GR12: Organ Donor

I went back to United Blood Services again on December 20th, but they sent me away, saying I had to wait until the 27th for the Haitian induced restriction to be lifted. With just 4 days to go before this year and its resolutions expired, I returned to UBS once again. They poked me, took samples, checked my vitals and asked the questions again. I made it past the Haiti question, but this time I was rejected again for a different reason. This time the problem was that I had lived in England for 6 years and this time the ban is for life. According to the rules of the FDA, there is a possibility that I may have come into contact with some mad cow tainted beef and therefore I can never donate blood in the United States. (As an aside, I did ask whether it mattered if I was a vegan and they said, “Hahahaha. No, but nice try.”)

I had been counting on giving blood to satisfy this, my 12th Giving Resolution for 2012. I had no backup plan. I was genuinely worried that I would fall short of my goal. Then, like a sign, I happened to pass the DMV on my way home. Suddenly it hit me. They can reject my blood, my hair and even my sperm while I’m alive, but they won’t reject my organs and tissue when I’m dead. Even if they do, it won’t be as demoralizing because, well, I’ll be dead.

I went to the woman at the “welcome” desk (by the way, she wasn’t very welcoming) and asked if she could check to see whether I had already elected to be an organ donor. “No one has ever asked that before. I’m not sure.” Score! I asked a question that she’d never heard before and I’m sure she’d heard plenty sitting in that seat.

Turns out she could find that information and the answer was, “No”. For $25, I ordered a replacement license that will have a pink dot on it, signifying that when they scrape me up, they should handle with care.

Organ Donor

Organ Donor Facts

  • Most commonly transplanted organs are kidneys, liver, heart and lungs.
  • They’ve even cured diabetes with a pancreas transplant.
  • Tissues transplanted include skin, bone, heart valves, tendons, veins, and corneas.
  • There are 117,059 people in the US waiting for organ transplants.
  • Each day 79 people receive organ transplants and another 18 people die waiting for one.
  • Up to eight lives can be saved through organ donation and 50 improved through tissue donation.
  • Roughly 1/3 of those eligible to be donors have elected to do so.

In light of this information and the fact that these parts will simply turn to dust when I’m done with them anyway, it seems to me, not electing to be an organ donor has to be the most selfish decision anyone could make.

It’s as simple as ticking a box the next time you get your license renewed. California residents can do it online by clicking HERE and all others HERE.

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LR12: Learn How to Conquer Headaches

Ten years ago my daughter began suffering from chronic headaches. That means for the past 10 years, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, she has had a headache. This constant state of gnawing pain is only occasionally interrupted by something even worse, a debilitating migraine. When the migraines come, it’s hard for her to function at all. Instead she is relegated to lying down in a silent, dark room until the pain, nausea and heightened sensitivity subsides.

We’ve tried everything including pharmaceuticals, massage therapy, yoga, meditation, Eastern herbal remedies, glasses, TMJ mouth pieces, acupuncture, and even Indian tongue reading. Although her current medications brought the chronic pain down from a 7 to a 3, they don’t come without side effects.

Heal Your HeadacheYears ago one of our neurologists suggested a book called “Heal Your Headache: The 1-2-3 Program for Taking Control of Your Pain” by David Buchholz, M.D. He’d said one of his patients had a similar experience to my daughter’s, where nothing but powerful meds helped, and she hated what they were doing to her. She followed the program and within 8 weeks was experiencing whole days without any pain at all. She was able to wean herself off the meds and although she still gets the occasional headache, she now knows a) what triggered it and b) how to control it. Back then, I read the book and created a one page summary of what it proposes. The problem is, the program requires incredible discipline for anyone to follow it, but particularly for a teenager. My daughter rejected it.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when during a business meeting with a local investor, I noticed that she asked the waiter whether a certain dish had aged cheese in it. I’d never heard anyone ask that question, but aged cheeses are a known trigger for migraines according to the Buchholz book. I asked her if she suffered from headaches and for most of the remainder of the meal we spoke about her chronic headaches, how she conquered them, my daughter’s experience, etc. Turns out, she is the woman who had followed the Buchholz program, cured herself and brought the book to our neurologist’s attention.

I ran home to tell my wife and called my daughter at college. She was of course lying in bed in the middle of the day, fighting through yet another powerful migraine. The news was  encouraging and she decided then and there that she was ready to do whatever it took to overcome this. She wanted to take medical leave from college and focus solely on taking control of her life, to get rid of the medications and rediscover the woman hidden beneath them. I flew out immediately to pack her up and bring her home.

My new friend, “the investor”, agreed to meet us for lunch to explain what we should expect from the program and how it changed her life. We left that meeting inspired.

