Category Archives: Health and Medicine

Because You Need To Know

Every day of my life, I thank my lucky stars when I get up, go into my clean bathroom, and take care of business.

Some days of my life, I’m less thankful when I am somewhere where the only “facilities” have no running water.  No handle to push.  No way to wash my hands.

Of course, with my potty problems, I guess I’m more in tune to toilet issues than most people.

Why am I telling you this?  You see, Thursday, November 19, is World Toilet Day. And of course, I’m (1) telling you about it; and (2) celebrating it.

The Wider Image: Around the world in 45 toilets

A toilet stands outside the Llamocca family home at Villa Lourdes in Villa Maria del Triunfo on the outskirts of Lima, Peru, October 7, 2015. REUTERS/Mariana Bazo

The point of World Toilet Day is actually pretty important.  People without access to hygienic facilities risk illness, many women are preyed upon and attacked as they seek out a place to go.  Diseases are transmitted, including infections, cholera, well, here’s a picture.

The "F-diagram" (feces, fingers, flies, fields, fluids, food), showing pathways of fecal-oral disease transmission. The vertical blue lines show barriers: toilets, safe water, hygiene and handwashing. Source Wikipedia

The “F-diagram” (feces, fingers, flies, fields, fluids, food), showing pathways of fecal-oral disease transmission. The vertical blue lines show barriers: toilets, safe water, hygiene and handwashing.
Source Wikipedia

Hope you’re not eating.

World Toilet Day is to help the fortunate ones of us around the world realize that:

2.4 billion people around the world don’t have access to decent sanitation and more than a billion are forced to defecate in the open, risking disease and other dangers, according to the United Nations

We in the West are rather spoiled.  And the reality of what some folks, many folks must deal with can be eye-opening.

About 25 years ago, my friend Ed got a grant and went to Africa to study something or other.  It was his first experience visiting the Third World.  When he came back, he talked only about poop.

It seemed that the city he had visited ran with raw sewage.  Poop was in the gutters. Children played in those gutters. The sewage ran into the river that was used to irrigate crops.

Piles of poop were everywhere.  In the street.  Under trees.  In the corners of buildings; everywhere, he said.  Even inside.  Ed described a memorable elevator in the middle of a hotel lobby, that he had seen. The decorative ironwork around the elevator shaft was delicate and beautiful. But the elevator didn’t run — in fact, the elevator itself had been removed.  But people would stand with their backs to the elevator shaft, pull down their pants/up their skirts, hang their butts over the open elevator shaft.  And they’d poop.

“I realized something incredibly important, “ said my horrified friend:

“Civilization all comes down to what you do with your poo”

So when you’re thinking about the craziness in today’s world, maybe we all need to realize that part of our problem is that so very many people just don’t have a pot to piss in.


Filed under Adult Traumas, Advice from an Expert Patient, All The News You Need, All We Are Saying Is Give Peace A Chance, Criminal Activity, Disgustology, Farts, Flatulence, Good Deed Doers, Health, Health and Medicine, Huh?, Humiliation, Humor, Hypocrisy, I Can't Get No, Illness, keys to success, Mom would die of embarrassment, Neighbors, Oh shit, Poop, Shit, Shit happens, Taking Care of Each Other, Toilets, Useful thing to do with poop

Hey Doc? Do I Have To?

You know, there may be a good reason why the GOP hates science.

Sometimes it is just plain gross.

As a dog lover, my “gross-me-out-the-door” threshold is actually quite high — I can stand some pretty gross things.  Only today my dog Duncan did the following:

  • Drank from the toilet
  • Licked his genitals with relish*
  • Ate poop

Let’s face it.  Dogs are gross.

But we humans?  We are gonna give these pups a run for their, ummm, money.  Their kibble.  Actually, I’d like to give Duncan a run for that pair of shoes he’s always stealing, but that’s another story for another day.

Today’s story involves poop.

Remember last January when I told you guys all about how you can make big bucks with your butts?  Really!  I did! With this post:

Need Extra Cash?

Are you so rich that you’ve forgotten this already?  Forgotten that I told you that you can clean up by donating your poop so that it can be transplanted into

Poor suckers infected with c difficile, particularly nasty bacteria that is really hard to get rid of.

