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GOP congressman says fewer people with health insurance is a ‘good thing’

Shhhhhh. You weren’t supposed to say that part out loud.

Rep. Mike Burgess (R-TX) CREDIT: AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Republican efforts to build a more laissez-faire health system are “doomed to fail,” conservative health policy writer Philip Klein admitted in a candid column last month, unless they are willing to state an uncomfortable truth: Republicans must acknowledge that they “don’t believe that it is the job of the federal government to guarantee that everybody has health insurance.”

A handful of GOP lawmakers are now taking up Klein’s charge — with one of them even claiming that a Republican plan that leads to a higher national uninsurance rate would be a good thing.

“If the numbers drop,” Rep. Mike Burgess (R-TX) said Thursday at the Conservative Political Action Conference, “I would say that’s a good thing.” He went on to argue that more people without health care would be a positive thing for the United States because it would mean that “we’ve restored personal liberty in this country.”

Burgess’ prediction that Republican health plans will lead to a drop in the national insurance rate was echoed by Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL) in an interview with Bloomberg this week. “Not everybody is going to have health care” under a Republican health plan, Ross said. “Some people just don’t care enough about their own care.”

Bloomberg also shares some details about the health policy ideas that are starting to gain traction among Republican lawmakers. While the full contours of the GOP’s “replacement” for Obamacare remain elusive, the details we do know off confirm that yes, Republicans are indeed pushing ideas that would lead to fewer people receiving care.

More expensive plans for people who can’t afford it

The Affordable Care Act tackles two interlocking challenges. Older Americans tend to have more medical expenses, and thus pay higher health premiums that may be unaffordable for many of these individuals. Meanwhile, many Americans simply don’t earn enough income to be able to afford insurance.

Obamacare provides that insurers cannot charge their oldest customers more than three times as much as their youngest customers. Meanwhile, it provides tax credits that help low-to-moderate income individuals pay for their insurance. These tax credits are higher for people with lower incomes, due to the fact that people who are less-well-off will have less ability to pay insurance premiums without greater financial assistance.

Several Republican proposals would increase the amount that insurers could charge older Americans. A bill would increase the age band from 5 to 1 (above the current range of 3 to 1). One of the more comical ideas to emerge from the Trump administration was a proposal to interpret existing law to allow insurers to charge older individuals 3.49 times as much as younger consumers, on the theory that 3.49 rounds down to 3. (This later proposal appears to have been scrapped.)

Meanwhile, according to Bloomberg, Republicans hope to base tax credits on a person’s age rather than on their income. Such a proposal could simultaneously be wasteful and merciless, since an age-based formula could allow wealthy individuals who can afford to pay their own premiums to still receive a government subsidy — while also denying low-income Americans the assistance they need to purchase insurance at all.

Driving up costs and collapsing entire insurance markets

Another idea that is reportedly gaining steam among Republicans is a proposal to “do away with the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that all Americans have health coverage or pay a fine, and replace it with rules that let people choose not to buy insurance, instead paying higher premiums or penalties if they need it later.”

Though the details of such a proposal are sparse — just how much higher would premiums be if someone delays buying health insurance until they get sick? — such a proposal risks driving up the cost of care for people who are already insured, or, worse, collapsing entire insurance markets altogether.

The reason why the Affordable Care Act penalizes people who do not carry insurance is because of the risk that people will wait until they are sick to become insured and then drain all the money out of an insurance pool that they haven’t paid into.

Because Obamacare forbids insurers from denying coverage to people with preexisting conditions, insurers cannot simply refuse to cover people with expensive conditions. If the ratio of healthy people to sick people in a given insurance plan tilts too heavily towards people with expensive conditions, however, then the plan will need to jack up premiums in order to cover the costs of its most expensive consumers.

That risks setting off a “death spiral,” where healthy people leave the plan due to rising premiums, which forces the insurer to raise premiums even more, which causes even more healthy people to leave. Eventually, the entire insurance pool collapses.

