Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Gout Battle Continues (plus live Finnish metal and the crazy old doctor)

Before I start this blog post I just wanna quickly plug the new weekly Guilty Gear podcast called The Midnight Carnival. Its hosted by old school GG players KBNova (Kenji Bliss), J1n (Jason Kim), and Klaige (Travis Nible). Please tune in and check it out!

Two weekends have gone by since my last blog post.

After I was diagnosed with gout over the phone by the doctor 2 weeks ago, I figured it would be good to get some medicine for it. I went to Tsukiyono hospital (a local hospital in my town) and explained to them that I was diagnosed with gout by a doctor at Takadanobaba hospital. They took my word for it but they did another blood test. They wouldn’t know the results until later but they went ahead and prescribed me 100 mg of Zyloric and gave me about a 2 week supply. (A quick note, Zyloric is a brand of the drug allopurinol which is used to lower uric acid levels which causes gout. Using it while you have gout in the first place can actually make gout worse at first. I found that after starting the drug my gout was a little worse but in the long run it should help.)

The follow day (Friday, June 10th) was Andy’s birthday celebration. He was going to have a sorta birthday party in Takasaki at a fairly new restaurant called Kiwi Café. Kiwi Café is actually owned by Grant, the New Zealander who we often play poker with in Maebashi. I decided I wasn’t going to drink to try to get my gout back under control so I drove there. About 20 people showed up (all other ALTs) and we had all you can eat pizza. The pizza was actually excellent and was some of the best pizza I’ve had in Japan. Since I couldn’t drink, I ended up smoking cigs most of the night. We stayed there till about 11 and then about half of us had plans to do karaoke. I was able to leave my car in front of Jen Park’s house (she is another ALT who lives near there). I noticed around this time that I was having another gout flare up. Im not sure what triggered it but it was either the smoking or too much pizza.

When we got to karaoke, everyone wanted to get the all you can drink package for the room. I originally wasn’t going to drink but I caved in and ended up getting a glass of red wine… which led to many glasses of red wine. Wine is supposedly the least harmful alcohol for people with gout problems. I was already having a gout attack so I figured a little wine wouldn’t matter much. It’s difficult for me to not drink when everyone else is getting drunk and having fun, plus I don’t really like doing karaoke sober. Also, the karaoke room next to us was like this huge party size room and it was full of like 30 drunk Japanese people in their 20s. They invited many of us to come hang with them and it was just rowdy as hell in there; pretty amusing. Karaoke was fun and because I drank, I couldn’t drive home, but was pretty tired anyway. A few people were already crashing on the floor at Jen Park’s so she said I could crash there too.

I got up the next morning and drove home. I spent the rest of Saturday spending time with Ryoko at home and not drinking. Also, the new Symphony X album, Iconoclast, leaked on the internet that day so I DLed it and listened to it a few times. I must say, I think it’s a really solid album and there isn’t a single song on it that I don’t like. I wouldn’t say it’s their best work and it certainly isn’t flawless, but I am really digging it and will be enjoying it for a long time. Ryoko slept over and then on Sunday we went to a petting zoo that has lots of farm animals. It was alright I guess. There was this guy from New Zealand who was in charge of the sheep dog show which I found amusing. He LOVES the sheep! They also had homemade icecream there that they make from their own cow’s milk and we split a cone. For whatever reason, I was having another bad gout attack on the way home. It might have been the icecream that caused it but im not sure.

Anyway… skipping ahead to the most recent weekend (June 17th – 19th)…

On Friday (the 17th), we had the Gunma ALT seminar in Maebashi which is a mandatory meeting for all the JET ALTs in Gunma. Its divided half into the people who will stay next year starting in late July (which includes me… and this will be my final year on JET since 5 years is the max) and the other half which is the people who will leave JET. The meeting lasted all day and was your typical same old JET meeting with nothing really worth noting. After the meeting was the farewell party for all the departing ALTs. It was at the rooftop beer garden in Takasaki. I decided I would try drinking again to see how things went now that I was on the medicine for a while. Since beer is the worst alcohol for gout, I drank whiskey the whole time. The whiskey ended up getting me smashed pretty quickly since they made the drinks (highballs and whiskey cokes) using large size beer mugs and put 2 shots of whiskey in each drink. I was drinking them at the pace everyone else was drinking beer and by the end of the beer garden (at 9 pm, 4 hours later) I was feeling pretty smashed.