I even provide a chart by which you can measure just how useful you’re being:

Credit (if you want to call it that) Washington Post

Credit (if you want to call it that) Washington Post

The idea behind poop transplants, in case you’ve forgotten, is that scientists believe that we’ve made our guts too clean — we have too few of the good bacteria that lead to healthy poop left inside our guts.

Today I have an update!  Wait, wait!  Keep your pants on!

Unfortunately, this update will not increase your revenue making opportunities.  Still, scientific advances are awesome.

Because now, thanks to scientific advancements, those same poor suckers can now eat shit! 

Really! I read it in the New York Times:

Fecal Transplants Made (Somewhat) More Palatable

There is a  non-profit organization called OpenBiome that is dedicated to providing poop transplants to needy patients with c difficile.  And they came up with a poop pill.  These poop pills will go a long way towards flushing out the bacteria.

Wait!  Wait!   No they don’t!  They flush in good bacteria.  I mean you eat poop pills with good bacteria in them.  And probably some of the nasty stuff too.  Like poop.

And some day, poop pills may be available for folks like me with Crohn’s Disease and other crappy GI diseases.  They are testing poop transplants in folks even as we speak.


Photo: Erik Jacobs for the New York Times

Photo: Erik Jacobs for the New York Times

Personally, I’m keeping a close eye out on this treatment option.  Because with my Crohn’s Disease, some day I might just have to say, “Hey Doc, do I have to?”

* For the record, I do not put relish on my dog’s genitals.  Duncan is not a dachshund.


Filed under Adult Traumas, Advice from an Expert Patient, All The News You Need, Bat-shit crazy, Being an asshole, Chronic Disease, Conspicuous consumption, Crohn's Disease, Diet tips, Dogs, Extra Cash, Family, Gas, Good Deed Doers, Health, Health and Medicine, Hey Doc?, Huh?, Humiliation, Humor, I Can't Get No, Illness, keys to success, laughter, Mysteries, Pets, Poop, Science, Seriously funny, Shit, Shit happens, Taking Care of Each Other, Technology, Toilets, WTF?

Melancholy Baby

A lot of my bloggin’ buddies suffer from depression and other emotional challenges.

Like Picasso, I just have the occasional blue period.

We all do.  In my book, it’s not always a bad thing.  And apparently I’m not alone in thinking that it’s OK to be blue from time to time.

In today’s New York Times, there is an interesting article:

The Case for Melancholy

The article discusses the fact that, in today’s life, it seems we are all always expected to be happy.  Cheerful.  Perky.

“Bullshit,” the article states.  Metaphorically, of course.

Whatever happened to experiencing the grace of melancholy, which requires reflection: a sort of mental steeping, like tea? What if all this cheerful advice only makes you feel inadequate?


I’m not, and the author is not, talking about clinical depression.  Just the fact that sometimes, quiet sad reflection is a good thing.

We don’t all have to be perky all the time.

Google Image

Google Image



Filed under Adult Traumas, Advice from an Expert Patient, All The News You Need, Being an asshole, Friends, Health, Health and Medicine, Humor, Mental Health, Missing Folks, Picasso's Blue Period, Taking Care of Each Other, The Blues

We Are Not Alone!

Last week, I read Bloggess Jenny Lawson’s new book Furiously Happy.

Image from

Image from

Furiously Happy deals with Jenny’s mental health issues, how she copes with them, and, importantly how they help make her the person she is.  It is truly a gift to folks with anxiety, depression, other mental health issues (and to those who care about them).  It shows them that they’re not alone.

The blurb on the flap sums it up pretty well:

This is a book about embracing everything that makes us who we are – the beautiful and the flawed – and then using it to find joy in fantastic and outrageous ways. Because as Jenny’s mom says, “Maybe ‘crazy’ isn’t so bad after all.” Sometimes crazy is just right.

While Furiously Happy is geared towards folks with mental illness, I came away from the book feeling comforted about my physical illness, Crohn’s Disease.  Because Furiously Happy reminded me that other people — probably everyone, in fact — struggles through life with something.   And that’s why we all — every one of use — need each other. 

Because no matter what each of us is facing, we’re not alone.

Plus, the book is hilarious.  You will rarely enjoy mental illness quite this much.

