That’s Sweet

I don’t really have anything against aspartame. Mind you, if I had children, I probably wouldn’t allow them to drink diet soft-drinks with, or without aspartame unless they were diabetic, and even then in moderation. I’d also want my children to only drink soft-drinks in moderation in any case. (That goes for any artificially sweetened food, even foods sweetened with Stevia or agave syrup.)

English: Diet Coke Products

English: Diet Coke Products (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I think “moderation” goes a long way to promoting a healthy life.

However I am one of those small percentage that has a severe reaction to aspartame. It causes a magnitude of increase in my depression to start with, that lasts for days after I have even a half serving of diet pop. It also causes severe headaches that last a day or so as well. More disturbingly, it causes me to get chest pains and for a short while after I would drink a diet pop, causes me to act slightly intoxicated.

Space-filling model of the aspartame molecule,...

Space-filling model of the aspartame molecule, an artificial sweetener. This image shows the zwitterionic form. Colour code (click to show) : Black: Carbon, C : White: Hydrogen, H : Red: Oxygen, O : Blue: Nitrogen, N (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I stopped using the aspartame sweetened products for perhaps 10 years and then when I had chewed on some aspartame sweetened gum, discovered a slightly scarier effect, it caused me to start getting confused.

I would actually be confused as to where I was! That was with just a single piece of chewing gum.

Early on when I first stopped using products with aspartame in them, I discovered that if I were to have unknowingly have a product with aspartame in it, that I would get the effects whether I knew I had aspartame or not. (It was a fruit punch at a public gallery display where someone decided to use diet ginger-ale instead of regular. I couldn’t taste the aspartame sort of berry flavour with the other components of the punch.)

English: Pepsi Cola and Diet Pepsi soda delivery

English: Pepsi Cola and Diet Pepsi soda delivery (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anyway, I don’t think most people get such an effect, or at least anywhere near the strength of the effect I get from it.

I was saddened by all the major soft-drinks switching to aspartame as I had found that a cola would really decrease the severity, duration, and frequency of my migraines. Neither coffee nor tea seem to give that positive effect to me. I am not sure why colas are a boon to me in that way.

Unfortunately it isn’t a matter of wanting to lose weight that had me stop drinking sodas. I also was diagnosed with diabetes. :-/ A double whammy so-to-speak. Even being diabetic, an actual regular cola, sweetened with sugar, was better for me than the aspartame sweetened one.

Caffeine-Free Pepsi

Caffeine-Free Pepsi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If I didn’t have the reaction, I wouldn’t shun products with aspartame in them. I’m not really against aspartame like some people I know. Though I still think it is a bad idea to use diet products unless you have a medical reason for it.

Now, I hear that some relief might be coming… eventually. Pepsi announced yesterday that they were removing aspartame from there diet Pepsi products! As far as I know that is: Diet Pepsi, Caffeine-Free Diet Pepsi and Wild Cherry Diet Pepsi. Pepsi is going to be starting to use sucralose and acesulfame potassium sweeteners as of August… in the USA, that is.

Pepsi Plans to Ditch Aspartame (NBCNews); Diet Pepsi to ditch the aspartame (USA Today); Diet Pepsi drops controversial sweetener aspartame after customer concerns about safety (Mail online).

A picture of a Pepsi-truck in Norway

A picture of a Pepsi-truck in Norway (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I wished that PepsiCo Canada would do the same thing. It might actually cause this Coke drinker to switch to Pepsi! I can only dream of the relief I would get from my migraines. I figure they’ll change eventually and that Coke might actually follow suit.

In the meantime, I can only have sweet dreams.

Is There a Doctor in the House? Part 3 of 3

The Doctor, by Sir Luke Fildes (1891)

The Doctor, by Sir Luke Fildes (1891) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I actually think that we have had a pretty good medical system in Canada. But I think that although the expertise is here, and we have universal access, there are ways where things could be improved.

Have a look at “Is There a Doctor in the House? Part 1 of 3” and Part 2 of 3 if you missed it!

