By Dr. Jim Ferguson

We were hungry as we rolled into our neighborhood Krystal restaurant.  Becky, the Boy and I needed a pit stop to refuel from a morning of errands which included a trip to the dump.  The lives of Grandparents seem to revolve around activities with Oakley before and after his nap-time.  And along the way Oakley is learning.  He’s even being introduced to classical music under our tutelage.  He now joins us in our rendition of the William Tell Overture, ♪ to the dump, to the dump, to the dump, dump, dump… ♪

Imagine our shock when we discovered our Krystal was “sold out.”  No, they were not out of those deliciously unhealthy square burgers which melt in your mouth like hot Krispy Kreme donuts.  They had plenty of hamburgers and fries.  (You know it hadn’t occurred to me that two of my favorite Knoxville franchises begin with a “K.”)

Like other Knoxvillians Becky and I believe that sometimes, “Ya gotta have a Krystal.”  Becky and I are also educating Oakley in the finer aspects of southern fast-food – perhaps to his parents’ chagrin.  But this time we were hankering for the best corndog outside of the Tennessee Valley A&I Fair, so we drove to the Krystal promising Oakley a real treat.  And truthfully, the Krystal wasn’t sold out of anything.  However, they were out of   newspaper which we often pick up at the Krystal.

Apparently, last week’s edition or my essay entitled “History” struck a chord because the shelf with the usual stack of Focus newspapers was bare.  Perhaps the bad weather had given everyone cabin fever, and with the short hiatus between snowstorms, the neighborhood sought relief with Krystal’s “comfort” food.  And naturally, as the folk drink coffee and eat burgers they search for something to read.  This week they must have devoured the Focus’ news and prose as well.

The Focus’ emphasis is on our Knoxville community and local news.  You won’t hear much about Obama unless Air Force One lands here and he gives a speech in Oak Ridge.  I’m not sure why the Focus publisher tolerates my column which frequently looks beyond Knox County.  However, perhaps readers appreciated my “Cliff’s Notes” of history in the February 16, 2015 column – or maybe they just needed a newspaper to stoke their fire on a cold winter’s night.

These days, I often think it would be easier to take the advice of Bobby McFerrin and “♪ Don’t worry, be happy ♪.”  Will it matter if I tell people that “Net neutrality” is just another Obama-progressive euphemism and will reduce our freedom just like Obama-care?  Does anyone doubt that Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry plan to let Iran’s mullahs get the bomb?  And excuses for Islamist terrorism continue as Christians are subject to genocide and ethnic cleansing (and anti-Semitism runs rampant in Europe).  I recently read that “more Christians died for their faith in the last century (20th) than in the previous nineteen centuries.”  I’m convinced that American will do little until we suffer a cataclysmic attack or until America’s “bread and circus” is taken away.  Unfortunately, by then it will be too late for many, just as it was too late for the Romans who chose self-indulgence over their responsibilities of freedom.

Ok Jim, time to focus closer to home.  One of my patients is struggling with the cold weather and reactive airway disease.  This condition lies within the spectrum of asthma and often manifests as cough and shortness of breath.  I once wrote an essay describing the lungs as analogous to a cluster of grapes.  The trunk of a grape vine is like our trachea or windpipe.  The stalk is analogous to our bronchial tubes, and the stems are like the tiny bronchial airways of the lungs.  At the end of the stems are clusters of grapes which represent tiny air sacks (alveoli) in our lungs.  Within these air sacks oxygen is absorbed and carbon dioxide is exchanged, and eliminated when we expire (breathe out).  Asthma occurs with spasms of the airways, and is also associated with excessive mucous (phlegm) production.  As airways spasm and filled with mucous, air flow is affected.

Medical commercials hawking various drugs rarely impress me, and I’m especially sick of the ones peddling male performance agents and hyping “low T.”    However, a recent COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) advertisement accurately described the pathophysiology (altered body function) of reactive airway disease.  Airway spasm traps air in the lungs, and the inability to take a deep breath is analogous to over inflating a balloon.  Treatment consists of inhaled agents to relieve the spasm, and often inhaled steroids are necessary to reduce inflammation and mucous production to improve airflow.

Knoxvillians live in an area where there’s plenty of water to make things grow.  Growing things produce reproductive pollen.  And water produces mold and the characteristic nasal quality to our East Tennessee erudition.  We have more allergy problems than folks in Arizona, and asthma often has an allergic basis.  Reactive airway disease can be related to allergic problems, but sometimes is due to exercise, cold and dry air or just excessive dust or smoke.  Imagine being in a room with wet and burning leaves.  The acrid smoke would eventually cause nasal and bronchial irritation in all of us.  Imagine what it’s like to live in the fouled air of Beijing, China.

Perhaps this is my problem.  I don’t have reactive airway disease.  I have reactive “visceral” syndrome caused by Washington’s “Beltway Boys.”  If I didn’t love my country and my family I’d say to h*** with it all, and just sit back and demand that the state and my children take care of me as one of my former liberal friends said he planned to do.  That perspective just makes me sick – and also makes me wheeze.