Friday, July 30, 2010

"Speed-dating" type doctor selection

Anyone who has even passed me on the street knows I am sick and tired of the doctors I have found in Arizona. Don’t even ask!

So I read with interest that a Texas hospital (Texas Health Harris Hospital Hurst-Euless-Bedford, how’s that for a name tag?) has periodic “Doc Shop” sessions in which patients and docs have lightning conversations—a la speed dating.

Surprisingly, some doctors are short of patients, what with the downturn and the increased coinsurances and copays.

The hospitals also benefit—and may be chosen for elective surgeries.

The hospital pushed the Doc Shops on Facebook, Twitter and through email.

Each session is for one specialty—OB-GYN, pediatrics. They are focused toward women, who make most of the health care decisions.

I would go to one of these sessions if they did them here. For now, I sort of google, stick a pin in the internet, read the random reviews I can get free, and then check lawsuits and actions against the doctor…then usually think, “Next.”

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Now be nice--time for that crutch

Assistive devices can harm if you do it wrong. This from Craig Weinstein, an orthopedist in Gilbert, AZ.

You must get the right device for your problem and the right size for your frame.

Crutches are for an injury or surgery that does not allow any, or only limited, weight on the extremity. The top of the crutch should be one inch under your armpit. The handgrips should be opposite the tops of your hips. The elbows should have a slight bend.

You lead with the crutches and then swing your body up to them. Look ahead, not at the ground under the crutches.

Canes are used for balance or slight instability. The top of the cane should be even with the wrist crease when standing. Grip the cane in the hand OPPOSITE the leg that needs support. Let the cane strike the ground the same time as the injured leg.

Walkers are for recovery from hip or knee replacements or balance problems for the elderly. The top of the walker should be level with the wrist crease when standing. Don’t lean all the way onto the walker.

Got all that?

Diff subject: Do you get those catalogs full of diapers and crutches? I hate those.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Running barefoot

Jorge Cruise, fitness guru, wrote about this in USA Today Weekend, July 23, 2010.

He says some experts question whether running shoes are really healthier—maybe they interfere with the ability to sense the force with which the foot hits the ground.

The raised heel of a running shoe increases the heel strike.

Barefoot running, say enthusiasts, could reduce impact injuries while building stronger ankle and leg muscles.

There are shoes that supposedly act like a bare foot—5.0 from Nike, Wave Ronin 2 from Mizumo, and Evo by Terra.

This Avatar-like weirdie is Five Fingers from Vibram.

“Fingers”? Nobody uses a professional namer anymore.

That one looks thin—what about rusty nails?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

What if your kid or a classmate is sick?

Cancer, something else very serious. The child looks poorly, is absent a lot.

What would your school do to inform the other kids? Have you faced this?

Teachers at St Jude’s Children Research Hospital help kids re-enter school with a catastrophic illness.

The key is to keep information at a level the kids can understand. It amounts to demystifying the illness, say cancer.

Sometimes even parents think cancer is contagious. This needs to be discussed. Maybe the child wears a mask to keep from catching a cold. They can say why they wear it.

Children also need to know the child didn’t do something that “caused” the disease. Sometimes they may ask that.

If the worst happens and the child must leave the class and not come back, either through death or treatment, the kids are in the know and can be part of it.

Even if it's bad.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The rules of the wild is a site and a booklet created by an internet friend of mine, Catherine Dold.

Hiking is fun and good exercise—plus you get to look for and spot animals. This is made for kids!

Dold takes youngsters through what to wear and what to bring (water, sunscreen, lunch—and what else? Do YOU know?).

It runs through how to stay safe and what to do if you can’t find the others.

Another chapter teaches children how to respect the outdoors—don’t pick flowers or feed animals, don’t shout.

There is also a quiz and kids can earn a Good Hiker Certificate.

My daughter saw the certificate in the printer and said, “I want this.” She is 28.

Go to to buy the book, which can be downloaded for five bucks.

I almost went hiking, but you know me, that would be rash in my case.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The flu patch

Unless you love going to the nearest drugstore and watching retired nurses fuss over signup sheets, disclaimers, and syringes, you may like the coming vaccination patch.

Instead of putting the vaccine on the skin to absorb (like some pain patches), it has microscopic needles that go a teeny under the skin when you press it on—dissolving as the medicine enters.

No scary sharp needle to dispose of or worse, to jab you!

The mice appreciated it. So far, only the rodents have tried this.

Eventually, though, you might get your flu patch in the mail or from the pharmacy, no muss no fuss.

Dissolving microneedles, huh. The name could use work.

