Thursday, August 5, 2010

Sticky Urethra and Spongey Kidneys

This blog post contains descriptions of medical conditions. Reader discretion is advised.

I've spent a lot of time in exam rooms the past month; I've had terrible pains and all kinds of other problems. When a week's long course of CIPRO did not alleviate the symptoms of a UTI, my doctor sent me to get a CT scan of my kidneys.

exam room #6The scan showed a small kidney stone and indications of Medullary Sponge Kidney Disease, a condition that isn't dangerous but makes suffers predisposed to kidney stones and UTIs. Tubes in the kidneys collect urine to process it, but those of us with MSK have cysts in the kidney that keep urine from flowing freely. The condition is congenital, though not inherited. MSK doesn't have a cure or treatment, just treatment of the kidney stones or UTIs that develop because of it.

Though it was comforting to have a diagnosis, MSK doesn't explain the back and abdominal pain I'd been experiencing.

My doctor sent me to the urologist for a confirmation of the MSK diagnosis and to see if anything else was going on. My appointment was yesterday, and it was strange. The typical age-range of urology patients is not thirty-something. Also, the waiting room was decorated with a number of cartoons about urologists and urological conditions. Who knew there were so many cartoonists talking about the urinary tract?

The doctor did confirm that I have MSK. He said that, unrelated, I was also simply prone to UTIs and bladder infections. While I knew that women were likely to get bladder infections because the length of the urethra between the opening and the bladder is short, the doctor did give me new information. He said that there is a continuum, with some women never getting bladder infections on one end (lucky them), and on the other are women who get bladder infections all the time (lucky me). What seems to explain this is the "stickiness" of the inside of the urethra. If the urethra lining is slick, bacteria can't take hold and make their way up to the bladder; however, if the urethra is sticky, even slight pressure on the urethra opening can cause an infection. There really isn't a treatment for this, either. He gave me and antibiotic to take right before or right after any activity that might lead to an infection.

In six weeks, if I am not feeling better, he'll do another procedure to look inside my bladder.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Gay Friendly

Campus Pride, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the college experience for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered students, released its 2010 climate index for gay-friendly campuses. Nineteen schools achieved the top rating, five stars, among them Ithaca College! The rankings are based on self-reported information about the schools' polices and programs.

I do my part with a "Safe Space" sign on my office door. Have you ever taken the IAT (Implicit Attitude Test)? This test was created by researchers at Harvard who wanted to measure people's unconscious and unspoken attitudes. Images and words are combined and the speed at which "good" words are matched with certain themed photos provides an indication of a subject's preference for one of two categories. Some of the paired categories are meaningless - like cats versus dogs, but others have to do with race, political preference, sexual orientation, and age. Research on the IAT is ongoing, and some feel the test is not as accurate as the authors claim. Regardless, it's interesting and thought-provoking. I've always been very proud that I had a preference for gay versus straight. (Sometimes in teaching stereotypes, I find students incredulous when I tell them stereotypes can consist of positive characteristics. This is a case for me - I attribute a number of good qualities to my gay friends and associates. Still, stereotypes, positive or negative, can be damaging, so I try to be careful.)

Despite the fact that I see myself as someone who is gay-friendly, I realize that sometimes I can be rather heteronormative. A few semesters ago, I read a tip sheet that reminded faculty not to ask students about their "mom and dad" - maybe they have two moms or two dads - instead say "parents" or "family members." Be flexible about calling roll - some transgender students may not want their legal name read aloud to the class. Let students know that GLBT topics are appropriate for assignments. Include relevant examples of GLBT issues in the curriculum. I know there are many other ideas as well, and as I come across them, I try to incorporate them in my own teaching practice. Any you want to share?

Huffington Post Story

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Joan Jett

A couple of weeks ago, Joan Jett (the pig) was Sanctuary Tail's Animal-of-the-Week! (Sanctuary Tails is a Farm Sanctuary blog written by the Farm's shelter directors.) I was so happy to see Joan featured. Not only is she adorable (she's the spotted pig), she is the pig that I sponsor through Farm Sanctuary's "Adopt-an-Animal" program.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Mosaic Monday: Graffiti

Mosaic Monday: Graffiti

Graffiti fascinates me. Some of it is so interesting, provocative, and at times beautiful. It's also so fleeting. In Revolution in a Bottle: How TerraCycle Is Redefining Green Business, Tom Szaky includes an interesting discussion of graffiti. TerraCycle  is located in Trenton, New Jersey, a city with high crime rates, gang problems, and a number of other challenges. To make peace with local residents, TerraCycle invites graffiti artists to paint their walls. Some of the early pieces are included here. It's evolved into an annual graffiti jam, which you can look up on youtube.

TerraCycle's mission is to take material that would otherwise go into landfills and create useful (and profitable) consumer products. Szaky often refers to trash as the things people will pay to get rid of. In his book, he compares graffiti to the raw materials in TerraCycle's products. Cities and individuals are willing to pay to get rid of graffiti. Beyond the urban art that decorates their facility, TerraCycle sells Urban Art Flower Pots that are constructed from plastic waste and decorated by local graffiti artists.

As much as I love some of the graffiti I see, I realize it is disrespectful of property owned by cities or private businesses or individuals. I love that TerraCycle provides a legitimate outlet for the craft.

Thanks to Mary at the Little Red House for hosting Mosaic Monday!
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