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Category Archives: Medical/Health

For The Wolf Within

There are times when I don’t know where to begin… when an idea for a blog posting grabs hold of me and shakes me to my very foundation.  When a plethora of thoughts and emotions swirl savagely throughout my mind leaving me with no place to start.

Julian Lennon with Mom, Cynthia, at the Lupus Foundation of America, "Butterfly Gala" in New York City

Julian Lennon with Mom, Cynthia, at the Lupus Foundation of America, “Butterfly Gala 2010” in New York City

The month of May is dedicated as the official month for Lupus awareness, and it was announced late yesterday that Julian Lennon has been chosen as this year’s Global Ambassador by the Lupus Foundation of America‘s National Board of Directors.   The honor of being named this year’s ambassador was bestowed after an almost-lifetime dedication to the cause.  You see, it’s not by some fluke that Julian was picked.  Many years ago when he was just a child, he drew a picture for his father, the infamous John Lennon, depicting his friend, Lucy.  She was also one of the many who was striken with this unrelentless and often-debilitating disease.  John went on to write The Beatles hit, “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds“, having been inspired by the picture that his little offspring scribbled onto a piece of paper.

I could make this a very long posting, filling you with statistics and random medical facts of Lupus, but instead, I think I’ll just jot down a few basic facts to let you know, in case you don’t already know, a little about the wolf within…

There are two main types of Lupus (Greek:  Lykos, meaning wolf):  Discoid Lupus, which affects the skin, and Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, which affects all the internal stuff.  Of course, there are many sub-categories, such as Lupus Nephritis, which also brings along a whole spewing of even more sub-categories.  Let’s just stick with the basics, however, instead of making a posting which would qualify for listing in a medical journal.

There are approximately 5 million people world-wide who are affected by this autoimmune rheumatic disease, and most likely, this total includes people you know.  It’s not always visible, nor is it something that you’d figure out if the person didn’t tell you they have it.  And no two people are alike in their symptoms, in their afflictions.  What hurts today may not hurt tomorrow.  The tell-tale sign of Lupus is a butterfly-shaped rash on the face, but not everyone afflicted has this rash.  There’s no definitive test for Lupus, just a series of qualifications to be included in the tally of those who have it.

There’s no cure, either.

It can be life-threatening or something you just learn to live with, depending on which tissues/organs are striken at any given moment in time.  You can wake up today feeling wonderful, standing on chairs to clean the very tippity top of the kitchen cabinets, and tomorrow you may find yourself unable to get out of bed, unable to walk those 4000 miles to the bathroom, those 10,000 miles to the sofa.  In a nutshell, you live each day grateful for whatever DOESN’T hurt, and if everything hurts, well, you hope tomorrow will bring a better day.

You can’t “catch it”, you just wake up one day realizing something’s not right.  You may have had it for years and no one ever thought to look for it… Doctors are just too busy now-a-days to dig deep inside.  You present symptoms and they throw a label on you.  But with Lupus, the label isn’t clearly written.  You may have the symptoms of some disease, but not the actual disease itself.  Your immune system is in overdrive, attacking healthy stuff… making you appear to have something that you don’t.  Doctor after doctor unable to find the true culprit because they usually don’t bother to put two and two together.  Some people are even labelled as hypochondriacs and told to go home.  Others are referred to pain management clinics for pain-killing drugs in the hopes of silencing their cries for help.

Julian Lennon & James Scott Cook, "Lucy"Ms. Lucy Vodden was only 49 when she succumbed to the dreaded wolf in 2009.  That same year, friend, long-time Lupus supporter, philanthropist, and musician Julian Lennon, along with James Scott Cook, released the song, Lucy, in honor of Lucy Vodden.

Proceeds from the song benefit the Lupus Foundation of America and the St. Thomas Lupus Trust of London.

Although forty years had passed since Julian brought that little scribbling home, completely unaware at the profound impact his sketch would make on so many lives, everything came full-circle.  His little schoolmate put a face to a disease.  She, and he, would touch the lives of so many unknown faces in the vast forest of Lupus sufferers.

The following acoustic video is brought to you by the LFA, and in it you will not only hear the actual track, but you will also hear Lennon and Cook’s connection … inspiration, if you will … to the reason why they decided to make this a charitable song instead of just another studio track made available for sale.

So, for all of you Lucys out there, here’s hoping today found you with a ray of warmth … and may you always shine brilliantly like diamonds in the sky …

For more information on the Lupus Foundation of America, click HERE.

