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Wrist pain from typing

I’ve had a long history with wrist pain from typing, brought on by carpal tunnel syndrome or repetitive stress injury. People sometimes as me to elaborate, so I’ll elaborate on beating carpal tunnel. I was able to beat it without surgery, and you may be able to as well.

It’s something I struggled with off and on for a good 10 years. Mostly off, in recent years, which is good. At one point, it was so bad I wasn’t able to unload my dishwasher, because I couldn’t grip the plates long enough. It was career threatening too. Read More »Wrist pain from typing

And now I think it’s time for a new doctor

I’m sick. I’ve been sick for about three weeks. Not major major–I’ve only missed a day of work–but it’s irritating. And it’s been three weeks. A cold lasts about 10 days.

So I asked my wife to see if I could get in with her doctor. I don’t like my doctor very much. But my wife’s doctor isn’t accepting new patients until February. No political comments, please–I couldn’t find another doctor accepting patients in a reasonable time when Clinton or Bush were president either.

Last night, my throat started bothering me worse. My wife pulled off a miracle and got me an appointment with my doctor the same day, at 4:15.

Read More »And now I think it’s time for a new doctor

How the Republican Party is losing me

I tend to lean to the right. For as long as I understood what it meant to be conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat, I called myself a conservative Republican. In college, I wrote a newspaper column for 3 1/2 years brashly titled "No Left Turns."

In last year’s primary, I voted for Ron Paul for a couple of reasons. One, a lot of things he said made sense. Two, at least he sincerely believed in the things he said that didn’t make sense. And three, he’s a doctor. When Ron Paul predictably didn’t get the nomination, I voted against John McCain and for a Democrat, Barack Obama. The main reason was health care.I come from a long line of Republicans. My great great great grandfather, Dr. Edward Andrew Farquhar, helped the Republican Party get organized in the state of Ohio prior to the Civil War. My great grandfather, Ralph Farquhar, worked for the powerful Ohio Republican Marcus Alonzo Hanna. And my dad was three things: outspoken, Republican, and a doctor. Sometimes the order varied.

In 1992, Dad was very much against Hillary Clinton’s health care plan, but he was very much in favor of some kind of health care reform. The system desperately needed it, even then. Rarely did a week go by without Dad getting an angry letter from one of his patients. The story was always the same. Patient comes to Dad seeking treatment. Dad treats patient. Patient gets better. Dad bills insurance company. Insurance company denies claim. Patient can’t afford to pay.

The only variance was the patient’s understanding of what happened. Sometimes the patient was mad at Dad. Sometimes the patient wanted Dad’s help. All too frequently, what happened was Dad just didn’t get paid. The insurance provider–be it Medicare, Medicaid, or private insurance–wasn’t going to budge. The patient legitimately couldn’t pay the bill. Dad could press, but if the patient paid, the patient would go hungry. If Dad didn’t bill, Dad wouldn’t go hungry. Dad had a soul, so Dad would do what people who have souls do and just tear up the bill.

Someone had to give a crap about these people. Unfortunately sometimes Dad was the only one.

Dad told me once that if I decided to become a doctor, he would lock me away for seven years. Being a doctor is a family tradition. Dad thought there were better things for me to do than spend my life messing with computers, but being a doctor wasn’t one of them. He wanted me to have a better life than he had.

Dad died of a heart attack in 1994, aged 51. Had the health care system allowed him to practice medicine and stayed out of his way, I’m sure he would have lived longer. Maybe he would have been still been alive when my grandmother and father in law needed him.

Fast-forward to 2006. My wife was pregnant, but having a hard time of it. Extreme nausea was keeping her almost bedridden some days. Her doctor found one and only one anti-nausea drug that would work, a treatment normally given to cancer patients. Our insurance was willing to pay for it once. When her 30-day supply was exhausted, the doctor tried every treatment that the insurance company was willing to pay for, but none of them worked. She fell into a vicious cycle of dehydration and nausea. One built on the other, and she ended up hospitalized.

The drug cost about $80 a week to just buy outright. I bought a week’s supply to keep her out of the hospital for a week while I figured out what to do next. The doctor knew I was unhappy. I asked him if it would do any good to get a lawyer and sue the insurance company. I was serious and he knew it. He said he wished someone would do that, but if it was me, the only thing I’d accomplish would be getting some face time on CNN and meanwhile we still wouldn’t have the medicine we needed.