The plan after this was to head to Tokyo for the rest of the weekend. I rode the train up there with Emmet and Bloodbath. I passed out on the train at some point but by the time we made it to Tokyo I was feeling much better. Bloodbath had other plans, but Emmet and I headed to Current, Godz, and PSY, where we drank until about 5 am between the 3 bars. Not really much worth noting at any of the bars. It was just a pretty standard night of drinking. I requested Iconoclast at PSY which sounded awesome at the bar. We both passed out near the end at PSY. I woke up and Emmet was still passed out so I just went ahead to the manga kissa to sleep.

On Saturday, when I woke up, I was still feeling pretty hung over. I ended up drinking way more than I should have the previous night and was really regretting it. Though I didn’t feel any gout pain last night (probably due to being wasted) I was now feeling it quite heavily. I made myself get up early so that I could go back to Takadanobaba hospital to consult with the doctor about my gout in person for the first time since he originally diagnosed me. He showed me the results of the test and said that my uric acid level was 10.7 mg/dL which is very high. He said that I really should just out right stop drinking for a while. Given that I felt hung over as hell and had pretty bad gout pain, it seemed like good advice. I told him that I went to Tsukiyono hospital and got the 100 mg of Zyloric. He said that that was fine but said I should probably increase the dose to 200 mg. He asked if I wanted more from him. I told him that I would just go back and get it from my local hospital since it would just be easier that way, and I had enough pills to last through Monday, so it would be fine. I should have just gotten them from him, but I will get into that later. He said I should come back in like 2 months for another blood test to check my uric acid levels.

I was pretty tired after leaving the hospital cuz I only got like 6 hours of sleep and was feeling pretty hung over honestly. I went to the manga kissa in Takadanobaba and got a 3 hour package and slept for another 3 hours.

I got some ramen and then I killed a little time playing Guilty Gear at Mikado. I left at around 4;30 because today, I had other plans. I had a ticket to go see Children of Bodom and Amorphis in Yokohama. I took the train out there. I put my backpack in a locker at the station cuz I knew the lockers at the venue would all be full. It was a smart idea aside from the fact that my umbrella was in the locker and I didn’t realize it was raining until after I left the station. On top of that, the map I printed to see how to get to the venue was also in my backpack. I had to just wing it. It looked a bit far on the map from what I remembered so I asked a bus driver if his bus went there. He (for whatever reason) didn’t even know what the venue was (it was called the Yokohama Bay Hall). I ended up just walking in a direction and spotted a guy walking and listening to his headphones who looked like he would be going to the show. I asked him if this was the way to the Yokohama Bay Hall and he said yes, so I just kept walking that way. Eventually I saw a big group of people who all looked like they were going there as well, so I just kept walking the way they were going and I got there soon after.

They forced me to pay 500 yen for a drink ticket after I went inside, which sucked cuz I couldn’t drink alcohol today. I tried to get a redbull with it at the drink counter but they wouldn’t even give me that, so I just got a regular coke. After getting the coke, I turned around and suddenly saw Masami. He said he was here to see the show and that Sushi was here as well. I spotted him shortly after and said hi.

Not long after that, the show started and I got closer to the stage. Amorphis was first to go. This was my first time seeing them live. I’m not quite as into Amorphis as I am into Bodom so I don’t know all the song names that well but they played a good hours worth of songs and it was good stuff. The vocalist has awesome long dreads and does wicked helicopter head banging.

There was an intermission, during which time I had a quick smoke and talked to Masami for a bit longer. He told me that Sachiko was actually here as well so I found her and said hi. Shortly after, Bodom came on. This was my 4th time seeing Bodom live. They always put on a good live show. I think the latest album is so-so. It’s better than Blooddrunk but still not as good as their first 4 albums which I like the best. Overall, they played a good mix of everything though (except no songs off of the first album which kinda sucks). Here was the set list.

• Not My Funeral
• Bodom Beach Terror
• Needled 24/7
• Shovel Knockout
• Roundtrip to Hell and Back
• In Your Face
• Living Dead Beat
• Children Of Bodom
• Hate Me!
• Blooddrunk
• Angels Don't Kill
• Follow the Reaper
• Downfall
-------------------------
• Was It Worth It?
• Everytime I Die
• Hate Crew Deathroll

Highlights for me were Bodom Beach Terror and Children of Bodom.

After the show, I tried to head out quickly to beat the rush of people leaving. I grabbed a quick sandwich and yogurt at Family Mart to eat on the train ride back and headed back to Tokyo. By this point, my gout was starting to get worse.

