Category Archives: Healthy Living

Why Free Clinics Are Free

I should have known I was in for a ride when the medical assistant standing in front of me mumbled incoherently, and the only reasonable response that I could come up with was a scrunching of my nose and a quizzical, “Huh?”

She seemed very unsure of herself, but I answered her questions confidently, and did as I was told. I was made to stand way too long on the digital scale for her to record my weight, but being pleasantly surprised that I had lost some pounds, I wasn’t as embarrassed nor feeling as impatient to step off as I usually am. I didn’t become fully concerned until it came time for the testing of my blood pressure.

She delicately wrapped the black band around my arm, making sure all the pressure tubes were lying parallel and not crossing over each other. As she put on her stethoscope, she seemed to have trouble placing in her ear buds, as if she was discovering her ears for the first time. She placed the cool round end of the stethoscope on my inner elbow, adjusting it into the perfect position, and listened for a good ten seconds without pumping the cuff. Eventually, she realized she would need to pump it, and boy did she pump it! Every now and again, I’ll get an attendant who pumps the band way too much, to the point of almost crying, but within seconds, they give a twist of the valve and save me from unbearable discomfort.  Not this time.

She pumped it the fullest I’ve EVER had it, and kept on trying to listen without releasing any of the pressure. She finally decided that maybe she should change the position of the stethoscope. Of course, that didn’t work.  By this time, my tingling fingers began going numb. She adjusted her ear buds, and placed the scope down again.  My arm, now having lost all feeling to it, remained perfectly still. The crushing pain in my bicep was the only way I knew that I still had an arm. That, and I could see my lifeless fingers dangling out in front of me. I willed them to move, but to no avail. Just when I thought I might pass out from the mix of pain and numbness, she released the valve the teensiest of bits. I thought, “Finally! My blood is sure to come rushing back in, and she’ll surely hear a pulse!” But no, she merely wanted to reposition the scope, and within nanoseconds, it was pumped to the brim once again.

At this point, my entire arm hurt and tingled, as it was briefly given life, and then cruelly taken away. Fortunately (unfortunately?) it took her forever and a half this second time, and my arm soon returned to a numb state. After, at least, a minute and a half from when she began, she released the valve for good, and gently removed the armband. I immediately clutched my hand to my chest, massaging and moving my fingers. I looked down at my upper arm: It was so red that it looked like a horrific sunburn, not to mention that the indentations of the cuff remained on my arm for the rest of my visit.

She then wrote my name on a sterile urination cup, handed it over to me, and informed me that she needed to take my weight before I went and did my business. I questioned, “Again?” “Oh, I mean, your height,” she responded.  I followed her to the height rod affixed to the wall. I stood straight and felt the soft pressure of the bar resting against my head. She started uttering, “uhhs” and “umms,” so assuming she was trying to find a polite way to tell me to take off my sandals, I offered, “Should I take off my chanclas?” She said yes, and we resumed with the measuring. Again, I heard “uhhs” and “umms” emanating from her lips.  Then she asked me, “How tall are you?  This is saying 65.”  She lifted the bar from my measured position, and I stepped out from under it. She pointed to the 65 and said, “This is where I think you measured. I don’t get it. It says 65, and the other side says 165.  How tall are you?”  This was when I went into teacher mode, pointing out the inches side and the centimeters side, and letting her know that I usually measure 5’4 3/4″, and that the 65 she is looking at is part of the inches, which is the equivalent to 5’5″, which is essentially my height.  I even took the time to show her that 60″ is five feet, so she could just count up from there for future height measurements.  I guess all that went over her head, ’cause instead of acknowledging that she understood any part of what I said, she mentioned, “This is a new measuring tool, so I’m not used to it. I don’t understand the 165. So how tall are you? Five-five?” To that, I just nodded and conceded, “Yes, five-five.”

I can see how this could be so confusing…NOT!

Still clutching my empty, sterile urination cup, she led me to a line to take a vision test. As I began, a nurse walked by, and politely placed me on the correct line, about ten feet further back. The medical assistant resumed my test by telling me to start on the chart wherever I wanted. So, I chose a line, covered one eye, and began reading, with no guidance from her at all. I got to a line where I knew I was screwing up horribly, and missed more than the allotted amount, so I removed my hand and told her it was too fuzzy. Instead of moving on to the next eye, she urged me to continue squinting and guessing for the remainder of that line and the following line. I just went with it. After each individual eye was done, she started to walk away, and I inquired, “Don’t you want me to read them with both eyes now?” To which she responded with a shake of her head, and a leading of me to a nearby restroom to give them a urine sample.

As I walked into the bathroom and looked down at the cup, this is what I saw:

“Schatz” is easy. It’s the “Erica” that throws people off.