Doctors have many skills and tools for treating those who are suffering from assorted ailments: There medications for all sorts of things, surgical procedures, physical therapy, and so on. There is coverage for these treatments and the diagnostics required… except one area of the human body…

Dental hygienist polishing a patient's teeth

Dental hygienist polishing a patient’s teeth (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Health care, it seems, ends at the gums,

For reasons I don’t understand teeth and gums are included as part of the human body when it comes to medical coverage. It is possible to purchase additional coverage that would include dentistry. (Optometry can also be covered if you buy the extended coverage. Many companies include this extended coverage as well as paying the basic premiums. However for a large part of the population, dental care charges come out-of-pocket.

Dental care isn’t a matter strictly of cosmetic worth. People need their teeth to chew food with. Infections of teeth can spread to the jaws and other parts of the body. Bad teeth can even be a source of clots that can cause strokes, heart attacks, and pulmonary embolism among other results of thrombosis, or blood clots.

US Navy 050326-N-8629M-012 Dental Technician 2...

US Navy 050326-N-8629M-012 Dental Technician 2nd Class Adrian Murphy, left, assists Lt. Joyce Yang, as she extracts teeth with severe tooth decay at the Kalabahi Hospital in Alor, Indonesia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I think that dental care would be preventative medicine when it comes to dangers of infection and blood clots. Dental care can be a life saver!

At least here in BC if cancer is detected in the mouth, some procedures are considered dental and not covered.

I think it is sad when people lose teeth due to a lack of dental care, even if they practice good oral hygiene.

Why does medical coverage end at the gums?

US Navy 030502-N-4055P-001 Cmdr. Jerry Torres,...

US Navy 030502-N-4055P-001 Cmdr. Jerry Torres, a dentist attached to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (31st MEU), injects a patient with anesthetic before repairing a tooth (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t think there are very many people who “like” to go to the dentist, but the alternative is rather painful and can be severe health consequences.

We have good universal medical coverage here in Canada, but there are a few holes in it like overtaxed hospitals, a lack of universal pharmaceutical coverage, and a lack of universal dental coverage. There are other leaks in the medical dam as well.

Consider how difficult it is for smaller towns to attract medical professionals, or for many to find a family physician. (a general practitioner) Or, consider what devices like glasses and hearing aides (and their expensive batteries) cost out-of-pocket.

We have it so good in some ways, but there is much room for improvement.

Our system isn’t too bad, but it does have some holes in it. I’ll write about some more holes in the near future.

Look for Part 1 and Part 2



What’s in a Name?

English: Simulation of dyslexic vision

English: Simulation of dyslexic vision (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are many learning disorders, the one most talked about is Dyslexia… or as I would like to say, Lysdexia. (Gee, Google/Wikipedia recognize “lysdexia” and refer it to “dyslexia”!) But there are others and actually Dyslexia has a wider spectrum of symptoms than most might realize. Dyslexia is not just about scrambling letters or numbers so that “the” becomes “het” to the dyslexic’s observation. Or sometimes numbers or letters look backward. It doesn’t matter how careful the word is looked at, it comes out scrambled. It happens often enough to become an issue.

(ed. – Please note that this is not a clinical article about learning disorders so there are likely terms used improperly and similar other issues with it.)

Chalk Board

Chalk Board (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For some the disability doesn’t show often, but for others it is crippling toward their education and learning. It slows reading and can make handwriting torture. For some, the issues that come up with handwriting do not bother them if they are working on a keyboard. For others it is just about universal.

There are other sorts of disorders however that people can have that can hamper learning… and other aspects of life.

Consider having a problem with recalling names. Not just what most people have with forgetting a name that they know, but having problems learning that name in the first place. Names and numbers seem to become hazy mirages in the mind.

(ed. – perhaps this is an aspect of Dyslexia?)

English: A university classroom. (Jones Hall a...

English: A university classroom. (Jones Hall at Princeton University.) © 2005 Joseph Barillari (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

History class can become a bit of a nightmare when you can’t remember the dates of events or the names of the people and places involved. It can be very frustrating trying to come up with the answers to history questions… “It was a battle that occurred in a place. But it was fundamental in the formation of a country…”

"they still have phone booths in ak"

“they still have phone booths in ak” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Addresses and phone numbers can become a bit of a maze as well. Forgetting the first half of a phone number before hearing the last half can really get irritating. Back in the days of pay phones, if you needed a number and there was no phone book, directory assistance could help locate the number for you, but if you had no paper or pen, and had that sort of problem with remembering numbers, you were lost. The operator couldn’t (wouldn’t?) dial the number for you, and by the time they told you the last 4 digits of the phone number you’d forget the first three digits.

