The Funny Tweet That Saved My Life
On a warm late summer night about 3 years ago I had a pleasant dinner with a longtime friend and a new acquaintance that ultimately changed and saved my life.
Living and growing up in Lime Rock, Connecticut, I have long had a deep passion for motorsport, and made many friends of those who participate in this sport. So when my friend, Spencer Pumpelly, a professional racecar driver and a rising star in the world of GT sportscar racing, makes a visit to Lime Rock Park for an event I look forward to getting caught up with the latest in his racing career and more importantly how his life is going.
So in late September of 2011 I joined him and his "gentleman driver" at The Inn in Falls Village for a post race dinner and get together. In the racing series in which Spencer competes there are many Pro-Am teams, in which wealthy sportsmen (who are possessed of both the driving skills AND have ample means) hire "hot shoe" professionals as their teammates, and pay the high costs of a racing season with one of the toplevel teams that field and crew the cars.
That year, Spencer introduced me to a guy named Jim Norman, and prefaced that by describing Jim as a "Rock Star Surgeon". He told me Jim had developed a technique for a relatively uncommon surgery that reduced the time of surgery from 5 - 6 hours to 15 minutes, had a 99% cure rate, and was recognized by the medical world as being the state of the art. Moreover, he was the "go to guy" for many Hollywood names, Congress members, Corporate big-wigs, Saudi Sheiks, and especially surgeons who "specialized" in that operation and then contracted it themselves. He was simply put, the best in the world at this particular procedure.
Well, audacious little dude that I am, as we sat down for our dinner and introductions were made, I looked Jim Norman in the eye and asked, "I hear you're the best in the world at what you do. ARE you??"
To which Jim replied, "Yeah, I am. So what's good on the menu?"
That combination of total self confidence and absence of either false modesty or arrogance was enough to win me over right there. Having been a part of motorsport for over 50 years (once a "track brat" at 12, and now at 65 just a well-informed gadfly) the difference between "Dr. Jim" and many of the so-called gentlemen racers I had met was immediately obvious. Over the course of the dinner the man was charming, profane, funny and just gracious. I felt a deep joy that my good young friend Pumpelly no longer was teamed up with and "working for" someone who was a vulgar member of the "lucky sperm club", or one of those rapacious "master of the universe" businessman. And believe me, the league of "gentlemen racers" is blessed with many such.
So nice meal, good visit, and the racers fly on... to their medical practice for one, and to his coaching duties and testing duties on the race track for the other.
Now, let's jump forward to 2013. Over the ensuing few years I had noticed that Spencer and Jim's driving partnership continued and that Spencer's CV had increased in quality (he had won his class at the Rolex 24 a couple of times, and more impressive, been hired by one of the best GT teams for a pair of LeMans24 runs). At the beginning of the '13 season Jim Norman won his class at the Daytona 24 (a very noteworthy accomplishment) and in watching on TV saw him speak graciously of Spencer (who did not share the car with Jim for that race, but was rather in a different higher class with an all-star pro driver lineup). Norman gave credit to Spencer
as his "mentor" who had, through the extensive coaching that is part of such relationships, taught Jim much "racecraft" (much more important than just being able to "go fast").
Gee, what a nice guy, I thought, and went on with the rest of my month here in gray cold New England. So, a few weeks later I tuned into the TV coverage of the NASCAR events at the Daytona Oval, not my favorite form of racing, but one in which I have some acquaintances and find particularly fun to watch while connected to my remote fellow gear heads via Twitter (see we're getting to the point!!).
And as we traded OMGs and WTFs over the frightening crash that happened in a support race the day before the 500, I noticed a tweet for "The Funniest Rolex Story You'll Ever Hear". (http://www.onehotlap.com/2013/01/the-greatest-rolex-story-youll-ever-hear.html)
. Told with wonderful wit and self-effacement, Jim Norman had recounted the tale of a skinny "bird-chested" jeweler in Tampa who refused to believe Jim's Rolex was "real". This was the Rolex handed to him by the chairman of the board of Rolex on the winner's podium at the Rolex 24, so it was about as "real" a Rolex as you can get. The funny story, written with whimsey and charm went viral on the web and Twitter (Google it!). And for me...IT SAVED MY LIFE!!!!
