Sunday, July 22, 2018

The Kinahurah Chronicles

The hamsa, an ancient symbol
used to ward off the evil eye.
I’m sure many Wheelchair Kamikaze readers have noticed that I haven’t put up a post in some time. To those who haven’t noticed I say, what’s up with that? Do you not wait for my every new entry with bated breath? Or, at the very least, with bad breath? As they say, bad breath is better than no breath at all…

In any event, the reason I haven’t posted anything in quite a while is that the hellish saga that I recounted in my last two posts lives on. Just a quick recap: in the first those two posts (click here) I wrote of waking up one morning with excruciating pain in my right kidney area, which subsequently led to two visits the emergency room. The second post (click here) reported on my joyful experiences getting a garden hose stuck up my schlong, in the form of a catheter. At the end of that post, I said I was starting to feel better and was sure “I’m in recovery mode.” Stating something so overtly optimistic was apparently a big mistake. I almost certainly gave myself a kinahurah.

For those uninitiated in the delights of Yiddish, the colorful language that once flourished among Eastern European Jews, a kinahurah is a word used to ward off a kind of jinx, an invitation to the universe or some jealous spell caster to hit you with a whammy whenever somebody (including yourself) says something even vaguely positive about you.

In practice the kinahurah works like this: somebody says something optimistic about you, like “hopefully I’m in recovery mode” – my exact words in my last post – or “you’re so smart, I’m sure you’ll get that raise,” and it’s an open invitation to getting an evil eye from the envious or from a vindictive universe. In one of those twists of language, the word can also refer to such a curse itself.

So, to ward off any potential torment, after even the faintest words of praise one quickly has to say “don’t give me (or him or her) a kinahurah,” or, simply, “kinahurah.” Growing up I spent a lot of time with my maternal grandmother, whose words were heavily sprinkled with Yiddish, and I think I heard the word kinahurah at least half a dozen times a day. I definitely should have known better than to say “hopefully I’m in recovery mode” without prefacing it by first writing “I don’t want to give myself a kinahurah, but…”.

In any event, the kinahurah got me and got me good. When the catheter was removed from my putz (might as well continue with the Yiddish theme) I thought I was out of the woods. Little was I to know that there was a big fat kinahurah waiting for me, in the form of a vicious urinary tract infection. I have never experienced a UTI before, and though I’ve heard other MS patients talk of how terrible they can be, I really had no idea.

For the first couple of days after the catheter was yanked out of my schmeckel it felt as though I was passing a parade of fire ants every time I urinated, but I figure that was just a side effect of getting a fire hose wrenched out of my schmuck. Soon enough, though, I started getting feverish, and all of my MS symptoms ramped up tremendously, leaving me almost completely debilitated. In all honesty, the following few weeks passed in what was some sort of a semi-delirium. A urine culture confirmed a UTI, and I was put on an antibiotic called Macrobid, which may have made me feel worse than the UTI itself.

Macrobid is a drug used exclusively to treat urinary tract infections, and since I’m allergic to penicillin, there were very few other effective antibiotics left to choose. Another candidate was Cipro, but Cipro doesn’t mix well with tizanidine, a drug I take to combat horrendous muscle spasms I get in the night (have I ever mentioned that MS sucks?). I unwittingly took Cipro and tizanidine together earlier in this dreadful sequence of events, and the combination was like a date rape drug. I was out cold for the better part of a full day, and I’m pretty sure my wife took advantage of me – by watching the Hallmark Channel in peace, I think.

After seven days of Macrobid, I remained so weak I could barely spend 15 minutes out of bed. Furthermore, it still felt like I was urinating razor blades and shards of glass. My urologist feared I might have developed a kidney infection, and I was put on Cipro despite the tizanidine problem. I reduced my dose of tizanidine dramatically, though, and things were tolerable.

In addition to the antibiotics I tried every sort of natural remedy I could find, some recommended by my wonderful naturopath. These included drinking unsweetened cranberry juice, downing tablespoons of raw apple cider vinegar, and eating whole cloves of raw crushed garlic mixed with honey. Turns out that crushing a clove of garlic releases a compound known as Allicin, which is one of nature’s most potent antimicrobials (click here), and raw honey also has antibiotic properties. Of course, raw garlic also wards off vampires, and, in the amounts I was eating, other human beings as well.

Now, finally, after seven days of Macrobid, 10 days of Cipro, and all of the above natural remedies, I seem to be coming around. Kinahurah! Still far from where I was before the kidney pain started, but I’m no longer trapped in some horrible fever dream, sweating garlic byproducts by the pint into my bed sheets.

I know many MS patients, especially females, suffer from recurrent UTIs and somehow manage to deal with these nasty infections, and all I can say is hats off to them. It’s long been said that females are the stronger gender, and there’s some proof.

This whole miserable episode has left me puzzling how to avoid any hint of kinahurahs in the future. I know I won’t always remember to invoke a protective kinahurah every time I say something vaguely positive or hopeful, so there must be another way. After much thought, I do think I’ve hit upon a solution.

I once asked a philosophically minded MS neurologist how it felt to be a doctor who has never cured any of his patients. His answer was surprising and succinct. He replied, “Well, life is a terminal illness, so what patient is ever really cured?”. No arguing with that, is there? A sobering thought, and one containing just enough existential angst to take the shine off of all the but the most optimistic statements, don’t you think? Maybe even enough to serve as a kind of kinahurah catch all.

So, moving forward, my strategy to combat the kinahurah will be to end all conversations, correspondences, and other communications with the phrase “life is a terminal illness.” That should counteract even ambiguously positive statements that might attract the wrath of some jealous evil eye thrower. All of my emails and messages will now be signed “Regards, Marc Stecker, Life Is a Terminal Illness,” and my telephone conversations will end with “Goodbye, Life Is a Terminal Illness.” One can’t be too careful, now, can one?

Hopefully, now that it feels like I’m urinating only lightly boiled water I’ll soon be back to posting essays on these pages more regularly. Kinahurah.

Oh, apologies to all of those who sent get well notes and messages over the last several weeks, very few of which I was able to respond. I hope to be able to resume actively corresponding shortly. Kinahurah.

Life is a terminal illness.