English: Greensleeves Vinyl:War by Wailing Sou...

English: Greensleeves Vinyl:War by Wailing Souls & Rankin Trevor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Having a problem with names and titles can really hamper looking up a song you enjoy. How can you find a song if you couldn’t remember the name of the artist, band, or song title? (Now with modern Internet search engines, you can type in just the part of the lyrics you recall and it can find or suggest the title/artist.) How often might you hear a song and want to look it up so you could purchase it yourself, but be at a loss as to how to locate it… it can even be difficult to realize what recording artists you like simply because you can never recall who sang what with which band.

Having pen and paper handy at all times is a solution, but then you still have to organize your notes so you can find what you are looking for.

…but it is most embarrassing to need months or years to actually learn a new friend’s name.

Is There a Doctor in the House? Part 2 of 3

The Doctor, by Sir Luke Fildes (1891)

The Doctor, by Sir Luke Fildes (1891) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I actually think that we have had a pretty good medical system in Canada. But I think that although the expertise is here, and we have universal access, there are ways where things could be improved.

Have a look at “Is There a Doctor in the House? Part 1 of 3” if you missed it!

A large part of modern medicine is in the diagnosis of health problems. This might take place with a simple visit to your General Practitioner (GP) or in a walk-in-clinic. It might also involve lab work or probing procedures with or without a visit to a Specialist.


Ritalin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After the diagnosis, you’ll go for treatment. That might mean surgery, physiotherapy, or other procedures, but more likely than not you’ll walk out of the Doctor’s office with a prescription for medication to be filled out by a pharmacist. (a druggist or chemist)

The problem is that once you walk out of the Doctor’s office — for most — it is like you aren’t covered for health care at all. Any medication you require has to be paid for by you and some prescriptions, necessary prescriptions, and for that matter over-the-counter medication or on the shelf ones come out of your pocket.

A bottle of brand coated tablets.A bottle of brand coated tablets. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some people are lucky and have Provincial medical coverage that covers most prescriptions, or you might have extended coverage through where you work. Others who are on a provincial or federal disability income, PWD (some places called “Benefit”), or on income assistance (most places also known as “welfare”) might have most of their prescription medication covered by the government’s medication plans. Some low-income folks like pensioners might have partial coverage — like paying up to a certain fixed figure and afterwards having the government pharmacy coverage kick in.

medication in gelcaps (gelatin capsules) Portu...

medication in gelcaps (gelatin capsules) Português: Diversos tipos de cápsulas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For most people, families with an income, they have to pay the full cost of the medication prescribed to them. For all, the cost of over-the-counter medication or products on the shelves comes out of whatever budget they might have, large or small.

What is the use of a diagnosis if you can’t afford the treatment?

For some, even the price of analgesics (pain killers) like Aspirin, Tylenol, or Advil (Acetic Acid, Acetaminophen, Ibuprofen) can add up if you have something like chronic pain. Antihistamines and most “cold medicines” can also add up. Chronic allergies lead to a fairly hefty annual bill. English: National Naval Medical Center, Bethes...

English: National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Md., (Aug. 19, 2003) — Pharmacist Randal Heller, right, verifies the dosage and medication of a prescription at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. Heller checks all prescriptions dispensed at the pharmacy before they are handed over the counter to the patient. Heller is retired as a Commander from the Navy Medical Service Corps. U.S. Navy photo by Chief Warrant Officer 4 Seth Rossman. (RELEASED) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Preventative treatment also doesn’t seem to count for coverage. Things like vitamins. First-Aide supplies and various supports and braces aren’t covered for most either, even if physiotherapy might be.

Treatments in hospital are covered, but if a person is being treated outside the hospital, then that same treatment might not be covered. There are some very expensive cancer treatment drugs that don’t have to be administered in a hospital, and even though “Chemo” given in the hospital is covered, the equivalent treatment taken as pills at home isn’t. Even in places where those treatments that can be done at home are covered, they don’t cover additional medications to deal with the side effects of the prescribed treatment. (Things like anti-nausea medication or supplements needed if the medicine depletes vitamin and mineral reserves.)

