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Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton

A savage indictment of American healthcare

Rating: 7 votes, 5.00 average.
I don't mean to sound "peevish" or "petulant" here, I don't want to throw a "hissy fit" or "spaz out" or "go off half-cocked", but as regular visitors to this vlog perhaps have picked up through careful scrutiny of my words and images, I have been feeling less than optimal since last Friday.

Enough is enough.

It is time to take a flamethrower to the American healthcare system for letting this discomfort linger so long .

To briefly recap: It all began with a certain insidious je ne sais quoi change in the normal malaise/fatigue I have long accepted as the cost of being me in an animated state. I tried to shrug this change off as imaginary. But no sooner had I begun the pep talk we hypochondriacs give ourselves than my throat became irrefutably scratchy, and within hours, I found myself hard pressed to swallow the suddenly copious post nasal drip that arrived to torment me!

To paraphrase Blake, Did He who made the Lamb make drip? To paraphrase Darwin: Nature, red in tooth and claw and throat.

By Saturday, the malady had burgeoned into a full-fledged cold, though there was nothing "common" about my bout with it. I awoke yesterday with a prominent finger pustule that itched like mad, followed later in the day by a second prominent pustule, this one on my abdomen, that also itched like mad and resembled nothing short of a girlish breast bud with surrounding pinkened aureole.

To the Google I beat a hasty retreat, only to find that such dermatological symptoms have no shortage of possible explanations. Thanks to online research and the contributions of doctor friends like our very own Kurt Dickson and Heather Rietz, an emergency specialist and a pathologist respectively, plus the husband of an infectious disease specialist in Sacramento who offered his opinion, plus various swimmers who have had their own strange skin eruptions, the following have all been proposed as likely candidates:

These, of course, are just the most preliminary of "scratching the surface" possibilities; I am certain that an entire season of House episodes could be devoted to my finger, and the enraptured audience would still be faced with a cliff-hanger season finale, to be continued for years to come.

Meanwhile, the clock continues to tick, tock, tick, tock. It is now Wednesday. The 1-hour postal meet starts on Sunday morning at the Carnegie Mellon University pool at 9 a.m. At another pool an hour away, our local YMCA masters meet begins at 11 a.m. for warm ups (though I think perhaps I will be able to skip this, given the hour swim), with the first events beginning promptly at noon.

This morning, I called "my" doctor, that is to say, the one fellow I have gone to once in the last seven years. I got an answering machine. The message was complex, and it is possible that the herpetic whiteout has migrated to my ears, but before I knew it, there was a beep, and I was unsure what I was supposed to do, so I panicked and hung up.

Next I tried a dermatologist, whose receptionist said, "Sounds like a virus. You probably need an antibiotic." When I told her that antibiotics don't work on viruses, I could feel her enmity over the phone line. She told me the doctor might be able to see me in February. I hung up.

Next I tried my son's pediatrician, who was out doing hospice care and perhaps getting more supplies for the in-office Spa that she uses to supplement her medical income.

I got an answering machine, left a message, got a call back from another receptionist, and have emailed her a picture of my finger. Interested viewers can see it here:

(Note: if you want to print this out and post it on your refrigerator as an adjunct to any weight loss regimen, I would be honored to assist in your appetite loss!)

In closing, I would very much like to thank the kindly Dr. Dickson, the equally kindly former patient Tom Patterson, and the beautiful Dr. Heather "where have you been putting that finger" Rietz for their free suggestions.

As for the rest of our national disgrace of a healthcare system, I am taking up a collection to buy one of these:

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Updated February 11th, 2009 at 12:02 AM by jim thornton



  1. quicksilver's Avatar
    This is not good Jim. It sounds like you caught an internet virus.

    If you renounce your atheism everything will be just fine.
    Told you the Jesuits would find out!
  2. The Fortress's Avatar
    Don't do it, Jim! I can't be the only one battling Tall Paul on facebook.
  3. jim thornton's Avatar
    Don't worry Leslie. I only renounce my atheism when I really need a favor from the magic world. Most of the time, nothing can make me renounce my Lack of God!

    On this note, I am about to venture into the ice and bluster and try to swim with a sore throat, headache, and not-yet proliferating duet of buboes.

    Not sure what my teammates are going to think. I hope they haven't been reading my vlog. Need to stop off for some finger Clearasil en route.
  4. jaegermeister's Avatar
    Sorry my response is not as timely as you had hoped. A bit of a puzzle as to what's going on. I'm sorry there's no available practitioner to "lay on the hands". I'm sorry to say I don't have an answer for the finger, but its not dishidrotic eczema, and not a whitlow, either.
    I wonder how the sinus symptoms are going. I have extremely variable time and access to your vlog, but I will do my best to respond to your supplications.
  5. jaegermeister's Avatar
    BTW, I can empathize with your anger toward our health care system which is completely ****ed up.
  6. jaegermeister's Avatar
    The thought just occured to me that you might have an atypical presentation of hand foot and mouth syndrome. This is caused by coxsackieviruses. If this is so, good news, it is self-limited and very likely will be resolved by the weekend. I'd load up on ibuprofen.
  7. quicksilver's Avatar other words, take it easy on the cross dressing for a few days.
  8. qbrain's Avatar
    Dear Jim,

    Assuming you survive your disease, would you mind answering a few Pittsburgh questions?

