You Laughed at a Dead Man

Yeah, let’s laugh at and deride Philip Seymour Hoffman.

For some of you, he’s just another disposable celebrity who couldn’t handle his addiction and ended up dead because of it.

After all, he was just one of 23 MILLION AMERICANS addicted to alcohol and drugs.
(Multiple sources confirm that approximate number. Don’t believe me? Google it.)

Oh, and only 11% of those struggling with addiction seek and receive treatment.

So laugh it up if you must. Or spout off with these old chestnuts of ignorance:

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“He should have just gone to rehab.”

He did.

And like more than half of people who go to rehab (also confirmed by multiple online sources), he relapsed.

He knew he had a problem. He had the resources to fight it. He worked at it and got clean.

And it still got the best of him.

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“He had kids.”

And you think he didn’t love them as much as you love yours?

Does that maybe give you an inkling of how powerful an addiction can be?

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“Where were his family, friends, agents, entourage?”

I’m sure they gave as much love and support as they could.

What more could they do? Handcuff themselves to him 24/7?

Nobody can just “fix” another person or cure them of an addiction. It’s a lifelong battle.

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“All he needed was to toughen up and find some willpower.”

He had every reason to quit and every reason to live.

A partner and kids. A wonderful career with awards and respect.

And his addiction overpowered all of that.

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Until we as a nation wake up and understand that our views on addiction and mental health issues are incredibly ignorant and just plain wrong, sad deaths like this will continue to happen.

To bring it home for you, imagine the 100 people in your family and close circle of friends.

Statistically, 7 of them are addicts. (317 million Americans, 23 million addicts = about 7%.)

If any of them die too early, I wonder if you’ll laugh at them as easily as you did at some celebrity.

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I’m not saying you have to mourn Philip Seymour Hoffman and rip your clothes and cry your eyes out.

But it is too much ask to show a little empathy for another human being?

Someone struggling with demons that we may be lucky enough to NOT understand?

Are we that cold, callous and unfeeling?

I sure hope not.

 

I do this every day.

I do this every day.

Examine The Area for bumps, openness, bleeding, dryness, red/purple/black discoloration.
I’m 16. I cannot sit with my legs over the side of the bed, as the rush of blood causes tremendous pain. I miss the last three months of my junior year. It’s all because of a few small purple wounds on my lower legs. My first run of Prednisone, which is a miracle drug that masks the pain and symptoms but is not a cure. I do experience many of the side effects of large doses of Prednisone, but I suppose they’re more tolerable than the pain.

I miss the baseball season, Junior Prom, and my grades sink even though I tried to keep up.

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I do this every day.

Determine if topical treatment is necessary.
I’m 19. Riding the bench for a Division III baseball team. But I’m in Cocoa, Florida, enjoying our annual spring break trip that includes ten games in seven days. The pain starts in my legs again. Heavy. Dull. Aching. Walking is hard, much less playing ball. A couple small purple wounds. My doctor sends me Prednisone via overnight shipping. A few months on it, and eventually it doesn’t hurt with every single step I take, walking from the furthest house on campus to my classes. Things get back to normal. In the deepest parts of my brain, I know my baseball days are done.

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I do this every day.

If necessary, apply topical treatment.
I’m 25. On a trip to my brother’s grad school graduation, my parents notice me caring for a giant purple scab on my left leg. (Looking back, I have no idea how I let it get that bad.) When we return home, I see my doctor — who refers me to the wound care department of a rehab/therapy facility. On my first visit, the specialist takes a look at my left leg (the outside part, mid-shin-high), puts on his latex gloves and grabs some kind of tweezers. I ask, “Uh, what are you doing?” He calmly replies that the scab has to come off.

He clips and tugs gently, and shockingly, the removal does not hurt. (I have a Polaroid of this actual moment, but I will spare you the visual. Unless you want to see it. Post in the Comments below if you’d like me to send you the photo.) Underneath the crusty purple scab is a half-inch-deep layer of what looks like wet pink goosebumps. He places a non-adhesive bandage on The Area (as I will refer to it now and forever) and wraps it with cling-roll bandages, followed by tape to hold the bandages on.

I am to return three times a week for hot whirlpool treatment, which sounds cool but is limited to my left leg below the knee. This is to debride (remove any bacteria, dirt, etc.) The Area and hopefully enable healing.

For several years, this kind of treatment — and many others — had varying degrees of success and failure in trying to heal The Area. Real skin graft. Artifical skin graft. My own plasma, spun in a centrifuge and frozen.

Some of The Area heals, breaking it into separate segments. But then it gets angry again, the segments join together and become one big nasty deep ulcer, which is finally diagnosed, properly, as pyoderma gangrenosum. (Google it only if you dare, yucky photos abound.)

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I do this every day.

Place bandage or gauze pad on The Area.
I’m somewhere between 25 and 30. (If you had all this in your head, you’d be fuzzy on dates too.)

