Category Archives: Health

The Heart Of The Matter

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By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — The year was 1969. The place was Northeast Philadelphia, in a small twin home right off of Roosevelt Boulevard.

A man, age 73, was having chest pains but was in denial that it was anything serious and went to take a nap on the couch with a vow to feel better when he woke up. His wife, though worried, went along with the plan.

At some point, a few hours later, he fell of the couch and couldn’t get up. His wife called her children, asking what to do.

They said to call an ambulance.

By the time it arrived and took him to the hospital, it was too late.

The man was Morris Glantz, my grandfather.

I know I knew him as Pop-Pop and have only faint recollections of him playing with me for hours on the floor when my father, recently divorced from my mother, would pick me up on Friday evenings and take me on the other side of the boulevard for dinner and playtime.

I missed a Friday, I remember that, and then went back the following week.

“Where’s Pop-Pop?” I asked, innocently.

“Pop-Pop died,” my father responded.

I didn’t know quite what that meant. I got a vision of him diving into a bottomless pit. I knew he wasn’t coming back.

The look on my face surely broke my father’s heart.

I was 4, and down a grandfather.

My grandmother, Mom-Mom, looked worn-out and not overly cheerful as she placed a plate of chicken in front of me.

It’s all a vague memory now, but it stuck with me enough that I know that it is better to be cautious than sorry.

I recently experienced sudden and severe chest pains. They felt more muscular and were emanating in the center of my chest and, when I tried to move or lay down, hurt more on the right side.

I knew the odds of a heart attack were slim, but slim and none live in two different universes.

Heart issues run rampant on my father’s side of the family, and I generally tend to inherit those genes, with my father needing a six-way bypass when he was just a year or two older than I am now.

I know he dawdled about going, even after a minor heart attack when he was a few years younger than I am now, but he made the decision to go for it.

Back then, in 1988, bypasses were not sure things. He was laid up for weeks (they didn’t throw patients out of hospitals 16 minutes later, either). While it was not his heart that took him two decades later, he paid the price by losing a lot of business as a self-employed lawyer.

Still, as he withstood the humiliation of credit cards being declined and bill collectors calling, he was able to see his kids married and grandchildren born (although Sofia was barely a year old went he left us).

His maternal grandfather died of a heart attack in his mid-fifties. His older brother, Uncle Oscar, who I am most similar to in appearance (he was the best looking) also died instantly of a heart attack in his late seventies.

Knowing all this, and aware that I don’t want Sofia to grow up without a father because of some “I’ll be OK” macho act, I woke up my wife at 3 a.m. in a bit of a panic.

After some fierce Googling, and the realization that the pain was coming from a raised area in the center of my chest, fears shifted to a blood clot or lung cancer (although I knew lung cancer doesn’t just show up out of nowhere).

After we tussled over what hospital to go to, we settled on Abington-Lansdale, and we had the ER to ourselves in the pre-dawn hours.

I’m not sure who all the people were fussing all over me – I’m guessing a RN, NP, PA and an orderly – but I was well on my way to readiness when the world’s friendliest ER doctor greeted us and seemed semi-confident it was nothing more than something external.

The news, as it turned out, was all good.

It was some sort of muscle strain (even though I still can’t put my finger on the time and place the injury occurred).

The raised area? Not a tumor or a blood clot. It was my breast bone. And everyone has one.

They gave me a shot of something, and I was feeling better within 30 minutes.

In the interim, I got the best news of all. My heart, they said, not only looked normal but “beyond normal.”

The EEG, EKG – whatever they call it – showed that it “couldn’t be better.”

Relieved, we hit one of our favorite haunts – Tiger’s Restaurant in Lansdale – right as it opened at 6 a.m.

As I ate with a new lease on life, I couldn’t help but think of the people who have something more serious going on and don’t go the ER.

I’m not sure why Pop-Pop didn’t go that night in 1969, but a lot of people these days don’t want to deal with the onerous co-pay just to find out it was a false alarm.

There is no way to get an actual number of those who decide against it, because many are not alive to tell the tale.