This is the free market compassion that Rush Limbaugh spouts about. I’ve yet to figure out what’s compassionate about cutting off a woman’s medicine so she has to go into the hospital. The insurance company will pay for part of her hospitalization, but not the medicine that keeps her out of the hospital. Oh, and while she’s in the hospital, she can’t work.

Writing some letters succeeded in getting her the medicine she needed. And my employer, to its credit, changed insurance plans the next year, to something that takes better care of people.

Unfortunately, this year I found myself working for a very large company that operated as its own insurer in order to keep the profits to itself. And that company quickly decided that my wife was using too much insulin and my son was using too many vaccines. Their doctors disagreed, but they’re only doctors. What do they know about profits?

One day, after getting yet another denial claim in the mail, I ran into a former coworker in a parking lot. He asked how things were going. I told him, then asked if my old company had any job openings. A month later, I was working for my old company again, with the only health coverage I’ve ever seen that actually covers what I need it to cover. When they offered me the job, I had to think for a whole two seconds before accepting.

Most people can’t do what I did. On paper, pretty much every health insurance plan I’ve ever had pretty much looked the same. But like I said, there’s only been one that ever covered much of anything.

And pretty much any old insurance plan works for me, because I rarely use it. As long as I visit a chiropractor every six or seven weeks or so, I have no health issues. I could save a lot of money by declining coverage entirely and just paying the chiropractor out of pocket.

But my wife has to go to the doctor more often. So does my son. Me paying into the system and getting next to nothing out of it covers for them, who pay into the system and take back out a much higher percentage of what they paid in.

The only companies who aren’t jealous of health insurance companies’ profits are the oil companies. Since 2000, their profits are up more than 400 percent. But year after year, more and more people find it harder to get health coverage.

The system has a good racket going, frankly. Food companies sell poisonous food to the unwitting (or apathetic) masses. The masses get sick and have to go to the doctor more. Doctors give them pills for their problems, but the problems get worse because they keep eating poisonous food. Eventually they develop diabetes or cancer, at which point the insurance company can cut off coverage.

Everyone makes lots of money in the meantime. Except for the consumer-turned-patient, who pays out more and more every year, then eventually ends up with a chronic and painful disease.

I’m not saying it’s a conspiracy. Not at all. The free market just found something that works really well for the people in power. It’s a beautiful system–for those who benefit.

Unfortunately that same system hurts people. I live with two people it hurts. And the system killed my dad.

Sometimes the market needs a referee. That referee is called regulation. And since the Republican Party isn’t willing to regulate, I voted for a Democrat that I knew would press the issue.

Actually what I expected was for Obama and the Democrats to push some kind of socialized medicine, and Republicans to counter with something like the German system, which is all private but highly regulated. You don’t hear much about the German system, mostly because it works pretty well.

That’s what I favor.

Some people may wonder why I care, since I have good coverage now. But if you think the plan I have will last forever, you’re smoking crack. Eventually the plan will get too expensive. Or the company could get bought out, or it could lose the contract I’m on. There are any number of things that could put me right back where I was a couple of months ago.

I’d much rather fix the system. I might need it someday, but not only that, I actually have a soul, and I’m tired of seeing other people suffering.

If that makes me a moderate rather than a conservative, so be it. If it means I’m no longer a Republican, well, some things are more important than labels and party affiliations.

Why I quit my job

Today, some 10 years and 11 months since the last time I did it, I left a job on my own terms. I called my boss, asked to see him, and walked to his office with a single-page letter in hand.

It’s not something I’m especially good at, and, being a fixer by nature, it’s not something I’m usually inclined to do. And while there are several things about this job that I won’t miss at all, my main reason for leaving is health care.At first it was an annoyance. I went to the chiropractor. I go once every six weeks or so. I don’t have horrible problems, but a tuneup every few weeks makes everything work better. My old employer sent me a letter of encouragement when I started going.

My new employer and its insurer didn’t do that. They just denied the claims. Then they told the doctor’s office one thing and told me another. Way to keep the story straight. The insurer actually encouraged me to negotiate with the doctor and see if she would just take cash under the table instead of using insurance.


