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Life Contains These Things

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It Only Takes Common Sense to Be Healthy

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naturalI just discovered a great resource for natural medicine or naturopathy, an example of alternative medicine that focuses on natural remedies and the body’s ability to maintain and heal itself.

I have to admit that I’ve been suspicious about alternative medicine ever since I started showing interest and passion in the medical sciences, but when I read more about naturopathy, and especially when I discovered WellWire, I realized that it’s really all about going back to basics and learning to live a sustainable, self-sufficient, and balanced lifestyle, which are things that I also personally uphold.

When we go back to basics and when we acknowledge how much we’ve been underestimating our bodies’ capabilities, you’ll realize that you can totally do away without taking in all those pills and multivitamin capsules and acai berry drinks, and still be healthy. All you really have to do is, again, look around you and embrace what nature has to offer. And I think WellWire‘s pretty good at advocating this philosophy.

Going back to basics when it comes to health is something that I work on each day, what with all the health trends being endorsed by models and so-called health gurus every hour on TV. It’s tough; I often forget about what my body really needs. And there’s also this ongoing paranoia when it comes to sickness, when really, at the end of the day, health and wellness isn’t about completely obliterating disease from the face of the earth. I think we’ve allowed this fear of disease (and death from disease) to take over our every day lives, that we end up stuffing ourselves with all sorts of meds that end up destroying our liver anyway. What’s even worse is when we shrug it all off and say, “Ah, to hell with it. We will all eventually die of cancer anyway. Let’s live in the moment!” and allow our bodies to waste away in drunken escapades and cigarettes.

Naturopathy is such a refreshing avenue in healthcare because it reminds us of the common sense we tend to overlook each day. Yes, it’s pretty much common sense, really — “eating the rainbow” (every color of fruit and veggies), managing stress to maximize your immunity to the flu, staying outdoors early in the morning to absorb all that sunny, Vitamin D goodness, etc. And with the ridiculous expenses attributed to hospitals and treatments, going back to basics also means saving yourself if not hundreds, thousands of dollars just to stay in shape. The sun is free, for one thing!

So, like I would always tell you guys — just look around you! Nature demands our attention… and for a pretty good reason, too.


I’m melting I’m melting I’m…

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Here’s a little excerpt that perfectly describes my general sentiments toward human life and why I think the beginning, end, and everything in between are the most fascinating realities anyone could ever encounter.

The Wicked Witch of the West is Melting!

“Life contains these things:
leakage and wickage and discharge,
pus and snot and slime and gleet.
We are biology.
We are reminded of this at the beginning and the end,
at birth and at death.
In between we do what we can to forget.”
(Mary Roach, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers)

The book is wonderful by the way. You don’t have to have the same weird, morbid fascination that I have to enjoy it.  It’s a light and witty way to look at mortality. Yes, it’s possible. 😛

Written by Karla Mercado

May 3, 2009 at 1:28 am

Posted in Introspection, Science

Tagged with , , , , ,

If I were a vampire…

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…it would’ve been much, much worse.

fingerstickLab today involved practicing heel sticks — you draw blood from a baby’s foot… yeah, I know. Nasty. But you have to, because the chances of puncturing a baby’s bone are pretty high if you attempt to draw from the finger. Of course, we didn’t have a real live baby in the room so we just used mannequin limbs.

We used each other though, when it was time to practice finger sticks (as shown in the picture).  Most people I know actually hate having to undergo finger sticks when being tested for something;  they’d rather go through venipuncture (through the vein).  I’m not a real fan of finger sticks either but I prefer them because they just hurt much less and one session doesn’t last too long since the phlebotomist won’t have to feel for a vein anymore.

I wasn’t too excited about it at lab today, though.  I’m very impatient about seeing some samples under the microscope and taking down some results — that’s definitely what I came there for.  Besides, if I were to be a doctor or a nurse, bloodletting isn’t really my responsibility.  But taking this class is also very useful, because during STAT occasions, I wouldn’t want to have to rely on lab people if I need my blood ASAP.  I mean, if I could do it myself, I would, so this class would help tremendously.

Anyway, we were to do a CBC (complete blood count) sample and fill up a bullet tube for that (bullets are the smallest blood tubes), and a diluted sample for a platelet count.

My poor partner, oh my poor, poor partner.  Haha.  Of course it was my first time to draw blood from an actual human being so I was far from being perfect.  I didn’t realize how much blood could ooze out of a little ring finger!!! I was so shocked.  She was bleeding all over the place, I was panicking, my test tubes and workspace were splattered with blood, my partner was giving me that nervous, panicky laugh that made me feel even worse…

I did NOT expect this to happen at all.  I was able to fill out the tubes successfully but my professor had to intervene with the open wound.  She told us, though, that this was to be expected, and that we actually did very well — in fact, she even claimed that we were her best students so far (WHAT?!) — and that there was nothing to worry about.