But I am.

The current healthcare system stinks. We know that. But the actual medical care in this country does not.

All I can say is to weigh the two when faced with the same situation.

And I’ll add this: While I don’t believe in angels smiling down on me and all that stuff, I feel like I honored the memory of the grandfather I never really got to know.

This column ran in The Times Herald on Sept. 8, 2019.

Celebrating A Life Well-Lived

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By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — It was just the other morning that I glanced over my shoulder and told my dog Rex I’d walk him once I finished the arduous task of dressing in a suit (tying a tie is rocket science in Gordonville).

When there was no response – at all – I took a closer look to see if it registered with a pooch who comprehends English at a high school level.

Turns out, I wasn’t speaking to Rex.

I was promising to walk a black sweatshirt that I easily mistook for Rex, who is well-known for his inertia (also at a high school level).

The humor was not lost, and my first thought was that my Uncle Phil, a longtime veterinarian who loved a good joke almost as much as he did telling one, would particularly enjoy hearing that I briefly got my lazy black dog confused with a sweatshirt of the same color.

The only issue was that I could not tell Uncle Phil about it.

That morning, I was getting dressed for his funeral.

Uncle Phil had died a few days earlier at the age of 95.

While more reason to celebrate a life well-lived than to mourn, the world was left a lesser place unless we accept the challenge to live life the way Uncle Phil did.

I have learned in 54 years on the planet that people are not perfect, and that we all have to accept their good qualities with the not-so-good.

But, in my uncle’s case, I’m reminded of the old documentary-style television show, “In Search Of,” narrated by Leonard “Mr. Spock” Nimoy.

In this episode, the goal would be to search for Uncle Phil’s missing downside.

He was a rare jack of many trades (square dancing, ping-pong, playing bridge, golfing) who mastered them all with sheer joy and zero cockiness.

Even at his funeral service, I learned new things about a man I had known my whole life.

Example: While I knew he was a virtuoso piano player, I had no idea he plied his classically-trained chops in the famed Catskill Mountains before settling down with my late Aunt Miriam (my father’s sister) and becoming the Dr. Doolittle of South Jersey.

What I remember from my youth was that a family gathering wasn’t officially a party until Uncle Phil arrived, armed with new jokes and stories to tell.

He was always at the piano well in time to play “Happy Birthday” for whichever niece or nephew was being feted.

And there he would stay — save maybe a break to smoke his pipe — playing the role of the character depicted in Billy Joel’s “Piano Man.”

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Ironically, Joel also wrote a song called “Only The Good Die Young,” and there is no denying the truth behind the sentiment.

Uncle Phil lost a child — my cousin, Francine — at age 35 to Scleroderma. He kept vigil at her bedside and maintained a brave face for her sake.

It was not the first time he went through the drill.

He never left the side of his older child, Alan, who only narrowly survived a hit-and-run accident while riding a bike while in college.

With Francine, there would be no miracle. Her passing seemed surreal.

I remember entering the same Cherry Hill funeral home where his recent service was held, and being greeted by the overpowering sounds of wailing from Uncle Phil.

He was rightfully inconsolable the day Francine was laid to rest, but he somehow found light in the darkness and eventually reclaimed the same joys in life.

We are talking about someone who attended college – and vet school – at the forerunner of Auburn University in Alabama, a place where a Jewish kid with a thick Brooklyn accent would have trouble today, let alone in those days of black-and-white photos and mind sets.

But, knowing Uncle Phil, whose infectious laughter even oozed Brooklyn, you just know it was likely never an issue.

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In my flood of all positive memories, I go back to the first Thanksgiving we hosted at our new – and current – house in 2003.

We were so proud – and nervous.

I invited an old summer camp friend I hadn’t seen in about 20 years to stop by for a bit. It was Uncle Phil, more than anyone else, who went out of his way to make this old friend feel so welcome that he stayed for hours instead of minutes.

When Aunt Miriam passed away, Uncle Phil fulfilled her prophecy of getting a girlfriend.