Aside from that, I rarely go to the doctor. I don’t get sick very often. My cholesterol was off-the-charts good the last time I checked it, and I eat healthier now than I did then. I go when I have reason to go. It could be next month, but it could just as easily be years.

My wife and son go more often than I do. He goes because he’s a year and a half old. My wife goes due to a medical condition. It’s not her fault and she manages it well, but it’s something she has to deal with, and doing so requires regular medical attention.

So every time they go to the doctor, after paying the $30 copay, we get a bill a few weeks later for stuff the insurance company decided not to cover. Usually the bill was three figures. The most offensive thing they refused to cover was my son’s vaccinations.

My employer wanted my son to get polio?

Well, probably not, but that’s the message they sent. Message received.

Compare that to the actions of my previous employer. The insurance company was hassling us over an anti-nausea drug that my wife needed when she was pregnant. I complained to the employer. They made some phone calls and my wife got her medicine. Then, at the end of the year, they changed to an insurance company they’d used in the past, citing better coverage.

That sent a message too. A message I like better.

So when I heard of a job at the previous employer, I sent in a resume. The main reason I work in this field, as opposed to being self-employed, is to provide for my family. My job involves some fighting, mostly to get unwilling computers to do what they’re supposed to do, but sometimes there are political battles too.

To do my job effectively, I need to save my fight for the computers. Ensuring that my son doesn’t get polio in 2009 ought to be a simple matter of making a deduction from my paycheck, taking him to the doctor and making a copayment. I shouldn’t have to fight the insurance company for basic, routine coverage.

I got the call today with an offer. They wanted me back. On top of good health care coverage, they also offered me a raise. That helped too, since I had several reasons to believe I wouldn’t be getting one of those next year.

So I turned in the resignation letter. My boss asked if it was just about money. I told him the health care was the clincher, and I told him about the large bills I was receiving for routine doctor visits. He seemed to understand. He even seemed a little offended.

It ran up the chain. I got a phone call from a high-ranking executive today. He wanted to know what would make me stay. He didn’t like my health care story either. I told him about what my previous and soon to be future employer had done in a similar situation.

He said I wasn’t the only one who had had issues. Now that I’ve thought about it, I’m not sure if that makes me feel better or worse.

He asked if I thought this problem might cause the company to lose other employees. I said I didn’t know, but it wouldn’t surprise me. The system works fine for people who don’t use it much, and most of my coworkers don’t use it much.

The problem is probably fixable, and he offered some solutions. But let’s face it: It’s a little late now. Had the coverage been adequate–it didn’t have to be good, just adequate–then chances are I wouldn’t have gone looking. But now that I have looked, someone’s dangling good, proven health care coverage and the biggest raise I’ve ever gotten in my life in front of me.

Why wouldn’t I take that offer?

He said he wanted me to stay, and I believe it. The only way to do my job well is to do it poorly for a time until you know the ropes. Then you get good, then something beyond your control changes and you say hello to mediocrity for a while, and eventually, hopefully, you adjust and get good at it again. And during those low periods, the phone rings a lot. It’s a painful process for the person doing the work, and it’s a painful process for everyone else directly or indirectly involved.

When I signed on earlier this year, I wanted to stay until retirement. The company put on a good show during in-processing, and, theoretically at least, offers a lot of opportunities to continue and advance your career. Having worked for a couple of different places where layoffs and cutbacks were a yearly tradition, I was looking forward to working for a company that was winning a lot of new business and seemed to have its best days still ahead of it.

It didn’t work out that way. I leave knowing I’m probably giving up some future opportunities. I leave a familiar situation for something different and new. And from the company’s perspective, they lose an experienced veteran who gained the bulk of his training on another company’s dime, and who will potentially be very expensive, and almost certainly very painful to replace.

But hey, they saved having to pay out a couple thousand bucks or so in health care expenses.

When bad things happen to good people…

When bad things happen to good people. A couple of weeks ago, I got e-mail from a friend I’ll just call by her nickname, Hammer. Hammer moved to upstate New York this summer, after having lived in a small Illinois town outside of St. Louis her whole life. Hammer e-mails her friends a lot, and she’s probably the wordiest and most vocal person I know, myself included. Hammer told me (and others) about a longime friend who’d been going to our church for the past six months, who wanted to join our small group, but didn’t know any of us.
Her story was that of a fairly typical twentysomething Lutheran growing up in the 90s: Didn’t catch every break, made some good decisions and some bad decisions. She was successful, especially considering her age, but maybe a bit lonely. She didn’t have very many Christian friends.