Oh, and go read her most recent blog post, which had me laughing for hours last night.  It is a compendium of awkward moments sent to the Bloggess via Twitter.



Filed under Adult Traumas, Advice from an Expert Patient, All The News You Need, Bat-shit crazy, Bloggin' Buddies, Books, Chronic Disease, Crazy family members, Crohn's Disease, Family, Farts, Friends, Good Deed Doers, Health, Health and Medicine, Hey Doc?, Huh?, Humor, Illness, laughter, Love, Mental Health, Oh shit, Seriously funny, Shit, Taking Care of Each Other, Wild Beasts, Writing, WTF?

Other Useful Technologies

One of my favorite things about blogging, is that often, my bloggin’ buddies often give me the opportunity to tell stories that I don’t have the opportunity to tell.

Like this one.

Now you know that I had a wonderful childhood. As the youngest of five, somehow, I never felt unwanted, no matter what was going on. Except once.*

As I entered the kitchen, I noticed that my mom and two sisters, Beth and Judy, were sitting at the kitchen table, discussing anatomy.  Female anatomy to be precise..  They were discussing “holes.”  Their holes.

This might be a good time for guys to switch to another blog.

Yes, Mom, Beth and Judy were sitting at the kitchen table talking about their holes. Both of their holes.  The TWO holes in their nether regions.

I was 7 years old, and very confused.

“But …” I started saying …

They didn’t want to listen.  They continued talking, ignoring me.

Panic started to rise in me.

“But … but … listen  to me!!!” I finally practically shouted.

They all turned to me and Beth said, “OK, Lease.  What do you want to say.”

I looked around the table and said softly, in fear:

I have three holes!  There’s the one I pee through, the one I poop through, and one in the middle that doesn’t do anything.  Don’t you guys have three?”  Panic was building in me as I realized that the three of them just continued to looked at me.  Judy rolled her eyes.  She smirked.

“Nope.  You’re just weird, Lease,” said Judy.

They all looked at me, blankly, until finally I left, taking my incomprehensible extra hole with me.  And let me tell you that I was baffled about that opening for years.

For more than 50 years, I’ve wondered what that conversation was actually about. Over the years, I asked many times, but since the incident didn’t scar any of them for life, so they’d long since forgotten.

Now what does this story have to do with blogging and blogging buddies?

Well only yesterday my buddy Alice, of Coffee and a Blank Page commented on my blog piece, Tush Technologies  and linked to an article more or less on this subject. Well, on the subject of vaginas, anyhow.  Weird technological things about hoo-hahs to be exact.

‘Smart’ menstrual cup sends texts about your flow

Now I didn’t know that there was such a thing as a “menstrual cup” either.  Apparently I haven’t changed much since I was 7.  These new (to the extent anything used for Eve’s Curse can be considered “new”), more environmentally friendly collection devices.  You can shove a cup into your box at the requisite time and, well, fill er up!

But according to the article that Alice sent me, there were draw backs with the cups.  I’m sure you saw the problem leaking through, didn’t you.

Well, there was a problem Until Now.  Because there is now smart, ummm, cootch, technology to keep that cup from runneth-ing over. 

If I’m reading the article right, it will tell your smart phone when you need to, umm, dump.

Ain’t technology grand?

I don’t know exactly why, but this article made me think of something from another  bloggin’ buddy, Father Kaine of The Last of the Milleniums.


* OK, I will admit I didn’t feel completely welcome that time when I was pushing into my newly married sister Beth’s bedroom when she’d pulled the bookcase in front of the door, either.


Filed under Adult Traumas, Advice from an Expert Patient, All The News You Need, Awards, Bat-shit crazy, Bloggin' Buddies, Childhood Traumas, Conspicuous consumption, Disgustology, Family, Health, Health and Medicine, History, Huh?, Humiliation, Humor, I Can't Get No, laughter, Mom would die of embarrassment, Most Embarassing Moments Evah!, Oh shit, Out Damn Spot!, Science, Seriously funny, Shit, Shit happens, Sisters, Stupidity, Toilets, Why the hell do I tell you these stories?, WTF?

Tush Technology

You guys know that I’m all about news.

You guys also know that I’m all about bathrooms.

Today, I am about bathroom news.  Eat your heart out, Fox News!