For more on the LFA’s selection of Julian Lennon as 2011’s Global Ambassador, click HERE.

For more on the symptoms of Lupus, as well as diagnosis and prognosis, you can visit the LFA HERE, or, another medical website, MedicineNet.com, that I personally like can be found HERE.  (In all honesty, there are lots of medical information sites I like, I’m throwing this one out, but you can always search for more through your own search engines.  As always, when in doubt of ANY medical condition, PLEASE contact your doctor or hospital.  Although I may speak harshly at times, I do hold all my faith in the medical staff and their expertise.)

You can also follow announcements, breakthroughs, and happenings by joining the LFA on Facebook, HERE.

… and because I keep singing this song in my head as I write this posting … here’s a completely unrelated song (except for its title, which always starts playing whenever I think of Lupus) “For The Wolf Within” the 1996 release by Greece‘s The Flowers Of Romance.  If you listen closely you will hear Wayne Hussey (Sisters of Mercy, The Mission UK) on second guitars.  (I do so love this album.)

Sending you our wishes for a safe and happy extended holiday weekend.  We’ll be back on Tuesday with more postings, rants, or raves.  🙂

… and don’t forget … charity begins at home.  We’re all suffering from serious financial constraints, however, there are many other ways that you can give without money.  Raising awareness is one, offering to help out a lupie during those “down and out” periods in time is another.  Be creative … use your imagination!   I’m sure there’s a whole plethora swirling about inside you if you only look deep enough to find it …

 

Story of Stuff

 
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Posted by on March 5, 2010 in Medical/Health, Politics

 

An Interview with Michael Palmer

Michael Palmer has led a remarkable life as a well-respected board-certified physician of Internal Medicine, Emergency Medicine, and Addiction Medicine.   He has also become a writing phenomenon as each of his 14 published medical thrillers have made their way onto the New York Times Best Sellers list.

His latest book, “THE SECOND OPINION”, hit the stands in February, 2009, and revolves around the Sperelakis family, a well-to-do Greek-American clan with firm roots within the medical community.

tribe4mian:  Michael, I’d like to thank you for taking the time out of your hectic schedule to sit with us for a little bit. 

You have quite an impressive resume as a physician and novelist.  With such a stunning and established career as a physician, what made you try your hand at writing?

MICHAEL PALMER:  Thanks… glad to be here.  First, let me say that I will be writing here the way I speak with friends – loose and without much punctuation.
 
I have always had an interest in creative things outside of medicine, and have tried my hand at acting and music, but with little sustained success.  Then, in 1977, I read Coma by Robin Cook, who was a classmate of mine at Wesleyan University in Connecticut and also trained at Mass. General Hospital with me.  I was fascinated with the book and with the idea of trying my hand at it…

“If Robin can do it and we have the same education,” I asked my younger sister one day, “why can’t I?”

“Because you’re dull!” was her reply.

The glove was hurled and I took up the challenge… that was 15 books ago…

tribe4mian:  I understand your first novel, “THE COREY PRESCRIPTION”, never made it onto American shelves, but was published in several foreign languages.  Why is that?

MICHAEL PALMER:  The truth is, the book wasn’t very good.  My medical thrillers all deal with a medical ethical issue such as autism and euthanasia… “The Corey Prescription” was a straight adventure story.  Several of my foreign publishers got impatient because my early books were coming out so slowly, so they asked to see anything I had written.  A few of them went ahead and published it (the price was right)… I could never talk my American publisher into making such a move.

The Sisterhood (1982) - by Michael Palmertribe4mian:  Your first English-language published novel, “THE SISTERHOOD”, was about a secret society of nurses dedicated to euthanasia and was a runaway sensation. 

Originally published in 1982, you are now on the 36th printing, with translations made into 35 or so foreign languages.   How did you come up with such a brilliant and timeless masterpiece, and to what do you attribute its long-running success?

MICHAEL PALMER:   Thanks for your kind words regarding “The Sisterhood”.   For obvious reasons, it holds a dear place in my heart.

I think the universal theme of euthanasia, and the engaging characters of David and Christine have helped keep the book in print even after 27 years.  In the end, it’s always character… the real challenge since it’s publication in 1982 has been to write a better book about what may be a less strong idea.  This I hope I have done many times over…

Extreme Measures (1991) - by Michael Palmertribe4mian:  While attending Wesleyan University in Connecticut, you took a seminar on Edgar Allen Poe

How did this great author influence you in the writing of “EXTREME MEASURES”?

