Saturday, May 20, 2006

More Fun, More Paranoia

My coworker Jeff is given to some sort of hysteria about diseases, disorders, mental and physical. It's something he shares with me. The hysteria, that is. Yesterday while we sat in our breakroom (which in the former hospital where we now work, was once an office used for blood testing) he breathlessly described a brand-new medical phenomenon, damn near the scariest one yet!

When I finally understood what the hell he was talking about, I found out it's a disease that shows in the form of lesions, and feels like bugs crawling in and under the skin. It may have small tentacles grow out of the lesions! It's got lots of other nasty symptoms, too. It's called Morgellons, and right now it's seen in South Texas and in California.

I read the article and felt those bugs crawling under my skin. It's the creepy-crawlies come to life. No one knows what causes this disease, and some doctors even think it's some form of mass hysteria, but the people who run the foundation website don't think it's hysteria.

Lots of people worry about weird diseases. The biggest worry right now is probably Avian Flu, the so-called bird flu. Probably the biggest thing about Bird Flu is how the government instills fear into the public by warning of a pandemic, like the one in 1918. I used to like to read about that pandemic and scare the crap out of myself. This is a good concise article from Stanford, and this article ties the 1918 pandemic in with the subject of Bird Flu.

Oh good! More stuff to worry about! I remember my wife and I stewing in our own paranoia juices when our son went to Vietnam in 2003 with his fiancee and the SARS epidemic was in full swing. Well, SARS killed some people in China, Canada, etc., but was probably fairly well contained once the Chinese stopped hiding the fact it was popping up in their country. My son and his future wife were stopped in Taiwan and given medical exams. If they had showed any signs of illness they would have been quarantined. Now I have the same concerns about Bird Flu, should he and his family go back to Vietnam any time soon.

But I have to keep shaking off this sort of thing...there are real risks we face every day. Exotic diseases are real sexy-sounding and get our attention, but other things are more likely to happen to us. Like having a bad accident in a car. Mine happened on December 15, 2005, when I totalled my 2002 Nissan Frontier pickup truck. I'd been driving for 43 years and had never had an accident. Did I think I was immune? Probably. What I know now is that I won't ever forget the sick feeling of realizing I was going to crash, the airbag hitting me in the face, the smell of the gases from the bags, and the aftermath, a broken sternum. Even with that I got off light! Without a shoulder harness, lap belt and airbag I might have been impaled on the steering column, like thousands of people since cars were invented.

Unfortunately, car wrecks are considered acceptable risks. We take those risks to get to work every day. We feel safe in our cars, even though we can be hurtling down a freeway at 75 mph with nothing but a yellow line and faith separating us from doom. I don't think anyone, except someone who's suicidal, ever gets on the road and figures, "This is the day I'm going to get into a bad crash!"

That wasn't my first near-death experience though, which was during a common boating accident when I was 11. I wasn't wearing a life jacket, a boat I was riding in, being driven by a 16-year-old hot rodder, flipped over. I was saved by some teenagers who dived under the boat where I had come up and pulled me out. Since I couldn't swim I can still remember thinking, "I'm going to die," but that wasn't my thought when I got on the boat.

What's the lesson here? I'd say that bigger risks than getting Bird Flu, Morgellons, dying in a tsunami or having Hurricane Katrina visit your town would be the everyday things we have no fear of: car wrecks, water, industrial accidents, heart attacks (lay off the burgers for a while, chums), cancer...jeez, if you think about what's really scary you won't get out of bed in the morning!

As for me...I think I'll go back to bed and count all of the things I'm paranoid about.

Omigod. Is that a zit on my forehead, or is that a Morgellon's lesion?

Ciao for now, El Postino

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