Sunday 29 April 2018

The Amazing Exploding Medjool Date!

     After fifty-five years of medical practice I thought I had seen everything. That was until I heard the amazing and almost unbelievable story of the exploding Medjool Date.
     The phone rang yesterday afternoon, it was my daughter. We talk most days, but yesterday she sounded a little anxious.
      "I have a really strange story to tell you Dad ," she said, "You won't believe it!"
"Try me,"I said.
     "I was eating some delicious dates that I had bought at Costco when all of a sudden, as I go bit into one, it exploded in my mouth!"
     "It exploded in my mouth and a huge cloud of what looked like black smoke came out of my mouth." she said. "For a moment I actually thought there was a fire in the condo".
     "Are you okay?" I asked.
    " I'm fine", she laughed, "though I'm still spitting up some black stuff."
I didn't find that quite so funny. I knew she would follow up on this. She's a nurse.
     "What's in the literature?" I asked.
I know my daughter. Mr. Google is a close friend of hers. If
there was information about this on the net, she would know about it before the professors of infectious diseases!
     "Better let Costco know," I said, not knowing anything about this weird phenomenon , "better let your Family Doc document this too."
     "Oh, in case there are any long term consequences?" she asked.

     "No, to get a refund," I laughedBut It was too late to deny my concern.
     "Yes, I will have to search the literature." I answered truthfully.. After all, what do I know?
     Well, I did search the literature.and lo and behold, I found all sorts of reference to occurrences of this phenomenon. Just ask Mr. Google and you'll get more than you bargained for! It appears that dates have a definite predilection for the climate they were born in. They like it hot and dry and just a small amount of moisture predisposes them to fungal infection. The incident described above is due to an infection with the fungus Aspergillus Niger which causes a disease called Black Mould on certain fruits and vegetables and is a common contaminant of foods. It rarely causes disease in humans unless they are immunocompromised or have certain other lung diseases, though I do remember seeing a few ear infections caused by it. The dramatic manner in which it presented itself as described here and elsewhere is alarming and pictures of the rotting core of the date compounds the horror the victims experience, despite reassurances of the benign outcome of the contact.
     I will be dissecting any dates I eat in the future to avoid the Black Mould!!

Wednesday 25 April 2018

The Double Martini!

The Double Martini.
   When the last of my delicate martini glasses fragmented from stress fractures from excessive use since 1999, as my wife had often warned me it  might,( especially if I remained too lazy to wash them by hand) and insisted in putting them into the dishwasher, I had an acute anxiety attack.  Many folks think that an ordinary drinking glass will do equally well, but I  know otherwise.  The geometric design of that humble  and inexpensive glass gives it a unique elegance that is greatly enhanced by the two plump oval olives that gently traverse the inverted triangle.
   As I have often said to my closest and dearest, if God had not meant man to be happy he would never have invented the martini.  I think it promotes both health and happiness and I feel I have contributed to my chosen profession in some small way by, if not inventing, at least strongly promulgating the double martini.  So here I am at the age of 82 wondering whether it would be too bold, to recommend the TRIPLE!  I know of  course, there would be great danger in making such a recommendation to the dull and unsophisticated, but that is no reason that the intrepid and audacious among us should be deprived of such savoir- faire.
   I started my search for some new triangular glasses a few weeks ago and soon realized that there were two predominant models available.  The elegant cut glass expensive model, very fine thin glass, that give a delightful reverberating musical 'ping' when you flick it correctly.  (Long ago a friend of mine gave me one of these for a birthday present and I broke it in  the first week.  Mind you, in those days I didn't hold my liquor as well as I do now.) The real problem with this model is that it is rather delicate and requires hand washing, because it is too delicate to withstand the trauma of the dishwasher.   As I have no butler and would have to do the washing myself, I decided to forgo the aesthetics and settle for the working man's martini glass.   I had bought a few many years ago, in the Dollar Store and so I decided that was where I would start my search.  To my horror, I found that no Dollar Store that I visited had a martini glass, despite the fact that I was prepared to spend considerably more than a dollar for the glass.  Indeed, I would have been prepared to quintuple that amount without batting an eyelid!!   The solution to the problem was surprisingly simple, though I would never have thought of it in a month of Sundays! 
   My lovely bride had decided that we should donate some of our treasures to the 'Thrift Store', a chain of non-profit charitable stores who's profits are donated to worthy charities.  We visited the local one and after a moment we recognized that all the well made, delightful products of the craftsmanship of our youth was to be found in such stores.  Waterford cut glass, Royal Doulton China.   All the treasures of our parents and grandparents for sale for a pittance.  No one wants Lladro,Waterford, Bone china, silver candlesticks, they require too much care.   After all, these days people who are too busy  to look after their own children.  
So, as I browsed around, I shouldn't have been too surprised to find Martini glasses of very reasonable quality in two differed sizes, the large ones $2 and the smaller size $1.  I decided to splurge and take one of each size.
   As I checked out, the cashier said, "$2 please".
   "No," I said, "It's $3".
   "The big glasses are on sale, they are reduced to $1.  No one seems to want the big ones."
   "I do," I said as I handed over my $2.

Saturday 21 April 2018

Medical musings.

  After finding it impossible to shake the blog addiction, I decided to use this site as a note pad to incubate my new blog which will be commencing in a few months.   Most of the scribbles here will have little to do with Medicalmanes, but feel free to peep in and see what's cooking, if you so desire.  For the present this is just the incubator for whatever will ultimately evolve and to keep me scribbling.

An amusing incident (but not for my sister!).
    A couple of weeks ago, my sister was at a community affair in the province where I spent the large part of my professional life practicing.  She was approached by a neurosurgeon who had been a colleague and something of a friend years ago.
   "Sorry to hear of Stan's passing away," he said .
   My poor sister almost passed away.  As she related the story, after the panic attack subsided and she realized I could hardly have passed on without her having heard about it, she informed him that I was alive and well.  He was somewhat embarrassed to hear this!
   What had transpired was this.  This man had worked with a colleague and me in putting together a neurosciences program for Family Medicine residents and we had worked together as a threesome for a considerable period of time.  Unfortunately, the other Family Doc, Mike Spooner had recently passed away and the neurosurgeon had thought it was me.
    I instructed my sister that the next time she saw this  man she was to inform  him, in the  immortal words of Mark Twain, "rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated!".

    I recently had an echocardiogram (an ultrasound of the heart).  The echocardiography technician was a middle-aged Chinese gentleman and it was soon  apparent in the course of our conversation that he was very knowledgeable regarding cardiology and medicine in general.   I commented on this and he replied, "I was a specialist in cardiology in China, but couldn't get a license to practice in Canada."
   "Surely," said I,"you could have studied and passed your specialty exams in Canada?"
"I did," he said, "but while I was trying to get a residency position in Cardiology, a research fellowship came up in the States and I made the mistake of taking it.  It turned out to last for a few years and  when I came back to Canada, I was told there was no way I could  get a residency spot although I had passed the Fellowship exams.  I was eligible for  such a spot before I  went to the U.S. but I  was told the situation had changed and I was  no longer eligible.  I was able to get licensed as a electrocardiography technician and have been doing that ever since.   I still think about going back to China and practicing cardiology."
   I have had some experience in organizing health care in rural  Saskatchewan.   There are places in  Canada where they would sell their souls to have the services of a cardiologist, so if this man's qualifications are in order, it is difficult to understand why there isn't a position available for him.
But of course it facilitates the rationing of  health care by just not having the service available.