Valley fever

When I lived in California and first heard of Valley fever, I thought that someone was pulling my leg about a phony illness. Valley fever is real and it kills about 170 people per year, yet it never appears in the news. Why not? Media hysteria is rife when it’s EBOLA or a measles outbreak, but nada about Valley fever. I believe that is because it affects minorities more than whites. Blacks are fourteen times as likely as whites to contract the illness, spread by a fungus found in the dry soil from California to Texas. California puts its prison population at risk because it locates many of its prisons in the central valley.

It also affects animals. My wife’s aunt and uncle are snowbirds from Canada in the winter. One year their pet dog took ill during a winter stay in Southern California. Upon returning home to Canada, the dog died. Only after its death did the Canadian vet determine that the dog died of Valley fever, a disease unknown there.

Please see Mother Jones

Red tide rising

During the NFL game last night between the Eagles and the Cowboys, the announcers talked about Tony Romo’s back injury and the procedure he follows before each game. That started me thinking about my own back pain and what I witnessed during my 20+ year career in x-ray. As an x-ray tech with a flexible schedule, I sometimes worked with in-patients, out-patients and in surgery. I x-rayed people suffering back pain before surgery, during surgery and after surgery. Even better, I was able to question post-operative patients about their results.

Most people were helped by surgery. However, some were not, and some of those people suffered terrible pain. Although I have constant, low-level pain at the L5-S1 level on my right side, I would never submit to the risk of surgery unless my pain was much more intense. Back pain is a constant fear among health care providers. When I suffered a strain, the pain usually departed after 2-4 weeks. I stressed my back shortly before retirement and I expected that the pain would depart after I retired. That was four years ago and it has not happened. A daily Tylenol offers some relief. However, I must be very careful how I move and what I do. I require a very soft and supportive chair. If I sit on a hard surface, I feel immediate pain which quickly ascends my spine in a red tide of pain and hammers at the base of my skull.

Some people are helped by the injection of an anti-inflammatory medication into their back in what is called a facet injection. On average, the patients I saw required an injection every six months. Tony Romo is receiving an injection on a weekly or more frequent basis. I would caution everyone to take good care of your back. Each of us receives only one body during our lifetime; no one can give us a new one. Much money is involved in professional sports and a quarterback usually is very well paid, but no amount of money can compensate for a lifetime of pain. Take care of yourself; modern medicine cannot solve all problems.