Our kids need to get out more.
Our kids need to get out more.
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, Sunday, November 19, is World Toilet Day. And of course, I’m (1) telling you about it; and (2) celebrating it.
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.
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 brother Fred 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. Fred 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 brother:
“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.
Yup, it’s a rerun. But you didn’t really think I’d miss World Toilet Day, did you?
On Monday, September 25, 2017, the Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing on the disgusting excuse for a GOP replacement plan for Obamacare — the “GOP Doesn’t Give A Shit Plan” I believe is the working title for the bill.
The Senate Finance Committee is looking for stories. Healthcare stories. What your life is like as a person with health issues, or with family members with health issues. Or with the expectation that some day you will fucking get sick.
Comments can be submitted to this email address:
Comments are due by noon, Monday, September 25. Go on over there and give them a piece of your mind. Or hell, tell them what I think if you’re at a loss for words. Or just say: “This bill sucks.” Copy your message to your own Senators (addresses can be obtained via Senate.gov).
It’s important. Because look at this:
I cordially invite you to post a link to your own story here on my blog. Hell, I’m not using it much these days!
Well, you know the story I will tell. About what can happen when a person has no insurance. Of course you do. But just in case you’ve forgotten …
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.
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.
WHACK. “MY LIFE SUCKS!”
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 election, and especially since seeing the appointees to healthcare-related positions in the upcoming Trump Administration, 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 devised, 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? How many will in the future without Obamacare? Without Medicare? Without Medicaid?
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 have been 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 share the story of my desperation. 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. There are problems with Obamacare. But we need this program or we need a better program. Going back to the old system is already unthinkable. And the solutions I’ve seen from the GOP will not keep people like me with treatment options, out of medical bankruptcy, or away from desperate action.
Health insurance for many people makes the difference between life and death. Literally and figuratively.
You won’t be at all surprised to learn that I am sitting here at my computer figuratively shitting bricks about the latest news about the latest attempt of the Senate GOP to repeal Obamacare.
I’ve already written to my Senators (who will vote against it, they’re both Dems), to Senator Collins and Murkowski urging them to stand fast. I sent a link to my story of how loss of insurance in 1982 led me to a suicide attempt (albeit a stupid one) to Senator John McCain. I’ve called everybody I can.
You can reach your senators via this link:
You can call your Senators via this phone number
Because if we don’t succeed, I will have to take drastic measures. And I know just what to do.
I recently read an article about a “Mad Pooper” who is on the loose in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She’s a jogger, who periodically drops her drawers and poops.
Now, in spite of 45 years of bowel problems, I do have a smattering of pride left. So I don’t want to do this.
But loss of insurance once led me to contemplate drastic action with a tetherball thing-y on Capitol property. Dropping my drawers and producing something nasty would be a breeze. And I will poop up and down the hallways of the United States Senate.
So call your Senators. Get them to vote AGAINST the Cassidy-Graham bill.
DON’T MAKE ME DO IT
CALL YOUR SENATORS
Even an expert patient like me forgets stuff. Yup, it’s true. Sorry to disappoint you.
I don’t know about you, but generally, when I go to the doctor, I’m not at my best. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be there.
You see, on bad days things change for me from one minute to the next. And by “things” I mean my ability to be able to comprehend what I’m reading, what I’m writing ( 😦 ), and especially what I’m hearing. When I feel awful, I can’t focus on what you’re saying. And I’m certainly not going to remember it. I’m not going to write it down, and if I did, I am not going to be able to read what I wrote. So naturally, I’m not going to do what I just paid half a month’s salary to have a doctor tell me to do.
Most days I am a highly functioning individual. Smarter than the average bear. On other days, I’m not. On those bad days, the bear turns into a sloth and I become a blithering idiot. Usually diarrhea is involved, and I must say that I often feel like I flush a lot of brain mater. Luckily, it recycles, but the image is pretty yucky.
Sadly, I’m not the only one.
Sick people as a general rule, sick people are not smart people because they’re sick, feverish, nauseated, dehydrated, cancerous. People in pain are not smart people. When you hurt, when you’re weak, when you can no longer lift your head because of the pain, well, it’s hard to listen.
