About Me

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For those of you that don't know, I was diagnosed with ALS in March 2007. After two more opinions, the diagnosis was confirmed in the fall 2007 at age 39. This coming August (2010) I will have been married for seven years to an incredible wife, who has supported me throughout. During the course of our marriage we have been lucky to have two wonderful, amazing daughters. Sydney, will be 5 in November. Emily, will turn 2 1/2 in August. Currently, we reside in New Jersey with our Beagle, Trixie.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Post 4 – A “Sobering” Reality

Well over a year ago I made a conscious decision, in an effort to be more health-conscious, to curtail my alcohol intake. Not that I was any sort of lush or raging alcoholic, since I only averaged around two or three drinks a week, unless there was some sort of holiday gathering or social occasion, but I thought it was one thing my body could do without. My beverage of choice has always been beer. We have always been told alcohol can cause dizziness, problems with coordination, drowsiness and depression, amongst other things. Since I already had my fair share of the above symptoms I figured that it would not hurt to lessen my intake.

About a month ago, I decided to turn back the clock as a bunch of friends and I went to see a friend’s band, Ridgemont High, New Jersey's premier 80s cover band, play at Sammy Beach Bar at the Bally's Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City. The band sounded great, and we all had a good time. It certainly had been sometime since I had consumed that much alcohol (obviously contributing to the great time). One of the unfortunate symptoms of ALS is muscle cramping. I have experienced, and continue to experience muscle cramping from my toes to my neck on a daily basis.  Muscle cramping will usually occur in my hands, arms and neck during the day and in my legs and feet during the night. My doctors cannot give me any explanation as to the specific AM and PM occurrences (stay tuned... this will likely be my first extended rant and rave but I will save this for another post). On average, I may experience muscle cramping in my hands and arms about five or six times a day. The more active I am, the more muscle cramping I will have. Those neck cramps are a real killer! Sometimes I may go a week to 10 days without having any cramps at night and then they may occur for a night or two before the cycle starts over. The cramps can range in duration from a few seconds to a minute or so and the pain can range from mild discomfort to excruciating. The muscle cramps that I have in my legs at night primarily occur in the in-steps of my feet, and in my calves. The pain usually falls into the excruciating category. On this night in Atlantic City, the cramping in my legs and feet occurred nonstop throughout the night and was very uncomfortable. I honestly do not think that I slept consistently for more than 20 minutes throughout the night. Although I had a good time hanging out with my friends I suspected that the previous nights indulgences played a large part in my very restless and painful attempt at sleep. I was not that concerned, however, since it had probably been at least a half dozen years since I had drank that much and would probably be several years before I had the opportunity to do so again.

Last night, Tracey and I, along with a good friend and her husband, attended a grilled cheese and craft beer dinner at the World Café Live in Philadelphia. We are not talking about a few pieces of Kraft American cheese singles and two slices of Wonder white bread with a Budweiser; we are talking about some kick ass grilled cheese and beer! Although the appetizer and all four sandwich selections were wonderful, there were two standout sandwiches during the night. The first sandwich was a slow cooked and marinated pork loin and Boursin cheese with pineapple mustard glaze, on a roasted onion ciabatta. My other favorite consisted of Gouda cheese with smoked turkey, sage butter, crisp prosciutto and cranberry mustard, toasted on brioche bread. Delicious to say the least! All six beers, brewed by Dogfish Head, we sampled were tasty as well. One of my favorites was the Sah 'tea. A beer, brewed with rye, where they caramelize the wort (the liquid extracted during the brewing process which ultimately becomes the beer) by placing white-hot river rocks in a wooden barrel. The beer was fermented with German Weizen yeast and also contained juniper berries, and a black tea mixture containing cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and black pepper. My other favorite beer was called Theobroma. This beer was based on an early Honduras recipe, and is brewed with Aztec cocoa powder and cocoa nibs, with honey, chilies, and annatto. The big hit of the night, however, was the dessert. This was an ice cream beer float! It consisted of a dark, rich, rosty stout beer with vanilla ice cream and large chocolate covered cherries. Imagine a thick vanilla shake from Carvel, with some Kahlua mixed in, and you get the idea. You can tell that I take my beer seriously. The amount of beer I consumed last night was in no way near the amount of alcohol I consumed a month ago, but yet the leg cramps returned again. They did not occur as frequently as they did last month, but they were occurring frequent enough throughout the night, more so than usual. Now this could have been a coincidence, but I'm not so sure.

According to my doctor, there is really nothing much that can be done to eliminate the muscle cramping. The only solution she has suggested, and one which has appeared to work, is quinine. Unfortunately, quinine is no longer prescribed because of possible side effects when taken in large doses. Quinine, however, is present in tonic water. Therefore, being a person who is greatly concerned with the overall health of ALS patients, and in the name of ALS scientific research, I will immediately begin my own clinical trial on the effects of alcohol and muscle cramping.  As of now, my primary drink will be gin and vodka tonics, in an attempt to compare the effects of gin and vodka tonics versus beer, with regard to muscle cramping. I assure you that my participation in this endeavor is purely scientific.  As my faithful supporters, equally concerned about my overall health, I encourage you to assist me in this medical experiment by buying me gin and/or vodka tonics whenever possible.  Additionally, I theorize that I will experience less cramping if you buy me the good stuff!  Of course, I will also require healthy subjects to participate alongside me to act as a control group.  Any volunteers?

So to all of you... let's raise a glass (preferably with Absolut) to my future good health… cheers!!


  1. I'm in!
    BTW, I'd love to do the ALS Walk with you guys...

  2. Darin,

    I heard tonic water, pickle juice, and mustard are good to take when having muscle cramps. The athletic trainers at school run around with mustard packets when the football players cramp up. Don't know if it will help, can't hurt to try.


  3. Wish I lived closer so I could take you out for a drink to help science! Next time we are in NJ for sure!
    World Cafe Live sounds like a great place. Everything you had sounds delicious! BTW, Erik knows the guy Sam that started and owns Dogfish Head. Sam brought some of the DFH 120 minute IPA to their High School reunion -strong stuff- and lets just say it wasn't pretty the next day...
    Have fun with your "experiment"!

  4. Darin,
    I am a little disappointed over your preference of Absolute (it may bring side effects of headaches the next morning). Being a connoisseur of vodka, I would suggest using Grey Goose, Belvedere, or some Ketel One in your trial!

  5. Dar,
    I have to agree with Christine. If I can make the Sept AC trip, we will certainly be drinking some Grey Goose (my personal fav).


  6. It's dehydration, brother, that causes the extra cramps. Many is the day I had some drinks and woke up screaming with calf or foot cramps - errr, I mean, it happened once. One glass of water for each drink! So says the doctor/future control subject.

  7. any drink in the name of science must be good.
    My favorite is gin and tonic with a twist of lime, The next one I have I will chalk up to science Good luck with the experiment, if nothing else it should be fun.

  8. Dar, I am buying in September and will defer to what ever you like (while I prefer a good Scotch, I will down some Ketel One with you.)