He didn’t detach from Aunt Miriam’s side of the family, though. He just brought his companion, Marilyn, to events and carried on as our piano man until his fingers finally betrayed him.

Uncle Phil living to 95 was not by accident. While his kidney functioning got to the point where he needed dialysis three times a week, his spirit was not broken.

He made the most of it, planning out which classic music he was going to play through his iPad during dialysis.

This week’s funeral was more than just a tribute to someone who defied the axiom about only the good dying young.

The good vibrations came easier to Uncle Phil, I believe, because he saw the good in himself.

And there was plenty of it to see.

At the funeral, we were all charged with the task of keeping his memory alive by doing as he would have done.

Be the first to make a stranger feel welcome, conquer your own insecurities enough that you don’t project them onto others, and enjoy the complexities of simple pleasures.

For a sourpuss such as myself, it won’t be easy. But, I’m going to give it a whirl.

I challenge a lot of you, who surely know someone like Uncle Phil within your own personal orbit, to do the same.

The world will be a better place.

This column appeared in The Times Herald on June 2, 2019

Lyme: A Sick Sign of the Times

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By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — Ailments?

You name them, I have — or had — them.

Whenever I’m asked to go over my list of daily medications, it takes longer than eating soup with a fork.

I’m a medical dictionary with legs.

As much as I vowed not to be my father’s son, well, I’m my father’s son.

Migraines? Check. High blood pressure? Check. Diabetes? Check? Seasonal allergies? Check?

Bad ticker? So far, so good (digits crossed).

Although I tend to dodge the flu bullet, bronchitis and strep throat know my name as if I was Norm walking into Cheers to add another brew to his tab.

I wouldn’t say I’m sickly, but I have been sick.

And never as sick as I was during the weekend of July 4, 2014.

That’s when I was stricken with Lyme disease.

It happened on a schlep through the torturous Long Island Expressway (LIE), which I call the “Big Lie” because it should not have the word expressway in the title, just to visit Cape May 2.0 – Mystic, Conn.

Mystic was nice enough, I guess (eye roll), but it sits perilously close to a town called Old Lyme, Conn. We were there, in the birthplace of Lyme disease, for a visit to one of those beaches that isn’t really a beach and I had the temerity to sit on a bench in the shade and listen to some tunes.

A few days later, we were in the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center and I was shivering as if the joint was a meat locker. I had to sit outside, in the warmest spot I could find, for some cold comfort.

The ride home was just as bad. It was clear I was not well. I remember being in a Wawa outside of Chalfont, again shivering and feeling so close and yet so far from our front door and my own bed.

Because we have a family tradition of not knowing how to use any of our 17 “easy-to-use” thermometers, we were only guessing at the level of my fever.

It wasn’t until I checked out an irksome rash on my hip that it all made sense. I Googled “Lyme disease” – birthplace Old Lyme, Conn., where 7 in 10 ticks carry the disease – and the rash was a match to the traditional bull’s eye that deer ticks leave on the hide of their victims.

Because of the holiday weekend, there was no way I could wait to see my family doctor (he would have probably just told me to lose weight anyway, since that’s his solution to everything), so we spent Independence Day in the ER.

The doctors and nurses — and assorted others — were at-first dubious of my self-diagnosis but were quickly made believers.

The problem, I was even more ill than I thought. Too ill to even treat until they stabilized my vital signs with an IV drip and began chipping away at my 103.5 fever.

I left a few hours later as a “lucky one.” Lyme disease is not something you want to miss, and it was caught early. My fever went from a 103-101 seesaw to a 101-99 seesaw and then normalized by the end of the week.

But the rest of the month of July was, pretty much, one long nap. I’m not just talking my typical middle-aged lazy guy naps (I’m an Olympic Nap medalist going back to the 1988 Games).

These were more like daily comas.

While it would be a stretch to say I had any serious lasting effects, I can also say I was never quite the same.

And to think it was all caused by miniscule blood-sucking insect that, to my mind, serves no earthly purpose.

