“Bonnie! I’m not producing!”

December 21 – Wednesday

The primary costs in the fight against HCV are the cost of treatment and the cost of lost productivity due to the debilitating side effects of the treatment. The Hepatitis C virus which affects nearly four million Americans is often referred to as the Baby Boomer’s disease. Researchers note the increase in discovered infections correlates with the age bubble of those born between 1946 and 1964.

It is estimated that 78% of those infected are not aware they have the virus. The few symptoms and the often slow-progressing related diseases caused by HCV can go undetected for years. While the number of new infections is declining due to blood screening developed in 1989, the Baby Boomer generation is reporting increased discovery of the virus.

Those being treated are usually in their highest economic productive years and thus the costs of lost productivity is added to the increasing costs of treatment. With 78% undiagnosed it is likely the huge cost of future treatments will eventually fall on the Medicare program due to the aging Baby Boomers. The estimated hundreds of billions of additional annual costs for treatment will further challenge the government program.

While these are the two primary costs I would suggest there’s a third productivity cost but this one doesn’t carry a dollar sign. It’s no secret the side effects of the interferon based treatments are very limiting and the subsequent loss of personal productivity over the extended treatment period also has an effect on the patient. Here’s a story on personal productivity.

It’s the start of Week Four with 42 to go.

The day started with momentum. One reason may be it’s the furthest day from the last interferon shot. After a good night’s sleep I was up at 7:30 for a bowl of Cream of Wheat – always a good sign.

One might expect after three weeks of treatment some predictable performance patterns would emerge. Isn’t it logical to expect if l rise at this hour I will feel a certain way until this time when such and such takes over. The pills and shots are regulated by times so why not the side effects? But this Wednesday again displayed the unpredictable nature of the medicine. There was a bit more energy than usual. So my first thought . . . I must get to the office!

I dressed casual and headed for town. Leigh, my business partner, was surprised to see me and glad for the company in the normally two person office. She’s been doing marvelous work coordinating contacts between clients and Home Office personnel who are dealing with issues in my absence. We got caught up on the news and I tended to a few papers and called a favorite client in Massachusetts.  I was getting stuff done.

As I spoke with the client, however, I noticed less strength in my voice. As we closed our conversation, the client also noticing a change, wished me well for the months ahead. I can tell I’m only going to be good for one call today. I finished up some online administrative matters while I gradually slumped towards the desk which was looking more and more like a recliner. Now I’m wondering if I can drive myself home. Leigh shooed me out and at the door I looked back wondering when I will return to that chair again. I didn’t accomplish anything significant today other than to accomplish something.

This treatment pace is an adjustment. I’ve never been good at relaxing – at taking it easy.  It’s not that I’m a work-a-holic and have to be at the office but I value my free time for other pursuits. I’ve always felt a desire to be creating, or processing, or assembling or developing. Even on vacation I want to be seeing, exploring, traversing or learning. I’ve never been drawn to a beach vacation . . . let’s see, you got the sand, the waves and the birds – what time is it now? Why this need to be doing? Maybe there’s a clue to be found in taking a look back.

Curt, Craig, Mom and Jana

When I was a kid, I looked forward with great anticipation to summer camping trips. Our family would join two other large families and all together we’d head to down to Kentucky Lake State Park or to Shakamak State Park in southern Indiana. Mom would coordinate the equipment logistics like NASA preparing for a space launch. There was the gear, the food, the clothing – enough for five or six days of tent camping with six, count ’em, six children. I would question if the same feat could even be accomplished today without the modern aids of prepackaged foods and specialized equipment. She worked miracles of creativity on a shoestring budget.

The older children packed their own suitcases which were a matched set of painted sturdy beer boxes which had been carefully procured and secreted into the house

Brentlingers, Tidballs, and Strahls camping

so as not to endorse the product or its consumption. These uniform crates would easily pack into the Apache pop-up camper designed to sleep four comfortably out of a family of eight.

On the afternoon of departure day we kids played with nervous anticipation for the moment Dad would rush home from work at the college, hitch up the trailer to the eight passenger little Ford Fairlane wagon and dash out of town. In one fluid motion we were loaded and moving down the highway.

I can remember a time when Dad set up the Apache pop-up still wearing his tie from work that day. It usually took three days for him to get out of college mode and into camping. He enjoyed evening visits with the other adults but it wasn’t until day three he was ready to take a hike or play some rough house games with the kids. He just couldn’t unwind from the office. And while he wasn’t in a commissioned position where his productivity was needed to produce income he simply had to be doing something for the greater good. His focus was always on our well-being but that of course was directly tied to the work. His demeanor was summed up one camping trip when on the afternoon of Day 2, he turned to Mom and said with animated frustration, “BONNIE!, I’m not producing!” It’s been the inside joke of our family for years.

One of the best trips for him had to be the one where just he and I left the group and went for a rowboat ride on Shakamak Lake. While teaching me some rowing techniques (no doubt learned during his Canadian Navy days) we came across a sunken rowboat floating a foot under water. After towing it ashore and making sure no one had reported it lost or stolen we hauled the damaged but repairable boat home on top of the Apache. He was money ahead for the trip. It was like golfing and ending the day with more found golf balls than when you started. Regardless of the cost of the round or your score you just felt ahead for the day. It was probably the best camping trip he ever had as it produced a net gain.

Dad has learned to relax better with subsequent trips (he’s at his best on family cruises) but the need for accomplishment is a habit that dies slowly. He’s always pursuing a witness for our Lord, promoting the college or comparing his family with any other grandfather who will stop for a conversation on the Lido Deck.

I recall when the two of us traveled to England on one of our genealogy trips. We landed at Heathrow got our bags and took the train downtown. At the station he made a bee line for the taxi stand. “Dad,” I called to him, “I just want you to know that since you’re retired now we’re going to take this at your pace . . . but please slow it down a step, will ya?”  Together, we accomplished a lot that trip.

These stories reflect the attribute of producing simply in return for the wondrous gift of life. I must share that same tendency and thus during this time of treatment see one of the unlisted side effects of the medicine to be the loss of ability to “produce” those things that are personally enriching.

It’s easy to tickle the keyboard while reclining and sense a bit of accomplishment in writing these stories but frustrating to have other usual functions just out of reach. I hope that eventually patterns will settle in where I can pace myself to pursue other interests in photography, computing, and writing.  I’m not complaining – just reporting in.  I’m grateful for the promise of wholeness to come.

But . . . “Sue!, I’m not producing!”

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3 thoughts on ““Bonnie! I’m not producing!”

  1. Craig, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this blog!! It takes me back to Greenville days and gave me some good laughs. I applaud you in recording your thoughts during this time. I get no sense of you complaining. I have just found your blog site and have been catching up.

  2. What great stories! I laughed about the “beer boxes” because I remember them quite well too on the vacations we took to the Ozarks every year. Unlike your experience however, Anheuser Busch was prominently displayed because my father worked for the company.

    I sense your frustration and my heart goes out to you and Sue. I am reminded of that old 60’s song—“It’s my party and I can cry if I want to!” And that’s probably what I would do in your shoes, have myself a good old pity party. But I love your attitude and you inspire me with it. So you can say that you are producing, if not the way you had hoped and wanted but producing nonetheless.

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