Sunday, April 01, 2007


Not so many years ago I experienced my first gout attack. I hate the name of the disease almost as much as the symptoms. It has the ring of some STD contracted as a result of some moral laxity, where the insinuation alone creates the wretched feeling of fingernails scraped along a chalkboard (remember those?) or biting aluminum foil with a mouth full of fillings. More often than not, caring individuals will ask "What is gout?" to which I respond in dispassionate tones that it’s the result of my body having the inability to metabolize protein (and apparently my fat either) causing my uric acid levels to build to such a level that tiny crystals form in the joints of my lower extremities, if I include my elbows hanging at rest. "Isn't there anything you can do for it?" is the usual follow-on query. Of course there is! I just enjoy the excruciating pain it causes.

I especially appreciate the random attacks made during the night on a chosen joint that would have been particularly useful in the next day's activity. Planning on a nice day of fishing or a quick flight for a $100 hamburger? Wake up to gout. Playing in a racquetball tournament and you've worked your way to the finals tomorrow? Wake up to gout. Ready to leave on a family camping trip in the morning... you get the picture.

So what value can possibly exist in experiencing these unpredictable, painful, life disrupting episodes? My family would argue that it's a great way to get out of physical work or dreaded social obligations. They often will remind me of "The Great Nor'easter of 1995" that buried our 125 foot driveway in 6 feet of snow (every passing year automatically adds a foot to the total snow fall). As I lay in bed (like that was a good thing) in the warmth of our house, my wife and daughters actively wore out a set of snow shovels boring a snow canyon to the street. Reminding them of the blessing it was to have 20F temperatures to keep them cool while working was hardly met with the enthusiastic encouragement it meant to convey.
I suppose there are worse things in life, or so I am led to believe. Instead of excruciating pain seemingly searing my flesh, I could have leprosy. But how bad could it be if the toe that has turned against me would painlessly fall off? Certainly people would be more sympathetic seeing body parts fall off while performing every day tasks compared to moaning about some unseen affliction that causes me to flinch every time someone walks within a 10 foot radius of my mutinous joint.
I also find it disturbing that gout is referred to as “the rich mans’ disease. Just because my gout-kinsman King Henry the VIII was known for his ostentatious banquets and love of rich foods, everyone now debilitated by the disease is assumed to have eaten the wrong foods. Wrong foods? What’s wrong with oysters, goose liver pate, bacon laden gravies and a little wine for the stomach? And where, pray tell, is the enormous hordes of cash that accompanies the adjective describing the man? Rich man my arthritic foot. Show me the money and then we’ll talk.