Category Archives: Medicine

Dog Sick

OK, so I have Covid.  Many people believe that sooner or later, virtually everyone will get it … at least once. So, I guess it’s my turn. For me this is day 4, or 5.  I forget.  This is almost surely Omicron BA.5. It’s supposed to be mild; and milder still if you’ve had all your shots.  Mark me down as the exception.  Soaring fever, the works. Rib racking, throat rattling cough. Haven’t talked in days (not a bad thing ?).

This morning I woke up slightly better.  Soaked in sweat I groggily arose, after a light doze, I blew my nose, took my temp and, miraculously, my fever had lost its mojo. OK, I got up and my fever had broken. I still can’t talk though (hmm, still, maybe, not a bad thing).  But I wish I could sleep better.

Well, since I felt ever so slightly better, I thought that now I’m only “as sick as a dog”, instead of “sicker than a dog.”

That’s odd.  Why do we say “sicker than a dog”?  Weird little idiom, no?  So I started doing some poking around (I didn’t have the energy to sit long at the computer until this afternoon).

First, I was wrong!  (Again).  It’s “As sick as a dog”; not “sicker than a dog.”  This correction does not change my slightly improving, albeit still miserable, condition.

There is no clear consensus on the etymological source of this idiom regarding dogs and sickness.  It’s oldest use in writing dates to 1705, but it was spoken colloquially for several centuries until then.

Here are some of the most likely candidate sources:

    • The Plague. It was carried by fleas, and dogs are notorious carriers of fleas.  Oddly, dogs are resistant to plague bacteria, but they are carriers.  (Cats do catch the plague).  How people knew to associate the plague illness with dogs, who generally don’t catch it, is beyond me.  The plague, although occurring almost consistently over the past two millennia, occurred in two great waves since 1000AD: (1) in the mid-to-late 14th century and (2) in the 2nd half of the 19th century, the former across most of Asia and Europe, the latter mostly limited to China, Hong Kong and even San Francisco’s Chinatown. [1]
    • Dogs tend to live in the moment. Especially when they are sick.  Dog owners have seen their little Muffy or Bowzer mope around, or just flop on the floor for hours, like there is no tomorrow.  So, when one is “as sick as a dog” they just don’t care if tomorrow comes, or not.
    • In many English-speaking countries, it’s common to refer to vomiting as “being sick.” As in, “We ate something bad last night.  We were sick.  Fortunately, we made it to the loo.”  Dogs are well known to be prolific regurgitators of inappropriate things they’ve consumed.  Like that batch of freshly cooked brownies you left out on kitchen counter last night.  “Where did they go? They disappeared!”  Well, you’ll soon see them again.  Let’s hope Fido disgorges in a convenient spot for clean up.  (He might do it himself, in which case you could possibly get déjà vu all over again).
    • Even though dogs and humans have co-existed for many millennia, and most humans have at least a general fondness for dogs (and visa versa) for some reason English has evolved to attach Dog to negative things. You can be dog tired.  Your efforts at something failed: it’s gone to the dogs.  We sometimes “bark up the wrong tree.”  Inappropriate attacks might cause someone to say “Call the dogs off.”  If you’ve pissed off your spouse, you might be “in the dog house.”  The movie “Wag the Dog” presents a fantastic example of, well, “wagging the dog”; that’s distracting attention away from something that’s not so good.


So which is it?  Or do you have a better idea?

And which idioms do you use that you can’t really explain, say to a non-native English speaker?

Now, off to a nap.  Or something.

Health and peace

Joe Girard © 2022

Thanks for reading. As always, you can add yourself to the notification list for newly published material by clicking here . Or emailing

[1]  I included perhaps a bit more on the plague than necessary.  I included this because the plague has been in the news lately, as the bacteria (bacterium?) that caused it was recently found in graves Kyrgyzstan, dating to the early 14th century.

The Coronademic and Words

Most of us are fortunate to dwell in some land that is run by governments described with three words: Liberal Democratic Republic.  Let’s ignore the first and third words for today and focus on the second – Democratic – since it will help us address the hottest topic in the world these days, the Corona Virus, and start us on the path to decode the difference between the two similar and frequently heard words: Epidemic and Pandemic. [1]


As the English language evolves ever more rapidly many words have been discarded on the wayside. They languish there – grass and debris covering them, yet not quite dead – calling out from time to time to passersby. “Use me! Use me! I’m perfect for what you want to say.” Most of us usually ignore them.  Our minds and vocabularies have moved on. Or we’re rightfully afraid that no one will understand us; or they’ll think we are pretentious. These lonely plaintive words get scant attention.  They lived vibrant lives once. Occasionally we stumble across a few in an old text, or perhaps in a more contemporary passage tapped out by a witty writer; one equipped with either an English Degree, or a thesaurus. Or both. Or me.

Generic Corona Virus: This is a CDC image in the Public Domain

Other words remain but get morphed so mischievously that they now mean something quite different.  For example, Jealous and Envious – and their cousins: Jealousy & Envy. Until recently, these used to mean pretty much the exact opposite of each other. Jealousy meant to aggressively guard what you have. And envy meant to covet what somewhat else has.  [e.g.: The jealous girlfriend imagined the envy of her friends every single waking moment. And why is it always the jealous girlfriend, not the jealous boyfriend?].

Anyhow, now it seems acceptable that Jealous should always mean what Envious used to mean.  And Envy seems to have all but vanished from modern lexicon, left on the side of that road of language evolution. [Random person: “I’m so jealous of your trip to the Bahamas.” —
Envious, in a faint Whoville voice: “Use me! use me! I’m perfect for you!”]

Back to square one for today: Democracy.  The -cracy ending simply means a form of government, or a ruling structure.  Just think of theocracy, bureaucracy, and aristocracy and you pretty much get the idea.[2] The first part tells you who has the power.  In the painful-to-watch, but occasionally funny, movie “Idiocracy” the idiots ran the world.

In Democracy, the people have the power.  Demos is Greek for “the people.” This also gives us a key to the words of the day: Epidemic and Pandemic.  -Demic: Something that is of the people, or affects the people. 

There are some other unrelated words that end in -demic, and this moment is propitious for a note of caution: the -ic ending can confuse us, because it means “having to do with.” For example, “academic” is only faintly related to ‘demos’, or the people.  Here the -ic indicates it has to do with “academy’; which also comes directly from Greek. Academy: It was a public garden, as in a place where Plato would conduct his classes (which does indeed have to do with the people).  But the word “academic” arrived late in English’s evolution, around the 16th century, from “academy.” That was long after academy had anything to do with public gardens, and everything to do with education – I guess thanks to Plato, and other Greek academics.

Back to “epidemic” and “pandemic”, which sound so much alike, and whose meanings are so similar, that they are often used interchangeably.  That’s Okay, I suppose, as the rules in English fade away and sometimes appear in new places.  But in these times of COVID-19 – or Wuhan Virus, or SARS-Cov-2, or 2019-nCoV, or whatever you want to call it (maybe “the big panic”, or the great Toilet Paper Shortage of 2020) – it might be a bit useful to know the difference between “epidemic” and “pandemic.”

