Monday, January 2

Common Thread

This month is full of Birthdays in my family. My nephew Marco is the latest contender for January's terminally cute baby award for the family. Born on the last day of the month, it's possible that he'll be beaten out by the next little Higbee, still in a little tummy. Then there's my brother David, his dad, the absolutely driven and gifted musician and linguist (listen to his latest digs HERE) born on the 28th. Then we come to the elvenly child Janessa, immortalized in her infancy with her sprightly infectious personality, voice, and smoulder that could all, individually, put both Justin Bieber and Flynn Rider in fits.  Lastly we come to two individuals who led the way for me in music, art, literature and self discovery through my adolescence. Born on the same day, they share much more than a common birth date and the same first and last initials; Mark and Melanie were born on the 5th. Though it's hard, and some may argue wrong, to put a label on a person in terms of their value, I can't help but place these two very high on the scale of valuable people in my life. Melanie was the friend that I always had and Mark, he was just incredibly, simply and unforgettably Mark. The best of all of us put together with the demons none of us like to imagine in ourselves, waging war.

So what do all of these people have in common other than the fact that they are all important people in the grand scheme of one redneck little life, and that they all share the month of January to be born into this world? They share something that I think about whenever the issue of health comes up in relationship to my children. They share a Grandfather and Great Grandfather who were both plagued by a disease that has no cure and no reliable treatment. They share Genetics. They share the possibility that one day they or their children could be diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis.

It's a disease that a lot of people have never heard of, so if you're wondering why I sound so grave in talking about it, it's because I attribute this disease in large part to my brother's death 5 1/2 years ago. It was the coat of arms, if you will, of the opposing army in Marks war.  I can't claim to understand everything that this disease is. It can be a lot of different things. As far as I know my Grandfather didn't have a particularly bad case. I knew when he was alive that his kidneys gave him some trouble, but I never heard about ulcerative colitis until after he was gone. Mark's case though, was debilitating, uncomfortable, embarrassing, and ultimately handicapped his sense of happiness.

I am most certainly not a scientist. So this is, in simpletons terms, what Ulcerative Colitis is. A disease that affects the colon, the part of your digestive system that absorbs vitamins and minerals from the food you eat. Imagine the inside of a tube with holes burned through it (ulcers) all over. That tube is suppose to make your food into a feel good center of your body as it is processed and sends your cells the things they need to work right. But if it's covered in ulcers, it absorbs lots of other nasty things that are in most of the food supply in this country and makes it so you don't feel good. If you can't find a way to heal the burns(ulcers) in the tube, they get inflamed and bleed. I've heard that the discomfort from these ulcers can be worse than birthing pains. Now there's something I understand. I've been there. But one of the things that makes childbirth wonderful and beautiful and bearable, is that whatever pain you feel will eventually be over. With Ulcerative Colitis, not so.  I try to imagine feeling labor pains every day for prolonged periods of time and I start to imagine a little bit what Marks life was like. What was it like while he served and completed a two year, full time mission, teaching about Jesus Christ; while he worked his way through college, finally having to quit because he was too sick? Really, I can't begin to imagine.

One of these days someone will write a thorough account of all of the events of Marks Life, including the drugs and events that led to his diagnosis of this disease, and the drugs and events that led up to his accidental suicide in August of 2006. I don't think anyone yet has the strength to do that. Because Marks life was, as I mentioned earlier, not a common life.  But writing this post was not that attempt. I simply found something that made me think and remember. It was this article about a possible link between infant antibiotics and ulcerative colitis. It reminds me of how much I doubt our current money making health care system. How much I doubt whenever a doctor tells me something, because even though they know a lot, they have also been educated by the same system that makes billions of dollars per year with insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies. Ariel works for the biggest health care company in the west and has worked for others. I've received free samples of prenatal vitamins, free samples of pain killers and allergy medication. I've eaten lavish lunches provided for doctors by what my husband terms jokingly "drug dealers".  My doctors have given me labor and delivery tutorial books that are written by people who promote a one sided medical view of what I've learned for myself is not a medical trauma. And who makes money off of it? They do. How often are we being told that a drug that we've relied on for years is no longer deemed safe? My point is this, if you don't feel completely comfortable with the advice your practicing physician has to offer, get a second opinion. Get a third opinion. And go someplace else to get it, other than your insurance covered doctors office. There's another kid of doctor who doesn't make nearly as much money at what he does and is still a respected health professional. It's called a naturepathic doctor. They can give you a different way of looking at the health problems that you have that won't involve risky drugs you may learn down the road were not as thoroughly studied as you believed.

I'm not trying to downplay the role of modern medicine. I recognize its value in prolonging my grandmothers life from the 54 years that her father lived, to the 83 she enjoyed. But there are too many doctors who will prescribe an antibiotic without even checking to see if it's a biotic problem you have. I have yet to hear a doctor tell me that my body can probably whip a bug all by itself if I take care of it by getting rest and giving it time, that's an infection I'm talking about(yes, it happens every day). Not to mention the recent study by the University of Utah that found that pediatricians write more than 10 million prescriptions for unnecessary antibiotics every year(for Children). It's easy to find the information. I don't claim to be very studious. Just Google 'unnecessary antibiotics'.

The fact that Ulcerative Colitis is a hereditary disease gives me some idea that it isn't ONLY the medical system that's going south. But I have to wonder if my brother was prescribed an antibiotic in the first year of his life. What was it that made him so much more susceptible to it that I am(still healthy as an ox). Either way I take from my wanderings and long winded ramblings that my children are going to eat better and live better than my generation. I call it the Right of a Wife or Mother to choose for my family in an effort of preservation to control this one element as much as I can. And I'm grateful that my children are Breastfed, Yogurt eaters who've never touched an antibiotic. My heart goes out to anyone who has been ill affected by them. 


Andrea K. H. Agüin said...

Thank You to Marianne for this link
I am always fascinated by anything that could have helped my brother or people in his position.

The Kooky Queen--Rachel said...

I remember when I met you and you told me about your brother and his disease and I felt so bad for him. It's a difficult way to live and I hope no one else in your family inherits it!

Missy Maker said...

I was diagnosed with this in high school...and it breaks my heart that Mark suffered through it. Never ending health problems are HUGE in taking away much of ones happiness. I truly hope and pray that it is not inherited by anyone else in your family...EVER

Andrea K. H. Agüin said...

Ok, How did I miss that? I guess it's not the kind of thing you tell all your buddies. But still! Crazy the things you and Mark have in common. Love You Like Crazy Evelyn!

Annette said...

Thank you Andrea. Hope some day I can be couragious enough to write that story about Mark.