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8 Glasses of Water

As some of you are well aware, I hate drinking water. The last time I attempted to drink large quantities of water, I gave myself hypothermia, so I’ve been wary ever since. However, I do realize that there are benefits that come with hydrating properly. A week before Christmas, in an attempt to be healthy, I decided to drink eight glasses of water a day. Let me backtrack a little:

While at Target with Greg to get water filter replacements for our sink (because one of us actually drinks water on a regular basis), I was drawn to the purple Brita water pitchers on the shelf. I casually mentioned to Greg, “ I think I might actually drink water if I had this. I mean, I only like water when it’s cold, and though I can achieve that effect through ice, the cubes just get in the way of my drinking, and it’s too much of an effort.” At which point, I’m sure he rolled his eyes, but also grabbed one off the shelf to bring home. We filled it that night and stuck it in the fridge to chill overnight.

The next day, I began my morning with a small 8oz cup of water. I totally busted out a measuring cup too. I wasn’t about to drink more than needed. To my surprise, it wasn’t half bad. And? It didn’t burn my throat! Every hour or so, I chugged down another cup. And I mean that literally. I would take a deep breath, and finish each cup as if I just lost in a drinking game. The way I saw it, the longer I left the cup out in the open air, the warmer the water would become. It was better for me to drink it while it was still cool and refreshing. Kinda like the way it was with vegetables as a kid. If I stacked all five zucchini slices on my fork and shoved them in my mouth in one bite while they were still hot, it’d be over and done with, as opposed to pushing them around my plate all dinner, then gagging down cold zucchini. If I have to do it, I might as well make it as pleasurable as possible.

In any case, I drank 8-10 glasses of water for nine consecutive days! I was extremely proud of myself, and probably would have kept going, but Christmas day was the tenth day, and I was out of my home for almost the whole day. It didn’t help that at every other house I visited on Christmas, I was tempted with juice, hot apple cider, soda, and wine. With all those choices, there was no way I’d prefer water! Once I got off schedule, my motivation waned. Plus, my brother’s girlfriend is in med school right now, and when I was telling her about it, she said eight glasses isn’t necessary. The guideline is to drink when you’re thirsty. Which totally threw me for a loop, ‘cause Ryan Gosling said on Ellen that, “When you’re thirsty, it’s too late.” And we all know actors are always right. However, I’m going to go with the future doctor’s advice.

And, well, I’m never thirsty…for water.

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Hypothermia

“For someone with no sense of taste, you have a lot of opinions on water.”

Kevin told me that a while back, and he’s absolutely right. As you all know, I would rather remain parched than fill up a cup with water. But on those rare occasions that I do partake in the liquid that gives me life, I tend to be picky. I pretty much hate the taste of bottled water, but if I have to grab a bottle to go, I usually choose Arrowhead. Most people that drink bottled water regularly tend to despise Arrowhead, and I think it’s because it tastes like tap water—which I personally like. Tap water is free, as tasty as water can be to me, and is better for the environment than plastic bottles. But don’t think I just turn on the tap and start drinking. No. My other demand for drinking water is that it be ice cold. I’m talking about a minimum of four ice cubes per 8 ounces of water. If it’s warmer than that, it burns my throat.

That said, a few months ago, as I was getting out of bed, I pinched a nerve in my back. (I guess this is the sort of stuff that happens when you’re in your 30’s.) In any case, it hurt tremendously, and I could barely move. Internet research said to drink tons of water throughout the day. Fortunately, Greg was home with me, and he gladly filled my reusable purple bottle with large amounts of ice and water.

In less than an hour’s time, I had finished 66 ounces of ice-cold water. (FYI: 64 oz is the daily recommendation, so I was feeling very proud of myself.) While finishing my last gulps, I noticed that I was getting cold, but didn’t think much of it. When I got up to smugly show Greg my empty bottle, I began to realize that I was extremely cold. I decided I would quickly use the restroom to pee out the toxins this water was supposedly washing out of me, and then sit myself back down on the couch under a warm blanket. While washing my hands, I noticed that my fingernails were so purple that it almost looked like I was wearing nail polish. That’s when my teeth began chattering uncontrollably…something I thought was only done in cartoons and the movies.

I suddenly realized that I had given myself hypothermia by drinking water!!

But don’t worry; I survived. Greg quickly got me wrapped up in thicker blankets and immediately made me a giant cup of hot tea, which totally defrosted me by the time I finished drinking it. For the rest of that day, I swore off stupid water and stuck with tea–which I found to be an absolutely wonderful alternative.

While I feel I usually have to defend my motives for not drinking water, hypothermia is no joke. I’d say I have a valid reason now. I mean, why would I want to risk my life over something as horrible as water? It’s not worth it when there’s perfectly good orange juice in the fridge.

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Water…yuck!

This week, as I donated money to a friend’s charity for clean water in Ethiopia, I started to feel a little guilty. Someone feeling guilt over making a donation to help drill for water in Africa may seem strange, but it’s perfectly normal when that person despises drinking water herself!

I should be grateful that I could turn on a faucet and get a sip of clean water whenever I want, but to be honest, I’m not as appreciative as I should be. I usually prefer thirst to drinking a glass of water. It has absolutely no taste to it, and it rarely satisfies me (unless I’m outdoors in 90° plus weather, the water is ice cold, and there is no available option of anything else to drink).