For “epidemic” go to the prefix – “epi-“ – and think “epicenter.”  Epi- means having to do with a specific, singular location.  Think about when a significant earthquake occurs; among the first two details reported are the magnitude and the epicenter.  Not just “how strong?”, but also what specific location on the earth’s surface is directly above the earthquake’s focus? That’s Epi-.

So, “epidemic” is something that has to do with “the people” and is fairly local.  Limited to a geographic location.  When the COVID-19 virus first appeared, it was clearly an epidemic.  Limited to Wuhan province.

Outbreaks don’t have to be viral or microbial to be epidemic. There have been, sadly, epidemics of suicide in some school districts, and epidemics of avocado accidents at some emergency rooms.  “Epidemic” doesn’t even have to be medical in nature – although usually people use it that way.  At my place of employment for some 34 years the misuse of the word “adverse” was epidemic among management.  Yes, I cringed, but that was neither the time nor place to correct my superiors.  The main thing is: epidemic is some phenomenon related to people that you can draw a circle around and say “it’s limited to this region.”

By now you can guess that “Pandemic” is an epidemic that is no longer limited to a region.  The prefix “pan-“ simply meaning all, or everything.  Long ago, a few hundred million years ago, all of earth’s landmass was co-joined and contiguous.  You’ve heard scientists and geologists refer to that single continent as “Pangea” (suffix as a slightly modified “Gaia”, meaning earth). 

Or for Pandemic, thick Pan, as in Pandora’s Box: all the sickness and troubles that could plague the world are set free. Such pandemonium was no longer quarantined within her box, spreading to all of mankind. Truly one of the most evil gifts ever given, even if it was mythology.

And of course, you can guess that the COVID-19 outbreak is now well beyond epidemic, having graduated to pandemic status. I think the CDC defines pandemic as three or more separate geographic locations. Continents surely qualify as separate locations. So, pandemic?  We’re there.

Another appropriate word of that day – one with identical letters at the beginning, but a totally different origin – is PANIC. Empty shelves of toilet paper; stock prices losing 10%, then20% of value in a few days.  Is this panic?  Probably.  We recognize the -IC ending as “having to do with.”  But in PANIC, what is Pan?  Students of Greek mythology and chaos (or readers of Tom Robbins) will love this.  Pan is the god of the wild: the woods, the hills, the un-tamed places. When Pan was disturbed his shouts would terrify those who heard it. Any weird or unexplainable sound heard outside the cities and villages was attribute to the anger of Pan – a very unpredictable fellow. This terror would spread orally among the people, with little apparent reason or validation.  Panic: widespread terror with little reasoning.  No toilet paper. 

For reference: The Spanish Flu of 1918-19 killed 25-50 million people in 25 months. Total deaths are pretty well gauged, but infection rates are a SWAG at best. It’s estimated that one-third of the world’s population might have been infected.[3] Those numbers, or anything close to them, are astounding! That was definitely a pandemic.  Especially since world-travel was so limited in those days (outside of travel related to World War 1), it’s hard to imagine how it became so widespread.  And deadly.  Advanced evolution? Could anything like this happen again?

With any luck, the current pandemic will serve as a warning for those to come.

At this point, I’ll call the Coronavirus a Panic-Pandemic. English has few rules, and the rules permit me to make up a word: Panic-Pandemic. Unplug the TV, turn off the radio, and behave like adults.

Wishing peace and good health (and clean hands and no nose picking) to all of you.


Joe Girard © 2020

Thanks for reading. As always, you can add yourself to the notification list for when there is newly published material by clicking here. Or emailing


[1] I wrote on Democracy vs Republic some time ago, here:
I do plan to publish a study on “Liberal” soon.

[2] Theo = God, or of God.  Theocracy is run by those who are believed to be divinely guided by god.
Bureau and Bureaucaracy: think of an office.  A really big slothful office with lots of internal rules and procedures.  Full of faceless unelected people fulfilling government roles.  Like the Department of Motor Vehicles.  In a bureaucracy, these people are in control.  Hmmmmm…
Aristocracy: Aristocrats are the wealthy, privileged and upper crust of society. 

[3] Fatality rate of 1.4% from these numbers.  That is pretty astoundingly high. (World Pop in 1920 about 1.75 billion, even after the killing fields of WW1). 

[finally] – a pretty cool website for etymology (or “how words got their meanings”) is

Brief and Fragile

Food makes its way through the 30-foot alimentary canal at an average rate of 0.00023 miles per hour. Kind of slow. That’s about one-third the speed of a standard garden snail, if it could crawl for 24 hours without stopping, which is about the duration of an average trip down the canal. But snails usually don’t do that (they are ambitiously lazy), so – one assumes – food moves through you at about a snail’s pace.

After chewing, the first part of the digestive process along the canal is the protein enzymes carried by one’s saliva. In addition to the enzymes that begin breaking down carbohydrates, the mucus they produce helps facilitate swallowing. Although we each have thousands of salivary glands, there are six major glands that produce most of our saliva, and they come in three pairs:

  1. The Parotid Glands, which are wrapped around the mid- to aft part of the mandible (lower jaw)
  2. The Submandibular Glands, located just above the Adams Apple, each about one inch off center, to the side, sort of astride the chin area.
  3. The Sublingual Glands, which – as you might suspect – are under the tongue. They are toward the front.

These glands produce some 90-95% of our saliva. The submandibular glands produce about two-thirds of that; most of its juice is enzymes for digestion, not watery mucus for swallowing.


My wife and I just returned from a long out-and-back road trip to the Pacific Northwest. The primary reason was to pick up some of her mother’s furniture. Over a few days, we were able to visit with several dear friends and all her family who still live in the area. The weather was spectacular: we were able to really enjoy some typically Seattle touristy things: Lake Union boat tour, Pike Place Market, Elliot Bay and Snoqualmie Falls.

We also made a wide swing on the return leg to see Crater Lake. A place we’d never been to – but always wanted to – despite several previous vacation trips through Oregon. Simply stunning. Gorgeous. We had fantastic weather … again.

When a couple who are dear friends of ours (she arranged for Audrey and me to meet in 1982) found out where we were (thanks Facebook!), they made the three-hour trip from northern California to visit with us in Oregon. Hadn’t seen them since April, 1984.


I was reminded on this trip, yet again, how brief and fragile an individual’s life is here on our home planet. And not just because we made another trip to Tahoma National Cemetery, where we visited Audrey’s parents’ final resting place, and again walked the beautifully maintained grounds to look at various tombstones and enjoy quiet “alone time”, meditating and rolling thoughts around while on the sacred tracts.

Even considering that many of those buried there died in military service, or shortly thereafter, the average lifespan shown was only about 70 years. That’s only about 1% of the length of recorded history. Yet only about 0.1% of the duration of the Homo Sapiens Sapiens sub-species. And only about 0.000001% the age of the earth.