Naturally, that’s when it is most important.
Because that’s when you go to the doctor, when you go to the ER, when you learn what you need to do to feel better. But you’re sick so you never remember what you’re supposed to do. Or in what order to do it. Or for how long to do it. Or if it goes inside or outside that orifice…
So when I read this article earlier today in the New York Times, I thought — what a great idea! Record the instructions!
Now why didn’t I think of that?
We all have electronic devices with us at all time. Use the damn things! If instructions are recorded, you can replay the instructions when you forget what you’re supposed to do, and it’s just like you’re back there in the doctor’s office. You have a better chance of doing it right. Just as if you had a personal doctor or nurse right there reminding you just what to do and how to do it.
Some doctors don’t like the idea. They worry (not unreasonably) about malpractice. But frankly, compliance with doctor’s instructions is a big problem in patient care. And this seems to me an excellent recipe for making sure you do what the doctor tells you to do.
Now if I can just figure out how to use the audio on my phone ….
Hello, yeah, it’s been a while. Not much, how ’bout you?
There really is no reason. In fact, this particular post is over due. I had blog backup and no plunger.
For my first post back after a long break, you know I’m goin’ there. But that is why you came, isn’t it?
Yup. I read an article. Several articles actually. My bad.
This one provides important information to the travelers among us.
I will summarize for you, because I have experience in this matter.
The best time to poop on a plane is right after the seat belt light goes off or when the drinks cart comes. The first is usually pretty early in the flight, so really, you should have taken care of that before you got on the plane. Unless you’re me — and then you did it then, too.
Second, is a story about a man with whom I should have had children. We could certainly reach a happy medium:
Lastly, the third story, required by the peculiarities of comedy writing, is something I am shaking my head about, well, my butt tto, because really — I should have thunk of this idea first. If ever a business model stinks of “Elyse,” well, this is it:
Yup. A business model that practically screams “ELYSE!!!” Here’s the ummmm, scoop on it.
Toronto’s new Poop Café will feature a “unique selection of desserts from around the world,” according to a Facebook post from the café’s profile. While the restaurant will serve dishes that are brown and shaped like poop (kind of like the poop emoji), not every dish will look like feces.
I for one am glad that not all of this restaurant’s dishes will look like poop. That’s important to me in the pre-poop stage of nutrient intake. I like to have a wee bit of anticipation on that score.
*My apologies to my Canadian friends. Just when you guys are basking in the glory of a delightful leader, I go and laugh at your poop cafe. Sorry. But it IS a poop-themed cafe. What did you want me to do?
Yes, I realize that it’s been a while since I granted you all the benefits of my fake medical expert advice. Sorry.
It’s just that poop news has been rather crappy lately. What’s a specialist to do?
So for this post, I’m going to go out on a ledge. Write what I don’t know. Venture into a whole ‘nuther area of specialization. I feel qualified because this area of specialty is in the same, errrr, ball park. Geographically speaking. Certainly based on adolescent conversation, anyway.
You see, I read an article recently that inspired me to post after a pretty long hiatus
Now I don’t know about you, but this particular insert isn’t one I’ve personally ever considered. Maybe I’m just weird.
To be fair to the women who have done this mind-bending medical procedure, the procedure does not involve vaginal insertion of a wasp nest that looks like this one, with buzzing wasps going in and out:
On the other hand, maybe something buzzing and going in and out is the whole idea behind the procedure. But I digress.
Actually, the procedure involves ground up wasp eggs called “galls.”
These are Oak leaf “galls” in case you want to make your own.
Galls are wasp larvae, left on the bottoms of oak leaves. They are ground up and inserted into the vagina to tighten it and to cleanse it. Okay …
As a fake medical expert, I think I can safely say that this sounds like a particularly shitty idea.
You know, it never occurred to me that there might be a need to warn women to not put wasp nests, even ground up wasp nests, into their vaginas.
Then again, I never thought it would be necessary to tell women to not vote for a man who believed he could grab their vagina because he was famous, either.