"Hmm", I thought, "What a cool dude, I wonder what the hell he really DOES?" ...so on January 30 I popped his name into good ol' Google, and was directed to parathyroid.com
The exchange of emails that follows really shows the evolution of this story.
Need to see Jim!!
I really liked this guy from the git go (we met when we all had that pleasant dinner w/you and him a couple of years ago in Falls Village).
Just spent an hour reading his site on parathyroid disease. Astounding. Will be looking at the calcium levels in tomorrow's blood test results in a whole new light!!! I swear I have a significant number of the symptoms!
Please send him my sincere congrats on his Rolex (I laughed at his tweet re: not a "real" rolex, and then thought to visit his site...boy, am I glad I did!).
BUT....more to the point please compliment him on his fine website and its brilliantly concise elaboration on the gland, the consequences of its dysfunction, and incompetent surgery.
I may just be an old hypochondriac, but I also might just have been alerted to the reason for some subtle (and not so subtle) symptoms I have been experiencing over the last few years.
Wouldn't have thought of it, but his Rolex story sent me to his website.
Long story short, my primary physician damn near fell over just now when he saw that I was right to suspect my calcium levels have spiked.
By introducing me to him, you may have both lead me to the reason for some health issues I have been experiencing. In fact it has given me a life changing diagnosis (hyperparathyroidism is fixable), and if I do indeed have "it" he'll be my go to guy without doubt.
I wouldn't ask him for any special consideration, but do wish to thank him profoundly for his website and its brilliant exposition on the disease. Perhaps you could let him know.
thanks, and I hope all is well w/you!
Need to see Jim!!
Looks like I have hyperparathyroidism!!
Could you possibly give me Jim's email? or forward my request to him to contact him?
I am hoping he might know a competent surgeon in Connecticut since my affording his consult fee and the travel to Tampa is out of my reach right now.
to Jimmy, me
Jim you might remember David Minton from the night we went out to Falls Village after the Lime Rock ALMS race in 2011 (the year Dion passed me on the last lap). He is typically a hypochondriac but he actually has a calcium issue and wanted to get in touch with you. I'll let you guys take over from here.
Your Rolex Tweet changed my life.....and hopefully extended it
A couple of years ago I had the good fortune to meet a man with neither false modesty nor a touch of arrogance. I remember well our pleasant dinner, so a couple of weeks ago when I read your Tweet of the very funny tale of your Rolex and the foolish jeweler, I thought to visit your website to find out "what the hell you really did".
Now, the form of address changes.
Dear Dr. Norman.
Simply put, your brilliant elucidation of hyperparathyroidism led me to suspect you were talking directly to me. I recognized many symptoms I have been experiencing (but denying as being "real") for the last year or so.
Asking my primary care physician (whom I had just visited for a annual physical) if a Calcium level was part of the Blood Test routine, I apologized for seeming a hypochondriac, but felt compelled to ask.
When we met to discuss the results, dear Dr. Kelly looked over his glasses and observed, with a smile, "Well, 'hypochondriac'....10.4! " I led him to your website and he scanned it approvingly and immediately ordered up a PTH test. This time when he looked at the results. he asked me, "Are you always this right??".
So, my PTH is very high (in the 90's), Calcium is up to 10.4 from 9.4 a year ago (and 8.6 in '08),and of course, I have had kidney stones multiple times. I have many of the subjective symptoms (malaise, sleep issues, GERT, fatigue, irritability etc) and see they are in fact symptoms of disease, not character faults (I have plenty of those), but these symptoms coupled with the hard numbers in my blood test and a newly developed mytrial valve heart murmur, (perhaps due to calcification) sure seem pretty definitive to me.
