Archives For Medicine

Sorry, no raindrops on roses in this joint (but plenty of whiskers on kittens, thanks to the three Weeblettes).

I was looking around my house the other day and I thought, You have a lot of really weird shit, Weebs.

It’s true, I have a lot of really weird shit. Eclectic, you might say. A lot of strange objects that I’m rather fond of. Let’s take a tour, I’ll show you around.

First, we’ll visit the infirmary to see my beloved collection of smallpox-related antiques. I’ve been obsessed with smallpox for years. In fact, my doctoral dissertation (which I didn’t finish, otherwise I’d be Doctor Weebles) was on smallpox inoculations in 18th-century America. There are many mighty diseases that have plagued humanity for centuries: tuberculosis, bubonic plague, yellow fever, etc, but I find smallpox the most compelling. As pathogens go, this one is brutal as fuck. Kill rates during epidemics ranged from 30% to 50%. In many parts of the world, children weren’t even considered official members of the family until they had contracted and survived smallpox. That’s some sick shit, yo. And smallpox is the only disease to be completely eradicated (although polio is on its way to extinction as well). It exists only in the labs now (and hopefully will not return in weaponized format, or any other format).

Clockwise from top left: 20th-century smallpox vaccine vials, 19th-century fleams, 19th-century scarificator, 19th-century ivory folding lancet, 18th-century scalpel.

In case you’re wondering how lancets, fleams, and scalpels treated smallpox, these little beauties were used to create wounds through which the smallpox matter (or cowpox matter, later on) was introduced. The scarificator is a neat little device with several small blades on the bottom to create multiple wounds at once. All of these tools were used for bloodletting as well. It was thought that many illnesses were caused by an overabundance of blood, so doctors would bleed patients to drain the “excess.” Shockingly, this charming practice hurt many more people than it helped.

Let’s move on to the Teeny Tiny Chamber of Horrors. Please note that Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy are here only for scale, not for punishment. They learned their lesson after last time.

This is my guillotine. There are others like it but this one is mine.

Raggedy Andy now knows the penalty for geting fresh with Raggedy Ann...

Raggedy Andy now knows the penalty for getting fresh with Raggedy Ann…

We’re going to make a right turn here, onto Sesame Street:


One! Two! Three! Four! Five! Six! Six Count von Count items! Ah! Ah! Ah!

Aside from Oscar the Grouch, The Count is my favorite Sesame Street character. What better way to honor him than to build a shrine that includes toys made in his likeness? Please take a moment for quiet reflection here if you like.

Around the corner from Sesame Street is the Museum of Wacky Old Items. These objects are late 18th century to early 19th century.


From top to bottom: Folding knife, bullet probe, blistering iron.

The folding knife, called a “penny knife” because that’s how much it cost, is the kind carried by soldiers during the American Revolution. This one is in pretty good shape but who knows, maybe it was used by a smokin’ hot guy in the Continental Army. It titillates me to contemplate this. The bullet probe determined the depth of a bullet wound. Fat load of good it did, though; it was a lot more common to die from nasty, infected bullet wounds than to be killed outright by bullets. The blistering iron did exactly what you’d expect: you held it over a fire to get it nice and hot, then seared the skin with it to cause a blister. You know that philosophy behind bloodletting? Yeah, well, blistering was another method of relieving people of the bad “humors” that caused disease. In theory, the blister would draw all the ick (that’s the official medical term for it, by the way) from the person, and when the blister drained, presto, disease all gone. But guess what? Yup. Didn’t work. In fact, you know who died after being severely weakened by copious bloodletting and blistering? George Washington. Poor bastard was already very sick, and the “medical” treatment finished him off.

And finally, let’s visit the farm and say hello to my stuffed animals. Not the taxidermy kind, either. I know, I know, you’re thinking, “Weebs has stuffed animals???” Yes. Yes I do. Allow me to introduce you to some of my plush friends:


Ham and Peas. Yes, those are the peas from Toy Story 3, how kind of you to notice.


Top left to right: Whaley and Squeezy Shark. Bottom left to right: Owlie, Legs, and Narwally. What? I didn’t say I was good at naming them.