I headed back to Mikado and figured I would play Guilty Gear until they closed at midnight. I got a lot of great games in. There were a lot of good players there. I guess there was another #reload tournament earlier in the day that I missed due to the concert and lots of them stayed after to play Accent Core. I played a few vs FAB but couldn’t beat him this time. Overall, though, I was doing quite well against everyone else I fought. Near closing time, Satoshi showed up and said hi to me. He seemed happy to see me since I hadn’t seen him in a while. He had just gotten back from the US since he entered the recent Revelations tournament where he won both the BB and GG tournaments. We made some small talk and then I headed out since the arcade was closed.

So now I was faced with a tough decision. I already was 100% committed to not drinking tonight so my decision would be rough. Tonight at GODZ was Hide’s birthday party so I knew it would be pretty hype and really wanted to go. However, I knew that I wouldn’t have much fun if I can’t drink. I decided I would go to Game Versus (the arcade that’s open all night in Nishi Nippori) and try to play some fighting games at least. This place is known for its 3rd Strike competition (which I don’t really play at all and am not good at) but the last time I went there they had some Street Fighter IV cabs so I figured I could at least play that.

When I arrived at Game Versus, I was disappointed to find that they didn’t have a single SSFIV cab (not even Vanilla) set up. No Guilty Gear. They didn’t even have 3rd Strike for some reason! Everyone was playing Super Turbo! I guess they switch their games out pretty often. Don’t get me wrong… I like Super Turbo. It’s a classic game and I enjoyed it a lot back in the day. However, I know I don’t stand a chance against the kinda guys who would be playing ST all night at the arcade until 5 am. I never practice the game and knew that if I decided to stay I would just get destroyed at ST for the next 4 hours straight. So… I decided I would try to catch the train back to Shinjuku. Luckily, the Yamanote line was still running.

I arrived back in Shinjuku at about 1 am. I figured I could at least pop into GODZ and say hi. When I got there, it was really packed. Lots of people that knew me were there so I chatted with them a bit. I ordered an oolong tea and just sipped on that the whole time and smoked some cigs. Chris and Sachiko were supposed to be there but they already went home. Hide was WASTED when I got there. He thanked me for coming to his birthday party and then soon after proceeded to dry hump some chick on the floor with her ankles behind her head. I assume they were friends cuz they she was smiling about it and laughing so it was all in good fun, but it was pretty hilarious and random for sure. It was like right in front of the bathroom door, too lol. After being there for like an hour and a half, drinking my 650 yen oolong tea and smoking cigarettes sober while everyone else continued to get more and more wasted, I decided I might as well just go to sleep. My gout was hurting really bad at this point anyway. I said goodbye to the people I knew and headed out.

I got to the manga kissa and as expected for 2:30 am, it was already all full. I assumed this would probably happen. I checked about 5 other manga kissas and they were all full as well. Big surprise. I didn’t really wanna go back to GODZ so I decided to at least check Current out. That was a mistake. There were 2 customers at the bar who I don’t really know, and then just Emma, Masami, and Mame working while Sushi also sat at the bar. I ordered a tomato juice, much to Mame’s surprise, and explained to them about my condition. They said I was drinking like a fish last night so they were surprised to hear it, but they understood and felt bad for me. I told them I might have to quit drinking for as long as 2 months (since that was when my next uric acid test would be) but I was actually unsure how long I really needed to stop. In any case, I stayed until about 4 am sipping my tomato juice, drinking cigs, and making small talk. I finally headed out and decided to give the manga kissa another try. It was still full. I went to McDonalds and got a small fries and killed some time eating it and listening to my mp3 player. At 4:30 I tired one more time and was successful in getting a room… finally. I was exhausted and every joint in my body was aching. It felt great to finally sleep.

(So you can see how this whole gout thing is really fucking my weekends in Tokyo. If I go to bed early at like 12, I wake up at like 8-9 am when nothing is opened and its boring as hell. If I hang out for a little bit but then try to sleep I have to wait until 5 am cuz the manga kissas are full. If I drink I fuck myself. Maybe next time I should just man up and stay at Game Versus and take my beatings.)

On Sunday morning I woke up after 9 hours of sleep. I only meant to sleep 8 but my alarm didn’t wake me up. I took a shower and headed out. I got some spinach curry and then headed to Mikado where I spent the rest of the day playing GG casuals. It was actually pretty much dead at first (and this was already 3 pm… so you can see why I wouldn’t wanna wake up at like 9 am on a Sunday…). Gradually, a couple GG players rolled in. I played against this one HOS player and beat him like 15 times in a row. At some point he started getting pissed and taunting me and slamming the cab. He wasn’t even that bad but I guess he thought I was some random gaijin scrub and was getting pissed at losing to me so many times. He eventually gave up and moved to another cab. I fought a few other people and beat them and then eventually beat the game with like a 25 win streak.