Today, I am, well, not proud to tell you about this, exactly.  Not pleased to tell you about it, exactly, either.

Today I am ummm, well, I’m just gonna tell you that technology has gone straight to the crapper.

Because there is now a gizmo that will tell you when you have to go to the bathroom.  In case you didn’t know.

I’m so ashamed that I’ve been doing it the old fashioned way for all this time.


Filed under Adult Traumas, Advice from an Expert Patient, All The News You Need, Bat-shit crazy, Chronic Disease, Conspicuous consumption, Crohn's Disease, Disgustology, Farts, Flatulence, Health, Health and Medicine, Huh?, Humiliation, Humor, Oh shit, Out Damn Spot!, Poop, praying, Satisfaction, Seriously funny, Shit, Stupidity, Toilets, Why the hell do I tell you these stories?, Wild Beasts, WTF?

The End of My Rope — Again

Just like three years ago, I am anxiously awaiting the Supreme Court’s decision on the Affordable Care Act.  Three years ago, I was fairly certain that the right-leaning Court would deem Obamacare unconstitutional.  Three years ago, I was lucky.  And I wrote about it here.

Today, tonight, as I wait for the decision on a far more pedestrian case, I’m still worried.  OK, I’m worried again.

You see, the “Prime Directive” of my life, from the age of 17, has been having and maintaining health insurance.

That’s what happens to you when you develop health problems, regardless of the age.  You need to put your square peg of a life into a round hole of getting the treatment that you need.  It never fits.  And you always lose a lot of yourself.  Oh, and all of your dreams.

And frankly, I resent it.

Healthy folks don’t understand just how thoroughly something most people take for granted — good health, good health insurance — can literally mean the difference between life and death.

Because I’m sure — positive — that the Supremes will be reading this blog, and for the new-ish friends who haven’t read this piece, I’m re-posting my most intimate post.

The End of My Rope

Friday, the first of October, 1982, was a really bad day.

Actually, it was a mostly normal day even after I found a memo and a pamphlet in my office in-box. The law firm where I’d worked for more than three years had just changed health insurance companies. The information about our new policy, beginning November 1, 1982, three weeks before my scheduled surgery, would be with Liberty Mutual. I didn’t give it a thought.

But Andrea, one of my bosses, suggested I give them a call. “You’d better make sure they know about your operation and don’t need more information.”

So I called the number on the brochure.

Forty-five minutes later, Andrea found me at my desk, staring blankly at the ‘Sitting Duck’ poster hanging on my wall. It showed a white cartoon duck wearing sunglasses.  He’d been enjoying himself, sitting in the sun in a turquoise blue lawn chair on the side of his house, sipping a soda.  But he was looking in wide-eyed surprise over his right shoulder at two bullet holes in the wall.

Sitting duck poster

Poster by Michael Bedard

I knew that if I looked over my shoulder, I’d see some bullet holes as well. I was that sitting duck — I always seemed to be dodging bullets.  Life with chronic illness had become one fucking thing after another.  Now, just when I’d accepted and agreed to the surgery that so terrified me, my insurance was gone.  BANG! BANG!

“What’s wrong?” Andrea asked.

“It’s not covered,” I said, numbly, without a hint of emotion. Then I began to hyperventilate. “’Pre-… pre-… pre-existing condition,’ they said.”


I explained what I’d been told, that the new policy didn’t cover anybody for 30 days and that it didn’t cover pre-existing conditions for a year. The firm had changed insurance to save money. Their decision would cost me everything. Everything.

I didn’t want to have the surgery — it terrified me. But I’d adjusted, accepted that I was, in spite of my attempted denial, quite sick, and that I had to have the operation. But I couldn’t possibly pay for it. Where was I going to get the tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of dollars I’d need? I lived pay-check to pay-check, and rarely had a nickle to spare; I had no savings. My parents were retired, living close to the bones themselves. My siblings were likewise broke. And I had insurance!

Loss of the insurance meant one of two things.  I could have the surgery that I really didn’t want to have anyway and pay for it myself. Or I’d face another year of ever-worsening illness — hemorrhages, bleeding, weakness, diarrhea.  Dr. C had been clear — my colitis was not just going to go away, as much as I wanted it to.

