Rendered Fat Content


"May this streak of good fortune continue until it doesn't anymore."

After twenty years, I have a physician again. During my score's absence from the healthcare scene, I admit to crawling into an emergency room once after an unfortunate moment of inattention when chopping vegetables. Other than that incident, I remained largely as healthy as the proverbial horse with no physical complaints other than the occasional head cold or strained muscle. Not that my family history illustrates infinite invulnerability. My forebears eventually croaked like everyone else's have, many from what might be characterized as self-inflicted causes: smoking, horseback riding, and the inadvertent ingestion of milkweed toxin via cow's milk. Life seems an unavoidable minefield whichever era one inhabits. I probably drink too much beer and engage in excessive depressing self-reflection, but I have no complaints worth speaking of. Or, I might more accurately proclaim that I had no complaints until I reengaged with our fine healthcare system.

I admit that I've been uncommonly fortunate.
I somehow survived the cholesterol terrors of the eighties, living on skinless white chicken meat and leafy veg through my forties, even consenting to swallow an utterly ineffective and ultimately discredited medication until a controlled experiment demonstrated that my triglycerides remained stabile regardless of my medication or lifestyle. I filled in my new physician on my personal and family history. He asked after my personal health goals and I responded by asking if I really needed to have those. Well, my blood pressure registered higher than guidelines recommended, an easily remedied condition, I was reassured. Five different medications into a nine month attempt to meet newly lowered guidelines and the blood pressure still routinely registers ten points above the suggested upper threshold.

My nurse practitioner seems dedicated to "solving this problem," though I remain skeptical as to the nature and solvability of the presumed problem. She said my current state might translate into a 5% increased risk for stroke over the next twenty years, much of that risk attributable to the normal and inexorable effects of aging. As my father admitted near the end of his long life, I never expected to live as long as I already have. I already inhabit the bonus round. At The Muse's insistence, I last year re-entered the healthcare dance, figuring my middle age might be on the verge of finally ending. Perhaps I really should consider more proactive measures to maintain my good fortune.

Though I'd convinced myself that I'd inherited a naturally high triglyceride level and also an apparently inborn resistance to any drug intended to lower it, I consented to a course of medication. I understandably wanted to avoid the statins, a class of pharmaceutical with a reputation worthy of Rasputin, and bounced an alternate idea off my health care provider. My brother had lowered his triglyceride level by daily swallowing a handful of Red Yeast Rice, a vile rusty-colored substance said to contain the same active ingredient as the much-feared more formal medication. She offered no objections, so I proceeded to load up on this alternative. I immediately noticed a distinctly grumbly stomach and a fuzzy head, but I figured that these inconveniences might just be the cost of the new wellness. Two months later, I'm spending at least half of each morning groaning in bed between explosive visits to the bathroom. The Muse wonders aloud if it's been like this since I started the battle against the evil triglycerides. "Pretty much," I moaned in reply.

Home is where heath care happens in a rather secret process I might refer to as Home-opathy, a home-grown sort of pathology induced in the firm belief that it represents the price of well-being, even if (perhaps especially if) one feels demonstrably worse as a result. The Muse began an extended internet search looking for clues and insights. Does everyone engaging in Red Yeast Rice therapy experience these primary effects? Apparently not. Has any real science been conducted to demonstrate that these are benign effects? Not much. The Muse discovers that the dose I'd been taking constituted what The Mayo Clinic's website considers probably toxic, describing precisely the effects I'd been experiencing. But, I countered, I should probably continue the experiment until the end of the testing period when a blood test might confirm intended effects. Nope, The Muse, countered, you're stopping the experiment today. So I did.

She ordered some low dose, time-released, lab-certified alternative, still Red Yeast Rice, but formally calibrated. I learned that the stuff I'd been swallowing, complements of a local "health food store", had been improperly labeled and had not been lab certified, probably a common oversight for someone like me with no background in biology. I woke this morning without the existential dread I'd grown accustomed to feeling when anticipating the pill swallowing ordeal. I've dedicated myself to breaking the hypnotizing routine I'd earlier convinced myself was just the price of wellness. I feel much better.

I'm grateful for The Muse's dedicated research. My symptoms had been baffling my nurse practitioner, who had started suggesting that I take a home sleep apnea exam to eliminate that black swan possibility from the infinite array of potential causes, a suggestion I'd been deflecting as patently absurd. I do not want to be cured of what does not ail me. I can easily accept that I might be fine, personal eccentricities and all, since I seem to be inhabiting a bonus round, anyway. Should I contract some seriously life-threatening disease, I might be more likely to accept my fate than tenaciously insist upon further extending my winning streak by the means of making myself sicker in pursuit of an etherial wellness. My fifth grade music teacher used to chide her students, reporting that she'd woken up that morning coughing up green stuff and she could still sing, so we who had no experience with coughing up green stuff should certainly be capable of singing, and well.

I am my own worst physician. I have no intention of even trying to cure myself except through radical acceptance that things might just be the way they are. The Muse serves as my public defender since I cannot seem to navigate the healthcare system. When asked for my insurance card, I hand the nurse a handful of wallet cards and ask her if she can identify an insurance card in the pile. I remain skeptical about all prescriptions, having almost always failed to exhibit their intended results. I eat well, sleep sparsely, and do my work. The Muse asks disconcerting questions and I reluctantly submit to periodic examinations which so far have mostly concluded that I'm about as healthy as I feel. May this streak of good fortune continue until it doesn't anymore, Home-opathy and all.

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

blog comments powered by Disqus

Made in RapidWeaver