A hacking winter cough leads to amoxicillin, which leads to a bad reaction, a fever, weakness and fatigue, and finally a hospital stay. The diagnosis is C. Difficile Colitis, seemingly brought on by the medication. While in the hospital, they test me and confirm that I also have Crohn’s colitis. And after trying a whirlpool treatment that had me literally screaming (you try putting your exposed nerve endings in swirling hot water), a surgical debridement is done. Because the pain of the surgery would be so great, they have to knock me out (and keep me going on morphine).

A few days later, I am quite possibly bending the metal bar on the side of my hospital bed as they attempt to remove the silver nitrate bandage that has protected The Area since the surgery. This is horror-movie-level pain. When I am finally released from the hospital, I am on 80mg of Prednisone a day (which will take about a year to slowly wean off of), as well as Oxycontin and a couple immunosuppressive drugs.

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I do this every day.

Apply three long strips of tape that extend beyond bandage to adhere to leg.
I’m 31. I’ve met a woman who could be The One. She’s gorgeous, she’s fun, she’s smart, and she challenges me. And somehow, I have to share all this with her without scaring her off.

“Hey, so we’re really getting along well here, and I need to let you know that I have two rare and chronic diseases, and there’s a giant ugly hole in my leg. Do you want to get an appetizer?”

(The above is NOT how it went. I honestly don’t remember. I do know I had enough sense not to have that discussion on the first date or before a meal.)

Regardless, she had to know what she was getting into. And I later found out that at first, it was difficult for her to handle — because my health issues could become very important in our shared future. Happily, she realized that my awesomeness (and humility) was worth any health issue we had to deal with. (Note: We’ve been married for 8 years now.)

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I do this every day.

Carefully pull compression sock over foot and then up leg to knee.
I’m 36. I’m tightly holding my wife’s hand in the operating room as our beautiful girls enter the world. It is the most surreal, wonderful, exhilarating experience of my life. And in the middle of it all, I wonder if these innocent little angels will have to deal with health issues like mine. I hope they don’t get any of my bad genes, only the good ones. Sadly, parents are pretty helpless in that department.

The girls were preemies, and both had 3-week NICU stays. You can read that story here, but suffice it to say that after a terrifying ordeal, the girls are healthy and amazing. I just want them to stay that way forever and ever. Is that too much to ask?

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I do this every day.

Go about day as if everything is normal.
I’m 41 as I write this. That number blows me away. I vividly remember thinking “wow, I’ll be 27 in the year 2000.” Well, here we are, 14 years after THAT. I’ve got a nice bald spot going on top of my head, plus some serious gray/silver happening in the remnants of my once-semi-glorious head of hair. And that’s no big deal.

My health is under control, thanks mostly to my Remicade infusions every six weeks or so. It’s no big deal, I get an IV infusion and work on my laptop during the four-hour treatment. If that’s what’s keeping away new wounds or Crohn’s flares, then it’s a tiny price to pay.

But every day, I go through the steps written here in bold type. And let’s be clear about something — there are many people who have it worse than me. I know this, and have reminded myself of this fact for years. There are pyoderma patients with wounds that never heal, or break out in much worse places than the lower leg. And there are Crohn’s and IBD patients who require surgeries and removal of intestines and all kinds of other life-changing procedures.

I didn’t write this for pity. I wrote it I was pushed by a buddy (thanks, Matthew) who believes you’re either a creator or a consumer — and I wanted to focus on being that first one for a bit.

Above all, I wanted to share a part of my daily routine that very few people know about, and even fewer can relate to. Maybe I wanted to persuade the 17 of you who read this to be grateful if you have your health. It is truly a gift to be cherished.  And to remember that there is always someone who has it worse than you.

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I do this every day.

Open Mother’s Day Letter to My Wife

Dear Shannon:

Seven years ago, if you told me that I’d be a husband and father living in Texas, I’d have laughed my a$$ off and asked where I could get the same drugs you were taking.

And here I am, an hour or so into Mother’s Day 2010…trying to put into words how awesome the mother of my children is.

Shannon, you’re my world. And the two amazing gifts you’ve given me — our beautiful daughters — will never be matched.

Even before they were born, you were an incredible and caring mother. During your pregnancy, you cut out caffeine, alcohol, and anything else that could be remotely bad for the babies. You did everything possible to give them a good home, like a good mom does.

And when they came early with all their health issues, you kept it together as we bounced from NICU to NICU every night for three weeks. You went into full-on Mommy Mode, soaking in every word the NICU nurses said and committing it all to memory. So when we brought the girls home, you were on top of everything.

In the 12.5 months since then, you have become SuperMom. Back surgeries don’t slow you down. Full workweeks ain’t nothin’.

I got lucky to find you, because you’re the perfect wife/partner/best friend. And I got even luckier when you turned out to be the perfect mom.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Love,

Harley

Happy birthday to me: The end of an era?

Today, I’m 37 years old. In case you were wondering, that’s 444 months. 1930.6 weeks. 13,514 days. 324,336 hours. Et cetera.

To commemorate this histrionic occasion, I’ve shaved my goatee. (Long-time fans of mine will know that this is not an uncommon occurrence.)

