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Algebra - Fatigue
Apr 1, 2002

Stallion, I hope you're healthy and doing well.

Your previous reply was greatly appreciated. A cashiers check for 200 was mailed to your foundation today, with "Algebra" on the back of the envelope. I hope to make regular donations to help the cause. It's a great one.

My WOPR is overloaded again - back to DEFCON 1. I wish my mind was playing A Nice Game of Chess instead of Global Thermonuclear War. Pulling the plug is not an option. It's going to take a good hacker to convince WOPR that's not a full-scale attack (HIV) on the system (ME).

Your Algebra lesson, mighty math, not fussy, had me at DEFCON 5 (Normal peacetime readiness) until today. Unfortunately, my wife is coughing daily in the AM and PM. She's at her wits end with the chronic fatigue and burning lungs.

I hope you passed Algebra because my heart tells me something is really wrong with our health. And it must be something contagious, everlasting, and cannot be diagnosed easily.

Can I really trust the 9 Elisa tests from Unilab, the last being at 12.5 months? Or maybe I'm the first one to break the 8.5-month record for non-react. Or better yet, maybe Unilab, who doesn't even know what generation test they use, are incompetent. I pray the CDC will not have to revise the window period.

I've looked hard for another contagious pathogen that could be the cause. As you can see from my previous email, I've been checked for just about everything, including TB. You suggested a good internist. But this thing must be contagious. See a therapist, I don't see how this will help my wife's symptoms. Maybe an infectious disease specialist. Even then, there really aren't too many answers when you pose the question: What makes your lungs burn chronically, causes a chronic caugh, causes chronic fatigue, and lasts for over a year.

Being a pro, I mean an expert, really helps. I hope the 2 Benjamins we're above your usual rate.

I hope you have something that will convince WOPR to play tic-tac-toe. It will either learn or destroy itself.

Thank you Joshua, I mean Robert.

I look forward to contributing again to the Foundation real soon ...hint.

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello Algebra-guy,

Welcome back to the forum. Thank you for your generous gift to the Foundation. The money is being used to provide HIV medications to HIV-positive women in Africa to help prevent passing the infection on to their unborn children. We've been able to reduce the cost of treating a mother/infant pair to just 80 cents! The treatment is 50% effective. Since I know you like math, that means $200 = 250 doses of medications, which means 125 children's' lives saved by your donation. Your halo just got a bit brighter! Thank you, personally, and on behalf of those kids!

Now, let's try to reason with WOPR and get DEFCON back to 1.

Can you really trust 9 Elisa tests from Unilab out to 12.5 months past a potential exposure? Absolutely. Is the CDC going to revise their window period for HIV seroconversion? Absolutely not! We've been tracking this bug for 21 years and nothing regarding seroconversion has changed during that period. So you don't really need a good hacker to convince WOPR this is not a full-scale attack by HIV on your immune system. All you need are the facts and basic logic. 2 + 2 never ever equals 5, even in new math!

So let's reexamine the problem. Your wife is having problems with cough, burning lungs, and chronic fatigue. First thing to note is that these are not common symptoms of HIV disease. Also, remind WOPR once again that HIV has already been ruled out multiple times by the multiple negative tests. So what could it be? Actually, there are several potential causes - asthma, bronchitis, inhaling noxious chemicals or fumes, sinus post-nasal discharge triggering chronic cough, which then results in a burning sensation, etc., etc. It appears that this has been going on for over a year and her lungs seem to be the target. I'd suggest you have your wife see a lung specialist. S/he can test your wife's lung function and hopefully get to the cause of her problem and get her started on appropriate therapy. Is the condition contagious and everlasting? No, I doubt it. Easily diagnosed? Perhaps not, but just because it isn't easy doesn't mean it can't be diagnosed. You may just need to see a specialist. That's why they are called specialists. They specialize in one particularly field to diagnose and treat problems not easily diagnosed or treated.

The therapist is still a good idea for you due to your ongoing fixation on possible HIV. This is most likely related to guilt. Otherwise, why wouldn't you be fixating on Ebola virus, African Sleeping Sickness, malaria, or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, or any of a gazillion other diseases. You would have symptoms that don't match these conditions and tests that would completely rule out even the remotest possibility of these conditions, just like you do for HIV infection. So you made a mistake in the past and your conscience is really giving you a hard time forgiving yourself for putting yourself and your wife at risk. I think you've done enough penance. No harm was done. Neither you nor your wife has HIV. So it's time to focus on what you do have without being constantly sidetracked by irrational fears. A therapist could help in that regard.

So when you pose the question, "What makes your lungs burn chronically, causes a chronic cough, causes chronic fatigue, and lasts for over a year," I can emphatically state, "Not HIV." Next step to solve this problem - the pulmonologist (lung specialist). OK are we back to DEFCON 1? I hope so.

Stay well, and thanks again.

Dr. Bob


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