I wouldn’t wish Lyme disease on my worst enemy — well, maybe a Dallas Cowboys fan from Philadelphia (I’ll let you slide if you are from Texas) — and it’s encouraging that there is awareness and measures to take when being outdoors (my solution is to avoid the woods altogether, but I know some of you don’t understand the wonder of a temperature-controlled environment).

But here is the bitter reality, and all the hiding inside can’t get us around it: Lyme disease is only going to rise as one of the many signs of climate change.

LymeDisease.org issued the ominous results of a new study by Carnegie Mellon University and the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science, which looked at the relationship between climatic variables and the occurrence of Lyme disease in 15 U.S. states and predicted — not warned, but predicted — an approximate 20 percent increase in Lyme disease by mid-century, with 95 percent of the cases in the Northeast and Upper Midwest.

“Tick-borne diseases are an important public health concern and the incidence of these infections is increasing in the United States and worldwide,” said Igor Dumic, researcher at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science and the Mayo Clinic Health System, who led the study. “Lyme disease is a classic example of the link between environmental factors and the occurrence and spread of disease.”

Those who refuse to acknowledge that climate change does not exist, don’t realize that it already affects them in ways they can’t fathom, and it may not become more real until their house burns up in a California wildfire or if a tick does what it did to me — crawls up and bites them on the butt.

The aforementioned study, which appeared in the Canadian Journal of Infectious Diseases and Microbiology, is enough for me to keep my eyes glued wide open.

From 1991 to the present, it has been raining Lyme ticks. From then until the present, cases after have risen from 10,000 to 28,000 per year the last five years, and I was caught without an umbrella in the place for which the scourge is named.

The fact that I caught my bout with Lyme early enough to avoid permanent damage was worth all those lottery tickets that never net me more than enough to buy more.

I know what it’s like not to be well, generally. Specifically, I know what it’s like to have Lyme disease.

Sadly, with no one immune to the environment, more of us are in line waiting to have our numbers called.

This column originally ran in The Times Herald on Dec. 9.

Finland Is A Fine Land

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By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — I’m all for challenging myself and going after that Holy Grail.

But, sometimes, you just have to grab the low-hanging fruit and gorge upon it.

Such was the case a few days – and 1,606 news cycles — ago when your president (#notmypresident) decided to pull the toilet paper off his shoe and visit the devastation caused by wildfires in his least favorite state, California, for a photo op of feigned caring.

But it was just more bungle in the jungle for your president (I’m going to act like an 8-year-old on this name thing for as long as he does on his Twitter feed) tried to do two things that are out his wheelhouse: He tried sounding both empathetic (an impossible task for a sociopath), and intelligent.

Pres. Bone Spurs (as so dubbed by presidential candidate Richard Ojeda) pulled Finland out of his baseball cap, citing it as a shining example of wildfire management because of something to do with leaves – raking too much, not enough, whatever.

And Mr. Science attributed the source of this knowledge to Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto.

The response from Finland was quick.

Amid a flurry of #RakeAmericaGreatAgain hashtags – along with some hilarious pictures — from the small Nordic beacon of light that plays some big-time ice hockey, Niinisto made no mention of “raking” anything in a brief generic conversation on the topic.

Somebody is fibbing, and I don’t need to wait on the fact-checkers to know who.

Without getting too in depth here, let’s just say that Finland and the US, especially California, are vastly different climates.

You may as well compare Hawaii and the North Pole, or Earth and Vulcan.

Chalk it up to yet another in an assembly line of ignorant statements, any of which would have had White Nationalists surrounding the White House if said by Barrack Obama.

But since Pres. Bone Spurs went there, comparing the U.S. to Finland, let’s stay there.

Please.

This is low-hanging fruit at its sweetest (well, maybe second to the first daughter using private e-mails, Hillary-style).

If Pres. Bone Spurs wants to rip pages out of the Finnish playbook, instead of that of Vladimir Putin and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, consider the following as we move from gibberish about Finland’s raking acumen to its actual world rankings, which include No. 7 in Quality of Life Index (U.S. News & World Report) as compared to No. 17 for us in U.S.