Obamacare solves this problem by requiring people who don’t carry insurance to pay higher income taxes, thus giving them an incentive to enter an insurance pool while they are still healthy. Republicans reportedly want to eliminate this provision and, instead, charge a penalty to people who wait too long to buy insurance.

It’s far from clear, however, that such a mechanism would be sufficient to ward off death spirals. Imagine a hypothetical consumer, for example, who has to choose between paying $200 a month now, or to pay nothing now — but with the caveat that they will be charged $1,000 a month if they are later diagnosed with a catastrophic illness. Many people are likely to decide that they should pay nothing now and hope for the best, especially since, even in the worst case scenario, they will still have the option to buy insurance when they need it most.

Alternatively, Republicans could set the penalties for remaining insured so high that insurance would be unaffordable for someone who waits until they are seriously ill to buy insurance. That would have the virtue of helping to ward off a death spiral, but at the cost of many people’s lives.

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Your Good Health: Woman wants new treatment for thyroid

Dear Dr. Roach: My wife, age 67, has been having treatment for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis for 18 years.

The diagnosis was confirmed by antibody tests and she has been taking thyroid medication ever since.

She has been treated by four doctors, including two endocrinologists. She has tried both synthetic and natural hormones, as well as generic and brand-name products.

We have found it is not hard to maintain acceptable serum levels of these substances as measured by lab tests, but elimination of physical symptoms — such as fatigue and sensitivity to cold — has been elusive.

The doctors seem to be satisfied with good lab results and give only lip service to symptoms. Recently, my wife was told the goal was to maintain proper hormone levels and she would just have to learn to adjust to the symptoms.

We would like to know if she has to settle for this, or if she should push for a more nuanced level of treatment.

It doesn’t take much Internet research to discover that there is a lot more to thyroid metabolism than getting the right balance of TSH and T4, not to mention all of the other conditions that might mimic or aggravate hypothyroid symptoms. But it is hard to confront a practitioner, who has years of practice.

A quick check of thyroid forums online shows that this is a very common complaint.


Persistent symptoms of low thyroid, despite lab tests that are normal, is indeed a common problem. Knowing that some people’s normal is slightly out of the “normal” range, many experienced endocrinologists will adjust the dose of the replacement hormone somewhat, increasing the amount of thyroid hormone in order to improve symptoms while still being cautious not to cause hyperthyroidism, with its attendant risks, including atrial fibrillation.

One issue I see occasionally is that some people cannot convert T4, the usual replacement form of the hormone, to T3, the active form. A very small dose of supplemental T3 sometimes can dramatically improve symptoms.

Finally, even people with thyroid problems might have other reasons for fatigue and cold sensitivity, and a comprehensive search for other issues (such as anemia) should be made.


Dear Dr. Roach: Can a stent be used in an artery that is 80 per cent clogged? I am in good health, but at age 87, I do not want to have invasive surgery.


In someone who is 87, using a stent generally is preferable to surgery.

In the stent procedure, the artery in the heart is opened by placing a catheter in the heart (usually through the femoral artery in the groin) and using a balloon or a cutting device to open up the blockage, which is a combination of cholesterol, fibrous tissue and calcium.

Even if an artery is 99 per cent blocked, it usually can be opened via the catheter. The stent is then placed to help keep the artery open. Some stents are bare metal. Others, called drug-eluting stents, have medication embedded in the stent lining, which is released over months. Only a cardiologist can say whether an individual lesion is amenable to stenting and what the best technique is.

Far fewer bypass surgeries — that is, open heart surgery, in which a clogged artery is replaced using a blood vessel taken from elsewhere in the body — are performed now than 10 or 20 years ago. This is because of better medical treatment and because of advances in both the procedure and the materials used.


Dr. Roach regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but will incorporate them in the column whenever possible. Readers can email questions to

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Watching birds near your home is good for your mental health

People living in neighbourhoods with more birds, shrubs and trees are less likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and stress, according to research by academics at the University of Exeter, the British Trust for Ornithology and the University of Queensland.

