Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Asian Eyes' USA - Good Ol' Sam

I went to school in USA back in the early nineties. One morning in mid-October, out of the blue, Sam, my main fish supplier, called me to inform that he cannot go fishing anymore. He mumbled something incoherently in his Southern black drawl about his bad leg. He sounded very down but after much coaxing he mentioned that he was in great pain, could not walk and his wife did not know how to drive. I got his house address and did the 20-minute drive to his home in 10 minutes flat. Luckily no trooper was around that day. His house was a rundown shack at the end of a cul-de-sac. Betty, his wife opened the door. A black lady, with unkempt grey hair that she looked beyond her age. She greeted me and showed me the way. Sam was on the bed, a hand pressing on his left leg, grimacing with pain. He nodded and blurted out he did not expected me to show up so fast. I did not say anything, just nodded my head. Betty and I half carried half dragged him to the rear seat of my car. I sped off with Betty in the front passenger seat.
Mobile City Hospital
At City Hospital an orderly rushed a wheelchair to move Sam to doctor’s waiting area while Betty did the registration. Moment later she came back with a nurse and Sam was pushed to a doctor’s room. I did some pacing up and down outside the room. It was half an hour later before they emerged. Betty eyes were wet while Sam just sat at the wheelchair emotionless. The nurse pushed Sam down the corridor while Betty and I followed them. At the ward Sam was put on drip and some painkiller. It took a while before I were able to get doctor’s assessment on Sam. As I tried to inquire about Sam's condition, I saw this funny look on the doctor's face. An Asian and a black family! To cut the chase, I told the doctor that I was an international student and Sam was my foster dad during my stay in USA. The doctor's suspicion faded and he said he suspected gout but would need to do some test, X-ray and observation. Betty was not sure what gout was and that was why she was so sad. I was clueless as well then as I mistook it with goiter (swelling of the neck symptom). Boy, I was really off tangent.
That night before my class started, I had a chance to look up gout in the library. I found out that gout is a kind of arthritis that occurs when uric acid builds up in blood and causes joint inflammation. It is a hereditary disease and some 1/3 of all adults had it, some chronic some mild. It is cause by certain lack of an enzyme in our body that converts protein to uric acid to amino acid, the building block for muscles. The lack of this enzyme means protein is convert to uric acid only, hence a buildup of uric acid level in our body. When the uric acid level in is very high, it started to crystallize. Its crystal will starts to deposit on area with prior injury, especially on the joints, resulting to the crystal pushing against the nerve and caused inflammatory pain and redness. When it happens the joints are on 'fever'. Gout impact males more than females and it is elevated by the compound 'purine', commonly found in high protein food intake like shellfish, animal internal organs and nuts. Gout is also known as 'rich man disease', a notion that rich man can affords high protein meal. Other known contributors to gout are beer, cabbage and tomato. If cannot find any reason for the acute gout attack, just blame it on stress. However the good news is gout itself is not live threatening but will hampers one movement. Hmmm, in my mind that explained why Sam walked with a strange gait. Additionally, little that I would have known, I myself was also diagnosed to be one a couple of years later. 
Gout cause great pain on Sam's leg 
The next morning I bought some grapes and oranges for Sam. When I arrived, neither Betty nor Sam was at the ward. I put down the fruits and asked a passing nurse. I was told they may be at the hospital compound. I make my way there and beside a large tree, Betty and Sam were chatting happily. As I approached, they broke away from their little chat and greeted me. I have not seen Sam smile since yesterday, a sure sign he was getting better. We exchanged pleasantry and talked about fishing. Betty did her knitting and occasionally joined us in our conversation. A nurse approached us to push Sam back to his ward.” It is time for another test, the 3rd one since yesterday” said Betty. At the ward I washed some grapes and gave some to Betty who ate them silently. Sam plopped a few into his mouth and reached out for more. The nurse came and drew some blood from Sam and left. I patted on Sam’s leg and asked if he felt any pain. After an hour I bid goodbye and make my exit.
Sam stayed at the ward for 3 days. I did not send Zak any shipment that week. On the third day when I showed up, Betty was by the hospital door waiting for me with good news. “Doctor said Sam can be discharged today. The inflammation on Sam’s leg had subsided and he can now walk with aide of crutches” she said in one breath. “But he will need to be on medication for long period and have to stay away from beer and seafood”, she continued. I just nodded my head. Luckily Sam was a Vietnam War veteran, so he got free medical benefits. After checkout, I drove them home. I pressed a $50 note into Betty’s hand before bidding them goodbye. This simple gesture actually pay back itself many folds in subsequent months. 
In my stay in USA, I do not know why my imagination runs wild and I dream a lot. I dreamed of Sam and Betty dancing waltz foxtrot that night! 

Location: Mobile City Hospital, 900-950 St. Anthony Street, Mobile, Alabama 36603, USA.
Coordinates: 30°41′28.37″N 88°3′20.03″W

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