Health

The Doctor’s Husband Is In

Calvin Luther Martin, PhD

"If you can't be free, be cheap"

Aches & Pains Help, 5¢

I'm not a medical doctor. Neither was Lucy. Like her, I'm going to offer some 5¢ health advice. My sole credential being that I've had life-long asthma, years of bad back, and lately vertigo. I'm going to suggest how you might treat all 3 for relatively little money. Yeah, for peanuts.

Before I do, may I digress and playfully offer my 2¢ on medical doctors?  (Full disclosure:  I’m married to one.)  Doctors are kind of like birthdays.  You may be of the opinion that birthdays and doctors are swell.  If you do, think again.  Birthdays are the pitiless enforcers of that tyrant, Time (Chronos). “You’re getting older,” they rasp in the ear.  (Stop having birthdays and — voila! — you escape the tyranny of Time. 🙂) 

Whereas birthdays are slaves of time, doctors are slaves of the “S” word:  “Sick.”  They declare you “sick” or “not sick.”  I don’t want to live according to the “sick” paradigm, just as I don’t wish to live according to the “age” paradigm.  Deep within, I never define myself by the “S” word.  I live outside its clammy reach.  I’m always just “me,” and that’s always fine.  

Hence, I refuse to medicalize my asthma, back pain, and (lately) vertigo.  I will listen to a physician’s advice, yet refuse to become a “patient” or “sick.” 

May I add that when I die someday it won’t be because I was sick.  It’s all part of my journey and, by golly, I’m gonna enjoy every part of it

Asthma ($46)

I treat mine for $46 (plus the cost of liquid albuterol).

Back (free)

I fix mine for free.

Vertigo ($600)

I treat my vertigo with a $600 machine.

Asthma (a sad story with a good ending)

When these inhalers (“blowers”) came out in the mid to late 1960s, they were a godsend.  I was in college at the time.  My parents had sent me to college in Southern California in part to relieve my chronic asthma.  For decades, these things were effective and cheap — a few dollars.

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Factory farms: A slow-motion train wreck

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— Calvin Luther Martin, PhD
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I recently sent the following article to a number of communities in the North Country where factory farms are a vexing issue.  It’s a sequel to an article I posted here a short time ago, “Cow manure in Potsdam’s drinking water,” which featured this disturbing video, taken by a resident of Parishville. The video shows cow sewage “slurry” from factory farms making its way into brooks and streams feeding into the Racquette River.   Yep, Potsdam draws its drinking water from the Racquette and, by extension, these brooks and streams.

I am a member of FARM, Friends Against Rural Mismanagement.  A bunch of cranky old-timers who object to farmland, woodland, wildland, marshland, rivers and lakes being screwed — regardless of who is holding the screwdriver.

Here is a screenshot of the beginning of the article.  Click here to access the entire article online.

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Click here to keep reading.

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Cow manure in Potsdam’s drinking water?

 

— Calvin Luther Martin, PhD

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Next time you visit Potsdam and dine out, consider bringing bottled water.  I sent this article to the Potsdam town board the other day.  It turns out this incident is just the tip of the iceberg — er, tip of the cowshit plus human feces (septic sludge from the Potsdam sewer plant) in Potsdam’s drinking water.

Here is a screenshot of the beginning of the article.  Click here to read the entire article online.

Stay tuned for updates on this fecal mess.

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Men who beat women

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— Calvin Luther Martin, PhD

I was talking to Judge Charles Gardner the other day.  He mentioned something that floored me.  He said that at least 85% of the cases that come before the Malone Town Court are fueled by booze or drugs.  “Remove the alcohol and drugs, and our case-load would drop phenomenally!”

I have been mulling this over.  Do these people (the ones who appear before court) resort to booze or drugs to embolden them in their horrid behavior?  Do they drink or shoot-up or take pills to give themselves “courage”?  (This isn’t courage; it’s cowardice. Bottled cowardice.)  Does the alcohol or drug inflame them, make them go berserk, so they do awful things?  Do they consider their behavior awful?  (This last question is especially troubling.)