The study, involving hundreds of people, found benefits for mental health of being able to see birds, shrubs and trees around the home, whether people lived in urban or more leafy suburban neighbourhoods.

The study, which surveyed mental health in over 270 people from different ages, incomes and ethnicities, also found that those who spent less time out of doors than usual in the previous week were more likely to report they were anxious or depressed.

After conducting extensive surveys of the number of birds in the morning and afternoon in Milton Keynes, Bedford and Luton, the study found that lower levels of depression, anxiety and stress were associated with the number of birds people could see in the afternoon. The academics studied afternoon bird numbers – which tend to be lower than birds generally seen in the morning – because are more in keeping with the number of birds that people are likely to see in their neighbourhood on a daily basis.

In the study, common types of birds including blackbirds, robins, blue tits and crows were seen. But the study did not find a relationship between the species of birds and mental health, but rather the number of birds they could see from their windows, in the garden or in their neighbourhood.

Previous studies have found that the ability of most people to identify different species is low (e.g. Dallimer et al. 2012), suggesting that for most people it is interacting with birds, not just specific birds, that provides well-being.

University of Exeter research fellow Dr Daniel Cox, who led the study, said: “This study starts to unpick the role that some key components of nature play for our mental well-being”.

Birds around the home, and nature in general, show great promise in preventative health care, making cities healthier, happier places to live”.

The positive association between birds, shrubs and trees and better applied, even after controlling for variation in neighbourhood deprivation, household income, age and a wide range of other socio-demographic factors.

Recent research by Dr Cox and Professor Kevin Gaston, who are based at the Environmental Sustainability Institute at the Penryn Campus at the University of Exeter, found that watching makes people feel relaxed and connected to nature (Cox and Gaston 2016).

Explore further:
Electronic tracking of song birds shows roads and urban features influence their choice of gardens

More information:
Daniel T. C. Cox et al, Doses of Neighborhood Nature: The Benefits for Mental Health of Living with Nature, BioScience (2017). DOI: 10.1093/biosci/biw173

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Watching garden birds is good for your mental health, research shows

The study, which involved 270 from the areas around Bedford, Luton and Milton Keynes, found that lower levels of depression, anxiety and stress were associated with the number of birds people could see in the afternoon. It did not matter what species of bird they were watching. 

Last night, University of Exeter research fellow Dr Daniel Cox, who led the study, said: “This study starts to unpick the role that some key components of nature play for our mental well-being.”

The researchers, who included academics from the British Trust for Ornithology and the University of Queensland, also found that those who spend less time outdoors than they are used to are more likely to report they feel anxious or depressed. 

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The healing arts: Hospital sculpture aids good health

ASHLAND Art in healing therapy is an expansive subject including the visual arts, poetry, music, dance, storytelling and the many other ways people work and create art.

One area many might not think about art is public art in a medical setting. Far from the antiseptic atmosphere of hospitals and physicians’ offices in the past, health-care workers recognized the mental and psychological benefits of the addition of art in waiting and treatment areas. The use of color and art create a relaxed atmosphere and help reduce stress and anxiety.

Professor Semir Zeki, a neurobiologist with the University of London, scanned the brains of volunteers while they viewed 28 works of art they found beautiful. He found the volunteers had an immediate release of dopamine — a chemical related to feelings of love. Stress and anxiety were reduced and other health benefits were seen, including  improved immune system, better sleep, lower blood pressure, better relationships and, in general, more happiness.

Experts believe slowing down one’s pace and actively observing art is good for those who are well, too. In fact, art could help prevent the onset of diseases related to stress and anxiety.

One of the best examples of art in a medical setting is at King’s Daughters Medical Center.

KDMC Director of Integrated Communications Tom Dearing said there are five major sculptures by Morehead artist Sam McKinney. Each piece was commissioned and site-specific to the medical center.