But more importantly, it marks the end of an era. The Earring has been retired.

It was August 1990 when I got my left ear pierced. In the most manly way possible, I strode confidently into Dazzles in the Roosevelt Mall and had it done. And two decades later, I have removed it for a variety of reasons.

Reason #1: I am not now, nor have ever been, a pirate.

Reason #2: It’s really hard to find earrings for men, and they don’t sell solo ones.

Reason #3: I’m 37. That’s three years from “Old Guy with Earring Trying To Be Cool.”

Reason #4: This is the most important reason, because it’s health-related. My beautiful daughters are getting really grabby and stronger by the day. Norah has already taken a strong hold of my left earlobe on several occasions. And I don’t want her to suddenly pull off a bloody earlobe.

Frankly, I never ever felt badass enough to pull off an earring. But then again, I’ve survived Crohn’s disease and pyoderma gangrenosum. I’ve lived for the better part of a decade with giant open wounds on my leg. And I’m a married man with twin daughters (who were really sick at birth and were in two different NICUs for three weeks).

An earring doesn’t define me or make me tough. It doesn’t even let passers-by on the street know if I’m tough or not. Besides, when I’m pushing my double-long stroller through the mall with my wife, that’s badass enough for me.

Goodbye, Mr. Earring. See you at my midlife crisis in about eight years.

Thanks, Joker! (And some Random Ramblin’s.)

So my blog has been decidedly dormant due to my dedication to my daughters and my duties as Daddy.

No more! (Well, I’m not going to stop that stuff, but I will try to get back to bloggin’.)

And it’s thanks to several comments from a fellow blogger, Joker from Why Advertising Sucks. It’s amazing what some kind words from an unseen colleague can do…so thanks Joker!

Call the rest of this a mini-Random Ramblin’s…

If you’re not a baseball fan, skip down a few ‘graphs. This is about Roy Halladay, one of baseball’s best pitchers. He’s currently a Toronto Blue Jay, but they’ve pretty much decided to make him available for a trade. And my hometown Phillies are a great match, since they have plenty of good young prospects and the ability to take on his salary (now and in the future).

Reasons the Phillies need Halladay: He makes a good rotation GREAT. Especially in a short playoff series, when it could be Halladay, Hamels and whoever else they put out there. Heck, if Pedro Martinez has anything left in the tank, let him rip.

Heck, legendary baseball man Peter Gammons basically says the Phillies could be a World Series contender for two or three years if they did this. And although they’d be giving up some of their best prospects, that’s what they are right now – prospects. There is NO guarantee that these guys become solid contributors at the major league level – much less superstars.

There is no guarantee that Halladay gets them back to the World Series – but he improves their chances BIG time.

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Well, a case manager from HP was supposed to call me today about my Presario V6000 laptop, which refuses to turn on. Well, the lights come on for half a second, it gives a weak beep, then shuts down. But because this is a replacement unit – that’s right, this one was sent to us when the old 5101 died on us – we need to have a case manager validate our claim so they’ll repair it.

I’d go on a long rant about how sucky HP/Compaq is, but it’s been done.

I may do a pre-emptive call in a few minutes, and will keep you posted.

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So now I’m going off of Imuran completely. One less immunosuppressive drug. Yay! Now we being the countdown to Colonoscopy ’09, scheduled for Friday the 13th (of November). Yay?

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More important than anything else you’ve read here…the girls are doing well, thanks for asking!

Eating and pooping pretty normally.

But sleeping? They’re freakin’ Olympians already. We’re talking like 8, 9, maybe 10 hours overnight.

I think they’re setting us up, this is all a trick. When they’re two, they’ll sleep in half-hour shifts for four hours then demand we stay up with them watching Ni Hao Kailan or Jack’s Big Music Show! (Actually, they’re pretty good shows.)

We think that Alexandra is starting to look like me, and Norah like Shannon. Here’s a recent photo:

My girls

Alexandra & Norah, just chillin'.

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I’m in 4th place in fantasy baseball. This is unheard of, and I have now jinxed myself.

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We’re living in Little Elm, Texas, not far from the intersection of Eldorado Parkway and Route 423/Main Street. The latter is a horrendous road that gets crazy backed up during rush hour. The former is under massive construction that will probably continue until I retire at the ripe old age of 78.

I don’t know if this is deserving of an “oy” or a “meh.” Perhaps a new term should be made available…

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Shannon and I saw The Hangover. 86 out of 100. Laugh-out loud in parts, but man I was hoping for more gutbusting laughs.

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I hate that the scale at Medifast is usually 3 pounds heavier than my scale at home. I woke up all psyched that I was 160.8 on Saturday morning, until I get to the clinic and weigh in at 163.8. They’re both digital scales! How does that work?

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I can’t believe boxing lost Arturo Gatti and Vernon Forrest like two weeks apart. I truly enjoyed watching these warriors fight and grieve for them and their families.

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I hope you’re happy, Joker. You’ve unleashed the beats. A lame bloggin’ beast.