Here is a good one, considering the constant labeling of the free press as the “enemy of the people.” Finland is currently No. 4 in the world (Reporters Without Borders’ Worldwide Freedom of the Press Index). This means the Finns are doing the First Amendment thing better than we are, as the same index has the US ranked a pathetic 45th (behind the likes of Jamaica, Uruguay, Trinidad and Tobego and Taiwan).

What’s next? Countries beating us at our games, like baseball and basketball? Oh, wait, never mind.

Had enough? No? Good. In the immortal words of Clubber Lang in Rocky III (one movie before the series jumped the shark), “I got a lotta more.”

Here we go. Finland has these notches in its belt:

-Best environmental performance (Environmental Performance Index) and cleanest environment (World Health Organization).

-Most Technologically advanced (UN’s Technology Achievement Index). Funny how that works, while not selling their souls in terms of being environmentally conscious.

-Most Olympic medals per capita (population is only 5.5 million, and yet they whip our butts).

If you recall the mumbo jumbo from the campaign season, Pres. Bone Spurs talked a lot about “law and order.” Guess he meant the TV show.

So far, we have averaged about a mass shooting per game since his reign of error began.

Finland? Thanks for asking.

Consider the following:

-Finland is the safest country in the world (Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report) and ranks a second in police and internal security (World Internal Security and Police Index).

Pres. Bone Spurs might be enlightened to learn that Finland is second to only Denmark in free and most reliable elections (Electoral Integrity Project of the University of Sydney and our own Harvard), and has the third least corruption in the world (Corruption Perceptions Index).

And before you start with the typical angry white male responses of “if you like Finland so much, go move there, you Commie-Pinko,” consider that one of Finland’s most powerful political parties is the Democratic Socialist party.

What does that type of Bernie Sanders governance do to the economy?

Well, Finland, with the soundest banks in the world (Global Competiveness Report), has one of the best performing economies in the EU.

And yet, it blows us away more than the Saints did to the Eagles in terms of health and wellness rankings across the board.

Publicly funded, with universal healthcare available to all, Finland ranks in the top five in the world in satisfaction.

So, why don’t I move there? Aside from not enough Bruce Springsteen on the radio (or Taylor Swift for Sofia) and “real” football on TV (assuming the Eagles ever play “real football” again), Finland leads the world in milk and coffee consumption (my sensitive liberal system can’t handle either).

Besides, it’s not a question of loving it or leaving it, is it?

I don’t want to move to New Orleans just because the Eagles got destroyed, do I?

In order to be heartbroken by something, you have to love it. I love my country, which is why I’m so heartbroken by it right now.

As for those leaves, Pres. Bone Spurs, I have an idea. There are some Honduran refugees who would be willing to rake them – probably while the embers are still burning — in exchange for asylum.

I’m sure Finland would approve.

This column first appeared in The Times Herald

Needed: Name For November

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By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — October is now in the books. We’ve carved our pumpkins, gone trick-or-treating, raked our leaves (well, not me) and ushered in the start of the NHL and NBA seasons.

Most importantly, we’ve seen enough pink to make us think long and hard about the reason: Breast Cancer Awareness.

While we shouldn’t forget that men can conceivably get breast cancer, 99 percent of cases are women.

That’s our wives, our mothers, our daughters, our sisters, our dearest of friends.

That could be why the most macho of men let down their guard and wear pink shirts, ties, caps, etc.

While breast cancer owns October, in terms of awareness, there are other worthy causes — dental hygiene, disability employment, domestic violence and others – that often fly too far under the radar.

Once the calendar flips to November, the same holds true, but there is no clear-cut dominant cause.

Let us look at a few (alphabetically) – and exclude the lesser serious ones (National Georgia Peach Month, National Novel Writing Month, National Pepper Month, National Vegan Month) – that claim November to raise awareness:

Aviation Month: Yawn! Literally, since the glorified station wagons with wings often jar me from my afternoon naps as they fly into nearby Wing’s Field, I’m sleep deprived. Wake me up when they invent something that can reach outer space (Star Trek had us there already). I’ve seen enough Wright Bros. replicas in museums to last a lifetime.