His pieces are:

n “Trinity,” a large, stainless steel heart across from the park on 22nd Street.

n “Healing Hands,” positioned near the entrance of the heart enter, suspended above and visible on the firstHEALINGnd second floors.

The glass hands were made from molds of the hands of the healthcare workers at the cath lab.

n “Flow of Life,” a bronze fountain near the middle of the hospital in a secluded courtyard. The lifesize fountain showing a family at play.

n “Rhythms,” an outdoor piece on the 23rd Street side of the hospital.

The 25-foot-high, 15-foot-wide sculpture is made of stainless steel bronze and water.

n “Jubilance,” a 25-foot-high work positioned inside the doors on the left. One-inch stainless steel tubing composes the spira and the birds are thermoformed plastic with a radiant light film.

Art fulfills a fundamental need in a complex world. What else is doctor prescribed, scientifically proven and free? Spending time and really looking at and thinking about a piece of art has no adverse side effects and is a proven method of reducing stress and anxiety. It’s beautiful world: slow down and enjoy it.

TOM WORDEN is a freelance photographer living in Ashland.

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Chinese Martial Artist Punches Himself in the Nuts Everyday For …

For all the men out there who will see this, whatever you do, please don’t try this at home.

Wei Yaobin from the Chinese city of Luoyang has made a unique reputation for himself as the “Iron Crotch Kung Fu” master.

This doesn’t mean that he is, by any means, genetically superior, having been born with balls of steel. Master Wei actually runs a Kung Fu studio where he teaches students how to withstand powerful blows when hit on the nether region.

Many enthusiasts believe that this type of training can improve their sexual health. Additionally, many students of Master Wei believe that the practice will help those who suffer from erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation, according to Asia One.

“I have learned this Kung Fu skill since I turned 67 years old. I think it is good for my health. I insist on doing it everyday,” Master Wei said.

Even without scientific proof that it helps a man’s sexual health in any kind of way, the “crotch” training still manages to attract hundreds of students every year.

Master Wei also revealed that he has practiced crotch battering for 10 years. He said that this kind of talent runs in the family so not many people would be able to withstand it. However, with his desire to make this disturbing practice more popular and publicly accepted, he started to welcome and teach those who want to learn.

In the video shared by Asia One, you can see a couple of “trained” enthusiasts, including Master Wei, as they endure agonizing hits to their nether region. They deliberately hit their groins with bricks, have someone kick them hard in the crotch, and in the most painful scenes, have a giant battering ram smash their private region without squirming.

Let’s all take a moment of silence for all those who are reading, whose crotches just shriveled and died.

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How much fruit and veg is best for good health? Even more than you think

You know how we’re all supposed to eat more fruit and vegetables to improve our health? New research indicates we need to eat even more than that.

After analysing scores of studies, a team from Imperial College London has recommended upping the daily dose to fruit and veg to 800g to give the best odds of warding off heart attack, stroke, cancer and early death.

Apples and pears, citrus fruits, salads and green leafy vegetables such as spinach, lettuce and chicory, and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower were linked to reductions in cardiovascular disease risk.

Green vegetables, such as spinach or green beans, yellow vegetables, such as peppers and carrots, and cruciferous vegetables were linked to a reduction in cancer risk.

“Most likely it is the whole package of beneficial nutrients you obtain by eating fruits and vegetables that is crucial is health,” said Dr Dagfinn Aune, lead author of the research from the School of Public Health at Imperial, in a statement.

“This is why it is important to eat whole plant foods to get the benefit, instead of taking antioxidant or vitamin supplements (which have not been shown to reduce disease risk).”

That 800g is twice the current British nutrition guidelines recommending five “portions” of fruit and vegetable a day, where a portion is equal to 80g — totalling 400g of fruit and veg a day.

Doubling that to 10 portions, or 800g, could prevent an estimated 7.8 million early deaths around the world every year, according to the Imperial team’s calculations.

