Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Not Ready For Any Support Group

For many years, I have sought alternative or natural solutions to treat my Hepatitis C virus and have basically learned to "take charge of my health". and to question my doctors and whatever pharmaceuticals that they prescribe (or try to prescribe) to me.

I have refused the current interferon/ribavirin "treatment" for Hep-C for many reasons. The main reason is that it doesn't really work, particularly on my genotype (kind of strain) of 1b, and it is horrendously toxic and damaging to the immune system. I was fortunate that my biopsy done in 2003 showed only minor inflammation at Stage 1/Grade 1 and the virus has not really progressed - thankfully.

My initial information about hep-c (and most other disorders) came from the wonderful book, "Prescription for Nutritional Healing" - which I credit for saving my life. I had seen the book at Whole Foods Market sometime in the 90's and bought one at a garage sale around 1997-98. I learned about Milk Thistle and began taking it as I thought that it might provide my liver some kind of protection against my drinking - I had pretty much quit doing any kind of hard drugs by then, but I still loved my beer. At any rate, I found out that I had the virus in 2002 and my 2003 biopsy revealed (amazingly enough) little damage. What was also extremely amazing to me was that my liver was still functioning at all as I had several decades of extensive drug/alcohol use/abuse as well. And I mean serious, hard drugs too. I can only surmise that the milk thistle might have protected and repaired my liver enough to prevent anything worse.. But who knows? Matthew Dolan's great book, The Hepatitis Handbook is another great souce - I hope that he updates it someday.

I'm doing great with my own research and with the help of my great doctor, Dr. Kashi Rai. I will attempt to chronicle my battle with the Hep-C dragon, as well as my 7 herpes viruses, (HHV-1, HHV-2, Herpes Zoster, EBV (epstein barr), CMV, and the newly emerged HHV-6) as well as my gluten, dairy, nut, most seafood food intolerance. My favorite book about Celiac/Gluten intolerance is Dangerous Grains by James Braly and Ron Hoggan.

I share my life with 10 cats, now 9 since Brooks died in October.. ( of which 8 of them and I lived through the flood after the levee breaches following Hurricane Katrina) while I continue with the daily juggling act of surviving in post-Katrina New Orleans. Brooks had been battling end stage renal failure and I did the best that I could to help make his last bit of time, good time.

New Orleans is still recovering from Hurricane Katrina, or more accurately, the flooding caused by the breaches in the levees and floodwalls that were constructed by the Federal Government's U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. To learn why New Orleans flooded - and it was not due to a "natural disaster" but due to the "Worst Engineering Disaster in History" as cited by The American Society of Civil Engineers, check out

I should know. My car broke down 2 days before Katrina - which was up until that Friday, still supposed to hit the panhandle of Florida. I had 8 cats and took care of dozens of feral cats in my neighborhood. I was broke and I refused to leave the cats behind.

The storm on Monday, August 29th, 2005, was pretty scary but afterwards, I was able to use my cell phone to call up friends to let them know that everything was ok. There were trees down and wind damage but really, not much rain at all. Then, the water started gradually coming up - and kept rising. Soon, I could hear dogs up and down the block barking and yelping until I didn't hear them anymore. My feral porch cat, Emerald, had ridden out the storm underneath the house, as did most of the feral cats in New Orleans - a city of raised homes. I heard her crying and I tried to get to her through the floor furnace - but when I got it opened , water gushed in........and I never heard or saw Emerald again.

The rest of the day and night are a blur to me now - my mind fractured off into the surreal - like watching a movie of someone else. I managed to climb up into a 7 foot high closet before passing out from shock, exhaustion and hyperthermia. But I woke several times during that long night and could hear my cats crying in terror.

The next morning, I woke and could hear what sounded like copters flying overhead. But all that I wanted to do was to lie there and never move again. One of the cats started crying pitifully from the front room and I opened my eyes to see her clinging to the curtains. This got me moving and out of the closet and down into the water that came up to my neck.

During the next hour, I was able to break out my back windows and swim 3 of the cats out to the carport roof - I could only find 2 carriers as they had sunk down somewhere on the floor in the murky water. The 5 others were placed up into the same closet that had given me refuge and another feral cat swam outside to cling onto the limbs of a tree.

I was rescued by a first responder in an airboat and taken to the railroad tracks nearby. Soon, the Missouri Coast Guard picked me and the 3 cats up and took us out to the Interstate. Eventually, a school bus took us, and other rescued folks and their pets to a shelter in Thibodaux, La. - about 40 miles west of New Orleans. I spent several days there in pretty primative conditions - no electricity, no phones, no email.

Family members were finally contacted and they came to get me 5 days later. It took another 2 days to get to where my Mom had evacuated to - in Birmingham, Alabama, where we had relatives. But throughout this ordeal, I was obsessed about the poor cats that I left up in that closet and I contacted every rescue group listed to try and get someone, anyone to go save them.
Finally, after getting no responses, I decided to go back to New Orleans to get them myself. Everyone told me that it would be impossible - the city was under lock down and no one was being allowed back in. Huh. Through an internet chat room, I met a man named Steve Vicknair who was in Houston, Texas. He had a boat and he wanted to help people like me rescue their pets.

And that is what we did. On September 11th, 2005 - two weeks! after Katrina, we got back to my still flooded apartment to find all cats still alive!!!! They had no food or water for all of that time - but they survived!!!!!

I stayed in Birmingham with my Mom (and the 8 cats) for 6 months until her health declined and she moved into an Assisted Living facility. Her house (and my inheritance) had taken in 11 feet of water and was very underinsured. She did have flood insurance as did most of the families in New Orleans - but the very minimum. We fought with Traveler's home owner's insurance for almost 2 years before they paid my Mom what she was owed. But the house could not be repaired.

I moved back to New Orleans in March of 2006 into an apartment in the Mid-City area - an area that had not gotten too much flooding compared to the 80% of the rest of the city. I got back involved with animal rescue, cats in was still a hairy time, with packs of dogs running wild in the streets and many, many starving animals. Things have somewhat improved but the animals of New Orleans still need so much help.

ARNO - Animal Rescue New Orleans - is still here. It is an all volunteer group that was formed shortly after Katrina - and has probably done the most out of all of the rescue groups:

The Katrina pictures that I managed to take when the water came up......and months later:

The Cat Rescue pics:

My health gradually deteriorated in those first years back - my health care had been provided at Charity Hospital for about 3 years before Katrina, but it had to close - and is still closed. However their clinics still remained open - an emergency one had been set up at the Lord & Taylor department store near the devastated Superdome - that was so strange to go there for medical treatment, when a year earlier I had shopped for shoes.....

I developed shingles, and a strong chemical sensitivity - possibly due to the stress and perhaps being in the water during and after Katrina. I was in constant pain from fibromyalgia and my IBD often prevented me from leaving the house.

Thankfully, I was able to get Social Security disability - 3 years in the making - it only provides $693.00 a month but I do get Medicare, which enabled me to find Dr. Rai - the doctor who led me to Dr. Berkson - who changed my life.

I could never live anywhere else - New Orleans is and forever will be - the center of the universe!

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