I took it hard. Hammer described this girl, and I was about 99.8% certain I knew who she was talking about. Six months and no one close to her age had talked to her? That’s just wrong. So that night, after Wednesday service, I walked up to her. I didn’t care how uncomfortable it felt. I held out my hand and hoped I wouldn’t sound like a bumbling idiot.

“I’ve seen you around but I’ve never met you,” I said. “I’m Dave.”

She smiled. “I’m Emily,” she said.

My hunch had been right.

I had no idea how to invite her to Bible study, but that was fine. Hammer’s mom was right there. “Emily’s interested in your Bible study,” she said. I waved over to some of my cohorts, who came over. We made some quick introductions. My friend Brenna offered to meet Emily at church and drive with her to our next session, since it was in a part of town she wasn’t familiar with.

The next Friday, she was there. She fit right in. Like I said, her story–at least what I know of it–is virtually interchangeable with mine and with most Christians my age.

I flagged her down the following Sunday. She thanked me for inviting her, and said she’d been a bit nervous at first. She didn’t know what to expect–would she find a Lutheran monestary, or would she find people like her?

“You found people like you, right?” I asked.

She smiled. “I think so.”

“Good,” I said.

I saw her again Wednesday. She mentioned her back had been bothering her that day, and she asked if we were meeting Friday. I said yes. I asked for her e-mail address so I could e-mail her directions.

“Good,” she said. “What’s your phone number?”

I know I gave her a shocked look. She chuckled. “In case I have any questions about the directions,” she said.

I smiled and gave up the digits.

On Friday, my phone rang. No, it wasn’t the Charter cable guy I talked about yesterday. That was later. It was Emily. She told me she’d spent the day on the couch, her back had been acting up, and she wouldn’t be able to make it.

I told her we’d make sure we said a prayer for her.

“I was just about to ask if you would do that for me,” she said. I didn’t get the impression she was used to people volunteering to pray for her. Then I asked if she’d gone to see her doctor. No, she said, because a doctor would just give her pain pills, but she’d been to see a chiropractor. Good answer. She said he took x-rays, and he didn’t do anything else but shock her. She said that helped for a little while but she didn’t know what that was for.

“That’s to stimulate the nerves,” I said. “Once he gets the x-rays, he’ll probably pop you with this springy thing to move some bones back in place.” Those are technical terms, by the way. Well, the only technical terms my simple mind can understand.

“So you’ve been to a chiropractor before?” she asked.

“Oh yeah,” I said. I described the procedures a little more. It’s uncomfortable sometimes but helps. Hopefully I put her mind at ease a little.

“Would you do me another favor?” she asked timidly at the end of the conversation. I thought she was going to ask me to build an addition to her house or something.

“Sure,” I said. (What can I say? I’m a sucker.)

“Would you say a prayer for my brother too? He’s moving, and left today, and I just want him to be safe.”

“Absolutely,” I said. “We’ll do that for you.”

I’ve heard thank-yous that sincere before, but they’re rare.

I prayed for both of them that night. I prayed for her and for her brother right when I hung up the phone, then later during the Bible study. That night, before I went to bed, I prayed again. I asked for her to be up and around on Saturday.

Sunday morning, I heard the answer to that prayer. We got to the point in the service when we pray, and one of our Seminary students led the prayers. He included Emily. “That’s nice,” I thought. Then I heard the rest–“Emily, who was in a car accident early this morning.”

Details were sketchy. My phone rang later yesterday afternoon with more details. She’d seen her chiropractor Saturday and had been feeling much better, so she went out. “Early” meant much closer to midnight than 8. She rolled her car and spent some time in ICU.

But she was alive. That was the important thing.

The answers did nothing but raise more questions. Why this? Why now? What did I accomplish by praying for her?

I don’t have any answers. At least not any good ones.

Obviously, the evil one sees her as a threat. Seeing as he’s seen 12 billion different people and has a long memory, something in her rang a little too familiar, he saw an opportunity to take her out, and he tried.