“We wanted to investigate how much fruit and vegetables you need to eat to gain the maximum protection against disease, and premature death. Our results suggest that although five portions of fruit and vegetables is good, 10 a day is even better,” Dr Aune explained.

In Australia, the government’s dietary guidelines recommend about five serves of veggies per day (where a serve is defined as around 75g) and two serves of fruit a day (a serve is about 150g) — so our daily guidelines are already pretty close to the 10 “portions” recommended by the UK government.

RELATED: Your guide to serving sizes

The trouble is, most Australian don’t meet these guidelines. While half of us meet the fruit guideline, a mere 7 percent of us eat the recommended serves of veggies.

But don’t feel too guilty: even if you don’t eat the recommended daily dose, even small amounts of fruit and veg will do you food.

The Imperial analysis found that a daily fruit-and-veg intake of 200g was linked to hefty reductions in the risk of disease and early death compared to eating no fruit and vegetables at all.

There wasn’t enough data to say whether eating more than 800g would have an added benefit — which means you still don’t have to eat 50 bananas a day.

The researchers added that further research is needed to clarify the healthiest methods of cooking fruit and vegetables.

RELATED: Fresh fruit and vegetables could be a shortcut to loving life

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Front Porch: February nears end, good health ahead – The Spokesman

Cindy Hval. (Spokesman-Review file photo)

Cindy Hval. (Spokesman-Review file photo)

Sometimes when it rains, it blizzards. At least in Spokane, anyway.

This past month of endless precipitation was echoed by a round of illness and injury for me. It’s worth noting that I only get sick once a year – always in February. I tolerate my yearly cold as a minor disruption and a gentle reminder to slow down a bit.

It’s also worth noting that I routinely ignore gentle reminders.

What became an epic stream of misfortune started with a trickle – from my nose/Cindy Hval, SR Front Porch. More here.

Question: How often are you sick?

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Lo ︎ing Legal Life: Is your firm in good health?

This week systemic coach Zita Tulyahikayo and barrister James Pereira QC discuss the difference between healthy and unhealthy firms, and what signs to look out for.

Many lawyers have experienced the frustration of working in a firm where rivalry between individuals, teams or departments has undermined the performance of the firm as a whole.

When a firm’s employees work merely alongside each other, rather than working with each other, the effect can cause tremendous damage at best, at worst a total collapse. Dividing a firm and its people, into divisions, departments and units has the unintended impact of stopping collaborative working in its tracks. In 2008, when the UK government, banks and regulators failed to spot an emerging financial crisis, Gillian Tett, a writer for the Financial Times, identified a lack of communication between key stake holders as the root of this failure.

Signs of good health in your firm

For firms to be truly fit for purpose in the 21st century it is important that they tend to their overall health. The health of a firm relates to a sense of vitality in both the human and the commercial dimensions of its operation.

Zita Tulyahikayo

The health of the firm can be felt at an individual, team and whole company level. It is tangible. Leaders feel empowered, respected and useful. Each person within the firm knows that they occupy a respected role and that they have a secure and trusted place in the system that is the firm.

A firm that is in good health will have high motivation and low staff turnover. There are no secrets, no shaming, difficult events in the firms past are acknowledged and everybody who has made a contribution to the firm is remembered and included. Stress levels are managed and there is support and care for the wellbeing of all staff. No one has to fear or hide problems that will impact the quality of their performance and ultimately the wellbeing of the firm. Leaders feel empowered to mobilise the collective potential and create sustainable high performance.

Symptoms of poor health in your firm

When a firm is in poor health it is reflected in the performance of the firm. Individuals will feel unsure of their place, their role and their responsibilities and so will be unwilling to bring the full scope of their talents and skills to the table; they unconsciously withhold themselves. The firm will have low levels of trust, motivation or loyalty.

Dynamics start to appear in the system that complicate and hinder the performance of the company, rivalries and patterns of interaction emerge as seemingly intractable problems. Energy and motivation lack consistency; insecurity and shame come to the surface often, as distrust and conflict.

