Thursday, December 04, 2008

Peace Pilgrim II: Driving across America in a wheelchair?

(Photos are of the original Peace Pilgrim, my ankle when it first started swelling up, me in the Las Vegas airport coming back from the St. Louis debates back when my knees actually sort of worked (I won $40!), and me and my daughter Ashley touring the Berkeley Bowl in an electric scooter)

Four days after having received two "Jello Shots" (gel injections of SynVisc) into my knees, all hell broke loose and my right knee began to swell up as big as a house. Since that time, my left knee has also swollen up, my calf muscles have become as hard as a rock, I've totally given up the idea of walking as a viable concept, my lower legs burn as if there is battery acid floating around in my muscles and both my ankles are now as big as balloons. My legs are so swollen up right now that I look like the Elephant Man from the knees down.

"Mom, you've got cankles," said my daughter Ashley. Cankles? What in the world are are cankles? "You know -- legs that go straight from your calves to your feet." Oh.

What to do?

"Sue the bastards!"

According to Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz LLP, a class action lawfirm who first sued the makers of SynVisc back in 2000, the drug company knew they had a dud on their hands from Day One and illegally inflated its stock value in order to make SynVisc look like it was the latest uber-chic hot new product that every doctor should have. "[Defendants] violated the federal securities laws by providing materially false and misleading information about the Company's business, earnings growth and financial condition."

Wolf Haldenstein's website goes on to state that, "Defendants further misrepresented that demand for Synvisc was increasing and that there was growing acceptance within the medical community for Synvisc 'as an effective therapy' for osteoarthritis. Defendants knew, however, that the medical community was increasingly doubtful that Synvisc was a viable medical treatment, as numerous studies had shown that Synvisc was no more effective than a placebo or salt water injections in treating osteoarthritis, and might actually cause significant, long-term, adverse effects, such as cartilage damage."

So. My friend Joe Thompson just e-mailed me that he had recently seen one of those little electronic scooters for sale at the Cleveland, TN, flea market and that he could buy it for me if I could just swing by and pick it up. Which gave me an even better idea. "I'll sue the bastards, use the money I get to buy a wheelchair and drive it across America to come visit you."

I always wanted to become another Peace Pilgrim. You've heard about Peace Pilgrim? She was that older woman who walked all across America in the 1950s, trying to promote peace. According to the website, "From 1953 to 1981, a silver-haired woman calling herself only 'Peace Pilgrim' walked more than 25,000 miles on a personal pilgrimage for peace. She vowed to 'remain a wanderer until mankind has learned the way of peace, walking until given shelter and fasting until given food.' In the course of her 28 year pilgrimage she touched the hearts, minds, and lives of thousands of individuals all across North America. Her message was both simple and profound. It continues to inspire people all over the world."

I have always held the dream of becoming the next Peace Pilgrim, ever since I first heard of her from my Aunt June back in 1984 -- but my dreams of walking across America have been shattered by SynVisc. But, by golly, I can still travel across America for peace in a wheelchair! Or at least an electronic scooter from a Tennessee flea market.

"Save your money," replied Joe when I e-mailed him about my new plan, "and buy me a trip to Nevada instead. I always wanted to go visit one of those legal whorehouses in Reno." Well, if you insist.

But what really makes me sad about having been crippled by "Jello Shots" is not so much the pain or the humiliation caused by SynVisc but rather the cold bare painful fact that, realistically, I will no longer be able to run off and report from all the world's journalistic hotspots such as the DRC, Somalia, Darfur, Gaza, Afghanistan, Iraq -- or the Mustang Ranch.

PS: Each series of three "Jello Shot" injections costs $1,819.99 for the medication alone (at Walgreens) -- plus the cost of having an orthopedist inject them. And the injection series must be repeated every six months. Do the math. That's $3,639.98 worth of drugs per year for a period of, say, 20 years. That's $72,2799.60 per patient. Assuming that the meds cost approximately $100 to manufacture, that's $68,799.60 in profit for SynVisc alone. Plus the orthopedist gets, say, $200 per injection. That's $600 per series per patient, times 40 series per patient? That's $24,000 per patient! No wonder everyone involved loves SynVisc!

Yesterday I went and had my knees acupunctured. They feel better already. I think I'm actually going to be able to crawl to the airport tomorrow to fly off to Burma -- via the newly re-opened Bangkok International Airport.