I realize it’s been a year since my last post. But I haven’t given up. I have decided to try again, this time with a new worm provider.
I contacted http://www.wormtherapy.com, and talked to the proprietor, Garin. He was cheerful and positive and said he’d be glad to meet me at the airport in San Diego. We made the arrangements, and it was off to the airport I went.
Just as he said, Garin was waiting for me at the curb as I emerged from baggage claim. He drove me across the border to a small clinic in Tijuana, where I met Dr. Llamas. The doctor spent a good deal of time with me, talking about my overall health, and explaining how we would be managing my treatment to make sure it was safe and effective. I felt safe and cared for.
Then the doctor himself administered the dose of 40 hookworms. He cleaned my arm, deposited the solution containing the microscopic worms on a 2″ x 2″ band-aid, and applied it to my arm. It was fast and easy. Then, within 10 minutes, my arm started itching like crazy–a sure sign of healthy worms!
Garin then drove me back to the airport in San Diego. The wait at the border was 1.5 hours, but Garin thoughtfully had a DVD player set up so I could watch a movie as we crawled towards the border. Very nice.
I made the plane with plenty of time to spare, and was back at home the same day. Now the waiting to see how I react. It’s finger-crossing time again…
So we started it all over. We were exacting on every point. The temp and humidity were perfect. I was extra-dutiful in keeping the poop moist. A little too dutiful–on day six when I went to pack the container with sand, I discovered that the lump of it was floating–a swampy sea of poop. Still, I ladled on the sand, but it quickly disappeared. So I spooned out some of the matter, pouring off the excess water and packed the sand as instructed.
Did I pour off all the worms? Surely not all of them. Still, I worried. Twelve hours later, I laid the two layers of silk, and waited some more. Of course, I ducked in every couple of hours to make sure that the silk was kept moist. (I now have a repetitive stress injury in my spray-bottle trigger-finger. Not really.)
Finally, we were ready. I pulled the top layer of silk off, and placed it in a container of distilled water. More waiting, this time overnight. The next morning, Lisa took her position behind the microscope (sexy!) and took a good long look.
Nothing. Not a single living organism that we could see.
I felt crushed.
She kept at it, staring for hours at slide after slide, soaking the bottom layer of silk, and searching it for life. Nothing.
I sunk into a black miasma of depression only a couple of shades lighter than my fruitless, non-productive excrement.
“Let’s try again!” Said Lisa, cheerfully.
But I shook my head. “I’m not going through that again. It’s too much work, I’ve got my hopes too high, and there’s too much at stake.”
We called X and had a long chat. He pointed out some of the things we might have done wrong. Finally, though, we settled on another plan–a way to ship a dose of worms that hadn’t occurred to me as an option before.
So I don’t feel quite so hopeless. I’ll be off to collect a new worm shipment soon. 50 worms this time, bringing my total count to 85. I expect one more dose after this (for a total of 135) will be the proper dosage, but we’ll see.
So, having failed at agriculture, I’m back to hunting and gathering. It’s okay, I guess. The nomadic lifestyle suits me.
I was catching up with an old friend recently, telling her about my grand parasitic adventure and the good news about the relief I’ve been feeling from it. She was fascinated and said, “You’re a biopunk!”
“Is that good?” I asked, kind of liking the sound of that.
She said, “Biopunks are doing biology in their basements, taking science into their own hands. It’s very exciting!” She giggled.
To be frank, I find the ideal of being a biopunk much more romantically alluring than the reality of kneeling over my Reptibator with a spray bottle dutifully moistening my own shit three times a day, but thems the breaks.
In point of fact, even if I AM a biopunk (and shouldn’t I get some aviator goggles and a lab coat–or would that just make me Dr. Horrible?) I must confess that I am not a very good one. Actually, I suck at it pretty hard.
Last week Lisa and I harvested our first dose–or attempted to. On Tuesday morning, as per instructions, I packed the container containing my sample (LOVELY euphemism for a hopefully-parasite-riddled turd in a plastic champagne cup) with sandbox sand and moistened it thoroughly. A couple of hours later, I put two layers of silk on top of the sand, and moistened those as well.
About twelve hours later, discovered that I had not kept them moist enough. I drew off the top layer–which was mostly dry, unfortunately–and put it into a cup with distilled water.
We tipped the cup to allow gravity to do its thing, the drew out the water near the bottom with a plastic pipette and placed it onto a microscope slide. Lisa peered into the “My Little Microscope” we got from amazon, and reported that she saw LOTS of structures–god knows what they were. We only know that none of them were alive.
Lisa, looking awfully sexy with her latex-gloved hands, peering into the microscope (hm…I may have uncovered a latent “scientist” fetish–who knew?), scoured one slide after another for evidence of life….to no avail.
We re-wet the silk and tried again the next morning. Still nothing. I sank into a depression, and wondered if I would have to contract with another company in order to get the precious worms I need. I felt like a biopunk failure.
Lisa, ever the bubbly optimist, said, “No problem. We learned a lot from this. Let’s try again. Can you poop on command?”
It appears that I can.