My part in the plan is to learn all I can about the program, the science behind it, set expectations, work with the neurologist to make for a smooth transition and most of all, coach her through this.

WHAT IS THE PROGRAM

Step 1: Avoid Quick Fixes That Cause Rebound. This means she has to stop taking all the medications migraine sufferers turn to at the moment of peak pain. She cannot take decongestants, caffeine, excedrin, fiorinal or tylenol with codeine.

Step 2: Reduce Triggers

Dietary Triggers include caffeine, chocolate, MSG, nuts, vinegar, citrus fruits, dried/preserved fruits, ripened fruits, onions, fresh bread, aspartame, miso and alcohol although white wine and vodka are tolerated in small quantities.

Non-Dietary Triggers include perfumes, smoke, bright lights, dehydration, stress, sleep deprivation and hormonal birth control.

Step 3: Raise Threshold with Preventive Medications (if necessary)

HeadachesThe idea is that headaches are a function of 2 things; the accumulation of triggers relative to the threshold of a particular person. The triggers listed above are triggers for everyone, but for chronic headache and migraine sufferers, the threshold is much lower than for most of us.

Today is Day 1 of the program.

Below is the full list of “Things to Avoid”

CAFFEINE
Coffee, tea, iced tea and cola. Even decaf coffee and tea which contain other chemical triggers. Try caffeine free herb tea without citrus and other trigger flavors.
CHOCOLATE
White chocolate (no cocoa) is ok
MONOSODIUM GLUTAMATE (MSG)
Chinese & other restaurant food;
soups and boullions;
Accent & seasoned salt,
flavored, salty snacks;
croutons and bread crumbs;
ready-to-eat meals;
cheap buffets;
veggie burgers;
protein concentrates;
low fat, low calorie foods.
Look for these words and those that sound like them…
Hydrolyzed protein
(including vegetable/soy/plant/rice protein)
Yeast extract and autolyzed yeast
Natural flavors/flavorings
Broth, stock or bouillon
Soy protein concentrate/isolate
Textured protein
Whey protein
Protein-fortified items
Malt extract
Malted barley
Maltodextrin
Carrageenan
Kombu (seaweed extract)
Sodium or calium caseinate
Glutamic acid
Gelatin
Fermented or cultured items
Ultra-pasteurized items
Enzyme-modified items
Be suspicious of “natural flavors (or flavorings)”
CHEESE AND OTHER DAIRY PRODUCTS
The more aged, the worse.
Beware cheese-containing foods including pizza.
Yogurt (including frozen), sour cream and buttermilk are also triggers.
Cheeses that are ok: ricotta, cream cheese, and good quality American cheese.
NUTS
Avoid all kinds, as well as nut butters. Peanuts and peanut butter. Seeds are okay.
ALCOHOL and VINEGAR
Especially red wine, champagne and dark or heavy drinks. Vodka is best tolerated in limited quantities. Too much alcohol at once leads to accumulation of acetaldehydes, a trigger.
Clear, ideally distilled, vinegar is allowable.
Don’t overdo condiments made with vinegar incl ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise.
CERTAIN FRUITS AND JUICES
Citrus fruits incl oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes, tangerines, clementines and pineapples & their juices. Bananas, raspberries, red plums, papayas, passion fruit, figs, dates and avocados.
Raisins and other dried fruits if preserved with sulfites.
Fruits in general accumulate tyramine as they ripen, choose young, fresh fruits whenever possible.
CERTAIN VEGETABLES, ESPECIALLY ONIONS
Plus sauerkraut, pea pods, and certain beans (broad Italian, lima, fava, navy and lentils).
Allowed: leeks, scallions, shallots, spring onions and garlic.
FRESH YEAST RISEN BAKED GOODS
Less than one day old; homemade (or restaurant-baked) breads, especially sour dough, as well as bagels, donuts, pizza dough, soft pretzels and coffee cake.
ASPARTAME (NUTRASWEET)
Saccharin (Sweet n Low)
OTHERS
Cultured Soy (Miso)
Fermented Soy (Tempeh)
Soy Sauce containing MSG
Hormonal birth control
Regularity is key: you should sleep, eat and exercise on a regular basis. Get enough sleep each night, seven to eight hours or more, and don’t oversleep sporadically, as on weekends. Skipping meals is a common trigger for migraine. Stay on schedule for three meals a day, no more than six to eight hours apart. Snack in between if you wish—but only on nonrestricted items!
Exercise also enhances endorphin production in the brain and is a natural way to help raise your migraine threshold, which otherwise requires preventive medication. Aim for a half-hour or more of aerobic exercise three to four times a week.