Life is brief.

Yet on a beautiful Sunday evening I was also reminded that life is fragile.

I’m in pretty good shape. Good diet. Extraordinary exercise discipline. Good BMI. Good BP. Solid core. Probably should drink a little less.

Yet on that Sunday evening I felt unusually tired and lay down for a short power nap. Short? I was down over an hour.

Upon awaking, my tongue felt thick and uncoordinated. Aside my tongue felt sore. I did the stroke test: smiled in the mirror. All good and symmetric. I went outside the house for a social gathering, greeted everyone, and took a piece of cheese from what remained on the snack plate. They had been waiting on me to commence with the meal. I felt awkward.

But I felt more awkward when the cheese would not go down my gullet. And some got stuck under my tongue. I suddenly felt difficulty breathing and talking, as well as swallowing.

I put my hand up to my throat – why? – to find that underneath the left side of my jaw was enormously swollen. Pushing painfully into the swelling I could discern a substantial hard mass. Lymph nodes?

When I showed Audrey – she who could see how large it was – she decided immediately: we are going to an Emergency Room. So off we immediately go to Overlake Hospital, Bellevue Washington.

As the swelling continued growing, the gentle yet attentive Doctor Chang told me that these things often get worse before they get better. As that would be life threatening, he gently suggested that I should spend the night in hospital.

I responded: Gee Doc, I don’t know. This is our first date.

He smiled, briefly. Then shot me a serious look.

“OK, if I need to.”

At first, he thought it was an immune reaction to a medication I have been taking for many years. Apparently common. But, as a precaution against a possible infection, he ordered a CT scan.

Over two hours later the results came in. Yes, I did have an infection (even though I had no fever). Right near the infection that nearly killed me after a dental procedure some four and a half years ago. I still bear the scar on my jaw, under tooth #18.

So … here’s what happened. The enzymes and such carried by salivary glands can crystallize into tiny, tiny stones. Which can block the duct. Which backs up. And then gets infected. That dang left submandibular salivary gland! Of course, I should have known (actually, I had no freaking idea; I had to look all of this up).

What causes this? Apparently, age is a big indicator: I’m no spring chicken. Also, dehydration. Well, it had been very hot and dry in Colorado recently, and I’d been working out … a lot. So, it all fits.

I had a very positive reaction to the IV anti-biotic and steroids. In a few hours I was released – well after midnight – to the care of my loving wife.

Now, suppose we had been driving through the middle of nowhere (as we often were on this trip) or on a long hike or backpack trip – without cell service.

That would have been very serious indeed.

On oral anti-biotics the swelling reduced to nil over a few days. A week of pills and it’s all gone. So, don’t worry about me.

I get my annual physical next week. Can’t wait to tell them about this one.

Life is fragile. Life is short. Hug, call, or write someone special in your life. I’m writing to you.

Wishing y’all get all your days, which are numbered at only about 29,000, on average. That’s not a large number.

Joe Girard © 2018


To contact Joe just email him at

You can add yourself to the “New Essay Notification List” by clicking here.

Pet Peeves – I

The most important thing about Pet Peeves is that everyone has them. Things that bug us. A careful thing to remember about Pet Peeves is that it’s everyone’s Pet Peeve when they encounter someone who has a lot of griping to get off their chest. So I’ll keep this short — for now. That’s why it’s Pet Peeves – I.

ARGGGG. Pet Peeves.

Warning: Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire took up six volumes.  Euclid’s Elements, thirteen.

The potty.  The restroom.  The powder room.  The necessary room. The Loo.  Room 100.  The WC.  The toilet. Or, as Americans call it: The Bathroom.

Why do we do that?  We certainly don’t intend to bathe there, unless you include a little splashing at the sink.

  1. People — especially men — who don’t wash their hands after using the convenience.  Really? You are the reason I don’t touch restroom door handles.
  2. Toilet Paper Over or under.  Can we get it over with? The free end goes over the roll; it should not come from underneath. Why? You can find the end easier.  You can tear off the paper easier.  You don’t have to risk scraping your knuckles on the wall behind the paper. And that’s what the inventor, Seth Wheeler, had in mind when he patented the perforated paper roll dispenser in 1891.  See for yourself.  Here it is.

    Inventor Wheeler says: “Over”

    However, if you have a cat (or two, or more! — you crazy cat people) I get why under appeals to you: it’s more difficult to get the roll spinning and unraveling if the free end is behind.  But I don’t have cats.

    And cats can’t explain “under” in offices, restaurants, and other public places. [1]

  3. Men. Seat up or Seat down?  I don’t care.  Just do the right thing.  Not doing the right thing is a daily double of Pet Peeves for me.
    a) If you’re gonna put the seat up, fine.  Just put it down when you’re done.  Men, I know it’s hard to believe, but there are women in this world who hate to have to put the seat down (that means touching it — ewwww).  Get over it.  I grew up in a house with two sisters who came marching down the birth canal right behind me (ok, 15 months and 36 months younger).  If I can do it, so can you.
    b) If you’re gonna pee with the seat down, then by gawd please sit.  Your aim is not good enough to completely miss where the next sorry soul will have to sit.  You lazy bastard. Honest to Pete, guys. Don’t ruin our delicate balance of the sexes by being stupid.
  4. Still on hygiene, but no more potty talk.  Cold and flu season is approaching.  Time to address some PPs there as well.
    a) Covering your mouth when sneezing or coughing.  My Pet Peeve is when people do this directly into their hand.  Particularly the palm of their hand.  Well, isn’t that just dandy?  Hi! Nice to meet you, too.  What else are you gonna touch besides my hand?  Please, please, please use a tissue, hankie or the crook of your elbow.
    b) That quick-and-dirty, sneaky, casual nose wipe.  Don’t think no one saw you. And even if no one did, do you think that nasty slimy mess your sniffer was trying to get rid of cares where it goes next?

That’s enough ewwww and gross for now.  I don’t want to be your new Pet Peeve.

Stay careful and healthy out there.

Oh! The moral to the post??  Cat people shouldn’t marry dog people.  Corollary: Over people shouldn’t marry under people.

Feel free to comment below or Email Joe with your own Pet Peeves.  Or to just berate me.

Joe Girard © 2017

[1] There is a lot (I mean a LOT) of internet based discussion on this topic.  Surveys nearly all fall in the range of 65-80% prefer OVER, and much of the remainder don’t really care.

Random stuff: Apology, this site and general status

1) I do not wish to bother anyone.  If you are not reading my posts (and if you are not forwarding them), please let me know.  I’ll delete you from distribution.

2) My apologies to anyone who tried to read my latest post (Meet Louie’s Woman) or access my site between last Thursday evening 1/29/2015 and late Saturday night, 1/31/2015.

The post was not up to standard.  Typos, poor formatting, difficult to read, and images missing or misplaced. I’ll blame it on being “out of practice” since I spent so much time on my back over the last 6 weeks since the knee replacement surgery.  I guess I need an editor.  I’ll pay ten times what I get for this. <grin>

I did, perhaps, focus on too many details, including (if I say so myself) at least two very clever work choices in the section Louie, part deux.

