Uncommon Ground
Volume 4 Book 3 of
Living in the Bonus Round
(Part 2)

Steve at Stanford University.

[ Book 4-2 ] --  [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ] [ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ] [ Pt 8 ]
[ Pt 9 ] [ Pt 10 ] [ Pt 11 ] [ Pt 12 ] [ Pt 13 ] [ Pt 14 ] -- [ Book 4-4 ]

February 7 - 8, 2005.
Ethics Class at Stanford.

Photos from Stanford University's beautiful campus.

This was my second time to be a guest at Maggie Eaton's "Ethics in Business" class at Stanford University. I flew up to San Francisco and Bev picked me up and drove me to the campus. It's always fun to hang with Bev.

Professor Maggie Eaton.
Unlike most of my personal appearances, I wouldn't be doing a presentation. Rather, my job was simply to be a guest as the students studied the ethical dilemmas surrounding Merck's decision back in 1996 to apportion the very limited amount of Crixivan by lottery to people with AIDS.

A projection illustrated the report.
Crixivan, as readers of this diary know, was the drug that saved my life. I was one of the lucky few who managed to make it into the lottery. The reason they had to make this kind of decision was that when they began testing the drug, it was during a time when most of the AIDS therapies were failing and people were dying, hundreds every day, if not more.

These four students made the presentation.
But Crixivan was so potent and so effective, as I told the class, that people started coming back to life immediately. It was a miracle drug. So much so that, thanks to the work of the much maligned AIDS activists, the FDA granted approval almost immediately.

Bev Sykes sits in on the class.
But that put Merck into a difficult position. Hundreds of thousands of people needed the drug. But because the drug was so new, and was so complicated to manufacture, only a certain number of prescriptions were available. And since Crixivan was not a cure, whoever started on the drug, had to continue therapy or they'd become immune to it.

They introduced me by showing my webpage intro,
which got a lot of laughs when they saw my goofy flash animation.
So, Merck decided to distribute the drug via lottery. The students dissected this decision and compared the ethics of it to other ways they could have distributed the drug -- such "first come, first served," or based on who was the sickest.

Professor Eaton watches Steve answer questions.
I didn't really have that much to say except to tell them my experience, how my doctor helped me get into the lottery, what a miracle it was when I began to recover and how I recorded the whole experience in this diary. Part of Maggie's agenda in bringing me in was so that the students wouldn't be studying this in a vacuum. She wanted them to see an actual patient so they could see past the statistics and see the humanity. The questions from the students were smart and informed. I thought to myself, "If this is the next generation of kids coming up, we have nothing to worry about."
February 9 - 13, 2005.
Cats, Vets & Australia.
Jimmy's going to probably kill me for writing this entry but it's too real to pass up. Our cat Thurber has been gettting to skinny. He's going on 15 years old now and I know things happen to old animals (like me) but we started observing his behavior. Too skinny, always hungry, too full of energy, vomiting a lot, diarrhea every third day or so. Someone on the Net suggested it might be hyperthyroidism and so we looked it up and, sure enough, those were the symptoms.

Now, Jim hates to doctor's offices. He totally freaks out, which is ironic given the fact that I practically live in them. He won't even let us watch doctor or hospital TV shows.

Anyway, we finally decided to call the vet. First, he assigned me the duty of calling. I called a pet hospital we've used on the past and made an appointment, but when I told him I'd done it, he got all weird on me and said he didn't like them -- that he didn't think they were nice enough -- and that he had seen a new one on our street not far away.

So he got in the car and drove around looking for the new place. Then he came back and said he liked the new place, that the two women he spoke to were really "nice." I smiled and said, "No problem." Then I cancelled the appointment at the first vet and we prepared to take Thurber in.

The examination room was kind of small and only had one chair, so I let Jim take little sickboy in. Soon, though, I was summoned. The doctor had arrived and there was total chaos in the room because he when he tried to hold the cat in place, he started freaking out. Thurber was also in a panic. :-)

Calmly, I walked in and held Thurber's head in the crook of my arm, petting him while the doctor took his  temperature (on the other end). When the doctor asked about the cat's symptoms, Jim, for whatever reason -- although I'm sure he'll deny this -- gave all wrong answers. So I told the vet what was up.

Then they took Thurber back and drew blood. Out in the lobby, Jim kept hearing a cat howl and was sure our cat was totally freaking out. Turns out it was a different cat. Yes, Thurber didn't like it, but he wasn't vocal about it.

Diagnosis: hyperthyroidism. Treatment: $1000 radioactive thyroid killer. We don't have that kind of money, so they said we could give him pills twice a day. Also, the hyperthyroidism hadn't hurt any of his organs so, with treatment, he would be fine.

I tried to joke in the car going home about how freaked out Jim was but he wasn't laughing, so I kept my mouth shut, realizing that it was totally traumatic for him. Poor little guy.

However, once we got the pills. $70?? A month?? And now we have to have more blood tests? I went on the Net and found the same pills for 1/3 the price but they require a prescription which the Vet wouldn't give us, saying they need more blood tests next month. Price gougers. However, a friend of mine who's a lawyer said they are required to give us a prescription. So, now I have to go be Loud Steve and get my script! I don't think we can avoid the new blood tests, though.