Without insurance, even if I could convince my surgeon, the hospital and the zillions of other folks involved in a major operation to actually do the surgery on someone without insurance, I knew that I would spend the rest of my life trying to pay the bills.  Bills that would have been covered just the day before.

My mind whipsawed between the injustice of the loss and terror at what would happen to me if I didn’t have that damn operation.

Andrea came around to my side of my desk and put her hand on my arm. “We’ll figure this out, Elyse. It’s late now, everybody’s gone. But we’ll work this out on Monday.”

She sounded reassuring; I was unconvinced.

“Really, it’ll be OK,” she repeated. “But in the meantime, I need you to …”

Her voice trails off in my memory. Andrea was a compulsive workaholic, an A-type personality. Work always came before anything else. Other people at the firm thought it was annoying, insensitive, or worse. But for me, it helped. It was exactly what I needed. It took my mind off me. I did what she asked, finished up and went home.

Of course I fell apart once I was home and told my roommate, Keily, the news. I ranted, raged, and cried — I wallowed all evening.

“I don’t even want to have this operation,” I shouted as loudly as I could to Keily as I sat in the bathroom, the door open. My gut, naturally, was erupting. It almost always was by then, especially when I was upset. Cramps. Diarrhea. Blood. Urgency. My shitty symptoms mocked me, proving that I couldn’t avoid the surgery. That I couldn’t put it off until my insurance kicked in. That I was totally screwed.

Keily sat outside the bathroom at the top of the stairs, stroking Goliath; that was her perch as I got sicker and sicker. She sat there and talked to me. She kept Goliath out of the tiny bathroom (Keily’s only successful effort at getting the Goose, as we nicknamed him, to obey.) That night, she held Goliath, and soothed him and me at the same time. She let me vent, rage, rant.

“It’ll work out. There’s some mistake. They can’t just do this to you. You need to trust the folks at your office.” Keily said repeatedly.

“You mean the ones who agreed to the new policy?” I wasn’t in a mood to listen.

That night I’d skipped Goliath’s after-work walk. It was getting on towards 10 p.m. and he needed to go out. I needed to do something else, or at least cry somewhere else. Walking clears my head, lets me figure out how to fix a problem, helps me find an answer. I knew a walk would help.

“Do you want me to come?” asked Keily. She often did, and that night she was concerned. I was so shaky and upset.

“No, thanks, I think I need to be by myself,” I responded. “I’ll be OK.” Actually, I was wishing I could leave myself behind. I was sick of me. Sick of sick me, anyhow.

So Goliath and I got into the VW and headed to the Capitol grounds, where we walked most nights. It’s such a beautiful, inspiring place. Plus for a woman walking her dog, it’s perfect. Of course it’s well lit — you can see it for miles. But there are also security patrols that never bothered us but nevertheless made me feel safe. A 120 lb. German Shepherd helped make me feel secure, too.

It was a clear night, with a half-moon casting shadows from the beautiful cherry and oak trees, from the enormous rhododendron bushes and other carefully tended shrubs across the expansive West Lawn. Nobody else was in sight.

I let Goliath off his leash. Deep in my own thoughts, I didn’t pay much attention to him. Unusually, he stayed right with me that night. He was as worried as Keily.

I cannot believe this is happening to me, I thought, rage building again at the injustice. Because my whole entire adult life had been focused on making sure I had health insurance.

From the time of my first hospitalization at 17, I had lived my life — made every single decision — with health insurance in mind. My dreams of acting, of singing, of writing? Of doing whatever the hell I pleased? They’d all been flushed down the thousands of toilets I’d had to rush to over the 10 years since my diagnosis.

After my first hospitalization, and with word from the doctor that my ulcerative colitis would likely flare up repeatedly throughout my life, my parents forced me to go to secretarial school – a career path that had never figured into my plans. My mother was an office worker and she’d always hated her job.  It seemed boring and demeaning. Secretarial work had once been a good career path for bright women. But that, I thought in my young “know-it-all” way, was no longer the case. Mom was stuck with it, and she and Dad stuck me with it, too.

I complained bitterly; I was talented, funny, smart. It wasn’t fair.

I was wrong about both the work and the women who worked as secretaries. I quickly became pretty ashamed of my attitude, and some of the secretaries I knew became great friends.