Plus, water burns my throat. Everyone laughs or gives me quizzical stares when I tell them this, but it’s the truth! It doesn’t happen all the time, but it especially happens when the water is room temperature! Now, it doesn’t burn right away; it’s more of an “after-burn” that sets a minute or two after taking a drink. It’s similar to the feeling one gets when the beginnings of a sore throat kicks in. The pain is felt in the very back and extends up towards the nasal passage. I’ve no idea how long it lasts, but evidently it lasts long enough for me to know that I don’t like to take the risk of having it happen again.

In an attempt to be healthier and drop a few pounds around the waist, a few years ago, I started bringing a water bottle to work that I refilled throughout the day. Every once and a while, I’d finish my desired 64 oz, but usually, I failed. This was mostly due in part to the fact that my ice would melt after my first bottleful, and after filling it with lukewarm tap water, it would sit untouched the rest of the day. However, the excuse I like to go with is my lack of potty breaks while teaching.

Being able to pee anytime is a luxury that teachers do not get. As a middle school teacher, I only had 2 chances to pee during school hours: morning break and lunch. Usually, my morning break was filled with helping students with academic questions and/or life mentoring, so really, I had one shot at lunch to relieve myself. During my 64 oz days, I’d have no choice but to shoo the kids out during break and get rid of the water I’d been downing. In extreme circumstances, during instructional time, I’d have to open the connecting doors to my team teacher’s room and ask that they watch my class. Since I disliked water anyway, I found that it was much easier to not drink water altogether. A win-win situation.

Now that I’m unemployed, there really is no good reason for me not to drink 8 glasses a day. Especially now that I’ve been reminded of the many people who die of diseases from unhealthy drinking water. I’ll certainly start being more grateful for the access I have to my water, but I already know, there’s no way I’m ever going to enjoy the tasteless, burning feeling that water gives me.

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Marathon Woes

I ran my first, and possibly last, marathon on March 21, 2010. Running the LA Marathon had been a dream of mine since high school, but being a competitive athlete, there was no way I could take off the weeks needed for recovery afterwards; the race is always held in the heart of Track season. After a college injury and advice from my trainers, I reluctantly stopped competitive running altogether. Without the motivation to race, I gradually discontinued any sort of training. I still ran here and there, but it wasn’t until the summer of 2009 that I decided to get back into races.

I use the word “races” as a term, not literally. I was not willing to re-injure myself and do any all-out competitions; I just wanted to get out there with other people who shared my passion and run the best that I could. So that October, I got my cousin Marissa, her husband Alex, and my friend Danny to join me in our first half-marathon. With limited time for training, and all of us just getting back into running, it was surprising how easy the 13.1 miles were! When I finished, I felt like I could have easily kept going. This spurred our interest in a full-length marathon, and we quickly began a training program.

Despite numerous long training runs (the last four Saturday runs being 16-22 miles each), I still managed to hit that wall during the actual marathon, and I hit it at mile 16. Basically, the thought of going another 10 miles was messing with my head, and I started to feel discouraged. Luckily, I had my cousin by my side, and with Marissa’s support, I was able to get over that mental block. We were doing this together, dammit, and nothing was going to stop us!

Then something happened that I was completely unprepared for. Somewhere during mile 19, I peed my pants. Yes, you read that right. I straight peed on myself, and I couldn’t stop it! I was so embarrassed, I couldn’t even tell Marissa what was happening to me. It was the most horrible thing I’ve ever had to endure while running. Small squirts of urine would seep out regardless of how hard I tried to keep it in. Those who know me well, know I don’t drink a lot of water, even on runs, and I think that was my saving grace. While my dark blue shorts slowly became saturated, nothing ran down my legs, and for that, I was grateful. But the thought of having a dark spot in the crotch of my shorts gave me further motivation to finish the race.

My new goal was to quickly get to each water station so that I could create a façade of cooling myself by dumping water all over my front in an attempt to hide the ever-growing patch on my shorts. And it worked! When I was emailed my marathon photos, the first thing I looked for was my pee stain. Fortunately, not even a hint of it could be seen! Although I was mortified when it started, and worried that there would be photographic evidence, by the time I hit mile 22, I didn’t care if onlookers could tell. I was the one butchering my body to complete 26.2 miles and they were just standing on the sidelines; judge away!

After 5 hours 4 minutes and 50 seconds, I crossed that finish line (relatively dry) with Marissa and Danny by my side, and it was one of the most intense feelings I have ever experienced. Tears of pride, pain, and relief streamed down my face as I hugged Marissa and Danny. We did it! Will I do it again? “Hell no!” was my immediate response for a long time. However, lately, I’ve been contemplating running another. Each time I think of it though, there’s a big question looming in my head: Is it worth urinating on myself again to get a time under 5 hours?

It just might be.

(My brother, Kevin, put together this awesome video of our marathon. Will you be able to spot the pee?)

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