10 – unintended consequences, good intentions, unexpected outcomes

Early Saturday mornings are my favorite time–two days filled with infinite possibilities stretched out in front of me.  Hope you felt the same this weekend.

Part of that serene attitude while I was writing this was because I had a load of laundry is in the washer, one in the dryer, and the dishwasher doing its thing, as well.  All the machines filled the sound spaces around me, making me feel as if I was accomplishing something when I was genuinely doing nothing but writing.  Made me realize once more how lucky I am, we are, to live at this moment.

However, these labor-saving devices, along with so many other changes in how our world works over the past 50 years, have been a factor in the triggering of the laws of unforeseen consequences at levels that are literally life and death for the US population.  There are many, many other factors, from the invention of the automobile, to prosperity at previously unknown levels, to the proliferation of cheap, fast food sources for why we are, as a population, fat. Some of them aren’t nearly as obvious as the MacWhopper epidemic.

For instance–advances in the field of medicine have allowed doctors to remove many of the consequences of obesity while you are still obese.  These include Nexium and other stomach medications, so you can not only never have heartburn again, you can actually heal the damage that acid has done to your esophagus.  For joint pain, Celebrex and its ilk mean that even the super-obese (which I was) don’t have to  be in pain with every step anymore.  Unfortunately, they also do a good job of hiding from the user how much damage is being done to your joints when you’re heavy.  If I wish to maintain my current level of activity, knee replacements are in my future, largely due to the damage I incurred when I was heavy.

My own experience with gastric bypass shows that the super obese need not stay that way–that medical intervention can also go to the extreme and literally save us from the consequences of overeating, overindulgence, etc.  They didn’t happen to mention, however, that once all the weight was off, to keep the weight from coming back, I would have to exercise six days a week and watch what I eat, like any other normal human being.  I’m OK with it, and have figured out how to fit exercise into my life in ways I’ve never done before, even with crapped-out knees.  But for many, they gain the weight back, or struggle to keep it off in the more public sense, including Carnie Wilson (who followed up gastric bypass with a gastric band some years later).

I’m usually the one hoping that there is some middle ground, someplace we can all agree on that is the best of a bad situation–but bluntly, I can’t see a middle ground.  I know that, if I hadn’t had surgery, I would be diabetic right now or dead of a heart attack.  That’s not exaggeration – my mother had her first heart attack at 51, two years younger than I am now.  Five years later, she was also diagnosed with diabetes. I was headed for that as fast as my fat little legs could carry me.  All of my blood tests since the surgery (and I have them every year) have shown that my cholesterol is now perfect, my sugars are now perfect–and while I have fleeting vitamin deficiencies, they are easily taken care of by adding supplements.  So the medical world worked its miracle, and indeed saved me again, this time from a late complication of the bypass, when I landed in the emergency room in December with an internal hernia that very nearly killed me.

Am I glad that I’m here – yes, without a doubt.  Do I think I would have been here without the medical interventions I’ve had?  No, again, without a doubt.  I do not believe I would be alive without modern medicine. I don’t have the answer–I know we can’t stop treating people for the consequences of their addictions in a rational, caring society.  And food is the only addiction based on a substance you must indulge in to stay alive.  And no, I don’t believe I am or was a food addict.  I think I was addicted to how the overuse of food made me feel. The addiction remains and I struggle with it still–because they didn’t operate on my head, they operated on my stomach.

And now, it’s taken me two days to write this, and I’ll sign off.

Maybe you’ve got an answer.

I don’t.

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