Still when the chance emerged to turn a secretarial job into a job as a legal assistant, I jumped at it. In the job I’d had now for three years, I wrote for a living, analyzed legislation and regulations for the firm’s clients and learned about U.S. politics and policy. It was a terrific job. The firm had been good to me. And my parents were happy because I was still working in an office. With health insurance.

Another wave of anger came as I walked down the groomed hillside.

And then I saw it. Something I’d never seen there in the dozens of times I’d walked that route. Inexplicably, on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol Building, there was a pole sticking out of the grass with a chain attached at the top, and a ball hanging down.


I walked up to it and started smacking that ball. I’d only seen cheap sets with rope attaching the ball to the pole. This one had a strong chain that was covered in a canvas sheath. But instead of improving my mood, hitting the ball deepened my feelings of desperation.

SMACK. I hit the ball as hard as I could. “MY BODY HATES ME!” I shouted as I pushed the ball around the pole.


SLAM. “Fucking, fucking FUCKING INSURANCE!

SMACK, SMACK, SMACK. “Hopeless. Hopeless. Hopeless.”

With each hit of the ball, I pushed myself towards the end of my own rope. There was no way to unravel all the problems I was facing, the problems that kept expanding.  Just as I thought I’d licked one, it would multiply. No way to fix all the crap that kept piling up. Crap that I suddenly felt that I was facing alone.

That was the moment when I realized, with surprising clarity, that life just wasn’t worth the trouble. At least mine wasn’t.

I decided at that moment to hang myself. I would hang myself from the tetherball chain on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol.  It suddenly became the perfect solution.

I saw no way out. I couldn’t continue, didn’t want to continue. And I’d gotten way past the amount of shit I could deal with.

I sat down on the grass on the hill just above the contraption and allowed myself one last cry. Naturally I didn’t have any Kleenex. Snot running with my tears did not make me feel any better.

The first problem I discovered was that I couldn’t quite figure out what to call the thing. It seemed important that I know what to call it if I was going to die on it.

I wondered: Is it a tetherball set? A tetherball apparatus? A tetherball thing-y? I didn’t know the answer.

Goliath tried to distract me, to cheer me and when that didn’t work, he sat down next to me and let me use his shoulder. He tried to lick my tears away, but they kept coming. He butted his head into me. But he got bored with my misery and wandered away.

I didn’t watch where he went, I didn’t care. It didn’t matter where he went, what he did. Whom he harassed. I was done.

The decision was made.

I got up and walked up to the tetherball thing-y and realized what I hadn’t noticed before: that the chain was actually quite short. Too short, possibly, for my plan. The ball itself fell to just the height of my shoulder.

I was shocked. How am I going to do this?

I reached up, stood on my tippy-toes like a kindergartner, grabbed the chain in my left hand, and tried to pull it down a little more. But it was a chain, so it was very strong and not at all stretchy. It was also pretty thick, about 2-1/2 inches wide and not terribly pliable.

I stood there, grunting, sobbing, trying to stretch my body. I held the ball and the bottom of the tether chain in my hand, trying to figure out a way to make this work. Wondering if I could quickly have a growth spurt.

How can I get this short thick thing around my neck?

Even on my tippy-toes and pulling it as hard as I could, it wasn’t long enough. It just reached from my chin to my shoulder — not even half way around my neck!

What sort of an idiot designed this damn thing with an impossibly short chain? I wondered. You can’t even smack the ball around the pole more than a couple of times.

Not to mention that it wasn’t at all helpful for putting me out of my misery.

I pursed my lips and moved them from side to side like Charlie Chaplin’s little tramp. I rubbed my chin and scratched my head.  Tried to solve the shortcomings.

Naturally, other problems popped up too.

What can I jump off of?

Of course, the answer was “nothing.” I was on the manicured grounds of the Capitol. I couldn’t pile up debris and jump off of it because there was no debris. The neat grounds rarely had much in the way of move-able objects.  I was starting to get annoyed.

I want to die. Now. Tonight. On the tetherball thing-y. How the hell can I do this?

There on the West Lawn of the United States Capitol Building — with security patrols passing every 10 or so minutes — I was hell-bent on committing suicide by tetherball.  I was trying to stretch, to grow, to find a ladder, a chair, anything I could jump off of with a piece of US Government-issued sports equipment wrapped around my neck. Wanting to and trying to die.