Damn.  Next week, we’re gonna start puncturing each others arms for the venipuncture practical.  During finger stick morning today, I heard my other classmates say things like, “God my finger is so numb already” or “It’s still bleeding.  Oh my god.  Oh my god.”  So let’s see how next week goes.  Finger stick lancets are nothing compared to those huge ass needles used in blood banks.  So let’s see what happens indeed.

Thank god for the phlebotomists and lab assistants of this world.  They got some skillz… although it’s true that not all of them do great jobs either.  It’s definitely a craft, this bloodletting business.

Written by Karla Mercado

March 27, 2009 at 1:03 am

Posted in Science

Bye bye break :-(

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Sigh, pasukan na naman.  And to top it all off, I have a new class to attend (Phlebotomy), which will require a full week’s worth of school, unlike pre-Spring break, when I only had to go to school twice, yes, twice a week!

But don’t get me wrong, I’m so stoked to attend this class.  I’m fascinated with human blood and veins, need I say more?  My sister sort of warned me about how poking an actual human vein with a lab needle would feel like, compared to poking just the epidermal region of human skin — you can literally feel the vein pop (goes my heart).  Plus, the color’s different (much, much darker).

Blood Site NavigatorI’m gonna have to figure out how to zoom this in, or I’m doomed.

Just playing, of course.  I’m sure in ten weeks or less, I’d be able to navigate a human limb’s blood sites blindfolded.  Ha!  Let’s not jinx it, because I want to ace this course, so I could do part-time at the blood bank for extra moolah next semester.

Now who wants to be my guinea pig?

Written by Karla Mercado

March 22, 2009 at 11:33 pm

Posted in Etcetera, Science

Too young to have these knees

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2004 would have to be one of the most difficult years of my life.  That year, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, which is basically the destruction of cartilage and inflammation of joints.

Running is my passion.  It’s what kept me sane during those stressful college days.  I would join every single fun run in Ateneo or just go for it after school or during long breaks.

One day, while grocery shopping with my grandparents, I suddenly felt a piercing pain in my right knee and could hardly walk back to the car.  I was rushed to the hospital and eventually ended up in my grandparents’ rheumatologist’s clinic.  I was his youngest patient.

Obviously, I had to quit, not just running, but jogging, too much walking and kneeling on church pews.  Thankfully, the disruption in my joints was detected early enough for simple cartilage building pills and antibiotics.  If the fluid in my knees thickened, it had to be aspirated as if it were being liposuctioned.  My doctor showed me how huge the needle was, and for someone like me who’s got a huge ass tattoo on my back, I got needle anxiety for the first time in my life.

The cartilage builders worked, and after begging my doctor, I was able to run again — gradually, that is.  I wasn’t allowed to run on rocky, uneven trails (which were my favorite) so I was stuck in a treadmill, unless I found a nice beach, as sand happens to be very knee-friendly.  I also didn’t go beyond 3k, which, at first, was a real drag.  I was an endurance runner, not a sprinter.  To me, distance was everything.  Of course, I had to follow my doctor’s orders.  It was for my own good anyway.

When I got here, tramping to school and walking Cooper twice a day was utter bliss.  I do miss running, but walking long hours each week was good enough for me.  I didn’t realize that even walking would be short-lived.

Two days ago, during my morning walk with Cooper, I felt the exact same pain I felt in the supermarket in Manila five years ago.  I knew exactly what it was, but it seemed even worse now.  Good thing I was almost home, but since we live in the mountains and my route going back involved an incline, I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to make it.

But I did.  I haven’t found a rheumatologist here yet, but I was able to talk to my mom’s sister, who’s a physician.  For now, I’m gonna have to wear knee support and take ibuprofen as needed, take the cab going to school and let mom walk Cooper until I’m all better.  It’s a lifelong thing, so it’s all about treatment and prevention.

I do hope that they come up with a cure for it someday.  Now that I have it, it only means that I already have some stupid disability that I’m gonna have to deal with by the time I reach that age when arthritis is normally supposed to happen.  What a bummer.  😦

Written by Karla Mercado

March 8, 2009 at 5:33 am

Posted in Etcetera, Science

Tagged with ,

King Kong

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I was having breakfast when I saw the news on TV about a 55-year old woman from Connecticut who was attacked by a “domesticated”, 14-year old chimpanzee named Travis.  You can read about it here.