The cuddliest breakfast ever: Toast, Coffee, and Pancakes. If only I could find a real mug of coffee this big.

Mr. Weebles is concerned about my penchant for buying giant stuffed toys because they take up a lot of space. I tell him I can stop anytime I want to. (I just don’t want to.)

And this concludes our tour for today. Thank you for joining me, I hope you’ve all enjoyed it as much as I have. Please be sure to gather all your belongings, watch your step as you disembark, and get home safely.

It’s hot out there today.  Although to be fair, it’s actually cool and refreshing here in NYC compared to what’s going on in other parts of North America.  Some of our Canadian homeys are sweltering in 40+ degrees Celsius (that’s 104+ degrees Fahrenheit for my fellow Celsius-challenged Americans).

In any case, when the mercury rises, so does my cranky level.  And my lazy level.  So it’s time for another reblog.  And what better subject to discuss on a hot, icky day than disease?  Enjoy!

Which diseases were the most glamorous?


You know how sometimes a bunch of things happen at once, and it kinda/sorta of gives you the idea that someone/Someone is trying to tell you something?

I’m having that kind of day. Two things happened this morning that made me cry, in a good way. They reminded me of things I had put on the back burner. And I think it means it’s time to take them off the back burner.

Last night I saw a dear friend of mine, and I did some reiki on her because she’s having a bit of a tough time right now. My intention was for her to gain some clarity and peace of mind regarding her situation. This morning she sent me a beautiful email to tell me that I helped her to see her situation more clearly and that now she feels able to forgive herself. I practically sobbed when I read this. It’s extremely humbling to know that I was able to help, and I feel so happy that I had the opportunity to do this for a friend.

About 10 minutes after receiving this amazing email, one of my colleagues came into my office. She and I have had several conversations about medical care—she’s caring for her elderly father—and about how much unmet need there is for patients and caregivers when dealing with the medical community. She told me that when my name has come up in conversation with others in our industry, one of the things frequently mentioned is that I fight for the people I work with and I make sure they don’t get overlooked. And then she asked me if I had ever considered working with patients.

I felt like I had been clobbered with a Cosmic Sledgehammer.

Since I became a Reiki Master I’ve become much more aware of the different ways I can help people. I can’t prescribe medication or perform surgery, but I can help people endure their treatment or surgery better. I can help people gain clarity on things that are bothering them. I can help empower them to get through really difficult times. Doing reiki has really opened me up to understanding how much is out there.

I’ve toyed many times with the idea of doing patient advocacy, because I know how helpless people can feel. Doctors can be intimidating, and unfortunately quite a few of them don’t really listen to patients very well. And that’s just for your average doctor visit. When you need to go to the hospital, it’s very easy to get overwhelmed. Mountains of paperwork, hospital staff who ask you the same questions over and over again, and quite often, no clear, direct communication about what’s happening. So patients and their families end up feeling like cogs in the machine, and the result is that they don’t get what they need. If they’re lucky, the experience is merely horrifically stressful. But in worse scenarios, people get the wrong treatment—or no treatment—because there’s nobody to stick up for them.

Over the past several years I’ve accompanied several friends and family members to doctor’s appointments, and I’ve spoken to veterinarians on behalf of friends whose pets were ill. I’ve been stunned by the lack of genuine interest and/or integrity shown by some of them. Too often, doctors will just say “There’s nothing wrong with your blood work” or “Your x-rays are fine,” and then dismiss the patient’s concern as unimportant or medically irrelevant. It infuriates me that they don’t explore other options. I would have more a lot more respect for a physician who said, “Your blood work looks fine, so I don’t know what the problem might be. Why don’t we look at [fill in the blank] as a possible cause.”

I want to grab these guys by their white coat lapels and yell, “Just admit that you don’t know, for crying out loud!” Don’t imply that because you don’t know the cause, the problem must not really exist. Maybe the problem is that you’re seeing 50 patients a day, so that gives you only 10 minutes with each patient. Maybe the problem is that you think your patient is a hypochondriac. Maybe the problem is that you’re phoning it in and you don’t really care all that much.

