Apologies for the long blogging hiatus, I had a minor health scare and it left me at a loss for words. Chest pain and a feeling that my face was going numb on the left side resulted in a trip to the emergency room and much stress. After several hours, an EKG, a CT scan, and several blood tests, the ER doctor diagnosed Bell’s Palsy. Bell’s Palsy has some sort of vague connection to viral infections so they gave me the antiviral that is usually proscribed for herpes. (Lovely!) The feeling of numbness lasted a few days, but gradually disappeared. When I checked in with my regular doctor she disagreed with the Bell’s Palsy diagnosis, since Bell’s Palsy involves the nerve that controls the facial muscles, but I didn’t seem to have any paralysis. Sensation is apparently controlled by a completely different nerve. Luckily, it will probably turn out to be nothing. I’m supposed to be getting a referral to a neurologist, but who knows how long that will take.

Whenever I have a health problem I imagine the worst, despite the fact that I have never spent a day in the hospital in my life. Until this year I had never broken a bone. I have a number of small health complaints, but they are all stress related, like my migraines. In general my family has very few serious health problems. I’m 33 and all four of my grandparents are still alive, so I’m pretty lucky genetically. My healthy history doesn’t stop me from engaging in frantic internet research when I feel a little twinge. The down side of the information age is having access to information about everything that could go wrong with your health. No matter how unlikely it is, I’m always convinced that I have some sort of rare brain tumor or degenerative disease.

Grandma G’s side of the family does have a rare genetic disorder, Joseph’s Disease, also called spinocerebellar ataxia type 3. It causes Parkinsons-like symptoms in later life. Joseph’s Disease victims used to be perceived as alcoholics because of their slurred speech and staggering gate. Last year Grandma tried to convince me to be tested because if I have it, I could pass it on to my children. It’s an autosomal dominant disease, so my kids would have a 50% chance of inheriting. Unfortunately, if I get tested before I start showing symptoms, then it becomes a “pre-existing condition” and so insurance companies would be able to deny coverage. The nice neurologists explained that it would be better for me to have kids by in vitro fertilization. Then the doctors could test each embryo, eliminating any genetically unfit ones, and not let anyone know whether they had found any with the disorder. Then I could have a genetically “perfect” baby without exposing my own genetic defects to the scrutiny of the insurance industry. The cost averages around $12,000 a cycle, with only a 15%-30% chance of pregnancy. So just conceiving a baby could easily cost $36,000. It seems like an extravagant expense considering the number of unwanted children out there. On the other hand adoption can be expensive as well, and if you don’t have the right qualifications you won’t be given a child.

During my emergency room visit, a young Latino couple arrived with an adorable little baby boy. I surmised from my limited Spanish language skills that he had a fever and diarrhea. Maybe my prejudices are showing, but I imagined that they ended up in the ER because they lacked insurance. The whole medical-insurance system is frakked in any case.