And then it hit me.

Or rather, he hit me. Goliath, of course.

SLAM! Something hard hit the back of my legs.


From somewhere on the grounds, Goliath had picked up a huge stick – an uprooted tree by the size of it. It was at least five feet long and four inches around. His mouth was stretched to the limit holding it. And he’d hit me with it in the back of my legs.

WHACK! He did it again. I turned and saw that he’d lowered his chest towards the ground into a bow. He kept his rear end high in the air, wagging the whole back half of his body ferociously.

He’d had enough of me feeling sorry for myself. It was time to play. So he rammed me with it again.

“Owwwww, Goliath STOP THAT!” I commanded.

He didn’t listen. He went around to my left and hit me with it again. His eyes caught the moonlight – they sparkled. He was laughing at me.

SLAP! “Owwww, NO! That hurts. Cut it out!”

He bounced to my right side with the long thick branch firmly in his mouth. Pretending to loosen his grip on it. Teasing me. Trying to get me to play. Wanting me to reach for the stick, which he would never give me.

(Come on, Mom, catch me!) He was play growling at the stick and at me. He bowed again, swung his head to and fro, and the long stick swung left to right, wobbled up and down. It got stuck in the ground for a second, and then he forced it back out again with a flick of his massive head. Goliath came close to me and then bounded off with his treasure. Circling me. Approaching me, but backing off before I could get to him. He never got close enough for me to grab that damn stick.

(Come on, Mom, try to grab it!) We were going to play, whether I wanted to or not. And he hit me with the damn thing again.

“Give me that stick!” I ordered. He wouldn’t. He danced around me and the tetherball thing-y and bashed me and the pole repeatedly.

I’m not sure if he knocked me over or I sat down in defeat, crying. He bashed it into me a few more times, but then lost interest. Goliath dropped his weapon — well out of my reach — and sat down beside me. He put his paw on my lap, his head on my shoulder and nuzzled me. Chewed at my hair and my ear. Let me scratch his ears.

“You silly Goose.” I said pulling his ears and tail affectionately. Hugging him. “You’re gonna kill me one of these days.”

I knew then that I couldn’t kill myself, that night or any other. Nobody in their right mind would take my stupid dog.

 *     *     *

I learned when I went back to work on the following Monday that the person I spoke with at the insurance company was wrong.  Mistaken.  My company’s coverage was considered continuing coverage and so my condition was insured.  I had my surgery and became healthy for the first time in about a decade.

Since the enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, started, I have been haunted by the memory of the night I nearly ended my own life in a fit of desperation.  And while I think we can all agree that it was the silliest suicide plan ever constructed, that misses the entire point.

And that point is that folks who lose their insurance or who are without insurance are often desperate.  And close to the end of their rope.  I certainly was .

How many other Americans have been in that position?  Hundreds?  Thousands?  Millions?  How many think, consider, and/or attempt suicide?

The New England Journal of Medicine reported the following:

First, many suicidal acts — one third to four fifths of all suicide attempts, according to studies — are impulsive. Among people who made near-lethal suicide attempts, for example, 24% took less than 5 minutes between the decision to kill themselves and the actual attempt, and 70% took less than 1 hour.  (Miller and Hemenway, 2008)  (Emphasis added.)

I am not a traditional candidate for suicide, I don’t have the risk factors.  But I was, literally, at the end of my rope because of a combination of constantly dealing with a difficult disease, being broke because I was young and just starting out, and suddenly losing my insurance.  I would have had a huge financial burden I would never be able to pay off.  All through the bad luck of bad health.  Simple bad luck.

When I hear the anti-Affordable Care Act folks preaching about how we need to get rid of Obamacare, I want to scream.  Because a flawed system is better than the old system, where pre-existing conditions — the very thing that makes insurance absolutely necessary — will be the very thing that made insurance coverage impossible.

We need this program or we need a better program.  Going back to the old system is already unthinkable.

Is Obamacare perfect?  Nope.  Is there a perfect solution?  Nope.  But it is an improvement.  A huge, huge improvement.  And the problems will be fixed.

Health insurance for many people makes the difference between life and death.  Literally and figuratively.


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