The judge went on to note that many of the worst cases before him are drunken or drugged men who have just beaten up their wives or girlfriends.  The sterile legal phrase is “domestic violence.” The story gets worse. While being arraigned before the judge, some of these besotted men (some being no more than teenagers) have the gall to inform the troopers, village police, prosecutor, and even the judge that he, the drunk standing there in shackles, is going to kill all of them sooner or later for having the temerity to interrupt and arrest him for smashing his wife or girlfriend in the face!
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Attend one of  these 2 a.m. arraignments sometime and witness this sickness first-hand.  While you and I are peacefully tucked in, there’s another world unfolding in the wee hours.  A bizarre, brutal world where the police and DA and judges are dealing with an alcohol or drug-enraged male who has hammered a woman.  The appalling part is, there’s no remorse!  On the contrary, he’s now notifying everyone within earshot that he’s going to murder them and their wives, while the husband looks on!

This isn’t Camden NJ I’m talking about; this is North Country teenagers and adults. These are people you see filling their 4×4 Ford or GMC with gas at Maplefields.

My wife, a psychiatrist, sees lots of

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Rattus rattus: Malone’s rat plague

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— Calvin Luther Martin, PhD

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Rats are turning up in people’s homes in alarming and unprecedented numbers in the Depot area, down below the Franklin County courthouse.
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“I had one on my damn porch,” writes one incensed neighbor.  “It about gave me a heart attack. The little fucker chewed a hole in my big plastic trash can at the top. I put a trap out there with poison and it hasn’t been back! I have lived here for almost 5 years and never have I seen something of the sort. It was disgusting!”

Another wrote: “Been here since 1999 and never seen, heard or had any evidence of their presence until last year, when the neighbors caught 2 in traps. And then my dog barking and barking at the garage.  We finally decided to let her go, to find out what her problem was — ” whereupon they discovered this:
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Rattus rattus
.  Also known as the black rat, as distinct from Rattus norvegicus, the brown rat.  Turns out the family pooch was barking at Rattus on a car wheel in the garage.

It gets worse.  This one was photographed by a woman in her kitchen!
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And “worser.”  This was photographed — yup, you guessed it!
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(What if you were in a hurry and didn’t think to inspect the toilet before — oh no!  Let me just say, if you live in the Depot, be sure to check the toilet seat.)

While I was typing the above paragraph, this gem arrived in my Inbox.  Trapped by a gentleman living on Fort Covington Street, in (what I’m going to call) Rat Depot.
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Rats are worth worrying about.  Consider the Black Death, which killed roughly half the population of Europe in the mid-14th century (1300’s).
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The Black Death was one of the most devastating pandemics [a pandemic is a huge epidemic] in human history, resulting in the deaths of an estimated 75 to 200 million people and peaking in Europe in the years 1346–53.  Although there were several competing theories as to the etiology [origin] of

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When darkness crushes us: Nick Benardot

 

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Calvin Luther Martin, PhD
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When I was 40 and a university professor, my best friend (believe it or not) was an 11-year-old boy.  My son Forrest.  Earlier this week, 11-year-old Nick Benardot was smashed by a motorist as Nick was on his way home from school.  (He’s alive, in a medically-induced coma with substantial brain trauma.)

When I heard the news, I responded as a father — the father of a boy named Forrest.   (That’s him in the top photo, age 11.  He’s now in his late thirties.)

The thought of young Forrest being mangled by a vehicle — I know of no words for this.  Just blackness.
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I have experienced this blackness through other means.  (I knew an Eskimo in Alaska who told me that when his wife was killed, his mind turned to “air,” as he put it.  “For days,” he spoke barely above a whisper, “I had no thoughts.  Just air.”  He slowly waved his hand before his face.)

In my journey through darkness I waited, waiting for something to take me by the hand.  I had no assurances such a “guide” or “savior” would appear; I merely hoped for it.  I knew I could not walk myself back into life.

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The savior did appear.  Took my cold, lifeless hand.  I had lost the will to live.

The savior happened to be a physician.  (No, not my wife.)  A doctor friend in Boston.  She phoned nightly for months and talked sometimes for hours.  I don’t recall her words.  I remember her voice.  Honeyed.  Mostly, she cared.  Somehow she navigated her way to me in this heaving sea of torment and grasped my hand.  (I have always wondered, “Was she, literally, an angel?”  I’m not sure I would understand the answer.)

Nick’s family will be plunged into this — this place beyond the grasp of language.