I still have no idea how bullets and subparagraphs will show up.  Need to study some more, I guess.

Also, my site has been running horribly slow.  Sometimes it takes a minute, or more, to load.  Sometimes it just times out.  Sorry.

I’ll be making a call to GoDaddy soon.  This slowness issue also seems to be a recurring problem with other users of WordPress, which I generally use to manage each post.

And, most disturbingly, some security software I run indicates that I get hundreds of hack attempts daily.  Little old moi.  My site also gets blasted with bursts of hits with no apparent pattern.  Most seem to come from “dangerous” countries — where I believe IP addresses have been “borrowed” — Ukraine, Russia, China.  Heavy traffic can slow a site and I’m not sure what to do about that.

I cannot understand why this site would be a target for anyone. One supposes it’s just that there are so many malicious people in the world with little else to do but cause problems for others.

Anyhow, thanks for your patience.

3) For those wondering. My knee recovery is proceeding well and — if my doctor and therapists are to be believed — ahead of schedule.  I’m a star.  But it’s not fast enough for me. If you know me, that’s not a surprise. I return to one of my favorite prayers.

Dear God, please grant me patience.
Give it to me right now! Dammit!

It is a lifelong struggle.

I can now walk up to a mile and half while feeling only a bit tired and wobbly toward the end.  It still feels like some sort of experiment from Dr Frankenstein’s laboratory.

[With apologies to Mary Shelley, wife of Percy Shelley, who wrote most of that tale (“Frankenstein; or, the new Prometheus“) during the summer of 1816 — the year without a summer — almost 200 years ago.]

Sometimes when I walk, I feel like Peter Boyle playing the monster in the 1974 Mel Brooks classic movie “Young Frankenstein” with the super heavy boots… before he learned to dance.

Quick: What comes after “Frau Blücher”? And why, or why not, does it follow?

Anyhow, I can cruise at about 1.5 miles per hour.  Which is also a good speed for Nimitz; the faithful old Admiral is getting close to 13.  I no longer use a cane, but I like to keep it handy.  Just in case.

As a positive by-product: I’ve lost about 8 or 9 pounds and at least an inch off my waist.  If I don’t wear a belt, I’m a “sagger.”  No booze and lots of P/T daily seems to be the trick.  Also, lots of water and lean meat.

Thanks for your good wishes and prayers.

4) Traumatic Brain Injury recovery.
I still get 10-20 headaches a day.  Most are light and only a few minutes long.  This is an improvement.  I can focus and “be Joe” almost all of each day.

Recently I’ve noticed that there is some positive response to ibuprofen and naproxen.  This is a very good sign.

Thanks again for your good wishes and prayers.

I appreciate it.

The resting has been great, but it’s been a long time, and I’m itching to get back to work and being part of society again.

Well, I’m a-gettin’ a headache, so time to sign off.



Joe Girard (c) 2015

Day 27

Total Knee Replacement: Day 27

 I had tentatively committed to an update on Dec 31. That’s when I’d expected to transition from in-home physical torture, er, ah, physical therapy, to out-patient physical therapy. Well, that was overly optimistic and I had some setbacks.

A shout out to my dear friend of 52 years, Kevin Shepardson. I’ve written of Kevin a few times before: he is as kind, thoughtful and loyal 52 years later as he was as a lad when I was most in need of an understanding friend.

On New Years Eve day Kevin suffered a severe heart attack; in fact, sudden cardiac arrest. He survived, thanks to the fast thinking and acting of his employees and co-workers. He still lies in hospital, in intensive care, unconscious, with an uncertain future. I am still in shock, as is his family and many other friends. This has provided some distraction during my many sleepless nighttime hours, when the pain and discomfort persistently keeps sleep just out of reach.

This has also provided inspiration for a valid and unselfish New Years Resolution: get re-certified in CPR and First Aid.

Setback 1. A day or so before Christmas my skin started to itch. During the afternoon of Christmas Day, I broke out in an intense rash that covered nearly my entire body. Then it turned to hives. My hands and ears swelled. My legs, arms, shoulders, feet — almost everything — was covered in hot, itchy, bumpy, bright red hives.

We immediately identified this as an allergic reaction, probably to my pain medication (Norco[1]); this despite being 10 days post surgery.

The next day my surgeon prescribed me a new pain med [2]  and a strong antihistamine [3]  similar to, but stronger than, benadryl. That took about six very itchy days to clear up.

Setback 2. Perhaps I’ve been a bit too diligent and aggressive in my home self-directed therapy sessions. I’ve not been shy about causing almost as much screaming and tears as the paid therapists do. (This terrifies our 12-1/2 year old dog, Nimitz).  The weekend after Chirstmas, while working on increasing my flexion, I pushed it too far. So that was followed by a week of big-time swelling and pain.

Progress. After the setbacks, my out-patient PT started on January 7.  Over the past two weeks I’ve made considerable progress; I am pretty much past the “helpless, self-pitying, woe-is-me” phase.  I can now usually walk and negotiate stairs without so much as a cane. My extension and flexion are improving. My quad is slowly waking up and strengthening, although the inside of the quad is still “sleepy.” I think this is the main cause of some knock-knee that I now have.

Some research shows that at 27-days post TKR (Total Knee Replacement), the average patient has lost 62% of his quad strength. I can assure you that I’ve lost more than that. I had worked hard to get in shape for several years pre-surgery; call it pre-hab.

Still, I remain committed to my self-directed daily therapy sessions (I call it “homework” and “work outs”), and my therapists assure me that I am healing well.

Sleep remains difficult, although it’s improving every so slowly and steadily.

More or less, it’s been as promised. Two weeks of hell. Two weeks of inconsistent but steady improvement. Then gradually phase into real life and in six to twelve months I’ll be glad we went ahead with the surgery.

Meanwhile, my headaches continue to slowly, steadily abate.  For those who read my mind map essay [4], they seem to be mostly in the Shirley, Daffy Duck and Porky Pig regions.

My expected “return-to-work” date is now penciled in as February 16.

Until next time, I wish you peace, health and and good friendships in 2015.


Joe Girard (c) 2015


[1] Norco —

[2] Dilaudid —

[3] Atarax —

[4] Insane Sanity — Looney Merriment:


Click: By Any Other Name

Click <By Any Other Name>


I sensed from a young age that there might be a family genetic propensity to “weak knees.” From his mid-30s my father’s knees would just “go out” on him.  A knee would buckle, he’d fall, and his knee would swell and lock-up for days or weeks. I recall once his sister, my Auntie Ruth, was visiting, and he was showing off his vegetable garden. Boom, down he went.  She had to help him into the house.

