Knocked down and nearly out by the gout

Published 11:01 pm Wednesday, August 20, 2008

I’ve got gout.

I came by it honestly — my maternal grandfather and at least one maternal aunt had or have it. It occasionally knocks me on my keister once or twice a year, and I limp around for a week or two each time. If it’s really bad, I wobble around on crutches.

But this time — oh, this time. The gout came, and like an annoying houseguest, it wouldn’t go away. I managed to drive myself to the ER at Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital one Saturday night, where I was given a shot of steroids and another shot of Demerol.

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I expect to be named in the next installment of the Mitchell Report. There goes my burgeoning baseball career.

For those of you who don’t know what gout is, it’s an excess of uric acid in the blood. That acid crystallizes, and the heavy crystals usually follow the path of gravity. Because I’ve had bad breaks in both ankles before, that’s usually where the crystals lodge for me.

Most people get a gout attack in the big toe. I’ve never had one there, oddly enough. When people ask me what the pain is like, I tell them that when it’s an acute attack, it’s pain out of this world. It’s like hitting the suffering part with a hammer — non-stop. It never lets up. Another person I know has had gout so bad that he couldn’t even stand the sheet on his bed touching his foot.

I know how he feels.

Five scant days after that first trip to the ER, I had to have another shot of painkillers and steroids. By this point, all I could do was say “Hulk smash!” and wonder if I’d ever turn back into Ed Norton.

I felt better over the next couple of days, so I took off to Tuscaloosa to see my fiancée. We spent some quality time together, but my foot kept growing until it looked like the world’s ugliest, most deformed summer squash. By Monday morning it was bad enough that I couldn’t walk at all.

So it was off to a clinic in Tuscaloosa, where I was given yet more steroids, a muscle relaxer and another painkiller — plus a prescription for yet more steroids. What do I look like, Barry Bonds’ supplier? I know our heads are about the same size, but still.

But I’ve got to say the steroids seem to be finally working. The swelling is going down, and I’m walking without a limp for the first time in more than two weeks. I missed two-and-a-half days of work, which is odd for me. Coming back into the office today, everything felt odd and brand-new. But I’m glad to be back. When I’m not working, I feel loose and out of sorts.

Jeremy Smith jumped in and performed like a champ in my absence, though. I’ve got to recognize what a great job he does as our sports editor — and as our general catch-all position. If there’s something no one else wants to do on staff, Jeremy usually gets that job. You wait and see, but Jeremy is destined for bigger and better things in a short time.

That’s about all I’ve got for this week. I’m feeling better and happy to be among the ranks of the pain-free for the first time in ages.

Bobby Mathews is managing editor of The Times.