Monday, April 20, 2009

When it rains, it fricken pours.

I swear. I'm about ready to explode (like this beautiful image, except I'd be more gooey, sticky, and gory, and a little less fire-y). So, I'm about to divulge some info about my life, which has been driving me up the wall these past few weeks. For starters, I am thankful that I have both sets of grandparents in tact. But lately, not everything is coming up roses. One grandmother was FINALLY taken to the doctor's (after about a year of concerning symptoms), only to be diagnosed with Alzheimer's. My other grandmother was suspected of having lymphoma, only to have that taken off the table, and replaced with sarcoidosis. Then there's me. I was in the ER twice last Monday for kidney stones, and am still waging war with my left kidney more than a week later. I have a CT-IVP scheduled in a few days, then need to make another appointment with my newly found urologist. WOOOOO. I am very much a "do-er". I hate waiting, so waiting for results, and waiting for confirmations is driving me nuts. Oh, and on top of this, might need to cancel my "trip of a lifetime", if I am not well enough to travel. I'd absolutely hate to cancel my trip, since I've been looking forward to this for quite some time, but if my kidney's still causing me serious pain, there's no way I'd survive a ten hour plane ride.

At this point, I could use a stiff drink, but I can't have one because it'd interact with the wonderful drugs the doctor's gave me. Oi.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Clinical Diagnosis of the Month: treatment of kidney stones

The photo to the left shows a potential kidney stone as it might travel through the body.

While visiting your doctor/hospital, urine and blood tests will be run as well, to get a better idea of why your body formed the stones. However, these tests are rarely conclusive.

If the stone is too large to pass, extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy may be used; this process uses shock waves to pulverize the tiny, dense stone. The fragments are then relatively easily passed through the body. Percutaneous necrolithotomy is another method that can be used; a small incision is made in the back, tunnelling straight to the kidney housing the stone. A necroscope is then used to extract the stone. If the stone is huge, ultrasonic or hydraulic energy may be used to fragment the stone first, before extraction. If the stone becomes lodged in the ureter and not the kidney, another method may be used: uteroscopic stone removal. This final method uses a fiberoptic uteroscope to locate the stone (think catheter shoved past the bladder into the ureter), then implements a cage-like device to remove it. Again, sonication may be used to break the stone.

Once that pesky stone has been handled (either naturally removed or doctor-removed), most treatments involve pain medication, antibiotics if there was an infection, and a possible change in diet. Individuals with oxalate-containing stones may want to decrease the amount of spinach, beets, chocolate, peanuts, and other oxalate-rich foods they ingest. Individuals with calcium-containing stones need not avoid milk, cheese and yogurt. Salt can leech calcium, so decreasing sodium and other salt intakes, while increasing water, are other beneficial ways to hopefully prevent future stones from forming. Unfortunately, it is unclear if changes in diets decrease kidney stone frequency or prevalance.

Just remember-this too shall pass. :)

Clinical Diagnosis of the Month

I know, I know, I've been neglecting my little blog project. So, to spruce things up, I've add....Cinical Diagnosis of the Month! ...::::(golf claps)::::.... Now, by no means am I a doctor (at least not yet, and not of the medical/human variety). So please, don't take everything I say as absolutely perfect. I do think I do a decent job of researching these things, but there's a lot of info, and it's not always easily understood or characterized. So, we'll start slightly simple.

KIDNEY STONES. Got a sharp, stabbing, radiating pain in your lower back, maybe towards one side or the other? Does it ebb and flow? Change in urination? Change in color (brown/red/pink instead of clear/yellow)? Fever, chills, vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, these are all possible symptoms of kidney stones. There are other symptoms, but for the most part, these are the most frequent ones felt by sufferers of this poorly understood phenomenon.

Frequency of kidney stones in the US has been increasing since the 1970's, from roughly 4% of the population suffering from these friendly little rocks, to now a bit over 5%. The stones are not ingested; the human body creates them. Individuals with a family history of stones (uric acid included) are at a higher risk, as are people who've had them before. If you've had a stone in the past, you're about 7 times more likely than the average bloke to get another one. Fun.

Most often, the stone will be passed on its own. Many stones are passed every year without anyone knowing. Small ones cause little to no problems. However, if you happen to have a pointy or large stone, problems are more likely. As the stone migrates from the kidney to the ureter, down to the bladder, and out through the urethra, the tissues of these various organs and vessels may become inflamed, many times leading to UTI's. Pain is most often felt as the stone leaves the kidney, resulting in low back pain, and possible bladder/groin pain as the stone leaves the bladder.