That’s not to say he was not athletic.  He was. He’d developed quite a few athletic skills, and one very special skill, much to my benefit.  It wasn’t until years later, when I was well into fatherhood, that I appreciated and realized how skilled he was.  Namely: consistently hitting a baseball with self-toss to high pop-ups a distance of 40 to 60 feet (to fit within our small lot) is very difficult.  Thanks to his skill and perseverance with me, I became a very serviceable outfielder for decades.

He always took an active role, either coaching or assistant coaching, in all his kids’ sports teams.  Especially baseball and softball.  I recall one episode clearly.  I was about 11 or 12 years old. Dad was hitting short fly balls (we’d graduated to distances of perhaps 120 feet) to kids on my baseball team and me.  There were three of us taking turns, and we were kind of being goofy, saying stuff like “One, two, three … Monkeys in the cocoanut tree.”  That goofiness ended suddenly.  A return throw to my dad was a bit wide … he lunged to reach it … and was down on the ground, unable to get up.  His knee had buckled and locked up.

He was not yet 40.  We three carried him to the car.  That was the end of practice. Somehow, he drove me home. He nursed that knee along for decades.  Finally, at age 75, he had it completely replaced.


Nicknames.  I think the best ones have little to nothing to do with one’s formal name (like “Joe” for “Joseph”) but reflect something of a person’s appearance or nature.  The only nickname I know of for my dad was “Duck”, a name he went by as a young adult; it was a dual reference to his name (via “Donald Duck”) and his dapper appearance when young; apparently he sported a DA (“duck’s ass”) for a while.

Nicknames usually fade away, either during a person’s life, or shortly after.

My dad’s mom was nicknamed “Dolly.”  She went by that name her whole life, except for when we called her “gramma.” Only a few cousins and I remember that.  She passed away in 1973, and, when we cousins are gone, I suspect all references to her will revert back to the formal name found on legal documents and in census reports: Cora.

I have a friend who had a college buddy decades ago whose name he can only recall as “Ferret Face.”

James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok

James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok

Evidently he had the appearance of having  been delivered from his mother’s birth canal by having the wide-end of a funnel applied to his face and high powered vacuum hose attached to the other end.  He went by that name through college, and – in my friend’s recollections – still goes by that name today.

Some nicknames are eternal, since they’ve been attached to very memorable or historical figures.

 “Wild Bill” Hickok (James Butler Hickok) was so named for his huge nose – a bill, if you will. He died young, only 39, shot in the back while playing poker in, of all places, Deadwood, Dakota Territory.

“Billy the Kid” (William Bonney) was so named because he was young and looked younger.  Bonney, in trying to look more mature, had grown a straggly wispy beard that dangled from his chin, giving the appearance of a billy goat. Another story is that a bartender with a death wish insulted him when he asked for a drink by saying the boyish-appearing Bonney looked like a scared little billy goat. Young goats are called “kids.” The Kid died at 21 or 22 (many details of the Kid legend are ‘wispy’ too). The only extant photograph of him lends credence to the latter story.

This shows that a truly great nickname outlives the real name.  A wonderful example is a nickname that has survived and supplanted the real name for millenia: that of the Greek philosopher Plato.  His real name was Aristocles. Plato means “wide” and was probably a nickname given to him by his wresting coach (oh, those ancient Greeks and their wresting) as he evidently had a rather stout figure, even as a youth.

The Billy Goat

The Billy Goat

Nickname fates still to be determined are the nicknames of those recently departed. For example, the “Tappet Brothers.”  If you’ve listened to Public Radio on weekends, you’ve probably heard “Car Talk”, hosted by brothers Tom & Ray Magliozzi. Of course, they never went by those names.  To listeners, their on-air names were the names they signed off with:

  • “We’re Click and Clack, the Tappet brothers.”
  • Ray: “Whatever you do, don’t drive like my brother.”
  • Tom: “And don’t drive like MY brother.” (or some variation).

Their show was a learning experience about more than just cars.  It was about how to engage people, have fun and not take life so serious.  You’d never know they were both MIT-educated.  Their show was literally “a hoot.” Fun and educational.

So which was “Click” and which was “Clack”? I don’t think they ever divulged that fact.

Billy the Kid (William Bonney)

Billy the Kid (William Bonney)

To me, the oldest – that’s Tom – comes first.  He’s Click.

Tom, the elder Magliozzi, passed away last month, age 77, from complications of Alzheimers.

Sounds like a horrible way to go … at least for his family, and that includes poor Ray (Clack). Tom lived a full life, made more so by his zest for life and his ability to give a laugh, some wisdom and weekend enrichment to others.


Tom and Ray shared genes as evidenced by their similar outlooks and senses of humor. One of my brothers and I share the “weak knee” gene from our father.  We’ve both struggled since young adulthood with fragile knees.  He had both replaced (at age only 48) last Christmas.

As for me, many years ago I nicknamed my knees “Click and Clack”, probably thinking of those guys on “Car Talk.”  Click, on the left has had five surgeries, including a full ACL replacement and micro-fracture (yuck); Clack has had only one.  Since the 1990s my orthopaedists have been telling me that “Click’s days are numbered.  If you live a full life, then Click won’t.”

It’s appropriate then that today I say goodbye to Click.  He will join the fate of Click the Tappet brother.

Tom & Ray Magliozzi (Click & clack, the Tappet brothers)

Tom & Ray Magliozzi (Click & clack, the Tappet brothers)

By tonight I will have a new metallic left knee.

Here’s to you Click. Thanks for all the memories!

Wishing you all Peace and happy holidays!

Joe Girard © 2014

Click: RIP



In my dreams, anything is possible. Yes, I can do almost anything.  I fly.  My golf clubs are a violin bow and a long spaghetti noodle.  Super models find me irresistible.


And then … I begin to awaken.  So this is my glimpse of what it must feel like to live with a horrible reality.


First, the shrill ringing in my ears begins, heralding a new day and its unfriendly truths.  Soon my shoulders and left arm begin to ache, echoing the message, which is this:  Your day will be soon be filled with many sorts of pain and annoyances.  There will be headaches.  Your brain will easily grow tired.  Wrong words will come out of your mouth.  Without warning, you will go spacey and distant from those around you. Reading, noise and light and socializing might cause your mind to protect itself in an imaginary cocoon. Your shoulders and neck will grow tight.


Sigh.  I allow myself a few moments of self-pity. Reality can be so hard.  Yet, I know that millions awaken to crueler truths.  Perhaps hunger, or cancer, or paralysis, or ALS, or the death of someone dearly loved. That itself is sort of an awakening.


Attitude is everything, pick a good one. [1]


Resolved, this day, to do what I can to heal.

To practice patience, humility, grace and compassion.

To eschew bitterness, contempt, anger, regret.

To balance mindfulness and productivity.

To balance rest and activity.

To grow and learn from whatever this day brings.


Arise, you human: Dream and seize the day! Anything is possible!


Joe Girard © 2014


[1] Attributed to Wayne Dyer

Purple Man

Let’s go on a trip. At first we think it is going to be a vacation to some serene and wonderful land. The scenery is grand; most people seem wonderful. The sun shines frequently.

But let’s make it into an adventure!