Good Nutrition Month: When every corner has a pizza place or a fast-food burger joint, it’s hard to resist the temptation to less than healthy. Still, a little awareness can go a long way. Example: The U.S. ranks 31st in life expectancy, according to the World Health Organization, at right around 79 years old — after ranking at, or near, the top in the 1960s. There are a lot of contributing factors, such as the air we breathe and the stress we put ourselves under, but eating right isn’t a bad place to start. Tough to do it all the time, every time, but I try when I can to go with the healthier choice without being ridiculous – or annoying — about it.

Hunger Awareness Month: In what is supposed to be the wealthiest country in the world, too many people either go hungry or lack access to healthy food. It is called “Food Insecurity,” and USDA reports that 21 percent of households with children deal with what is defined as “lack of access to food” at all time for all family members. While hard statistics weren’t kept during the Great Depression, this is in the same ballpark.

National AIDS Awareness Month: AIDS has morphed into more of a chronic disease than a death sentence, and cases have dropped 8 percent between 2010 and 2015, according to HIV.gov. Nevertheless, an estimated 1.1 Americans have AIDS and, more staggering, 1 in 7 are unaware. It is also more prevalent in certain regions, such as southern states (38 percent).

National American Indian Heritage Month: The ancestors of those who were here long before the Vikings or Christopher Columbus, prefer to be called Native Americans, Indigenous Peoples of the Americas or First Nation. They deserve that much, should a month honoring their heritage take off. The Trail of Tears has yet to dry, but there are rays of hope. On Tuesday, Sharice Davids of Kansas and Debra Haaland of South Dakota became the first two Native American women elected to Congress.

National Diabetes Awareness Month: I may be biased, since I am one of the growing number of Americans (1.5 million per year) with this “pre-existing condition.” When I was borderline, doctor’s orders were diet and exercise. Yeah and right. What deserves more attention is the way the American Medical Association has chosen to define what is or is not diabetes. What was borderline 5-10 years ago, is considered diabetic now. While I’m also happy to report that my own numbers are, more or less, more “normal” than when I was diagnosed, I will be forever branded as a type 2 diabetic. I don’t want to be saying there is a conspiracy going on with the drug and insurance industries to keep people labeled for their own ends, but it is worth discussing around your own sugar-free dinner table. Make no mistake, awareness is gargantuan. The American Diabetes Association estimates that of the 30.4 million Americans (9.4 percent) with diabetes, another 7.2 million are undiagnosed.

National Peanut Butter Lover’s Month: This one hits close to home. My daughter Sofia has a peanut butter allergy and, for whatever reason, she is far from alone in her generation. Studies reveal a 21 percent increase since 2010, with 2.5 percent of all children having a peanut allergy (accounting for more than half of food allergies in kids). This is almost like having a National Tobacco Lover’s Month, is it not?

National Red Ribbon Month (anti-drunk driving): I’m not a big fan of the word great, but great work has been done in this area the last few decades. Designated drivers, DUI checkpoints, bartenders cutting people off and calling a cab, etc. Attention seriously needs to either shifted to, and somehow be connected with, the scourge of distracted driving (estimated 3,200 fatal car wrecks a year, according to DMV.org).

Summary: While there is no overriding cause (i.e. Breast Cancer in October), take time to consider many of the above (even when a single-engine plane is waking you up from your nap). There are a lot of interconnecting parts in the area of food and nutrition. Those going hungry, or who are not properly nourished, don’t eat as well and put themselves more at risk for diabetes (the National Institutes of Health reports an increase of 1.8 in type 1 diabetes and 4.8 in type 2, which is less genetic and more the result of eating unhealthy and lack of exercise). Then again, while there are health benefits to peanut butter, let’s work to make school cafeterias peanut-free zones.

This column originally appeared in The Times Herald on Nov. 11, 2018.