fame &TINARA Award going to my head


Friday, October 9, 2020

Americans suffering from ASS


(530 words)

I have a layman’s understanding of Attention Deficit Disorder and a lazy man’s reluctance to do the research that would broaden my knowledge.

So take what you read here with a grain of salt, a warning I’m sure is unnecessary to those of you already hyper-alert to fake news shenanigans.

In fact, my standing in this regard is so shallow it can be summed up in one lame light bulb joke:

PERSON 1: “How many attention deficit disorder kids does it take to change a lightbulb?”

PERSON 2: “I don’t know. How many ADD kids does it take to change a lightbulb?”

(PERSON 1 stares blankly for a good 20 seconds or until straight man loses all patience. Then …

PERSON 1: “Wanna go ride bikes?”

See, the humor comes from the inability of an ADD person to focus on one thing or concentrate on a task or field of interest before absentmindedly flitting onto something else entirely.

I confess here to feeling a twinkle of serenity upon typing the word “absentminded.’

Image for a moment being incapable of finding your mind.

If I lost my mind I wouldn’t send out a search party until 1 January 2021.

I don’t have ADD.

No, I, probably like you, have Attention Surplus Syndrome (ASS). Yes, I made it up. I imagine identifying and describing an affliction entitles me to naming dibs, which I decline.

It’s going to be challenging enough being my daughter without having to answer the question: “So, are you the Rodell for whom ASS is named?”

ASS is the flip side of ADD. Go ahead and call it the other cheek.

ADD patients deal with attention deficits. ASSes like me have surpluses of attention. We watch the news all day and well into the wee hours.

It’s the one thing upon which partisans on both sides agree. We can’t get enough of the news. We could stare unblinkingly for hours and still not be sated.

We have attention to spare.

I’m not there yet, but the most extreme cases people with so much surplus attention can’t help themselves and spill their excess opinion on innocents who are simply trying to enjoy their lives free of political conflict.

They swamp FaceBook friends with conspiracy theories and fake news purporting to be about fake news. Many of them are consumed with hate for anyone who doesn’t share their opinion.

And they can’t shut up.

They’re Attention Surplus Syndrome Oral Lecturers (ASSOLs).

Happily, it’s not too late. You can begin taking steps today to restore your sanity. Turn off the TV, slam the lid on the laptop, take a stroll in the woods or snuggle up to a cuddly consensual and see which of you can go longer without using mentioning politics.

I’m trying to do my part to be less of an ASS. I’ll be selling books at Second Chapter Books in Ligonier from noon til 5 with an earnest vow to avoid controversy.

I hope you’ll do the same. We all need to do our part to lower the volume and reduce the ugliness.

Let’s start with you and I.

Let’s together vow to kick ASS before ASS kicks us.

Related …

America’s last undecided voter … me!

Trump’s no jackass — he’s under-qualified

Trump’s in Latrobe! Aunt Millie goes nuts …