    Is The O still going strong? Would Pittsburgh be Cleveland without O fries, cole slaw on sandwiches and people thinking Rolling Rock is actually good beer?

    Inquiring minds want to know.

    I hope you make the postal swim, and I hope you never had to swim in CMU's old pool.
  9. jim thornton's Avatar
    Thanks one and all for your kind words and counsel.

    In terms of the cross dressing, that is more my brother John's world than mine. Granted, we both went through a period in our youth when we referred to each other as Susie and Sally. By age four, however, I thought we had both emerged from this. We called each other "Other Man" for a number of years, then this switched to "Brother," then "Bruddy"--an amalgam of "Brother & Buddy"--and it has been Bruddy ever since. Sometime in the last year or two, Bruddy John developed this character Libby Ellen Spooner. Perhaps Susie has been dormant within him for years.

    Maybe Sally is trying to escape from me in the form of a pustulant buboe?

    In any event, the O is still going strong--a rat-infested rat hole of ancient hotdog detritus and french fry oil from the Vietnam era, where the presence of pustulant buboes appears to be a job requirement for the cooking staff. My son loves the O. I am ambivalent.

    I didn't know that CMU had an old pool. The new one, designed by local septuagenarian masters swimmer nonpareil, Jimmy Goldman, a swimmimg pool architect, is one of the nicest 25 yard pools I have ever swum in.

    Tom, thanks for ruling out the herpetic "whiteout" (or whatever the proper term is) along with dyshidrosis, AKA pompholyx and vesicular hand and foot dermatitis. The possibility that I have instead something that sounds like hoof and mouth disease is sort of intriguing to my hypochondriacal sensibilities. Didn't Paul Newman in the movie Hud try to sell a bunch of cattle infected with this to restaurateurs before the health inspectors could order the herd culled?

    I went to practice tonight and swam very slowly. The buboe on my finger, though not so much the one on my abdomen, seemed to really disgust the young females on my team, especially the ones I attempted to cajole with exhortations such as, "Please kiss my finger and make it feel better."

    I overheard one of the spunkier lasses say that she had just had to swallow a little vomit that had reached the back of her throat.

    One very nice guy on our team is an eye doctor, and he looked at the lesions and said that they looked a little like MRSA but almost certainly weren't because they would have gotten much worse instead of a little better over the past 24 hours. He also said that viral infections tend not to produce lesions with pus.

    Every one of the team with the exception of the eye doctor and myself were for me taking a sterlized needle and popping this thing open. The eye doctor said that if it was on his finger, he would probably end up doing that himself, but he would try not to. I figured if an hour of swimming in a heavily chlorinated pool, followed by immersion in the Jacuzzi's hot roiling waters, did nothing to erode the carapace covering the buboe's creamy center, then my body was containing the vileness for a reason.

    We all agreed that liquid skin was not a good thing to try--what with this serving as a further impenetrable blockage for the bacterial escape.

    Anyhow, I have decided to adopt for the time being a policy of watchful waiting. If it evolves in the direction of leprosy, I will redouble my efforts to see an actual doctor of fingers as opposed to eyeballs. If it gets better, I will move on to other vlogging topics, because if there is one thing I have learned, it is that infirmity is neverending.

    And if it stays the same, which I suspect it will, like our economy, a festering staglationary nightmare of a finger buboe, then I will try to put the best face on my new reality as I can--and apply for a job at Pittsburgh's legendary O, or Original Hotdog Shop.
  10. qbrain's Avatar
    The old pool was in Skibo Gym, aka the old gym, aka the dirty gym. I am sure it was really impressive in 1924, but I was not sad that it was replaced by the pool you are so fond of in 1996.

    After you drop your application off at The O, be sure and pick up a recovery sandwich at Primanti Brothers before heading off two you second competition of the day. Just don't rehydrate with Iron City.

    Good luck Sunday.
  11. jim thornton's Avatar
    Thanks, Mr. qbrain. Is your first name, by any chance, Igor, Ivan, Ibraham, or Inus? Or anything else that starts with an "i"? Because it seems to me from my powers of deductive reasoning that A) you must have gone to Carnegie Mellow, and thus B) you are a very intelligent fellow, and thus C) it is quite likely that your full screen name is i. qbrain, but that D) like many of the CMU graduates, you learned by first grade not to boast about, or even call the slightlest attention to, your powerfully enlarged brain.
  12. qbrain's Avatar
    I did go to Carnegie, but I enjoyed O fries more than class, so I actually graduated from a lesser institution. That should address A and B.

    My name does not start with an I, but very creative.

    I was considered a slow student in elementary school. In fifth grade a teacher explained that you brain becomes more wrinkled the smarter you are, and the process finishes about fifth grade. In an attempt to be intelligent, but acknowledge my lack of intelligence, I was worried that my brain was a smooth as a cue ball.

    Cue ball smooth brain. Quinn's brain. Qbrain. It was a leap for me, but I am sure the progression will be obvious to you.
  13. jim thornton's Avatar
    No one lacking in cortical convolutions could have conceived such an elegant nickname. I daresay your Qbrain is as wrinkled as a pug's forehead! By lesser institution, I hope you do not mean Michigan!