Tag Archives: medicine

You’re Just Not My Type.

Dead Ole' Pancreas

There is an inspirational meme that goes around Facebook every so often that says, “Live every day like it’s your last.” It’s usually sparkly or has rainbows or a black and white beach scene or some equally pukey thing. That’s so adorable. In theory. In practice? It’s a damn depressing way to live.

A year ago I wrote about being diagnosed with type-2 diabetes and what a downer it was. (Lousy Anniversary, June 2012)

Oh, what a naïve little kitten I was!

Believe it or not, I found something worse! Being MIS-diagnosed with type-2 diabetes. I’m actually a type-1 diabetic. [insert my favorite curse words and some insulin here.] You know when it’s awesome to discover said misdiagnosis? When you’re on a long distance bike ride/camping trip! You know what else is awesome? Not being able to breathe because your body is in diabetic ketoacidosis! And best, most brilliant of all? I thought it was because of seasonal allergies. Uhh, can you say *headdesk* ?


The thing is, I knew something was wrong. I felt terrible all the time. I was so tired and thirsty and hungry and I was losing weight way too fast. I was taking medicine and exercising and doing all the stuff doctors told me to do. And there is only so much salad one person can eat. So I gave up.

Not my most magnificent idea.

In retrospect, I should have listened to my instincts and advocated for my own good health. Alas, you can’t unscramble eggs. Here are some useful books I’m reading. Now I’m going to live forever. You’re welcome.

HospitalStayHospital Stay Handbook, Jari Holland Buckland

Being in the hospital is the worst. You get no sleep, terrible food,  and in my case, I had to cry so that someone would let me take a shower. This book actually would be more useful for my husband (or any caretaker), as it’s focused on providing information for patient advocates. It’s scary hearing that your wife could have died and even though I have a living will, it’s a whole new ball of wax when you need it.

TakeChargeThe Take-Charge Patient: How YOU Can Get the Best Medical Care, Martine Ehrenclou

This is an excellent resource for finding a good doctor and dealing with your doctor, insurance companies and all of the other people involved in your healthcare. There are sections on how to be your own advocate and how to prevent (ahem) misdiagnosis, as well as interviews with actual health professionals.

EmpoweredPatientThe Empowered Patient, Dr. Julia A Hallisy

I’m that sick person that wants to crawl in a corner like an animal and be left alone to lick my wounds. However, all that results in is poor care. If you don’t care about your health and well-being, why should a doctor? The chapter on second opinions was illuminating. I could have been properly diagnosed with a simple blood test, but I never thought to ask. There is an anecdote about a young man diagnosed with incurable stomach cancer only to find out (via second opinion) that he had an ulcer! The moral of the story is: Before you let someone remove an important organ (or put you on a boatload of medication) get a second opinion!

LifeYouSaveThe Life You Save: Nine Steps to Finding the Best Medical Care- and Avoiding the Worst, Patrick Malone

Here are a few of the awful, yet preventable complications of diabetes: blindness (that’s the biggie), heart disease, loss of kidney function and feet. Swell! This book explains how to audit the health care you receive, particularly if you have a chronic disease. Written by a medical malpractice attorney, Nine Steps discusses not only the physical aspects of your health care, but the mental, emotional and financial sides as well. The chapters on the drug industry are informative and really, really depressing.

getting stabbed eight times a day, hating the smell of insulin and looking for a pancreas,

My next tattoo?

My next tattoo?


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Librarians: Breaking Your Heart, Crushing Your Dreams

Alas, it’s true. Although we library workers spend 90% of our workdays making people happy with the information we provide, there are those…awkward times when we have to tell you something you might not want to hear.

Everything’s less awkward with an image from icanhascheezburger.com

Luckily, we’re usually able to counter the bad news with better news, news that will not only guide you to the information you’re looking for, but save you from future awkward moments as well. Here are just a few of the many ways a librarian can break your heart…and then put it back together with credible information.

1. You are most likely not the grand prize winner.

You’re also probably not the dearest, most trusted confidante of a wealthy foreigner in need of some banking assistance, and that precious tot whose picture keeps popping up in your inbox most likely wasn’t really abducted. While the web’s vast trove of knowledge, and the breakneck speed of sharing it, can be beautiful things, they also make it easier than ever for scams and hoaxes to spread like wildfire. Acting on false information you receive can cost you in a variety of ways, from simple personal embarrassment all the way up to identity theft.