Still, I wish we could get all medical care in the mail.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

News for Caesarean moms

You may be able to scream in pain. Just kidding. It’s a beautiful process, birth.

Time was (last Monday), doctors said once a C-section, always a C-section, for fear the incision would pop during labor. This turns out to be vanishingly rare.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists used to say you could try a vag birth if you had had one C-section. Now, two and even a twin delivery are okayed to try.

Still, doctors and mothers are urged to deliver in a hospital that can provide emergency care.

These guidelines come from two big NIH studies and are partly intended to stimulate discussion.

So discuss with your doctor.

I ended up with a C-section and remember crying like a failure—then I realized that baby was coming out somehow and I wasn’t going back home with her in there. So just get it done, I said.

And they did.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Crib notes

Anjali Athavaley, WSJ, July 21, 2010, talks about baby beds. Last month, 2.2 million cribs were recalled—by a total of seven manufacturers.

Most of these had drop sides, which slide up or down. I think my kid’s actually folded over and dropped…good finger pincher—mine.

Now they are looking at the wood, design safety, mattresses.

Design flaws create a gap where the baby can fall out or get squooshed in and not be able to breathe well.

Every parent knows even the tiniest infant will migrate over to get his or her head against the side—that’s why they have those bumpers.

My kid’s bumpers had alligators on them—hmmm, that may explain a few things.

OK, back to what I was saying.

In the store, look for four fixed sides. Grab the thing—if it skews or shimmies, not good.

One tester said these cribs just don’t stand up to children.

Well, isn’t that special?

Oh—and forget the $100 crib. You will be forking over the Benjamins.

And the one at the garage sale you just whizzed by? Probably a killer.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Sad case--weight loss pills

Now, the govt (under the so-called stimulus just passed) is going to create a Fat Registry of everyone’s Body Mass Index.

If only there were an effective way to lose weight.

When you come down to it, there isn’t. Oh, yes, exercise more, eat less, etc. Blah blah. The body adjusts.

Short circuit the intestines. That has some big drawbacks and you can eat through it.

How about a pill? Reuters recently did a timeline of the pill approach, which was some pretty depressing reading, let me tell you.

Late 1800s—Thyroid extract. Serious side effects.

1930s. Dinitrophenol revved up the system so much it ruined nerves and formed cataracts.

1940s. Amphetamines at first—worked but addictive.

1960s. Rainbow pills—amphetamines, digitalis, and diuretics. Hearts attacks!

1997. Fen-Phen…heart valve problems.

2009—Hydroxycut—liver damage.

Still on the market:

Meridia. Warning label on blood pressure and risk of heart attack. Not sold in Europe.

Xenical. Can cause serious liver problems, gas, and poop accidents.

Drugs up for approval:

Qnexa. Remember the “Phen” in Fen-Phen? That’s in there along with an anti-seizure medicine. FDA approval expected in fall.

Proceed at your own risk.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Wading vacation

When I was a kid back in Missouri, my father used to float down rivers in what was called a john boat. No rowing, just floating.

I was reminded of this when I read about river wading, an activity (and good exercise—like water aerobics with bugs) on Marco Island, Florida, near the Everglades.

Go to

At Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park, called the Amazon of North America, is a slow moving river of clear, thigh-deep water. You can take a five-hour walking (er, wading) tour of it for $50 between November and the end of April. Call ahead at
(239) 695-1023

For the wading averse (there's stuff down there) there are boardwalks and canoes.

What DOES lie beneath? Gators.

We didn’t have those in Missouri.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Disabled starting more businesses

It’s hard enough to get a job if you have two legs, transportation, a fast-moving brain, good eyesight, and sharp hearing.

What if you were disabled? (I am vision-impaired enough to take this personally.)

Sarah E. Needleman wrote about this in the WSJ, July 15, 2010.

Some orgs have stepped forward to help—one being Community Options, in Princeton, NJ.

Unemployment for the disabled is officially 14.3%, up from 9.3% two yrs ago.

Six business schools offer entrepreneur boot camp for disabled vets (Whitman School of Management, Syracuse Univ).

There is also a group called the Disabled Businesspersons Association.

Unfortunately, these people are competing with able-bodied business execs for scarce loans and really, in some cases, may be too disabled to run a business.

The results are, at best, mixed, but if this is the only way to get money, go to it--and ask for help if you need it.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Eat this!

Elizabeth Bernstein wrote about couples with different eating habits in the WSJ, July 13, 2010.

