SECTION FOUR

sm
COLUMN 103, MARCH 1, 2003
(Copyright 2003 The Blacklisted Journalist)

LETTER FROM NASHVILLE:
'I'M A MEDICAL ACRONYM'


Dear Y'All:

I've noticed lately that people who are starved for oxygen tend to be more than somewhat impatient.

Thus it was that when I found myself flopping around like a flounder on the floor of the Nashville VA Med Center, I finally caved in and gave up smoking. Cigarettes, anyhow. It's been a good run...I been smoking since before I could write the alphabet, never had a moment of ill effect from it. Until, apparently, just before I went to France back in August. 

That's how long I've been walking around ill, the docs say. What I've taken to be a series of very bad colds has in fact been rockin' pneumonia, and not the boogie-woogie flu after all. It's been about three weeks since I got my diagnosis...I know because I have just finished the last antibiotic tablet, the ones that make me throw up two hours after I take them. But the x-rays don't lie: "flattened diaphragm shadow and hyper-inflation consistent with COPD". Now I'm a medical acronym: Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. 

It can only get worse. I also have the beginnings of that most disgusting lung ailment, emphysema. I remember its characteristics from my x-ray tech days. Some of my alveoli, the little sacs in the lungs across whose membrane good air passes into the bloodstream and bad air back out, have gotten hyper-inflated and lost their elasticity, so that now they remain filled with dead air from, who knows? 1976 or sometime, never to function again, never to recover. It is very sad.

And I looked so insouciant and jaunty with my ciggies, and debonair, too. "Debonair". Means "of good air." Ironic, n'est-ce pas"

This was the first morning since I quit smoking that I didn't think of lighting up first thing I woke up. In fact it wasn't until I was standing at the corner waiting to meet my granddaughter Roos that the idea of having a ciggie occurred to me.

Hope the holiday season finds you and yours well. You'll probably get a Christmas card late from us this year. But you'll get one. It's pretty nifty, printed in China, and "Season" is mis-spelled.

All the best

Panama  ##

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