The SAVI applicator is a multiple catheter bre...

The SAVI applicator is a multiple catheter breast brachytherapy device. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some people might needlessly be in hospital because they can’t afford treatment at home.

Some people will get prescriptions for a more potent  medication when a less potent one that is perfectly adequate for their condition is available off the shelf. I know one person who requested prescriptions for the prescription Tylenol 2 (acetaminophen with caffeine and codeine.) when they could get the relief they needed from Tylenol 1 (Same as Tylenol 1 but with less codeine.) or even Extra-Strength Tylenol. (No codeine added.) This was because the Tylenol 2 was covered, but the Tylenol 1 and Extra Strength Tylenol were not covered. This person had chronic pain due to bulging disks in their spine.

At least treatments like surgery are covered… except sometimes. Surgery for cancer in the mouth isn’t covered, and some elective surgery.

I believe that Canada is the only country with universal health care that doesn’t also cover medication. I think we need to catch up with other countries. Soon even the US will have better pharmaceutical coverage than we have.

Our system isn’t too bad, but it does have some holes in it. I’ll write about some more holes in the near future.

Look for Part 1 and Part 3 (Coming on Tuesday)



Is There a Doctor in the House? Part 1 of 3

The Doctor, by Sir Luke Fildes (1891)

The Doctor, by Sir Luke Fildes (1891) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I actually think that we have had a pretty good medical system in Canada. But I think that although the expertise is here, and we have universal access, there are ways where things are getting a bit threadbare.

Have a look at “Is There a Doctor in the House? Part 2 of 3” and Part 3 of 3 to come on Tuesday

I personally know of a lot of friends and family who have ended up in a bed or on a gurney in a corridor after being admitted to Emergency, (That is what we call the emergency ward up here in Canada.) I actually experienced this when I had a health emergency a few years back. I spent my first night in a dark service corridor behind “Emergency” on a bed along one wall with perhaps 6-10 others.

Emergency Ward

Emergency Ward (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was already in slight delirium when I got there and the night was an anxious one for me. The odd sounds from the pipes and from delivery trucks down the corridor. (Through sets of doors but so audible.)

I did get moved out of that corridor the next morning…

…and onto a ward. Actually I was at the end of the ward, in the corridor. The end was curtained off so in some ways I had a private room, however, no washroom facility, no access to phone, and rather than an emergency call button, I had a hand-bell to ring for help. I spent 4 or 5 days in that corridor until I had to have surgery. After surgery I did get into a room. Actually it was a nice private room where I was the only occupant. I think that they had a regulation where people coming out of surgery had to be placed into a room.

Hospital Corridor 800I have had a few friends that also ended up in a corridor. In fact one dear friend has been in one for a few days now. I also recall visiting a relative in the cardiac ward and seeing two or three occupied beds in the corridors around the nurses’ station. I recall thinking that they had so little privacy.

Our system isn’t too bad, but it does have some holes in it. I’ll write about some more holes in the near future.

Look for Part 2 and Part 3 to come.


The choice of the Garden Wall

I have gone with “The Garden Wall” for the name. Not to stick with “The Gnome’s Garden”  theme, (Gnomes are the theme used in a number of online projects of mine.) but because throughout my life my interaction with Dad often has been around Walls and Fences. When I was 2 or 3 we worked on the fence of Mom and Dad’s first house. We worked on the fences of all the homes. We also built walls in the basements of the houses and I learnt a lot of skills and it was time Dad and I could spend together. We also built a great stone retaining wall. It was functional and decorative and will stand for who knows how long… as long as the house and could outlast it even.

Garden WallBut building walls and fences we chatted and talked… and I grumbled a lot about the work… and early on learnt about workmanship and the value of hard work and that if you put your mind to it, you could do most anything.

And then… building the fences and wall we chatted with neighbours and when we were landscaping around the wall… we visited more. The wall with lush grass planted above parts of it, was so nice to sit on and so solid. We could take pride in it validly.

If you see these words again, it will have become a post on The Garden Wall.


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