So long story short, my self-diagnosis (predicated upon your website) was seemingly correct. My PCP Kelly had an immediate insight into the under-diagnosis of this nasty but fixable ailment that may well extend to his catching this in other patients in the future. And I have a determination to pay you a visit at the Tampa clinic and have myself "repaired".
Now to that end....I am a self employed (read poverty stricken) 65 year old, who fortunately has full medicare, but need to find the money to pay your consult fee and the travel to Tampa. I believe that a client who owes me enough to cover this cost will in fact pay up in the next 60 days, or failing that I will see if a couple of other clients who use my web design services will advance me the dough.
My real question to you is, how much is time of the essence? I believe I read the reassuring words that this is a "do soon" rather than an "schedule the OR stat" situation...although I suspect that my condition is of several years standing.
In other words am I putting myself in serious jeopardy by waiting a few months for the money to come in, or am I better advised to beg my children, clients, and friends for a "keep David alive" contribution and get my sorry ass down to Tampa sooner rather than later??
A corollary to this might be, do you happen to know ANY competent surgeon in all of Connecticut? I am totally convinced by your presentation that there is NO other way to go than to visit your clinic, certainly emotionally I have no question that is what I want and need to do.
Thanks for the nice note. Yup, this is what I do, and it would be an honor to take care of you.
I have plenty of "wealthy" people that pay my consult fee...I don't need yours. Medicare will take care of the operation, but by recommendations of my attorneys (in keeping with Medicare law), I can decrease your consultation fee to XXX, but cannot negate it completely for anybody. So if you need an operation, your cost would be travel and XXX. And yes, it can wait a few weeks or months...but that just means you feel bad longer.
Before we run to the operating room, let?s make sure this is what you have. One high calcium and one high PTH does not necessarily mean you have a tumor? it is very likely, but not 100% yet. Hopefully, your doctor ordered another calcium when he got the PTH. If not, then smack his ass and tell him that when getting a PTH you always must get the corresponding calcium level. If he did, then give it to me.
So, to make this simple? tell me now in an email all the calcium levels you have for the past 2 years, and their dates. Also, give me the PTH level and it?s date. I will be able to tell you what to do at that point, whether you have enough information to move along, or whether you need to get your blood levels checked (properly and correctly) one more time.
It will be an honor to take care of you. I have been blessed with the most wonderful job in the world! I get to meet wonderful people from all over the world and I get to change their lives and make them feel good within an hour or so of meeting them. It will be a blessing to me to help you feel good again.
Email your calcium levels to me so I can determine next steps.
James Norman, MD, FACS, FACE
Norman Parathyroid Center
2400 Cypress Glen Drive
Wesley Chapel, (Tampa), FL 33544
www.Parathyroid.com The world's authority on parathyroid disease
www.CalciumPro.com The world's first diagnostic medical app.
There are not words to express my gratitude and relief. I had not realized how much I was holding inside and was acting as if I was OK about both the diagnosis and it's financial load. The wave of relief that has washed over me a few minutes ago just about knocked me over. The prospect of feeling good AND not being flat broke afterwards? Unbelievably good stuff.
I will gently smack Michael Kelly on his ass tomorrow morning and get a fresh set of numbers run!! I am sure he will take his second post-doc tutorial well. He was truly delighted to learn way more about the parathyroid than he ever learned in med school and residency...and from a "hypochondriac auto-didact" at that (I am a quick study given good study material!) .
The usually garrulous Ol' Minton is quite speechless right now. I will be eternally grateful (even if this is only a false alarm, your attitude explains everything about why you are the healer you are).
Now, let's see if the 500 is a Fluster Cluck like yesterday's horror show....
Will email test results ASAP
Here is the basic rule for your doctor?
Adults are supposed to have calcium levels in the 9?s. Any adult with frequent or persistent calcium levels of 10.0 or higher is almost certain to have a parathyroid tumor.
