Tuesday, January 20, 2009

In the News: Swayze, Jobs, Jett Travolta, First Dog

his week, we go over the medical news: Steve Jobs and Patrick Swayze share hospital beds, Jett Travolta and epilepsy, and the Obama's quest for an allergen-free White House pet.

Strange bedfellows, those two. Patrick Swayze (55) and Steve Jobs (54) were both laid low last week with complications of pancreatic cancer. Both have remained in the public eye, but with markedly differing attitudes.

The pancreas is a large gland that lies horizontally behind the stomach and supplies the body with insulin and digestive enzymes. Ninety-five percent of pancreatic tumors are adenocarcinoma. One of the most aggressive and difficult-to-treat of all cancers, fully 75% of patients die within first year after diagnosis. Famed tenor Luciano Pavarotti succumbed to it, as did actors Michael Landon, Fred Gwynne (aka Herman Munster and Harvard grad), Jack Benny, Rex Harrison, Donna Reed, Fernando Lamas, and Joan Crawford. All of Jimmy Carter's three brothers and his father died of it.

In mid-2004 the legendary head of Apple underwent treatment (most likely a Whipple procedure) for an islet cell neuroendocrine tumor– a different and very rare pancreatic cancer responsive to treatment. Approximately half recur, often spreading to liver.

Defiantly private, Jobs' increasingly cachectic appearance and failure to appear at Macworld trade show led to a sharp drop in Apple shares ($5.5 billion). Always a force to be contended with, on January 5th Jobs testily proclaimed it nothing more than a "hormonal imbalance" and shares went up. Just a week later nearly $10 billion in shareholders' market value was wiped out when the "more complex" test results came back, requiring a five month medical leave.

If Jobs' has had a recurrence of his cancer, shareholder lawsuits will likely result. A CEO's personal health is a private matter until it affects the operation of a publicly-held company. Misleading statements about such lie within the realm of securities fraud.

Voted People's sexiest man alive in 1991, Patrick Swayze is terminally ill with Stage IV pancreatic cancer and he knows it. In an extended interview with Barbara Walters (79) January 7th, Joffrey-trained Swayze credited his wife of 33 years, Lisa (51), with helping him get through "this journey....as elegantly as I have."

This from a guy who went one-on-one with Chris Farley in SNL's Chippendale's tryout skit.

Both of the women in the interview have had full facelifts, browlifts, volume added, and probably some eye work. Swayze himself has undergone some endoscopic face work, sometime early in the decade. Check out Keeping Mum (2005, a lovely film)– it's not the same face that made Baby do Dirty Dancing (1987).

The untimely death of Jett Travolta (16) on January 3rd has raised questions about how a closely supervised teenager could die of an epileptic seizure.

Seizures are often a side effect of other illnesses (eg, Sen. Ted Kennedy's event at the inaugural luncheon), but not often the cause of death. The 1% of Americans with convulsive seizure disorder have the same life expectancy as others. There is, however, a poorly understood syndrome called sudden unexpected death in epilepsy patients, or Sudep, which occurs in 10 to 15 of 10,000 patients with poorly controlled seizures.

Officially speaking for the family, lawyers Michael Ossi and Michael McDermott have added to the confusion by offering medically nonsensical statement. An exclusive interview was given to TMZ.com, the celebrity gossip site underwritten by Warner Brothers & AOL and known for a mix of salacious content and speedy posting.

The 16-year-old suffered from uncontrolled grand mal seizures after being taken off Depakote (valproate semisodium), the most prescribed anti-epileptic drug worldwide. The Travoltas, after consulting neurosurgeons, stopped administering it because they felt it had lost its effectiveness.

Scientology believes in medical intervention for physical illnesses, but does not recognize those involving the mind as such, eg, autism or psychiatric disorder, nor the use of psychotropic drugs. Based on precepts laid down by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard (d. 1986), its adherents view mental illness as psychosomatic and to be treated via its proprietary brand of spiritual healing, not with conventional therapies. Only when a physical (organic) cause for a "mental" disorder is proven, does it move from the field of psychiatry to the field of medicine.

The Obamas' dog dilemma?

That an easy one. There is no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog. The major allergen in canines is a protein that dogs excrete in sweat and shed from their skin. There are no skinless dogs!

If anything, factors related to individual dogs seem to influence the allergenicity more than breed or gender.

So here's the deal, Malia. You can have a dog on trial. The dog stays out of your bedroom, since you spend a lot of time in there. Wash your hands after you pet it. And make sure those staff keep the White House clean. But (there always is one, you know), if you have to visit the ER for asthma or you need significantly more medication, the dog has to go.

Tune in @ 10am to Anne flesh it all out with Kevyn Burger on-air. Can't make it? Use this link to find the FM107.1 audio archive of Knifestyles broadcasts by date (second hour). Step one: select the date shown on the blog posting; step two: click on Kevyn Burger; step three: click on second hour. Enjoy!