If you think you have a kidney stone, please contact your physician. If it's intense pain that isn't abating, or you can't wait for an appointment, go to the emergency room. Most likely a CT scan or x-ray will be taken to determine the size and location of the stone. If it is too large to be passed naturally, various techniques may be used to pulverize that stupid pain-inducing rock.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Invasive species: battle in the Bay.

Ever since humans created methods of mass transportation, local ecosystems have had difficulty with invasive species.I'll be covering some other species and locations later on, in this multi-part bit, but for now, I'll focus on some new news occurring in Maryland. The Chesapeake Bay is home to many people, and once upon a time, many healthy wildlife. The Maryland Blue Crab, native only to the Chesapeake, is one of the many indigenous species that has had a major population problem since people decided they were tasty. Ground dwellers, they feast on what falls to the bottom of the bay, be it natural to their diet, or large quantities of iodine and other spilled chemicals from local plants. You could draw that if the bay itself were healthier, that the Blue Crab's population would improve in health-as long as humans didn't eat them to extinction, or prevent their infrequent mating rituals. (note to you Bay dwellers-DON"T pull them apart! DON"T take them when they're too small! DON"T take the females!!!)
Now, you might ask how the bay became so unhealthy? That answer would take a bit too long for this post, but suffice it to say that besides habitat degradation in the watershed, pollution, and human encroachment, the natural bay filters have had a major problem as well, thanks (again) to people. I refer to the oyster, Crassostrea virginica. A native to the Bay, they are natural filter feeders, and as such, are great at keeping their habitats nice and clean. They even vaccum up after their parties. When people settled in great numbers in Maryland, oyster harvesting became a way of life, and a very lucrative one. Until the population was over-harvested. Eventually, we realized we were harvesting faster than they could reproduce, and backed off. Read more about the details here. And of course, right when the populations began to recover, two major diseases infected our poor britas. The combination of harvesting and disease has caused the oyster population to become only one percent of its original during the "good ol' days". As such, some of those silly politicians on the hill thought, "hey, let's just grab some other oyster, since they're all the same, and put it in the Bay instead!" Thankfully, our friendly neighborhood sciency-bay gurus said, "helllllllllllllllllllllllllll no".

So, I am happy to report, that at least for the time being, our darling native friends are being given the opportunity to sort themselves out (with the hopefully beneficial aid of humans). So, if you feel like helping out the cause (and making the world a little nicer for our crusty neighbors), please remember that all your crap goes somewhere, and try to eat stuff that's local. If you're out in Wisconsin, don't be stealing our blue crabs or oysters. Eat your own. :)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

My dance team is BEYOND awesome!

So, I just have to share this with the world, or else I will NEVER fall asleep. And well, sleep is a good thing. I think....

I teach tap dance, and have a competition group, which I shall call, Buttercup. We've been working since September, with a rather technically difficult routine. We had our first competition two weekends ago, which had some hitches, but we survived. Our biggest glitch was a time problem-I was told I had four minutes for the dance, so I choreographed a challenging 3:56 routine. At the last competition, we discovered we were only ALLOWED to dance for 3. YIKES!!!! We had ONE week to work on the routine to get the wrinkles ironed out, and for me to find a way to save the dance's integrity without getting my girls disqualified from the next competition. We made some cuts, fiddled a lot, and above all, sped up the song. So, I crossed my fingers this morning, knowing that I wanted more time to practice with them, since so much had changed. The beginning was cut-part of the middle was cut-the ending changed! The song was so much faster!!! But time was not on our side. Competition was fierce this afternoon, with some really talented dancers out. It was fabulous to see! The girls were ready to go out, I told them to smile and have fun (and start in the middle of the lines on the floor). Not thirty seconds into the routine and.....the music stopped. Time seemed to go opposite of a supersonic supernova, and I saw my expressions mirrored on the student closest to me: shock, terror (the kind that drains your face of color), and then, utter joy. My girls, I am so proud to say, KEPT GOING. They finished the ENTIRE routine a capella, and finished together perfectly. They always had problems with the ending, and the ONE time they didn't have any music to keep them together, they were brilliant. The crowd went wild. I went wild. The other dancers in the wings could only utter, "wow".I could not be more proud of my four young ladies and their happy feet. The guy backstage asked if we wanted to do it again, this time without the music conking out on us. The girls said no. Even if they had done the dance perfectly to a T, it would not have been better or more exhilarating than this fluke with no music. It makes me wonder....maybe we should keep that glitch...

Friday, April 3, 2009

More Links!

So, it's time to add some more shtuff. For starters, let's get some fun things down here: hobbies!!!

NAME (National Association of Miniature Enthusiasts)

What's that Bug?

Caterpillar lovers Anon.

Things that crawl, but DON"T drool.

And of course, some more silliness I love:

Harry Potter Puppet Pals