MICHAEL PALMER:  Poe went to the bank on the theme of people looking like they were dead when they weren’t. 

I have read his entire body of work and consider Beatrice one of my favorites.  Many think the phrase “saved by the bell” has something to do with boxing — and it may… however…

Extreme Measures (1996) - movie based on the book by Michael Palmertribe4mian:  What was your first reaction upon hearing that “EXTREME MEASURES” would be made into a movie, ultimately starring Hugh Grant, Gene Hackman, Sarah Jessica Parker, David Morse, and produced by Elizabeth Hurley.  Did the movie vary considerably from the novel, as is often the case when literary works are converted into screenplays?

MICHAEL PALMER:  Needless to say, I was ecstatic when I got the word about the film.  I had had a number of my books optioned and two (“The Sisterhood” and “Silent Treatment”) even written for films, but this was the first one that was going to be made… and with Michael Apted directing, as well as Hurley, Grant, Parker, and Hackman….very heady stuff.

People need to remember that the credits say “based on the book by”, not “a movie of the book by”… that’s what it was – based on my book.  There are many plot similarities… few character similarities… still, I loved it.

“… Good doctors do the correct thing.  Great doctors have the guts to do the right thing.  If you could cure cancer by killing one patient, wouldn’t you have to do that?…”

tribe4mian:  You recently completed your three book / three year deal and have renewed with a four book / four year obligatory deadline with St. Martin’s Press

A book a year has pretty much become standard practice within the literary world.  With all these time-invoked demands being placed upon you, how do you discipline yourself to meet these obligations, as well as being a father to three sons?  Have you ever hit a brick wall while in the creative process and just how do you come up with storylines which continue in your suspense-driven medical thrillers?

MICHAEL PALMER:  The key is don’t panic!! … I must remember that I’ve done this before… and before that… and most important, just as I did with my first book, I must write a page at a time—a word at a time if necessary. 

My youngest kid is off to college in the fall, so all he requires is nagging about getting away from his computer (while I’m spending all day at mine)… I won’t allow myself to hit any brick walls… bad-but-fixable writing is better than no writing.  When in doubt about plot lines, I let my imagination be my guide…..

The Second Opinion (2009) - by Michael Palmertribe4mian:  Your most recent release, “THE SECOND OPINION”, deals with the Sperelakis family, a first-generation Greek-American medical clan with tightly-knit ties to their heritage. 

You did an amazing job in touching upon many customs and traditions the Greeks of the diaspora refuse to let go.  Was it difficult for you to find the right frame of mind to intertwine, with such accuracy, a way of life you yourself have not experienced first-hand?

MICHAEL PALMER:  The secret to much of my writing is painstaking, meticulous research—even for subjects within medicine that I already know well.  I blend conversations with friends who are Greek with my own imagination, and try to come up with how my Greek characters will react to situations such as hospitalization and humiliation.  Then I go back to my sources and ask them to check what I have done…

tribe4mian:  In “THE SECOND OPINION”, there are two members of the Sperelakis family, Thea and Dimitris, with varying traits associated with Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism.   Can you tell us why this same disease can have such a variance of adjusted social levels within the same family?

MICHAEL PALMER:  There are many answers to this question… most importantly, Thea had treatment for her condition while Dimitri never did… but also, all mental illness and neurologic conditions are manifest by the personalities of the ill person… therefore, while a diagnosis may have traits common to all who have it, there are many differences as well. 

Finally we must remember that AS is a spectrum varying from one end to another…

tribe4mian:  I’d also like to extend our congratulations to you and your youngest son, Luke, who just completed his high school education and is on his way to his first choice for college.  You must be very proud of all his accomplishments. 

There is a parallel universe which runs alongside your latest release, “THE SECOND OPINION”, and your own personal life.  Can you please tell us more about Asperger’s Syndrome, and how your family broke down those imposed barriers to help Luke’s social dynamic abilities?

MICHAEL PALMER:  Rather than try and write about the complex communication disorder that is Asperger Syndrome, I recommend reading about it in my book, many non-fiction books, or on Wikipedia.  When we recognized Luke’s AS, my wife and I became determined that above all we would raise him with the strongest self-esteem possible, starting with having him hear “I love you” from his parents as many times a day as possible… in the end, strong self esteem and self-worth conquers all.

Michael and Luke Palmer

Michael and Luke Palmer

tribe4mian:  What resources are out there which could enable parents to become involved in therapeutic assistance for a child with Asperger’s Syndrome?