Sooner or later, they will feel something reach for their hand.  Into a mind that has become “air” will slowly come a lilac blossom, a lily-of-the-valley or forget-me-not, a robin’s evening song.  Or perhaps a child’s sudden, bubbling laughter.  As if a match

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“I struggle with depression” — Part 2

Burning matchstick on white - vector

Part 2:  Light

— Calvin Luther Martin, PhD
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In the dark before dawn the woods are quiet and still, as if waiting.  My wife sleeps nearby; I hear her rhythmic breathing.  We are camped in the Adirondacks.

Something has awakened me.  I have no idea what it was.  A moment later there is a roaring like wind in my right ear and the hearing in that ear vanishes.  Just like that.

I shout for Nina to wake up.  She’s groggy, trying to make sense of what I’m saying.  As I squint at the sky and trees above me, everything begins spinning.  Left to right, the universe scrolls past.  I squeeze my eyes shut.  The vertigo continues beneath the eyelids.  “Nina, everything is spinning!”  From inside her sleeping bag, her muffled voice gently urges me to go back to sleep.

By now I’m getting nauseous.  Terrified, I peel off my sleeping bag and stand up.  But I can’t keep my balance.  I tell her I can’t stand up and I’m about to vomit.

Suddenly I feel her seize my arm, steadying me.  No, I can’t walk to the car; I have no balance.  She throws my arm over her shoulder and virtually carries me out.

The moon’s brightness hurts my eyes.  While she goes back to collect our camping gear, I lean out the door and vomit.  I black out.

This is how it began, my encounter with the mysterious force that would lead me by the hand, like a child, through the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

journey fixed

In the weeks following, I would be unable to sleep.  (I now understand why sleep deprivation is a universal method of torture.)  Over the next months, I lost tens of pounds as my appetite disappeared.  I wept easily.  I was devoured by anxiety and a vague fear — of anything, including, as pitiful as it sounds, going down to the basement.  I couldn’t tolerate being alone, and yet conversation was difficult and being in public was torture.  (My hearing returned, I’m happy to report.)

Two or three months before this event, I had received an advance copy of

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“I struggle with depression” — Part 1

match in dark2

 

Part 1:  Darkness

— Calvin Luther Martin, PhD
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“Midway in the journey of life,” begins the narrator of Dante’s “Inferno,” “I came to myself in a dark wood.”  (Full stop.  Take a breath.  Now go on to the next paragraph.  These notations are for me, by the way, not for you, the reader.)

So did I.  Literally.  (Those four words are difficult to write.)  “Ah, how hard it is to tell the nature of that wood — savage, dense and harsh,” continues the speaker, “the very thought of it renews my fear.”  (The very thought renews my fear.  Oh god, yes! More than once in the past day or two I’ve considered aborting this essay — going AWOL, as it were.)

“It is so bitter, death is hardly more so.”  (Re-read that line.  This isn’t merely a fragment of text from one of the world’s great masterpieces, Dante’s Divina Commedia — the Divine Comedy.  The words breathe.  Are sentient and conscious.  Like Death, the words know my name.  They know the name of many of us, alas.)

The narrator presses on.  “But to set forth the good I found, I will recount the other things I saw.”

So will I.  Had I not found “good,” I would not be alive today.  Insofar as I can put words to it, this is my journey through the dark wood.  The journey of my entire life, I now realize.  Although now it’s a good journey — one I embrace and welcome.  One I would not trade for anything.

I saw blackness.  I saw the image, above — without the match.  A black void.  The cosmic abyss.  Milton, clearly no stranger to this experience, called it Chaos and Old Night.  What I write is no exaggeration.  Not literary license.  Every noun and adjective carefully, painfully chosen.  I was consumed by a darkness that had texture, substance, and an eerie, pulsing, throbbing life of its own.  In this blackness I was absolutely powerless.  If there is a hell, this was it.  I was completely, definitively undone.  Pulverized.  Ground to dust.  Mind.  Spirit.  Body.  Helpless.  Prisoner 

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Powerful video against bullying

 

A local news anchor who was criticized by a viewer for being obese decided to use her morning news show to directly address her attacker.

WKBT anchor Jennifer Livingston, from La Crosse, Wisonsin, responded to a letter she received chiding her for not being a ‘suitable example for this community’s young people’ – particularly girls – because her ‘physical condition hadn’t improved for many years’.

The writer of the letter referred to Mrs Livingston’s ‘obesity’ and said: ‘I leave you this note hoping that you’ll reconsider your responsibility as a local public personality to present and promote a healthy lifestyle.’