You find yourself alone at the scene of a crime. As an innocent bystander, you soon find out that this ostensibly wonderful foreign land is mysterious and kafkaesque.

At the scene you are arrested. By some unintelligible legal process you are soon confined in a rather small cell. After a few days of befuddlement and confusion, during which time you are granted scant new information, you acquire a cellmate.

Let’s talk about your cellmate. He is as angry as you are confused. He looks odd; he is purple, or blue, or something very dark, yet not black. He changes shape so as to quickly take up any space in the cell you want to move in to. He goes into angry rants, spraying spittle and loud syllables in a language that is unlike any you have ever heard before.

This goes on for days and days. Everything you want to do, or think, or ask — everything — can make your cellmate go off in a new round of head-splitting outrage. Since you never know what will anger him, or how angry he will get, or how long it will last, you stop doing almost everything. A few minutes of your movement, or even thinking, can set him off. One thing is clear: lights and noise set him off. And so you do your best to limit these stimuli.

The days turn into weeks.

Finally, through a friend of an acquaintance you’ve made in this sad, strange land, someone special is allowed to visit with you for a few hours. Although he has no control over the legal system or proceedings, he does know how it works, and he knows that its wheels turn very slowly. As you chat, the odd purple man growls while pacing loudly across the cell — occasionally stopping to breathe in your face or yell in your ear.

Here is what you learn.

1) Your dilemma will end, or at least abate, … some day. If you live long enough.

2) You and the purple man are locked up together for a long time. His behavior will improve, eventually. We don’t know when.

3) You must come to some sort of peace with your dilemma.

4) Some unknowable duration of time after your “peace” — which permits a modicum self-pity, emotional outbursts of frustration, anger, anguish — the wheels of justice will begin to nudge the cell gate ajar. Slowly, slowly, your freedom from this foul confinement with the angry purple man will become manifest.

And so you wait. And wait. Some days you just sit in the corner, eyes closed, humming mind-numbing tunes softly to yourself. Must not agitate the purple man.

You probably did not enjoy that little fantasy trip. I don’t apologize.

It is not an imagined fantasy. It is real. That is the last 16 days of my life. Evidently it will last quite a while longer; just how long is simply unknowable.

Under medical counsel I’ve been permitted to spend short periods of time each day experimenting with doing what I want to do — gently, gently — to see how far I can go before angering the purple man in my head. I now consult him — in our own language — before doing things and on subjects that could anger him. He says 20 minutes is enough. So that is all for now.

Peace to you and yours, and peace to the inside of your cerebrum.

Joe Girard © 2014

Not Dead Yet


If you have a weak stomach, or little time for details, or only a general interest in Joe’s health, then you can stop at the title.  All seems well. With no apology to Monty Python (who wouldn’t expect one): I’m not dead yet. You are dismissed.

All the details. This is not so much an essay as a day-by-day and blow-by-blow blog of my last 11 days. Included herein is some background material.

I think I’ve had at least one NDE (Near Death Experience) — that was an automobile accident in November, 1978. [1] I’ve had a few additional occasions when it seemed like an NDE – a few conscious moments wherein imminent physical mortality was accepted – but these were not NDEs; rather these were the tonic clonic seizures [2] before learning that I am epileptic.

This past week, I had an NDE, but didn’t know it until the episode’s climax had passed.

A short-term introductory story.

My lovely and wonderful wife spent a week in the Seattle-area this past January, to be with her mother to celebrate the 84th anniversary of her birth, and to be of assistance and companionship to her as she endured and recovered from an oral surgery wherein three teeth were extracted.

During that week I ceased shaving all together.  Upon returning home to Colorado, my wife decided she liked the whiskers.

A longer-term introductory story goes back five years, to January, 2009.  I had a trip to Europe planned, as two of our sons were living there. The Plan? I’d visit the oldest, Aaron and some family friends in Amsterdam[3]; then accompany Aaron for part of his move to Zürich.  We’d stop and visit our middle son, Mark, in Freiburg (Breisgau). Together we’d do some site-seeing, family roots exploring, and visit another family friend, in Landau (Pfalz).[4]

Several days before departure, during a routine semi-annual dental checkup, my dentist[5] informed me that some tooth discomfort I’d been having was from a cracked tooth and that I’d require a root canal. A few days later, with only one day to spare before departure, I’m in a different dental chair, all numbed up, with the doc [6] drilling away, when he stops and says: “How’d you like me to save you a few hundred dollars?”

With my mouth numbed, he somehow understood my response: How and why is that?

Turns out the “crack” splintered right at the gum line. It had an unknowable number of branches, and each branch with an unknowable depth.  Root canal would not spare the tooth from further infection attack.  So there was no need to complete the procedure, thus (temporarily) saving me a few hundred dollars. The tooth would soon crack and split further anyhow, with likely immense pain. This would happen at some time in the future.  Maybe one day, maybe five years.

Not wishing to risk enduring a miserable European vacation, I quickly got a list of recommended oral surgeons from both my dentist and endodontist and started making phone calls. “Can you see me today? “

Luckily, #2 on the list had an opening at the end of the day. [7] Staff gone for the day, I went in just before 5PM; just the doctor and Joe.

After explaining my cracked tooth dilemma, Dr. Johnson started to describe all my options for replacing the tooth, and the consequences of not replacing it soon.

“Doctor, you don’t really understand.  I’m leaving tomorrow. I don’t care about options and consequences.  All you need to know is: This tooth is coming out now.  Tonight.  We can worry about that other stuff later.”

And right there he removed the tooth. It wasn’t an easy task: the tooth shattered into about 10 pieces as he tugged on it.  Yes it was quite fractured.

After returning from Europe, I looked into the cost and procedure for replacing the tooth. Muy expensivo and some minor oral surgery.

After consulting my dentist, I decided to forego the implant indefinitely. The location of the tooth (#18, large molar, adjacent to wisdom tooth, lower rear, left) made it not terribly necessary.  Perhaps, at some point, the teeth above (#14 & #15) would get upset, begin to shift, and I’d have to consider doing something. [14]

This January, almost exactly five years later, my dentist [5] informs me that #14 & 15 have begun to show small signs of shifting. Time to do something.

The procedure to put in a receiver implant for a new #18 was early on a Thursday morning, 10 days ago (February 20). I elected to go “under”, via a general anesthetic … less stressful with all that drilling. I’d take the rest of the day off.  Then back to life as normal.

The next day, Friday, I worked. Felt pretty good. Saturday I went to visit my dad. Then I started feeling funny. Actually not funny; I was tired and irritable.

By Sunday afternoon I was quite uncomfortable.  Sunday night was miserable: deep, deep pain in my jaw, right at #18. I’m thinking of the dentist scene in “Marathon Man”; with Sir Lawrence Olivier working on Dustin Hoffman: “Is it safe?”[11] No sleeping that night; just light dozing and intense pain.

My wife woke the surgeon about 5:30AM Monday with a call to his “urgent” phone number.  He would see me 1st thing at 8AM.

