Truly Blessed

ALS patient James Martin shares his journey.

Guinea Pig

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James Martin
Wednesday, July 17, 2013

When you have a lot of kids they gang up on you, use those big dopey eyes, and convince you to do things that make no sense for grown adults. Like some juvenile Jedi mind trick, you are boxed in and powerless to resist, try as you might. Yes, I am writing about a child's ability to persuade you of the imperative importance of adding a cute, furry, adorable, fluffy rodent to the household.

Years ago, I was Jedied into agreeing to a guinea pig, primarily with false promises of diligent care including the cleaning of smelly cages. To this day, I think of rodent droppings when I see pancake spatulas because ours was dedicated to the task of cleaning the guinea pig's cage. I remember that fact because, as all parents know (or soon learn) animal droppings roll up hill and we end up taking care of said droppings.

I must admit that Sam the Guinea Pig was cute, especially for a rodent. He didn't do much but scurry and twitch; eat, drink and void in his cage. I often told the kids that we should hook Sam up to a twelve volt battery to see if it would curl his hair, as there was a reason guinea pigs were called guinea pigs. The kids would look at me funny, I would laugh, and Sam would back up slowly. Very slowly. He eventually got a new home and the last laugh.

There is no cure for ALS. There is currently only one drug approved for treatment of symptoms and it is not particularly effective. Fortunately scientists, doctors, clinicians, and the occasional witchdoctor are hard at work on possible treatments. As such, they are seeking highly motivated, hard working, people persons to be human guinea pigs in these studies. They settled for me. Yes; I am Sam and Sam is me.

This is my third study. The first was electrifying. It was a study measuring the muscle reflex when an electrical charge was applied to my arms and legs. The doctor would zap me and measure the reaction. (I swear the card is a star, Dr. Venkman.) I told you Sam was laughing. The second involved pills and powders. (Say hello to my little friends.) I had to take pills and then consume three packs of dissolved powder morning and night and record nine million things in the med diary, but at least there wasn't electricity.

Like the second study, this one is a double blind pill review, which either means one of the mice got his sight back, or that I may get the placebo. This is not a cure study, but to determine if the pill will help arrest muscle weakness. We shall see, even if the mice don't.

I was given a list of the medicine's possible side effects which included dizziness, headaches, nausea, weight gain, revulsion, no wait that's the warning label for a Michael Moore movie. Regardless, like the previous study I have to keep a diary to document what these meds do to me. "Dear Diary, I feel fat today. I must be retaining water. But I'm not fat, I'm fluffy ..... and cute. By the way, the strange man is back and he keeps saying 'twelve volt battery' and laughing, so I backed up slowly. Very slowly. Sam"

Because it is a double blind study, I get a super secret guinea pig number. I asked for 8675309 but some other pig named Jenny got my number. My second choice was 24601 as it has a lyrical form to it, but it was also unavailable. It belongs to some miserable French guinea pig. Alas, I was assigned my own unique number. Maybe I can turn it into a top ten hit or a long running musical.

All things considered, I am happy to again be a guinea pig. It may help others in years to come. Just call me Sam, maybe.

Last updated: 8:23 am Monday, July 29, 2013

James Martin is a former attorney and graduate of Gonzaga University and Marquette Law School. He lives in Spring Prairie near Burlington. He has been diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. He is married with 6 kids. James is a community blogger and is not a part of The Gazette staff. His opinion is not necessarily that of the Gazette staff or management.

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