The point of all this rambling is that too often there’s no care in healthcare. Patients often get shortchanged in one way or another. And it pisses me off. I want to help—whether it’s through energy healing, or advocating for patients who don’t know where to turn, or a combination of those two things, or something else completely. It’s time for me to move these thoughts to the front burner. Otherwise the Universe is going to whack me over the head again.

Pharmaceutical companies continually seek to develop new, more effective treatments for diseases of all kinds. But there is an enormous unmet need for the treatment of stupidity, one of the major pandemics of our time. Millions of people worldwide live with this devastating disorder; it affects the patients themselves, but more tragically, it causes untold pain and suffering among those exposed to second-hand stupidity.

I’ve seen many too innocent souls fall victim to this terrible plague. You don’t read about them in the papers and they don’t get coverage on CNN. But they’re out there. You’ve seen them. The guy with the thousand-yard stare waiting on line at the supermarket while the customer at the register argues about expired coupons. Your twitchy co-worker at a meeting, listening to someone ask a question that was answered not five minutes earlier. The poor bastard on the phone with customer service. So much needless agony.

But now, finally, there’s hope.

Today the FDA announced the approval of an exciting first-in-class medication that may improve the quality of life for patients, their families, neighbors, and co-workers. NO-DUH, which goes by the generic name imbecillin, is indicated for the temporary relief of the major symptoms of stupidity, including:

  • Inability to comprehend simple instructions and directions
  • Inability to navigate stairways, escalators, elevators, sidewalks, subway stations, airports, supermarket aisles, ATM lines, and other public areas without blocking traffic and causing maddening delays
  • Lack of even the most basic common sense
  • General incompetence
  • Drooling

In the pivotal trial TWITS (Targeting Widespread Idiocy and Total Stupidity), imbecillin was evaluated in 2,030 patients recruited from a wide range of venues, including slow lanes, highway bottlenecks, redneck bars, and John Mayer concerts. The drug was found to be superior in reducing the symptoms of stupidity vs yelling, “What the fuck is wrong with you???”

A second clinical trial, KILLME (Keep Idiot Losers Locked Away From ME), was conducted to assess the effect of imbecillin on the quality of life of those exposed to stupidity on a daily basis. Investigators discovered that imbecillin reduced the amount of eye rolling, loud sighing, teeth gnashing, obscene gestures, and honking vs placebo or vodka.

NO-DUH comes in an aerosol mist formulation that can be inhaled by the patient or administered to patients as a topical spray by caregivers or bystanders.

A spokesman for MentalTech Pharmaceuticals, the manufacturers of NO-DUH, reported that pre-approval orders for the product numbered well into the millions. The forecast for Q2 earnings for MentalTech is anticipated to be in the trillions of dollars.

But first, some background:

Pharmaceutical brand names take a lot of time and effort to develop— branding exercises, market research, etc. But generic names are created a little differently. Each class of drugs has its own approved suffix, or stem, so you can tell what kind of drug it is by looking at the end of the name. For instance: “azepam” is for anti-anxiety drugs like alprazolam and lorazepam; “mycin” is for certain types of antibiotics like azithromycin and erythromycin; and “statin” is for, you know, statins, like atorvastatin and simvastatin.

When a new drug is developed, the drug company creates a few generic name options with the appropriate stem. These options are submitted to the United States Adopted Names (USAN) council, a group that consists of members from the FDA, the AMA, the US Pharmacopeia (they maintain drug standards for the US in conjunction with the FDA), and the American Pharmacists Association. The USAN selects a generic name by taking into account ease of reading and pronunciation, potential for confusion with other drug names, and a bunch of other stuff.

I think it would be fun to be on this council but my main concern would be, “Is it fun to say?”

Click here if you’d like to see the complete USAN list of generic drug stems and their meanings, so you can smoke the competition during your next game of “What’s That Drug?”

And now, my list for today: my ten favorite generic drug names. You can find a fairly comprehensive list of generic names here. Please feel free to submit your own as well.