He “knew” what was wrong. Rare, but it can happen: that there is an infection in the bone where the insert went “in.”

Under general anesthesia again, he removed the insert.  No infection there. So he didn’t “know.” The infection was finally located in “soft” tissue, near – but not at – the surgery site.  That was drained.  I went home with instructions to rinse with warm salt water (1/4 Tsp per 8 oz) and rest … expecting that would be the end of it. Continue taking the clindamycin anti-biotic that I’d been on since the day before the 1st surgery.

Alas, the pain did not wane, except with a Percocet® every 2-3 hours. Again almost no sleep.  And swelling.  During the night a large golf ball type protrusion from the bottom left-side of my chin: very large, very hard and round.

Complicating matters was that my throat had closed up so much I could barely swallow my saliva, let alone water or food.  My chest was growing achy, red, hot and swollen, particularly around the collar bones, and the clavicle joints to the sternum were painful to the touch.

Tuesday, first thing, I am again at the surgeon’s. I describe the throat and clavicle joint pain and he says “that’s the infection draining to the rest of your body.  We’ve got to get a drain into that infection.” So, once again under general anesthesia, and he “drills” a hole into the “golf ball” to drain the infection and relieve the pressure. In goes a “drain” under my chin that looks very much like a milkshake straw. [9]  This would drain for several days into gauze pads, to be refreshed every few hours. And, now a new anti-biotic, Ciproflaxin.

This is when we find out that my surgeon[7], who is really wonderful by the way, is leaving town Wednesday for two weeks on one of those trips-of-a-lifetime: New Zealand. An “associate” of his will be looking after me while he’s gone.

Wednesday morning I’m back for final check with my oral surgeon.  I’m pretty OK:  Much better, but still very uncomfortable and tired. A little rest and back to work that afternoon. The good news at this point — from a vanity perspective — is that the new chin whiskers are hiding the tip of the “milkshake straw” protruding from my lower jaw, and distracting some attention from the goo that leaks from it.

Wednesday evening and night.  Excruciating.  The left TMJ[8] , the Temporomandibular joint muscles were tortuously achy.  Either from clenching or spread of infection – it was hard to tell which one. I’m walking around the house most of the evening and night singing to relieve the pain — much to my wife’s and dog’s aural displeasure.

First thing Thursday we are at the next oral surgeon. [12] He really doesn’t want to hear about the jaw pain. Not at all. He’s concerned about the infection and makes it clear that he really didn’t want my case; this is a favor. He’d rather just send me to infectious diseases, where I can get IV anti-biotics for about 6 weeks.  My throat and chest are much better, though still swollen. An impressive amount of “junk” has been flowing through the “milkshake straw” for two days now.

His instructions: go for it with the Percocet® for any pain, compliment with 800mg ibuprofen 4 times a day and come back tomorrow.

Friday. Much better. The “Milkshake Straw” comes out.[9]  Keep a gauze bandage over it to collect the “junk” that will keep flowing out.

Saturday is much improved. Spend day with dad.  Tired. To bed early.

Sunday. Whew, what’s up with that?  Achy chin. Swelling returns. Hard swelling. So now we’re wondering what is going on?  No one told us this could happen.

More Percocet® and over to see an urgent care doctor at Community Medical Center. [10] Dr Coriel takes a look and basically says we have to wait a while. “It’s just doing it’s thing.”

Rest a lot.  Don’t work out.

[I’ll save the pictures of the gauze pads that have been collecting “junk” out of the bottom of my chin. Impressive quantities of goo.]

For now, the throat is not swollen; I can swallow. My chest is fine; no pain there. The swelling in the chin is tolerable, although “hard” and uncomfortable.  At this point, I can’t feel any pain in #18, where all the problem started. I even think Ellen DeGeneres did a great job hosting the Academy Awards! [13]

Tomorrow it’s back to oral surgeon #2 in the morning, then (hopefully) off to work.

Expecting full recovery, soon. If not, will update you.

Have to work on taxes now.

Ciao and pax.

Joe Girard ©2014



[1] Driving Alive, Girardmiester essay by Joe Girard;

[2] – Tonic clonic seizures are general full-body and loss of consciousness seizure.  Learn more at and

[3] Audrey and Peter Kroesen, Amstelveen, Netherlands

[4] Aaron studied for a Masters Degree in Geophysics in Europe as part of the IDEA League, including semesters in Delft (Netherlands), Zürich and Aachen.
Mark took a study for Diplom in Physics at Albert-Ludwigs Universität, Freiburg
Our friend in Landau is Regina, mother of the exchange student we hosted that year, Jonas

[5] Dr. Adam Saeks, DDS, Niwot Dental, Niwot, Colorado

[6] Dr. Daniel Barton, DMD, Endodontist, Longmont, Colorado

[7] Dr. Daniel Johnson, DDS, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon, Longmont, Colorado

[8] About the TMJ and its disorders.

[9] The “Milkshake Straw” that was in my chin for three days.

Drain: "The Milkshake Straw"

Drain: “The Milkshake Straw”


[10] CMC:–directions/lafayette-center.aspx

[11] Clip from Marathon Man. “Is it safe?”

[12] Dr Alan Reisman, DDS. Oral and Maxillofacial surgery.

[13] Ellen DeGeneres hosts 86th Academy Awards:

[14] Teeth numbering: I’ve use the IOS and Universal numerical systems for permanent tooth ID.



Imagine: MOOKP and POOP

Eyetooth: A canine tooth of the upper jaw –Webster’s Dictionary

Pooh: interjection, used to express contempt or disapproval. – Webster’s

Oddly, Webster’s does not define Canine Tooth.  Nor the character developed by A.A. Milne.

Canine Tooth: Any of four teeth having a thick conical crown and a long conical root, adjacent to the distal surface of the lateral incisors, … also, cuspid. – the Medical Online Dictionary.


He had never seen his wife.  A few years before they met, he was blinded as a result of a horrible chemical accident at work.  The damage to his left eye was so severe that it was completely removed.  His right eye was too unhealthy for him to qualify as a candidate for corneal transplant.

Still,  one  ophthalmic surgeon held out hope.  His retina was reasonably healthy.  It had a blood supply and nerve activity. If they could just get some light to it.


She was intensely crippled by colitis.  Constantly faint and feverish, passing out and falling into slumber – whether pain or fatigue induced, it did not matter – was her only relief for so many months that she could not remember.

Nothing seemed to help.  Cramping seized her abdomen for days, weeks … months; and rocked her from deep in her intestines.  Could medicine bring a young woman back from the edge of darkness, and return the healthy mother that her children needed, and deserved?


Harsh circumstance often gives rise to imagination and creativity.  The first two decades of the 19th century were cold, but the year 1816 stands out as especially cold, wet, grey and depressing.  Such would be the circumstance that gave the world one of its most creative stories that still holds our imaginations today.

