Friday, July 29, 2011

Honey, I Lost the House

When my neurologist settled on the diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease, I had a mild, intermittent tremor in my right hand, and a bit of a hitch in my right leg that caused me to drag my heel. If I concentrated, I could stop the tremor and walk with a normal gait. But it took a bit of effort.

Over the past couple of months, the tremor has become more pronounced. When I’m sitting or standing and I’m relaxed, it ranges from barely perceptible to nonexistent. But when I walk, some connection in my brain is closed, and my hand does a jitterbug. I’ve learned to walk with my thumb tucked into a fist.

My doctor prescribed Azilect, which is a mild drug used to control Parkinson’s symptoms. Unfortunately, it’s also expensive. With my insurance, it costs me $75 a month. For that kind of money, I want a drug that not only controls my symptoms, but makes me smart and good-looking as well.

Before long, I noticed that the Azilect wasn’t really doing the job. My hand still fluttered when I walked, or when I got nervous or excited. And, it was getting much more difficult to will it to stop. So I returned to the neurologist.

The doctor informed me that the next level of medication for Parkinson’s symptoms is called “dopamine agonists.” Dopamine is a hormone produced in the brain, and people suffering from Parkinson’s don’t have enough of it. Dopamine agonist drugs function in much the same way as dopamine, alleviating the symptoms of the disease. There are quite a few variations of this drug, and it’s a guessing game which will work the best for any specific individual. My neurologist flipped a mental coin and prescribed Ropinirole. One excellent benefit I noticed immediately is that this drug is cheap compared to Azilect.

Because Ropinirole is more powerful than Azilect, my doctor has to prescribe it in staged dosages, working me up slowly over a period of weeks to full strength. I thought this was excellent, because of my upcoming trip to Las Vegas to play pool in the National Championship Tournament. By the time I have to leave, I should be at full strength.

And then, my doctor explained the potential side effects.

Some are unpleasant or downright scary, like “nausea,” “insomnia” or “hallucinations.”

Some actually sound kind of cool, like “weight loss” or “increased orgasmic intensity.”

But there was one potential side effect that is so cruel, I swear I can hear God laughing: “A reduction in impulse control, leading to pathological addictions, such as gambling.” Great. Just in time for Las Vegas.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Green Irony

When we first moved to Florida, we lived in a community that did not offer curbside recycling. Three years later, when we moved into our current house, the former owners left us their old beat-up recycling bin. It was covered with dings and holes and cracks. Because I had no experience with community recycling, I just assumed that the guys on the recycling truck would replace it when it became too shabby. That was thirteen years ago.

It finally reached the point where it was so broken and brittle that I was afraid it would fall apart. So I called the recycling center to ask what I had to do to get a new one. The person on the phone took my name and address, and promised that someone would stop by during the week to drop off a new recycling bin.

“Do you want me to leave the old bin out by the street?” I asked.

“No,” she replied. “They won’t pick up the old one.”

“Why not?”

And then she said something I could scarcely believe: “Because it’s not recyclable.”

Staggering under this crushing irony, I asked, “How do I dispose of it?”

“Put it out by the curb on trash day. You have to put it into a trash bag, or the trash collectors won’t pick it up.”

So somewhere in our local landfill are thousands of old recycling bins, concealed in garbage bags like the bodies of Mafia snitches, unable to perform the one service they were designed to provide.