One guy likes to stuff his cheeks with peanuts and smack lip lips over yummy food. His wife is grossed out (“he makes a drain-flushing sound when he swallows”).

She used to kick him under the table, now she drinks more wine.

Some people like to eat early, some hours later.

Some like sauces and garnishes, others dump out the fridge and pour on hot sauce.

One spouse likes thin crisp cookies, the other cakey fat ones.

Food is close to the heart—one of the earliest ways to assert ourselves is to eat or not.

One guy even sent his intended to a therapist to learn to like more types of foods and now she eats her quesdillas fancier than his.

So there!

Those two with the cookies? Once the wife got so mad at seeing the flat cookies, she went to the store for storebought. Probably fumed the whole way, too.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Grownups can be picky eaters

My daughter won’t eat rice. Not a grain. Hates it.

My sister dated a guy who hated cheese.

When a grownup won’t eat things, it isn’t really an eating disorder, but it can be a problem and interfere with life.

Duke and the Univ of Pittsburgh have set up a picky eating registry. You can log in and record your preferences (or hatreds).

Picky (or selective) eaters seem to like French fries—no one knows why. Or chicken fingers.

Eating spaghetti,one said, is like stuffing grass in your mouth and chewing it up.

Others say certain foods make their stomachs churn—their bodies just won’t let them eat whatever it is.

Check out

Monday, July 12, 2010

Health tips from an Angel

A Hell’s Angel

Actually, THE Hell’s Angel—Sonny Barger, now 71, and now a spiritual leader.

Susan Carpenter wrote about him in the LA Times.

Sonny has (natch) a book out called Let’s Ride.

He is sort of ticked that the government can tax him, but he can’t vote or own a gun because he is a felon. Yeah, the govt is like that. (Sonny spent 13 years in max security prisons.)

There are enough skeevy little jailbirds in Arizona to hold me for some time, but I decided to write about this guy anyway.

Sonny works out and drinks protein smoothies.

He no longer rides a Harley, now it’s a Victory Vision.

He credits luck for his long life, saying you can be sitting at a light and be taken out by a truck—it’s all luck.

Also—he says—don’t ride while angry, drunk, or on drugs. Don’t ride a black bike—hard to see.

He wears a full-face helmet and no one dares comment. (AZ does not require helmets.)

He needs the wind protection—his vocal cords were removed due cancer of the larynx (3packs a day).

The Angels still travel fast, often above the limit, and clump together.

They don’t follow—they lead, zipping around slow-moving cars to get out front.

They are just that way.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Shmooch therapy

According to Redbook (May 2010), a cheap, fun, easy way to get a moment’s peace from surging cortisol and stress is to kiss.

Researchers asked 52 people to rate their stress and told half to then kiss their partners more often and longer for six weeks. (Not six-week kisses, you knew what I meant.)

The kissers reported less stress and more relationship satisfaction.

Kissing elevates oxytocin in the blood, which stops stress chemicals.

Secondly, it is a distraction (did you have sausage for lunch?) and makes you forget your troubles for at least a kiss’s worth.

So let’s get on it, people! SMACK!

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Tattoos recession proof

Oh, don’t EVEN when it comes to tattoos in our family. Mom hates them and makes mean cracks. Somehow dementia has not dulled THAT edge.

I have always liked them and got the first of two when I was 37. Smokey Nightingale—a famous inker in DC at the time (now dead).

I got my second from a speed freak named Wade out here in Arizona—when visiting, before I moved here.

My sister and I got the same one—we sort of designed it from a brooch we saw in a catalog and then Wade, who had been to art school he trippingly told us as he tweaked away, refined it. Very pretty.

My sister later added a banner to hers with her husband’s middle name. Tattoos are so personal.

A 2007 Pew study says 40% of those born between 1961 and 1981 have a “unit,” as Smokey liked to call them.

Forty-five million Americans have at least one.

Of course, the bossy cows like to blat on about Hep C, etc. Hey, hope you don’t get hit by a bus. Make sure the joint has an autoclave. Buy some Hibiclens.

The stigma? Sure—you can run into it. I advise not to do neck or face and put your tatts places that can be covered during an interview at IBM.

Although---a unit that reads I B M – who knows? Maybe with a nice little banner that reads OR BUST.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Don't cook the pooch

John Stanley, Arizona Republic, July 3rd reminds us that your dog is no better than you are running around in a heat wave with no water or hiking up and down mountains.

People leave pets in cars (and KIDS). Cracking the window does not do it!

Don’t tie your pet up all day in the yard with a shallow pan of water and no shade.