God could have prevented it by keeping her on the couch one more day. I don’t know why He didn’t. He didn’t have to say yes to our requests as quickly as He did.

I could spend all day second-guessing Him like I second-guess Joe Torre and Bob Brenly. It wouldn’t accomplish anything productive. It’s better to look to Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapter 8, verse 28 instead. It reads: “In all things God works for the good of those who love Him.”

Including car crashes.

What good can come from this? She’s about to find out what she’s made of. She’s likely to reach deep down and find something she never knew she had.

Why do bad things happen to good people? For the same reason bad things happen to bad people–bad things happen to everyone. They usually seem to make bad people worse, and good people better.

Supplements help ailing wrists

Wednesday, 6/14/00
Supplement attacks… The alfalfa continues to help (my right arm is better, in some regards, than it’s been since I popped my elbow trying to throw fastballs in the lower 90s some 10 years ago). Time to ship a big bottle of this stuff to Jose Rosado, to see if it can help his ailing left shoulder so he can come back and help the Royals’ atrocious pitching.

I also added a trio of fatty acids, after Chris Ward-Johnson suggested them. Two of them come from fish oil, the source of the third I can’t remember offhand, but they made sense, since they’re all used not only for inflammation, but also for heart health (since my dad died at 51 of a heart attack, I watch that) and for healthy skin. If something helps three conditions I have, it sounds reasonable that I should take it–by my logic, that sounds like a good indication of a deficiency. I know more about DEC VAX mainframes than I know about these supplements, but I’m learning.

And my chiropractor is impressed with my progress.

When’s comeback time? Hard to say. The new book has to take priority once I’m physically capable of typing in large quantities again. I’ll probably use my small-quantity typing energies to resume editing. Expect me to be more of an Occasionalnoter than a Daynoter for a good while.

Read this if you have an Iomega drive of any sort. More reports of Jaz/Zip problems here. Whether Steve Gibson’s TIP will help is hard to say. But at any rate, I’ve entrusted data to an Iomega product for the last time… Count on it.

‘Scuse me while I go pawn my Zip drive and disks.

Nursing my wrists back to health

Friday, 6/9/00
Dave here… Not back for good yet, but I’m much better today. Thanks go out to all of my well-wishers.

As for treatment… The combination of chiropractics, vitamins and alfalfa seems to be working. My conventional doctors would be aghast, but this stuff’s working, whereas they weren’t interested in listening to what was going on, so until I succeed in finding a local general practitioner who’s interested in listening to patients, I’ll stay this course.

I’m currently on massive doses of alfalfa, which makes me “a freaky hippie vegetarian type who takes it in pill form because he’s too lazy to chew food,” in the opinion of one Tim Coleman. (This–or something very much like it–he said after he asked if I chew my own cud.) Chlorophyl helps joints and cartilige, supposedly, and alfalfa is also rich in a chemical called MSM that according to many sources I’ve found has numerous healing properties. Alfalfa is also reported to be very good at de-toxing the body.

I don’t care so much how it works as much as that it does work. Seeing as it takes an act of Congress to get in to see my regular doctor and he doesn’t have anything useful to say anyway, and a bottle of alfalfa costs $4, I’ll take that route and keep seeing my chiropractor. We’ll know on Monday when he hits me again with the ultrasound how things are going. The less it hurts, the better off I am.

In addition to finding out about alfalfa, my research seems to indicate I’m deficient in magnesium, potasium, and fatty acids (whatever those are). But I’m mostly interested in solving the typing problem. Leg cramps and premature gray hair aren’t keeping me from writing books, after all.

Besides the alfalfa, I’m also on Vitamins E, B complex, and extra vitamin B6. I’ve been on B6 for about a month; the others for a little over a week I think.

Well, I should be in absolute agony by now, but I’m not. I’m going to back off now, though. Your first move after stepping out of the wheelchair shouldn’t be to run the Boston Marathon.

Important disclaimer: I claim to know absolutely nothing about why any of this stuff works and whether it would be suitable for anything. Yes, so my dad, grandfather, and grandmother were all doctors. They knew the human body inside and out and knew nothing about computers. I know computers inside and out and know nothing about the human body, other than that I’ve got one.