These factors all give rise to the most significant symptom of a firm’s poor health, high stress levels among staff.

A firm may grow in size, productivity and hours billed but it becomes increasingly difficult for people to work, and as more people experience this difficulty overall performance is compromised.

The harm caused by personal frameworks

Traditionally there has been a bias to interpret the health of firms from a personal framework, rather than look at the whole system when problems arise. When management looks at issues with this limiting perspective, all interventions to resolve problems are personal: fix, fire, demote, replace, or suggest coaching or therapy.

Such an approach is blind to the systems operating within the firm, which can lead to a failure to identify the real cause for concern while adding pressure on remaining members of the firm who feel that they may be next in line.

People who leave are remembered

One of the great myths in business is that you can simply remove people and they will be forgotten. When people leave a firm in a difficult way or if the truth about their departure has been kept hidden they are “remembered” in a certain way, a way that will have an impact on those who remain.

The impact is quite the reverse of what it was hoped that removing them would achieve. Removing people in this way makes manifest internal conflicts, power struggles, decline in efficiency and eventually stagnation.

New people who join must respect those who arrived before them

James Pereira QC

Another example of hidden dynamics coming into play that can affect the health of a firm is when a new leader joins the firm with a personal sense of superiority. They will have been recruited for their experience and expertise and may well feel that their worth is a major contributing factor to the firm.

When someone comes in from this place it will affect the firm, as those already in situ will experience them as disrespectful and self-serving. From here a hidden dynamic comes into play that will make it difficult for the new leader to find his or her place and the respect that should come with it.

The whole system must be considered

However well a firm defines its goals and strategies it does not operate only according to its self-declared intent. One of the reasons there are so many different models, theories and ideas about what makes a successful firm is that it becomes very complicated if you approach it from the level of the individual or team. A healthy firm can be felt at an individual, team and whole company level. It is tangible.

It is in understanding the impact of hidden dynamics that occur within a firm, and resolving the core issues that arise, that the rude health of a firm can be restored or sustained. This requires the whole system to be taken into consideration.

Fundamentals for a healthy firm

So if the life of the firm in the 21st century is dependent on its good health, how is this best achieved?

For a firm to achieve its highest potential there are a few fundamentals that are recognised as being essential to the wellbeing of the whole and its parts.

  • Everyone in the firm has a right to belong (dependent on their performance), including and especially the founder of the firm.
  • Social Order. Leaders need to acknowledge and take ownership of their authority, and carry the responsibilities that are theirs.
  • Those who come before have priority over those who joined the firm later, in the sense that people’s length of service needs to be respected. Often just acknowledging the experience, knowledge, wisdom and insight that comes with long institutional memory allows them to contribute more fully. In the case of a merger then the new system created takes priority over the old.
  • There needs to be a balance between giving and taking. Resources and rewards need to be made available in a way that engenders trust and fairness. Exchange is rarely of precisely equivalent things. Inherently people give of what they have and seek to receive what they need.
  • There is a spatial order for firms. It is valuable to notice and tend to spatial relationships in working life – how physically close people are, and how they order their spatial relationships, how they work, sit and stand. Spatial relationships have a profound effect on one’s experience of being at work.

Firms can no longer afford to ignore the impact of this hidden architecture on their health and survival. If firms are committed to improving their organisational design, learning and development, coaching and HR to maximise their performance, then leaders and those who work alongside them will need to understand and embrace another way of looking at how the firm functions.

Ultimately there are limits to what the lone hero leader can do. No one person or one team is powerful enough to change the whole system.

The authors welcome feedback from anyone concerned with the issues raised in their writing, and are also interested in hearing from anyone with suggestions for future articles. You can reach them at and on Twitter @LifeTherapyZita and at and on Twitter @JamesPereiraQC.

The full Loving Legal Life series can be found here.