People are more apt to leave the dog at home without proper hydration and shade. Usually they will take water for the animal on a hike—but not always.

Don’t forget, rocks and sidewalks get hot! Those little footpads may look leathery but they collect heat.

Dogs also get used to a/c and need to build up to a summer adventure outdoors.

If your dog starts panting like mad, is nervous and shaky, looks frantic or glazed, drools a lot, staggers or vomits—find shade PDQ!

Give some water—but not too much. Don’t let him gulp.

Pour cool (not icy) water on the dog’s head, belly and groin.

For more tips, go to:

If he continues to look bad, get to a vet. Maybe carry the number of a vet near the trailhead.

Woof. That’s canine for thank you, my little oochy--woochy human.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Can you run too much?

Leslie Barker Garcia, Dallas Morning News, writes that addiction to running can…wear you out or injure you.

I know people who have done this to themselves. Seven days a week, sick, well, rain, shine, hot, cold—run, run.

The guy in her story had a bone tumor in his leg—and all he asked was how soon after the surgery could he run.

Like anything else—exercise can be overdone.

You need to overload you body, then let it recover to change it for the better.


Overexercising can mean insomnia, tiredness, bad performance.

If you think you need to cut back, keep a training log, Garcia writes. One guy found every time he had a problem, he had been overtraining.

Make yourself take at least one day off.

Eat and sleep well. Concentrate on it.

If you still can’t stop or taper, seek help.

I know this doesn’t apply to too many of my readers, but I want every one of you!

Monday, July 05, 2010

Would you stick these in your eyes?

Catherine Saint Louis, NYT, July 3, 2010, writes about special contact lenses Lady Gaga wears to give her face an anime, wide-eyed look.

Actually, in her video, the Lady’s eyes were widened by computer (I would say she is not an idiot, except she undressed at a ballgame, so…).

Teengers, though, are using a new type of cosmetic contact that is bigger than usual—covering part of the white of the eye.

Circle lenses, they are called. The cost $20-$30 a pair.

They are big in Asia.

The FDA and many eye docs are not thrilled.

Your Auntie Star here also has reservations. After all her bad eye experiences, she advises you to be very careful about what you cram in there.

Maybe to see better…but to be SEEN better…maybe not.

Friday, July 02, 2010

At the doctor, never assume

When you finally see the doctor, do you assume he or she will ask you everything needed to decide what to do? In my experience, they ask, “Why are you here?” and when you start the litany, they stop you.

I have actually had doctors make the cutoff signal from sports or the basketball traveling signal for “hurry up.” I have also brought a letter outlining my two issues quickly. They won’t look at it.

Writing in Consumer Reports on Health, neurologist Orly Avitzur, MD (July 2010) advises asking the doctor how many of the procedure you need her or she has done.

I just read some stats that said the outcomes on joint replacements were much better if the doctor did 50 a year than 12 a year. Yes, it’s like asking, “Do you know how to do this?” Is it the doctor’s body? No. Ask.

Ask if you have a choice of hospitals? Ask about infection rates. If the doctor doesn’t know, find out how to get them—call the hospital.

Make sure all the people involved are on your insurance. Oh, this is a hot one! Often the ER doctor groups don’t take certain insurance (did you think they were on the hospital’s staff—silly puppy!). Anesthesiologists, especially, like to send big bills.

Ask if there is generic for the medicine recommended (and which you checked out and decided to take). If you start on brand-name samples, you will have to switch anyway after they wake you from your sticker shock fainting episode.

Ask how long you will feel crappy after a procedure? Do you need rehab? Can someone help you at home? Can the doctor’s staff help you arrange that? What about a walker? Etc. Etc.

If you sit there like a blob, letting Dr Welby figure it out for you, you will be hating life.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Size matters on drugs

I decided 25 years ago to stop obsessing over weight and not get weighed again the rest of my life. Fat and living with it.

At the doctor’s office, I get a hostile look or a power play when I say, “Pass,” on the obligatory weigh-in. I then say, “If I have to take a medication based on weight, I will get on the scale backward.”

They either send me on my way never to darken their doors again, or grudgingly go through this every time I come.

Turns out now they should be based many drugs on body size. Makes sense, right?

Funny about this—every year, 75,000 people die from taking too high doses of medicine. Fat is an element in metabolizing medicine, so the BMI (Body Mass Index) comes into play.

When you get a prescription, ask if your size was considered.

You might have to get weighed.

On the other hand, many doctors don’t know how to figure this, so don’t.

It’s darn hard to get on backwards—but for me, worth it. I am not climbing on that roller coaster again in this life.