“We’re all special snowflakes”

I ended up in the hospital (ER) again yesterday (May, 2016). For some reason, after I got out and was laying in bed, I started thinking about and looking up different odds:

  • The odds of a male having thyroid cancer are 3 in 1,000.
  • The odds of a person having a paraganglioma are 2 in 1,000,000.
  • The odds of having compartment syndrome are lower than the paraganglioma.
  • The odds of having epiploic appendagitis are so low that most medical professionals don’t even know what it is.

If I understand the probability of independent events, the odds of one person having the first two illnesses are 6 in 1,000,000,000. (Assumng that the two events are independent, you multiply the numerators and denominators to get the odds.) The odds of one person also having the last two as well involve numbers I don’t even know the names of. (What’s a billion times a million times another million or billion?)

I know that we’re all unique, and now I happen to know something that makes me statistically unique. Or as a nurse told me last year, “We’re all special snowflakes.”


Despite the numbers, I was humbled yesterday in the ER. I was feeling bad but forced to wait in the waiting area, and thinking that I needed to get admiited faster. Then a man in his twenties came in. I don’t know what his illness is, but they were talking about coughing up blood. I coughed up blood a few times in my twenties when I found out the hard way that my body can’t tolerate codeine, but it sounded like this young man had cancer or something else that was causing this to happen, and despite the fact that he was doing that on a regular basis, something even worse made him come into the ER now.

After I heard what they were talking about, I thought, “Al, you need to tell the triage nurse to take him in before you,” but they took him in right away. I was reminded then that however crappy I feel, I’m not in my twenties and I’m not coughing up blood on a regular basis. And I’m not the ten year old head-shaven girl that I met in a surgeon’s office a few months ago.

So as another friend said many years ago, “Suck it up, buttercup.” :)

All of this reminds me of Tim McGraw’s song, Humble and Kind:

Followup (September, 2016)

Little did I know when I first wrote this article, but four days after this initial ER visit I had what I call a “fake heart attack.” I had all of the symptoms of a heart attack, got to the hospital, where I could barely walk. The initial blood tests they do showed that I did not have a heart attack, but a nuclear stress test the following day showed a possible “dead spot” in my heart. The day after that they did an angiogram, and afterwards all I remember is that the doctor said, “You’re okay, see me again in four months.” (As I would learn a few months later, many of these problems were caused bt taking a statin medication, Simvastatin in particular.)