I went and played a little SSFIV against a Claw player but he beat me up pretty bad. I also fought a Ken and Juri player who I beat about 4 times and then eventually no one played against me so I beat the game.

I went back and played GG for the rest of the day as more people started to roll in and it was finally getting busy. Kunihiro showed up and I played him for a while at first. I played a lot against Kuni’s Slayer as well. We went pretty even. I lost the one match I played against Hayashi. I went pretty even with really good black I-no. I also went 1-1 with Satou’s Eddie. I played a lot of other matches vs various people as well and for the most part did good. It was fun times.

When it was time to go I got some quick yogurt and pasta from Lawson for the ride back home and got on the train.

So that concludes the most recent weekend.

On Monday, I went back to Tsukiyono hospital to get more Zyloric for my gout. I figured everything would go smoothly but I was quite mistaken. When I went in to see the doctor, it was a completely different doctor. (Ryoko tells me that this hospital actually doesn’t have regular doctors on staff cuz they have a hard time finding permanent ones so they just take whoever they can get to fill in…) This guy was really, really old. He started off by trying to speak some broken English and asked me where I was from and how long I was in Japan. I just replied in Japanese and he eventually started speaking Japanese, thankfully. I told him about my gout situation and asked him what the results of my blood test were when I originally went to get the meds about 2 weeks ago (I hadn’t seen the results yet). Midway through explaining my situation he asked me AGAIN where I was from and how long ive been in Japan. I found this a little odd but answered anyway. He got out the chart and struggled to find the information on it. The nurses had to help him out. He eventually found that data and said that my uric acid level was only 5.3 mg/dL. This makes no sense because it’s impossible for your blood’s uric acid level to drop that quickly in a matter of days (it was only a few days between when I took the test in Tokyo and at this place). I asked him if there could be a mistake. I had him call the doctor at Takadanobaba to confirm that it was 10.7 when I went there. He left the room, came back later and said that the doctor there indeed said it was 10.7. So… he decided to do another blood test and urine test.

So I got the test done, and after the drew me blood and I peed in the cup, he asked if I could just wait for about 20 minutes to find out the results. I found this to be rather odd since the blood test usually takes much longer but agreed and waited in the hallway. He called me back in about 20 minutes later, saying that the results showed that my uric acid level was now only 3.7. This made absolutely no sense because that’s even extremely low for regular people who have no problems. On top of that, I had no idea how he could have gotten the data so quickly. At this point, we had a long discussion bout gout and he claims I don’t have it and that my joints are sore from working too hard and he said that I should run and exercise every day and it will cure my problem. I started to get a little more suspicious about this guy when he asked me a 3rd time when I came to Japan and how long I have been here. On top of that, within like this 15 minute conversation, he must have asked me how often I drink alcohol about 5 or 6 separate times! And each time it was like he asked as if it was the first time. Ive worked in a retirement home before and this is the kinda thing I would often see with dementia patients. I think this old man wasn’t quite right in the head.

In the end, he told me I didn’t need the medication anymore and sent me home empty handed. The last thing he said to me while I was waiting by the front desk to pay the bill was asking me how often I drink one more time…. I was pretty pissed that I just wasted like 2 hours of my day on the shenanigans of some crazy old man and had no more Zyloric either.

So… I told Ryoko what happened and she said that Tsukiyono hospital sucks and that I should just not go there anymore. I decided that on Tuesday, I would go to Minakami hospital (even smaller hospital with just one doctor on staff, but he seems competent), I went there and told him the situation about getting diagnosed in Takadanobaba and everything but I left out the part about the crazy old man at the other hospital. He diagnosed me with more meds in addition to the Zyloric and was very helpful in answering all my questions. He also did another blood test and said to come back next Monday to find the results out. Also, according to the doctor in Takadanobaba, I also have iron deficiency anemia, which basically means a lack of red blood cells due to low iron. This is often caused by bleeding from stomach acid problems so I already sorta knew I had this. I told him and he gave me a straight up injection of iron into my blood. He told me that if I stay on the meds and watch my diet that my uric acid levels should return to normal in about 1.5 to 2 months. One good thing was, when I asked him about not drinking alcohol at all, he told me that it was ok for me to drink some red wine. So, it seems like I actually don’t have to give up drinking completely after all. I think im still gonna take a weekend or 2 off for real this time though but at least the next time I go to Tokyo, I can have some wine at the bar and not be completely bored.

So, hopefully this gout bullshit will be over with soon enough. I can't believe im only 28 and have so many health problems though. I dread to think how fucked up my body is gonna be when im an old man (if I even make it that far...)

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