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Front Porch: With February almost over, forecast calls for good health – The Spokesman

Sometimes when it rains, it blizzards. At least in Spokane, anyway.

This past month of endless precipitation was echoed by a round of illness and injury for me. It’s worth noting that I only get sick once a year – always in February. I tolerate my yearly cold as a minor disruption and a gentle reminder to slow down a bit.

It’s also worth noting that I routinely ignore gentle reminders.

What became an epic stream of misfortune started with a trickle – from my nose. One Friday morning, I woke up sniffly. My throat was scratchy and my head ached, but I’d just signed up for 30 hours of training to become a court-appointed special advocate – or CASA/guardian ad litem – for Spokane County Juvenile Court, and there was no way I was going to let an inconvenient cold interfere. I slurped down some orange juice, grabbed a packet of Emergen-C and set out.

By Saturday, it seemed like everyone was speaking underwater, and when I croaked out a question, I sounded like Darth Vader.

I tried to take it easier during the week, and when Friday rolled around again I was feeling much better. Perhaps because I’d gifted my cold to my friend Sarah.

Mindful of the need to take it easy, I collapsed in bed when I got home, fully expecting to bounce out of bed after my nap with my vitality and vigor restored. But when I woke and tried to sit up, a shooting pain exploded from somewhere in my midback. There would be no bouncing. Apparently, I pulled a muscle while sleeping. I didn’t even know that was possible.

Having never before experienced a back injury, I did the only sensible thing – I took two ibuprofen and asked for advice on social media. Hey, I said I was generally healthy, not universally smart.

I received a wide range of guidance regarding back pain and promptly followed what I now know to be a piece of spectacularly ill-conceived advice. This is what happens when you seek medical help on Facebook. Despite that setback, the pain gradually subsided over the weekend. This was great, because by Tuesday I was having difficulty seeing out of my right eye.

Last year, I was diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration. It’s bad enough to have poor vision, but to tack “age-related” in front of it is just mean. Anyway, a large floater suddenly appeared in my right eye. I guess having one in my left eye wasn’t enough. Because this can sometimes be a sign of a detached retina, I had to schedule an emergency eye exam.

Thankfully, the new floater was nothing serious, just annoying. Vitamins have been shown to reduce or slow the affects of the disease, so I redoubled my commitment to healthy eyesight and even added a supplement my husband assured me would help.

I should note that my husband is not a doctor. He doesn’t even play one on TV. But he’s well-read and has done a lot of research about the effects of supplements on certain ailments.

Sadly, I woke up violently ill in the middle of the night. Even worse, it just happened to by my birthday. I couldn’t believe after surviving a cold, a back injury and an eye problem, I now had the stomach flu. The health downpour had reached flood stage, so I was hopeful the waters would recede.

They didn’t.

On Valentine’s Day, I prepared a lovely meal for my family. Shortly before Derek came home, I diligently took my vitamin and supplement for the first time since my birthday. Within an hour I was desperately sick.

“Did you take out life insurance on me?” I wailed at my husband. “Those supplements are poisoned!”

Distressed at how ill I was, he Googled the ingredients in the supplement. Turns out one of them, “curcumin,” affects a small percent of the population the way it did me.

Lesson learned – the hard way.

As I write, heavy snow falls once again. I wish I’d taken a picture of the grass I’d spotted peeking out from the edge of our lawn Sunday. However, no matter what it seems like, winter really doesn’t last forever. Cold and flu season passes, too.

Crocuses and daffodils wait patiently beneath the frozen ground, biding their time. They will bloom. They always do. Sunshine and fresh air clears stuffy heads and brightens tired eyes.

And sometimes, it takes a long, bleak winter and a bout of illness to renew our appreciation for beautiful spring bulbs, and to revel in clear nasal passages that can breathe in their fragrance.

Contact Cindy Hval at She is the author of “War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation.” You can listen to her podcast “Life, Love and Raising Sons” at Her previous columns are available online at Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval.

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