I downloaded the instructions for harvesting hookworms from the internet, and made up a list of items to get. Most of them were home-depot purchases, but one stood out. I needed an incubator. The instructions discussed a jerry-rigged styrofoam container and a desk lamp, but that seemed to be inviting a fire hazard. So I went to the local reptile store and inquired about a terrarium, outfitted with something that I could measure the temperature and humidity with.
What I found was amazing! A reptile egg incubator, which had everything ready to go in one package. And it was titled (get this) the “Reptibator.” Visions of a cartoon crocodile masturbating float through my head whenever I say the word.
So I took my Reptibator home and set it up. I also ordered some lab equipment from amazon: a microscope and some slides, etc. By now I’m getting the mad scientist vibe and I’m kind of digging it.
I experimented with the Reptibator for a few days, making sure the temp and humidity were optimal. I was wary of the foam cushion I was supposed to dampen to keep the humidity up, thinking that with what I was planning to humidify, that foam would be a crawling bacteria factory in no time, but I had trouble keeping the humidity high enough without it.
Finally, it was poop in a bucket time. I scooped the feces into a small plastic cup (the kind you serve champagne in at a BBQ), and then also into a slightly larger tupperware container. I’ve never done this before and I’m not sure how much is optimal, so I thought I’d experiment with two different sizes.
I mixed the poop with vermiculite, as per the instructions and broke two plastic spoons in doing so. Apparently, I have misjudged the viscosity of my own excrement. Who among us cannot say the same?
Then I lowered the lid on the Reptibator and sighed. A week of waiting, and those little containers will be crawling with gut-buddies. Well, let’s hope they will be.
There’s lots happening in worm-land. My hookworms appear to be fat and happy (I still refuse to name them, although I do often refer to them collectively as my “gut-buddies” as other helminthic enthusiasts do), as I am continuing to improve, health-wise. My mystery-illness symptoms occur less frequently than ever–maybe once every three weeks, and they are brief and mild when they do. Thanks be to God (that’s TBTG in internet liturgical use).
I received word back from X saying, yes, it’s time for a booster of another 40 worms. So I started packing my bags for the neighboring-country-which-cannot-legally-be-named. Now the bad news: I just heard from X that he can no longer ship to hotels in said neighboring country. And I don’t know anyone who can receive them at a private residence. My only other choice? Fly to Europe. For a day. Crazy.
I was pondering this and cursing liberally when my wife, bless her, said, “I’m a scientist. How hard can it be? Let’s grow our own.”
I am NOT a scientist. I am a theologian. Since I am an expert only in things that don’t actually exist, I was hesitant and skeptical. Still, I did some internet searches and came up with a “how-to” article that seemed…well, not simple, but not too hard. I showed it to Lisa.
“Oh. Easy,” she said.
“Really?” I asked.
“Poop in a bucket. Buy a microscope. No sweat.”
“Huh…” I said, as my reading of it seemed a bit more complicated. “Okay,” I said, finally. “Let’s go it alone.”
Hi, X. I just thought I’d check in. It’s been exactly four months since I got my successful dose. I have noticed that my ambient symptoms have diminished in severity. They are not gone, but the time between episodes is much greater and the severity of episodes when they do happen are greatly diminished.
It’s hard not to get excited, not to get your hopes up. I tried not to. I failed. The truth is, I’m feeling better. WAY better. The symptoms have not disappeared, but they have lessened significantly. At about the seventh week since Infection Day (ID, henceforth to be celebrated with a parade) I noticed it. No swelled head feeling. No nausea. I didn’t want to jinx it. At week eight, it was time to do the test anyway. I asked my doctor for another test, which he dutifully ordered. I went to Kaiser to pick up the lab kit. I sent the stool sample off to England, and gave another to Kaiser. Within 24 hours, I got the Kaiser results: “No protozoa seen, few white blood cells, increased eosinophils.”
Hm…I’m not doctor, so what can this mean? I wrote to X, and he said, “Increased eosinophils only come from helminth infections, that they did not find ova is not surprising, most US labs are useless at it. It also does not look like they were looking for helminth ova, but protozoa. Trichome are protozoa, not worms. But to me it looks like you have worms, the eosinophil levels can indicate nothing else, unless you have a disease like eosinophilic esophagitis. Which you would know about, for sure, if you did.”
Good news! I checked in with my Vet wife, who confirmed all of this and told me a bunch of medical stuff I can’t remember. It was good stuff, though, I remember feeling hopeful as she was talking (how is that for clueless?).
So all was looking up. I was continuing to feel better. In fact, I was entering into the third week SYMPTOM FREE! Feeling crazy hopeful, I waited for the UK results. Finally, a symptom-free week later, it arrived: “You will be pleased to hear that your stool sample was positive for hookworm.”
Pleased indeed. So, successfully infected, feeling better than ever, I continue to wait for the magic five-month mark to try any of my “forbidden” foods. Meanwhile, I’ve got to do something about my weight. I’m 20 lbs over what I should be. Lisa teases me that I’m “eating for 35 now” counting all my worms. Which is funny, but I still feel fat.