MICHAEL PALMER:  We have the wonderful Asperger Association of New England… they are all anyone needs to know.  Contact them for referrals more geographically practical.  Also, get to know the Development Delay Registry and founder Patricia Lemer, subscribe to their newspaper and support them.

tribe4mian:  In “THE SECOND OPINION”, Dr. Petros Sperelakis, has been hit by a car and is presumed to be in a coma, however, he is actually in a state called “Locked-In Syndrome”, whereby he cannot move any part of his body but is fully aware of all that is going on around him.  Have you ever had a patient experience this terrifying condition, and how would one know if this is the true ailment of a seemingly comatose patient or not.

MICHAEL PALMER:  I have never seen a case that I knew was LIS… however, I recommend the book and the movie: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. I also did a huge amount of research on the subject.

tribe4mian:  Have you ever written a sequel to a book, and, will you be writing one so that we may continue to follow the trials and tribulations of Dr. Thea Sperelakis?  I’d love to know how her relationship develops, as well as her adjustments to the surprising twist of events which I can’t speak about so as not to spoil the story for others.

MICHAEL PALMER:  To date, I have never written a sequel or a continuing character, but if I did, it might be Thea.  Most of the protagonists I write about are just “normal” everyday people whose desire in life is simply to be happy.  But because of something they do or know or learn about, they are in for great difficulty if they are to survive.  It is hard to imagine bringing such hardship on a character more than once, ergo my books are all stand-alones…

(The Official Book trailer for the novel, “The Last Surgeon”, pub. February 16, 2010, from St. Martin’s Press. Features “THE LAST SURGEON Official Theme” song, written by Daniel James Palmer and Thaddeus Hogarth, performed by The Thaddeus Hogarth Band and featuring Donna McElroy.)

tribe4mian:  My understanding is that your newest novel, “THE LAST SURGEON” is scheduled for a February 2010 release date.  Is this the same date your son, Daniel, will be releasing his first novel, “DELIRIUM”, through Kensington?  How does it feel having your son follow your footsteps into the literary world, and, are you fearful he will knock you off the New York Times Best Sellers List?

(Ok, that was intended as an interjection of a little humor to break up the serious nature of some of these topics, and we do wish Daniel the greatest of success in his new path.  Now please answer the question, Michael.)  🙂

MICHAEL PALMER:  Daniel’s book is a great one, and no one would be happier when it succeeds than I will.  If there is only one slot available on the Times list, let it be him.  His pub date, however, won’t be until 2/2011…

Michael Palmer and Tess Gerritsen

Michael Palmer and Tess Gerritsen reviewing each other's books.

tribe4mian:  For the past decade you, along with the talented Tess Gerritsen, whose books have kept me enthralled as I turn each page, have conducted a fiction writing seminar for doctors. 

You have also been known to help new writers break into the literary field by offering inspiration and an occasional blurb for their first release.  With all you have been involved in, why have you made this silent oath to assist newcomers into the tantalizing world of the written word?

MICHAEL PALMER:  As a physician and a caring person, helping others makes me feel great—especially when top writers went to the trouble to help me when I was just getting started.  Alas, I get 3-10 advance reader’s copies each month for quotes. I just can’t do them all… I would never “blurb” a book without reading it.

tribe4mian:  Is there anything you’d like to add, Michael?

MICHAEL PALMER:  The paperback of “THE SECOND OPINION” just came out on 1/1/2010 with a great new cover.  Thanks for a terrific interview…

tribe4mian:  Again, I’d like to thank you for your time and have thoroughly enjoyed meeting up with you over the past couple of years, Michael.  You are truly an inspiration, as well as a guiding light for many who feel they wander blindly.  I wish you the greatest of continued success in all your endeavors, and please send along our best wishes and congratulations on their achievements to your children. 

… And remember, no matter where my feet may be, you will always be welcomed with open arms and the warmest of smiles.  I sincerely hope a trip to Greece will be in your future so we can go drink some of that 7-star stuff you’ve heard so much about.  🙂

Be well, Michael, and thank you again, from the bottom of my heart.

For more information:

Michael Palmer – Michael Palmer/Books – MySpace – Facebook – Facebook Fan Page – Twitter – YouTube

Pre-Order “THE LAST SURGEON” by Michael Palmer

Asperger’s Association of New England (AANE)

Developmental Delay Resources

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2010 in Books/Literary, Interviews, Medical/Health