First: why was it cold?  Scientists have long noted a strong correlation between solar weather an earth’s climate patterns.  The best indicator of solar weather is sun spot activity.  Since the Medieval Warming Period (the period that gave rise to the colonization of Greenland, 950 to 1250AD), the northern hemisphere was generally cooler until about 1900.  During that period, there have been two periods of especially low sunspot activity: the Maunder Minimum from about 1645-1745 (coinciding with the Little Ice Age) and the not-quite-as-severe Dalton Minimum of about 1790-1830, which also coincided with lower-than-average temperatures.

1816 will forever stand out in history.  In the United States, Canada and Western Europe it has many names, including “The year without a summer.”   Bedding and clothing hung out to dry often didn’t dry; rather they froze stiff on clotheslines that summer.   Rivers and lakes froze over in July and August across New England and Pennsylvania.

The Dalton Minimum cruelly coincided with a short but intense period of extreme worldwide volcanic activity.  Five major worldwide volcanic eruptions, beginning in 1812 on Saint Vincent in the Caribbean, spewed tiny particles high into the atmosphere.  Rather than settle out, these road the earth’s upper air currents, until she was shrouded in a type of early sunscreen.  The last of the five, in April 1815, on the Indonesian Island of Sumbawa, was of biblical scale, the earth’s largest eruption in over 1,600 years.  The blast was heard nearly 2,000 miles away.

As crops failed and moods drifted to dreary, Percy Shelley (among the finest lyric poets in the English language) and his 18-yearold fiancée/girlfriend Mary Godwin found themselves in Geneva, Switzerland. They were for a while the guests of famous English poet and ex-patriot Lord Byron, and his personal physician John Polidori.

The weather that summer was so abysmally cold, wet and dreary that they decided to pass the time telling each other creepy stories of the supernatural, and topped it off with a writing contest: they would all write imaginative stories of the most bizarre and terrifying sort.

Mary Godwin soon married Percy, becoming Mary Shelley.  The story she wrote was re-worked into the now-famous and classic thriller, Frankenstein.

As imaginative and disturbing as the story remains today, it cannot match the imaginative healing powers of the human race, and the human body, to which we now turn our attention.



Months before the final bandages were removed from his right eye, a strange and bizarre Frankenstein-like process was begun.  MOOKP.  They would soon know the outcome.

The first step was pretty simple, if not odd: removing some of the tissue that lines the inner mouth, and using it to replace some corneal tissue in the eye.  This would put receptive, healing and moisture producing tissue where it needed to be.  It would become the healthy blood nourishing platform for what would come four months later.

The next step involved removing a cuspid tooth from the jaw, complete with roots and part of the bone.  The tooth was then ground to the desired shape and size.  A hole was drilled into the tooth, which received a plastic cylindrical optical lens.  The next step was to embed the tooth somewhere in the body where the roots would continue to receive nourishment, and the tooth would grow a thin protective sheath.  For this patient, it was in his substantial cheek tissue.
For four months the oral tissue grew in the eye, and the tooth remained “alive”, embedded in the cheek.  Then it was time: Let there be light!

In the final surgery, the new corneal replacement tissue in his right eye (the tissue from his mouth) was peeled back.  Then the tooth (yes, quite literally an eye tooth) — with an optical canal filled with a plastic lens, and coated in a thin layer of sheathing — was removed from his cheek and embedded in the new corneal replacement tissue.  Positioned just so, in his eye.

When the bandages were removed, light passed through the canal of the tooth, onto his retina.  He saw his wife, and she was beautiful.

Over the months, as his retina is re-trained in seeing, his vision will grow keen.

This process is called Modified Osteo-odonto-keratoprosthesis (or MOOKP).  It works.  The eye is not likely to reject tissue from the same body, and the plastic lens – coated by a thin sheath that was grown in while in his cheek – is not detected by the eye.  [Sources and resources for this story below, in bibliography].

A Very Happy Man: Sees because he has a tooth in his eye

A Very Happy Man: Sees because he has a tooth in his eye


The severe and crippling colitis was the result of a raging C. diff infection, short for Clostridium difficile. The human gut is full of many trillions of bacteria – more than 1,000 different types in the large intestine alone – and they are mostly beneficial to humans.  They inhibit the growth of pathogenic bacteria.  For digestion, they produce enzymes that degrade the largest biomolecules.  It is a weird little ecosystem in our guts: bacteria thrive on some of our food, but the waste they generate is in turn food for us.  Life for humans could not exist without these beneficial bacteria.

As humans, our western doctors tend to prescribe a lot of antibiotics.  Perhaps too many and too often. One possible negative consequence of taking antibiotics is that too many of these beneficial bacteria are killed – and get flushed out with the poo.  A mild case might result in tummy rumbles and a period of diarrhea, until the body can rebalance itself.  Gone too far, and the body’s last feet of the alimentary canal can be taken over by the opportunistic  C. diff bacterium, well known to lurk around hospitals where sick people with weakened intestinal bacterial can succumb to a new unwelcome colonization.

Our young mother was treated with antibiotics for an oral surgery several months ago.  An extreme case C. Diff resulted, taking over her intestines and causing a raging case of colitis that crippled her, and brought her family’s lives to a stop.

The process for jump-starting her healing began only a few days before the big procedure.  First a donor was selected. Usually it is someone close like a spouse or family member.  For our young mother it was her husband.  The process requires the donor to produce and submit a healthy stool sample for the necessary lab work.

Meanwhile, the patient has started a gastro-intestinal purge – a process that someone preparing for a colonoscopy might find familiar, if not uncomfortable.  Two days of fasting and treatments with colonics has done the trick.  It wasn’t fun, but months and months with debilitating colitis wasn’t fun either.

Cleared for the procedure, the patient is anesthetized.  The process is not that dissimilar, again, from the colonoscopy.  A tube — inserted through her anus, past her rectum and up through the colon in to the intestines — delivers a slurry.  It is a sort of blenderized purée made from her husband’s feces.

This slurry contains several trillion healthy and benevolent bacteria.  Within hours, in fact before she awakes, they have begun colonizing her entire bowels – large and small intestines.  The C. Diff is forced out by the more vigorous bacteria, “donated” by her healthy husband.  In just a few more days her family will get her back —their mother – his wife. She will get her life and vivacity back.  Delivered from despair by a poo transplant, or more officially: a fecal microbiota transplantation.


Every human mind is full of creative potential, fueled by imagination, life’s experiences and observations, — and each individual’s needs, goals, desires, hopes, dreams.  For 18-year old Mary Shelley it was a deep, cold, dark summer.  For doctors, it is their bravery to see beyond ordinary disgust and seize upon truly innovative methods to bring health to suffering humans.

What will it be for you?

Now, do you have another definition for “eye teeth”?  The next time someone comes up with an outrageous yet creative idea, will you say “pooh”?  Or “Good for you”?

Joe Girard © 2013


Story Sources:

Feces transplant sources

Discover Magazine, “The Healing Power of Poop”,

Michael Mann (of Hockey Stick fame) on the Little Ice Age, and other global weather and temperature periods pre-1900.