Meanwhile, I also visited my vet and it turns out that *MY* hyperthyroidism is now going the other way. I'm becoming hyPO rather than hyPER. She said this was a bit unusual, but not unheard of. After all, the Grave's Disease attacks the thryroid and so presumably my body is killing off my thyroid. I have to watch for sluggishness and weight gain. And if it progresses, she'll put me on synthroid. She also wanted to know why I had lost so much weight. I told her about having the flu and that I had already gained back a lot.

The rest of my tests were good. Glucose levels in the blood are in the normal range thanks to my diet, pills and exercise. So, both the cat and I are going to survive. However, I'm starting to notice that I'm getting more and more neuropathy in my fingertips and toes. It can be very painful, especially if I step on something wrong. It's even a bit painful to type. Dr. Tony has switched out one of my meds to see if we can fix it. But this is not fun.

BTW, have you ever given a cat a pill?

They don't like that very much. In fact, they pretty much will rip you to shreds if you try. So, another friend suggested wrapping him up in a blanket. Good idea! Now I hold his head still, wait for him to open his mouth and then pop it in till is disappears. Good kitty!

NOTE: Beginning next week, we shall be away for 10 days (to Australia!) while Jim does lectures for another cruise. I'll tell you all about it when we get back. I have given myself another writing assignment to complete onboard the ship. I'm also going to eat like a pig and work out using their weight room. Hopefully, after we get back we'll have some news about possibly bringing The Big Voice back to New York. Nothing set yet, but it's all looking positive. Keep yer fingers crossed for us.

February 14, 2005.
Random Act of Cat Kindness.
Today is the day we take off for our trip. All the clothes are washed, the house is cleaned up, our housesitter is all set to move in and the only thing we had left to do yesterday was to buy a ton of cat food at the local Ralphs market so Mo would have plenty while we were gone.

Our neighborhood is one of the most ethnically diverse little enclaves you could imagine. Alongside the many Latinos and Blacks and Asians and Caucasians there is also a large Jewish community here with several synagogues within walking distance. I love it because you never know who you'll meet or what kind of person you'll run into. Aside from racial differences, there are also a lot of poor, rich, celebrities, etc. It's one of the great things about living in this part of Los Angeles -- like the other day when we ran into Cliff Robertson or Charles Nelson Reilly in the supermarket.

I was in the check-out line yesterday as the middle aged white lady was checking out through all the cans of food when an attractive slightly older Black woman behind me noticed my purchase and said, "Ah, a cat lover! How many do you have?"

"Oh! Just two," I replied. "We're going on a trip and I wanted to make sure our catsitter was well stocked."

"I love them," she said. I looked over at her and noticed that her clothes were just a bit worn and in her hands she had a stack of coupons. "I have four indoor cats and two outdoor cats that I feed," she continued.

"I love them, too" I said. "But one has been sick and needs pills twice a day and it's not easy getting the pill down his throat. I wrap him up in a blanket and then hold the pill at his mouth, but he's pretty good at spitting it out. It can be quite a struggle," I laughed.

She chuckled and said, "Here's the secret. Once you get the pill in his mouth, blow lightly on his nose. It makes them swallow automatically."

"Really?" I said, not ever having heard that before.

Just then, the check-out lady asked if I had my Ralphs card, which gives you discounts on purchases. I punched in the numbers, which brought the total down nicely and then I heard a rattling noise as the coupon machine started printing.

"Ah!" she said. "Look here! You get $9.00 off on your next purchase of pet supplies!" (A bonus for buying a lot!)

"Hey!" I said. "Jackpot! I love these discounts."

"I don't know what I'd do without them," said the cat lady. "Cat food gets more and more expensive."

"You know, you've been so kind giving me advice about my Thurber. It would give me great pleasure to help you feed your kitties. Would you take this coupon?" I said, thrusting the piece of paper in her hands.

Her eyes popped open! "Well... thank you. What a nice..." I could tell she was taken completely aback. She looked at the check-out lady in total surprise and then over at me with the biggest smile. "Nobody ever..." I smiled at her, picked up my bags and scooted towards the door, and then, remembering what day it was, said, "Happy Valentine's Day. And thank YOU."

It made me feel so good as I loaded the food into the trunk of the car. I know I had this huge smile on my face as I drove home.

Later that evening, when it was pill time, I wrapped Thurber in the blanket, held his head in my hand as he struggled, posed the pill over his mouth and when he opened it to protest, I popped the pill in and, remembering her advice, lightly blew on his nose.

Sure enough, he stopped fighting me immediately as his little auto-pilot swallowing mechanism kicked in and the pill was gone. No trauma. No stressing out. He never knew what hit him.

Happy Valentine's Day to you, lady, whoever you are. Your advice was the best Valentine's Day present anyone ever gave me.

[ Book 4-2 ] -- [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ] [ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ] [ Pt 8 ]
[ Pt 9 ] [ Pt 10 ] [ Pt 11 ] [ Pt 12 ] [ Pt 13 ] [ Pt 14 ] -- [ Book 4-4 ]
© 1996-2005 by Steve Schalchlin.
You have permission to print from this diary and distribute for use in support groups, schools, or to just give to a friend. You do not have permission to sell it.