 

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ADHD: Does it really exist?

—Nina Pierpont, MD, PhD

There is so much talk about children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).  Does it exist or not?  How do you figure out if a child has it?  Does everyone need a medicine?  What else can be done, besides medicine?

I will address these questions in several articles, from the point of view of a pediatrician who, faced daily with these questions from parents, took several years away from general practice to explore them.

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ADHD: Look before you leap

—Nina Pierpont, MD, PhD

I already talked about mental energy (alertness, effort, consistency, and sleep) and the input controls (deciding what is most important, things glancing off the surface of the mind, making connections, and how exciting things need to be to hold attention).  The third part of attention is the output controls.  These are the parts we use to regulate what we do or say—deciding when, where, or how much, or whether to skip doing something altogether.

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What elephants teach us about children

—Nina Pierpont, MD, PhD

A friend of mine was featured in the New York Times on October 8 and 10, 2006, in an arresting article called “An Elephant Crackup?”  An ecologist and psychologist, Gay Bradshaw has joined with elephant researchers, psychiatrists, and a neuroscientist to show why elephants are becoming violent—and, in the process, to shed some light on human violence.

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Mapping the world onto the brain

—Nina Pierpont, MD, PhD

Some years ago a man’s sight was restored who had never had sight.  There was a blockage in his eyes which kept the light from getting in, which was fixed by surgery.  The rest of the structures were there—the retina for receiving the light, the optic nerves for transmitting retina signals, and the parts of the brain that receive the signals.  So we imagine that within days of the surgery, when the bandages were taken off, the man saw for the first time faces—his surgeon, his wife—and the things in his room.

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Autism from the inside

—Nina Pierpont, MD, PhD

Temple Grandin, PhD, professor and author of Thinking in Pictures, was born autistic.  Dr. Grandin didn’t talk until 3½, and as a young child screamed, threw tantrums, and got stuck doing simple movements over and over.  Today, however, a third of the livestock in the US are handled in equipment and facilities she designed.

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Letters to the editor

Some advice as you compose your letter (for more detail be sure to read Terms of Service). Each of us has strong feelings about certain topics. Strong feelings are okay; expressing those feelings abusively or maliciously, or as a tirade, is not.

We’ve all written heated, intemperate letters and fired them off to the object of our wrath. A better idea is to write the letter, set it aside for a night or a day—then toss it in the wastebasket.  Now sit down and start all over, with the passion and purpose intact, but blistering prose removed. Try it.

—Editor
info@rivercitymalone.com

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Concussion

—Nina Pierpont, MD, PhD

In the hierarchy of injuries, concussion is often considered to be near the bottom, almost a noninjury.  If a CT scan of the head is normal—meaning there is no bleeding or swelling in or around the brain, and no skull fracture—generally the person goes home to rest and recover.  I myself had a concussion a few years ago, and found that for a few days afterwards my brain didn’t work quite right.

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Play + Therapy = Theraplay

—Nina Pierpont, MD, PhD

Consider this.  A father told me that when his thirteen-year-old asked if he could go to a friend’s house, he replied, “If you can beat me at pool!”  The boy enthusiastically agreed.  After dad beat him 15 times, he told his son to go ahead and go to his friend’s. I liked this.  It told me that dad was able to engage, challenge, structure, and nurture his son.  To do this he used humor and play, in a mixture very acceptable to a boy this age.

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Sick of poverty

—Nina Pierpont, MD, PhD

Everyone knows that poor people are, on average, sicker than well-off people. This is true even where there is universal health care, as in Great Britain and Scandinavia. It’s not just a difference between the top and the bottom of the wealth ladder, but a stepwise gradient from level to level of socio-economic status (SES).

A study of the British civil service, for example showed that for heart health, administrators did better than professionals, who did better than clerical staff, who did better than porters and messengers.  Death rates from heart and vascular disease were about double in the lowest SES group what they were in the highest.

Surprisingly, only a third of this gradient was explained by life style differences, like smoking and amount of exercise, writes Dr. Robert Sapolsky in the journal Scientific American (Dec. 2005, pp. 92- 99).  A larger fraction of the gradient (about half) was explained by autonomy in the workplace.  The more a person made his own decisions at work, the better his cardiovascular health.

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