Facing a medical conundrum

Update: May, 13/2018 - 09:00
Viet Nam News

By Robert Bicknell

It has been no surprise to those of you who have followed this column over the years that I suffer from osteoarthritis in both feet and now my right hand. I am pretty sure there are those of you out there who also suffer from some form of arthritis and can sympathize.

My biggest problem is not the insurance company, who I occasionally enjoy irritating by referring to them as “Blue Shaft”, but in fairness, they have actually been pretty reasonable with me over the last 10-12 years. Except they still consider “stem cell treatment” as unproven science, despite many studies to the contrary.

My problem is with the orthopedic surgeons who prefer to stick with the safe and proven treatments. Sure, why not? It saves them from having to think, or learn new things. It also protects them from medical malpractice lawsuits, which have become the bane of everyone’s existence.

So, here is my dilemma…

I have been walking and playing golf with virtually no cartilage in the big toes of both feet, so its bone rubbing on bone. As you might guess, this causes excruciating pain just walking, never mind what happens when I torque up to hit a tee shot.

The surgeons in the region, prefer to stick with what provides them with fast income, and protects them from malpractice. As such, they like to recommend “fusion” of the joint as the “gold standard” and anything like a replacement joint is “unproven” as studies only go back 5-10 years.

For the record, anytime someone refers to something as the “gold standard”, run.

An older guest, who suffers from the same ailment as me, came to my club and mentioned he just had titanium caps installed in his joints back in the US and is thrilled. He says there is zero pain and can do all the things he used to do when younger. Another breakthrough is called “Cartiva”.

However, poor me, my insurance won’t cover surgery in the US and nobody here wants to do it.

I have also heard wonderful things about “Medical Marijuana” (no, not the stuff you get high from) in regards to drastically reducing inflammation and pain (and no, I am not referring to “high as a kite and feeling no pain”). Hey, if it’s good enough for “Professor X” (Sir Patrick Stewart, who also suffers from osteoarthritis), then it’s good enough for me.

I absolutely refuse to take the traditional pain treatments containing opiods (oxycodone) which are habit forming and can ruin your life. Sorry, but I need what little sanity I have left, besides, I am already hooked on cigarettes and one stupid addiction is enough.

FYI – there is a HUGE difference between street pot and medical marijuana. In medical marijuana, the level of THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannibol) which gives you the “high” effect is quite low. Instead, the level of CBC (a different cannabinoid which reduces pain and inflammation) is quite high. CBC also counters THC so you’re not gonna fly. You also need a doctor’s prescription to get it.

In addition, the medical marijuana that I want to try is either an oil or crème, but I hear ya. What does all this have to do with a golf column, you ask?

Well, besides the fact that the columnist is directly affected by the topic, the other issue is that many professional athletes around the world are suffering from addiction to painkillers and getting snagged by the random drug testing. They are faced with a choice, take oxycodone or give up their sport. Medical marijuana is, as far as many of the leagues are concerned, an unproven substitute, despite countless studies proving otherwise. The US has a major problem with opioid addiction.

Yes, you can bet Big Pharma is spending billions of dollars to keep medical marijuana illegal. Imagine the profits they would lose if suddenly people could find cheap and more effective treatment for their ailments, and without the side effects. 

As for yours truly, Medical marijuana is highly illegal in Việt Nam, so I am out of luck. In addition, orthopedic surgeons in Việt Nam and SE Asia, refuse to look at any other treatments for my condition, except for their so-called “Gold Standard”.

So, if you see me limping down the fairway, and shooting a basketball score, please understand that I tried my best. VNS