Wisening up after a bout with the gout
It was humiliating, standing there in line at the H-E-B checkouts, watching the lady in front of me load up roughly half a ton of brisket and ribs onto the conveyor belt.
“We’ve got a cookout this weekend,” she smiled.
The couple behind me spoke no English, but their basket was also full of my two favorite foods — bifsteak and cerveza. They had their Lone Star Card out and ready.
Holding my salad and my strawberry-and-banana smoothie, I just wanted to cry.
I’ve always been a proud advocate of Real Texas Food: beef and beer. Unfortunately, my two favorite foods have ganged up on me lately and in one fell swoop turned me into one of those people who have to watch what they eat.
I feel so ... un-Texan.
The dietary change and associated humiliation were forced on me by a quite painful experience with something I’d been unknowingly living with for years: gout. I suffered an acute attack early last week that at one point had me in so much pain I couldn’t walk. I out out last week’s paper by rolling around the office in my chair.
Gout earned the nickname of the “Rich Man’s Disease” during the Middle Ages because it affected primarily rich people — the only ones who could afford beef at the time. That part has changed, since it now primarily affects lower- and middle-class folks like stubborn newspaper managers whose diets consist almost exclusively of beef and beer.
It’s caused by the buildup of uric acid in the bloodstream. This chemical gathers in joints and crystallizes, often during periods of sleep, creating swelling and pain. This buildup often happens in the big toe; in my case, it was the joint of my right foot and ankle.
Acute attacks tend to last 24-48 hours, but if it’s a particularly bad case, could spread into the bloodstream and affect several joints. It’s most often treated by prescription medication, but as noted I work for a newspaper so I can’t afford that.
I was fortunate to have some associates willing to make a quick run to the store to load me up on leg-cramp pills and potassium products to help break up the uric formations; I was mobile by Thursday and could have run if I wanted to by Friday. (Not that I would ever run, but I could have.)
Along with an array of vitamins and supplements, I had to make some adjustments to my diet. Bananas, cherries and other fruits and vegetables made their way to my refrigerator. I’ve always been one of those who maintained that if God had intended for humans to eat plants, He’d have given us hooves.
My associates here at The Cannon judged my Friday lunch salad such a newsworthy event, they took photos and posted them to Facebook. The humiliation is overwhelming.
I’d always thought this occasional foot pain I suffer was related to my days in the Marines, a pinched nerve or something. It would bother me a little once every couple of months, but it had never before been so debilitating.
My acute attack followed swiftly on the heels of the weekend's pre-season opener between the Texans and the Panthers — a six-hour orgy of gorging on ribs, sirloin steak, beef sausage and copious amounts of the National Beer of Texas. This week’s in-home tailgate meal will consist of chicken or some other fowl concoction.
What’s most humiliating about the whole experience, however, is the fact that I’d always considered gout to be something that affects “old people.” I’m way too young for this; after all, I’ve been 29 for 24 years now.
Then again, I’ve always wanted to make that transition from angry young man to grumpy old man. Now I have a justifiable reason to do so.
Of course, that means all you attractive young divorcees will have to adjust your plans, too. This will take me out of your market and you’ll just have to chase after guys more your own age.
Then again, if you have this thing for distinguished older men with occcasional health issues, well ... let me check with my wife and see if it’s okay.