The Good News: There are a lot of terrific, credible sources that not only bust hoaxes, but provide you with ways to protect yourself. The fine folks at Snopes and Hoax-Slayer are joined in their efforts by the FBI, the IRS, and the Federal Trade Commission to set the record straight on matters ranging from urban legends to work-at-home scams.  Don’t forget, too, as we slouch toward the November elections, to  peruse non-profit, non-partisan websites like FactCheck and OpenSecrets for a truly fair and balanced picture of the “facts” Uncle Gordo forwards you once a week.

2. You should listen to your doctor.

Although we definitely sympathize with folks who have a tough time swallowing their doctor’s advice, librarians are not licensed to practice medicine.  Ergo, we can’t give you a second opinion, prescribe an alternative medication, or tell you what we think you should do about that horrible rash that just won’t go away. So when you press us for a diagnosis, you make us wish we were somewhere else doing something slightly less awkward (like giving a “coming out” speech at Thanksgiving dinner).

The Good News: While there are a lot of potential communication breakdowns in the doctor-patient relationship, there are plenty of consumer tools you can use to become a better advocate for your own health. Confused about a medication you’ve been prescribed? Look it up in the MedlinePlus encyclopedia of drugs, supplements, and herbs. Interested in alternatives to conventional treatments?  Research them at the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Whatever medical difficulty you’re having, librarians can give you the educational materials you’ll need to read and take back to your doctor, so the two of you can have a heart-to-heart.

Not sure how to get that conversation started? Check out one of the many books on communicating with your doctor and rehearse the conversation before you go in.  Of course, if you’d like to start fresh, we can also point you to credible advice on choosing a new physician. As ever, Pittsburgh readers can check out the annual medical professional rankings published by Pittsburgh Magazine for advice on who is local top dog in their area of concern.

3. That doodad you found in the attic is probably not worth millions of dollars.

Thanks to a certain television show that will go unnamed, many of you may harbor the fond hope that, while cleaning out your attic, you will find an original copy of a Very Important Historical Document, or perhaps A Rare Fabled Painting By A Famous Eccentric.  In less dramatic, but no less fond, fashion, you may simply hope that the cherished vase that has passed through the matrilineal line since your great-great-great grandmother sailed to America from foreign parts is your ticket to early retirement. Alas, I fear it is not so–the truth of the matter is that an object is worth exactly as much as somebody will pay for it on Ebay…and to figure out a reasonable price point for your geegaw, you’re going to need a little help.

The Good News: It’s now easier than ever to research those attic and basement treasures! A phone call or in-person visit to Main Library will get you access to Artnet and ArtFact, two art research databases that contain auction records for items similar to yours, and/or produced by the same artist. The library also offers a pathfinder of subject headings to make searching for collectibles price guides a snap. Still unable to find a price, or want a professional opinion? Click here for more research tools (including some in–gasp–print!) and advice/resources on finding an art appraiser.

The bottom line? Your librarians love you.  We don’t want to see you get hurt. It’s an information jungle out there.  Believe me, when we have to break your heart, it hurts us more than it hurts you. But it’s worth squirming through a few awkward moments to be able to give you what you actually need, instead of telling you what you’d like to hear. You’re welcome.

–Leigh Anne

whose delivery probably needs a little work, but whose heart is definitely in the right place


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Women and Medicine

March is Women’s History Month, and while we usually think of women’s history in terms of major figures and events, the medical history of women is an equally fascinating topic. Two recently published books delve into some of the biological mystery and history of women’s bodies and childbirth:

How Women Got Their Curves and Other Just So Stories: Evolutionary Enigmas, by David P. Barash and Judith Eve Lipton: Since before the Ancient Greeks decided that hysteria was caused by problems with the uterus, science has been trying to make sense of women’s bodies.  Interestingly enough, things like menstruation and ovulation are still confounding modern science.  This book examines several aspects of women’s bodies that appear to have no clear rhyme or reason for working the way they do, at least from the standpoint of evolutionary biology.  Why women menstruate monthly (most other animals don’t) and why ovulation is hidden in humans (most animals have obvious signals) are among the questions addressed in this book.  There are no answers to these questions, but theories abound, and anyone with an interest in the science of women’s bodies will find this to be an engaging read.

Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the Sperm Bank, by Randi Hutter Epstein: With a focus on childbirth from ancient times to the present, this book was by turns entertaining and horrifying.  The history of childbirth is a messy one, and attempts to understand it and to make the process easier and safer have often had tragic results.  However, for every gruesome tale there was a hilarious counterpart.  (For instance, aren’t you glad that we no longer live in a time when drinking horse urine was thought to help conception?!)  The author manages to entertain even while bringing to light the often disturbing history of childbirth in medicine.


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