So we were sitting in the writers’ room today, discussing health issues over lunch, when someone told us about a friend who had recently undergone heart surgery. Turns out his “chest was feeling funny” one day and he decided to get it checked it out. A series of tests revealed he was about to suffer a major heart attack and he was immediately rushed to the O.R.. Rewind to another conversation, days earlier, with my cousin Matt who’s an airline pilot. Someone he knew was suffering from minor leg pains one day and, at the insistence of his girlfriend, swung by the hospital to get it checked out. Turns out he had blood clot that, had it gone undiagnosed, could have killed him. The lesson here? “If you ever have a strange pain,”my cousin advised me, “get it checked out.”
A strange pain? Anywhere? Come on! My day wouldn’t be complete without an assortment of strange pains and at least one funny feeling in either my chest, back, or inner skull region.
The truth is, I used to be a hypochondriac. When I was younger, my bedside companion was my mother’s well-worn Encyclopedia of Diseases. Whether it was ulcers, the mumps, or the early onset of river blindness, between the ages of 10 and 15, I was sure I had it. And the more exotic and incurable, the better. I’m feverish! It’s typhoid! I‘m sleepy! It’s trypanosomiasis! I’ve had quite a few nosebleeds of late! Could it be a touch of the ebola?! Eventually, it just grew so tiresome that I gave up my worrisome ways and, today, I’m at the opposite extreme – dismissing any potential symptom as either a weight-training injury or the consequence of last night’s double-dessert dinner.
Nevertheless, my experience back then did serve to educate. By the time I was in high school, I was fairly well-versed in the wonderful world of awful afflictions, dreadful disorders, and curious conditions. Sure, there were the more common ones like scarlet fever or shingles, and even the more unfamiliar ones like Lassa fever and Guinea worm disease. But the ones that really interested me were those that were beyond bizarre; weirder than weird. The following are some of my favorites. They are real (I shit you not). If you or someone you know suspects they are suffering from one of the following (or have experienced a strange pain, funny feeling, or unusual sensation similar to an itch, pinch, scratch or branding by red hot iron) then please consult a physician immediately…
Moebius Sydrome: Due to a lack of developed facial nerves, the afflicted lack the ability to manifest and control facial expressions. As a result, they may often sleep with their eyes open. Contrary to rumor, Keanu Reeves does NOT suffer from this condition.
Odine’s Curse (aka: congenital central alveolar hypoventilation syndrome): Those afflicted cannot breathe automatically and must will each breath or risk respiratory arrest. One of those rare cases where those who threaten to hold their breath until they turn blue actually do.
Foreign Accent Sydrome: The afflicted begins speaking with a foreign accent after suffering a stroke or brain injury. No word on exactly which accept has proven most popular with the cerebrally-challenged.
Capgras Syndrome: Those afflicted are convinced that their loved ones have been replaced by imposters. A horrific condition – but one that certainly spices things up in the bedroom.
Alice in Wonderland Syndrome (aka: Todd’s Syndrome): Those afflicted perceive objects are either larger (macrospia) or smaller (microspia) than they really are. Side view and rear view car mirrors are often used to compensate.
Pica: Those suffering from this condition are driven by the urge to consume non-food substances, everything from earth and paint to string and Arby’s.