So my anthropology professor found an excuse to discuss this in class, now that we’re currently taking up primatology.  It was pretty much an open discussion and most of my classmates speculated on the medication that was given to Travis that same day he attacked the woman.  It was a prescription drug that was supposed to sedate him, because he was considerably rambunctious that day.

Nobody expected this to ever happen, especially the people from that Connecticut neighborhood, who were used to seeing Travis walk around the streets without a harness.  I personally don’t know if a harness would actually do anything useful, considering Travis weighed close to 200 lbs. and his owner/trainer was a skinny lady, at least from what I had seen on TV.

According to his trainer, Travis was trained to water the plants, have meals with his human family at the dinner table, change TV channels using a remote control, surf the internet and, occasionally, drink wine from a wine stem glass.

What happened was a tragedy, and I will try my best not to make any judgments on anyone, but I do feel the need to express what I think of all this.

I brought up the same thing in class this afternoon.  This incident just goes to show that it’s about time we stop the proliferation of this man-made breed of “domesticated” animals.  I wrote about the same idea here, and I’d like to reiterate it once more, but in a slightly different light.


I take care of “domesticated” animals in my own home, although I am essentially against the idea of having “pets”, simply because, to me, it’s man-made and unnatural.  It’s like I’ve snatched them away from their true homes and have done so for countless times and thousands of years, that this interdependency has become irreversible, at least for now.

I take this interdependency as my personal responsibility, that’s why I continue to take in dogs and cats who do not have anywhere else to go.  Although their natural habitat is, essentially, the wild, they can only survive in a human home, simply because humans have made them that way over the past thousands of years.

But don’t you think it should just stop with the cats and the dogs?  I don’t understand why it seems like we still feel the need to make breeds of this kind from rare birds, reptiles, and even wild felids (i.e., lions, tigers and other top-carnivorous cats)?

And of course, there’s Travis.  He was shot to death, but I don’t blame the police, because it was their best resolve for the sake of the woman Travis attacked.  His trainer tried stopping him by stabbing him, too.  But I do not blame this poor chimpanzee, nor do I blame his equally devastated trainer — I’m sure she’s already beating herself up enough for what just happened.

But I abhor this selfish and just plain old disgusting culture of anthropomorphism.  The beauty lies in that clear distinction between human animals and non-human animals.  So why force the latter to drink from a wine stem glass?  Reality check:  it’s not cute.  It’s just downright wrong.

Written by Karla Mercado

February 19, 2009 at 5:41 am

Faith and healing

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Interesting topic.  A documentary on Crime and Investigation this afternoon featured “Christian Scientists.”  I didn’t even know there exists such a group of people, officially.  It sounded way too fascinating to pass up so I decided to watch the entire thing.

Christian scientists claim that they’re not out to ram spirituality and religion down people’s throats.  They simply want to introduce the subject of spirituality as early as taking down a patient’s history by using questions such as “What beliefs do you find important in your life?”  They say it’s a great way to identify how certain patients cope with illness and mortality.

Spirituality is now part of the curriculum for majority of medical schools in the US.  The government is also now funding research on spirituality and medicine and how these two can be used side by side in the healing process.

Of course, you can’t help but have at least two sides.  There are a lot of doctors who are very much open to this recent development, but there are also some of them who think it’s absolutely absurd.

I personally find this topic fascinating.  I’m very much for science and can’t help but lean towards the side of the skeptics;  I myself haven’t found a real balance between religion/spirituality and science.  To me, it’s impossible to do that.  If I were to use both, and I believe I already do that in my own personal life, I’m pretty sure that I will end up having one of them dominating the other.

In my case, science heavily dominates spirituality.

But different moral compasses, traditions and cultures also exist.  If I were to become a doctor, I will do everything I can to make my patient’s healing process as comfortable as it is effective.  Christian scientists do have a point when they said that including the topic of spirituality, especially if it’s a huge part of the patient’s coping process, has its advantages.  Medical anthropologists, for instance, make sure that they are able to use traditional medicine proven with hard facts to combat certain diseases, while at the same time taking into consideration a society’s given culture and belief system.

But where does one draw the line?  The only problem I see with this fascination for spirituality in the medical field is that it might overpower hard facts.  Doctors can’t always adjust to their patients’ beliefs.  This isn’t a restaurant or an outlet store where the customer is always right.

Right now, I’m still a bit wary about introducing spirituality in the hospitals in such a full force way.  But it is indeed something to think about.

Written by Karla Mercado

December 23, 2008 at 4:33 pm