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In the Infusion Therapy Unit

For me, the Infusion Therapy Unit at the Hospital for Special Surgery has always been rather like the nurse's office in grade school. You show up in a brightly-lighted room, take a seat, submit yourself to ministrations, and leave when you're told that you can go. And you show up for "shots," not because you feel bad. There's a good boy - this is only going to hurt for a second - now you'll be fine.

Even though I am now much older than the nurses than I was younger when I was in the fourth grade, my visits to the IFU have a Dick and Jane quality that on Friday, for the first time, struck me as truly bizarre. I was chatting with one of the nurses about the pregnancy of another (who is due on the seventh - when I started out, she hadn't even gotten married); then I was laughing at Francine Prose's dry wit in Reading Like A Writer. I was definitely not a sick person. Except, of course, that I am a sick person, and very dependent upon medication for my well-being. Since the medication is effective, however, it renders my auto-immune system's crazy zeal ineffective, and I look healthy enough. You can tell that there's something wrong with my neck (it never moves), but you can't tell how very differently I would carry myself (or not) without Remicade.

Many of the other patients in the Infusion Therapy Unit, however, are obviously seriously ill, and in considerable pain, even with their meds. I never ask the nurses to tell me what's wrong with anybody, so I can't offer any medical reporting, but victims of lupus and rheumatoid arthritis are among those present at any given time. I did overhear a nurse discussing an infusion for osteoporosis with an elderly lady; I didn't know that there was such a treatment for that disease. The lady did not appear to be in any pain, but then she also struck me as a real stoic.

What has only dawned in me in the last couple of visits is that ours is just one kind of infusion therapy unit. Another is the kind that administers chemotherapy to cancer victims. The chairs that we sit in, and the pumps that propel the infusions into our bloodstreams, were developed for patients who are actually brushing up against death. Many of our infusions were in fact also developed as chemotherapies, and only then found to have other, better uses.

As recently as ten years ago, my complex of diseases would have gone untreated by anything less drastic than steroids, but now I'm an accidental beneficiary of the fight against cancer. Just as the Internet so recently transformed my life, so Remicade has just as recently kicked in to keep it going. How lucky I am not to have been ten years older!


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You make an insightful and important observation when you note how you're an 'accidental beneficiary.'

Years ago I took a sulphur drug for my colitis that the Dr. told me had been developed for something entirely different and while it didn't work for the original purpose, by accident they found it worked for colitis --I forget the name of the drug, actually.

And there are drugs for combatting HIV originally developed for other diseases.....

Thank our lucky stars.......

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