We have an app that went into the Apple Store yesterday!!!
we expect patients to diagnose themselves because doctors are stupid, lazy, shits.
Just had both levels retested at same time.
Intact PTH 54.0
Intact PTH 94.2
You have a parathyroid tumor.
Let's get it out.
Fill out the forms online (follow the instructions on the ?become a patient? page.
There are two forms that you need to fill out.
And of course, you need to fax your blood tests to us.
From there my office will put a chart together for you and we will graph your information? I will then give you a call to discuss by phone.
Don't worry about the consult fee... I'll handle that (I'm the boss!).
10pm following my 10:30am surgery and 5:15am check in at TGH/Norman Center
Jim is UNBELIEVABLY cool! He told me he already has emailed you the pic of the damned thing he cut out of me.
Mr. Pumpelly, your gracious dinner invite of two years ago, and that Saturday night email to Jim of less than a month ago has SAVED MY LIFE!!! (or at least guaranteed I'll be around one hell of a lot longer and in feeling wayyyyyy better than otherwise would have been the case.)
Nap time now for a renewed Minton.
Jim is the coolest guy on the planet!!!! Feeling better than I have in years already... and I will continue to go that way as my body adjusts to having those miserable rogue parathyroid glands gone (I was one of the 15% who have TWO wonky ones).
I hope you realize that that the Parathyroid.com and CalciumPro logos you sport when you race with Jim WILL save someone's life!!!
If ONE person goes on the to see "what the hell is that" and has the same experience I did.... what a fantastic thing to have facilitated. My big one must have been 10 years a-growing, and Jim says they never see one more than 20 years old...the "patient" is dead before that.
Here is one for you testimonial page!
Everything you read and hear is true. The most extraordinary experience of my life.
I had the pleasure (and luck) to have met Jim Norman socially a few years ago. He was introduced to me as having developed a marvelous medical technique that had touched the lives of thousands of people from all around the country and world. He was, my friend told me, a "Rock Star" among surgeons and physicians.
I was immediately impressed by both his absence of false humility ("I hear you're the best at what you do", I said as we sat to dinner. "Yup, it's a blessing to do what I do. Now, what's good on the menu?", he replied) and more impressed by his total absence of any arrogance or hint of intellectual superiority. Two years later, after seeing his amusing Tweet about an insufferable fool of a jeweler who disbelieved the authenticity of the Rolex watch Jim had won at this year's Daytona 24hr Race, I thought to visit his website to see "what he did". Long story short? His brilliant exposition on hyperparathyroidism knocked me over on the spot. I knew I had it!!!
I called my primary care physician the same day and , while apologizing for seeming to be a hypochondriac, asked if my Serum Calcium level was being measured in the routine blood work I had just had drawn. He assured me it was part of the annual screening. Well, gang! Went to see him later that week, he looked over his glasses as he reviewed the reading and said to me with a smile. "Well..."Mr.Hypochondriac", how did ya know? It's 10.4!!" He went right to Jim's website (parathyroid.com), and it took him all of 2 minutes to validate Dr. Norman's science, and to remark that this was a very UNDER-DIAGNOSED disease. He said a physician could go through med school, internship, and residency without ever HEARING the term hyperparathyroidism.
WE ordered up a PTH level immediately, and this time when we looked at the results he said to me, "Are you ALWAYS this right???". Well, would that I were, but in this case I was right in my diagnosis. How lucky I am to have a PCP who recognizes and welcomes patient input, and is enlightened rather than threatened by NEW KNOWLEDGE . He is both willing and eager to learn more (and will be when I sit with him in the next few weeks).
From my informed reading, and viewing every video on parathyroid.com I now have a better understanding of the functioning and malfunctioning of our parathyroid glands and their relation to regulating calcium than most endocrinologists and surgeons.
My experience with the procedure was the stuff of legends.... every moment of the day (which started at 5am! and had me back in the hotel before noon) was something I will be telling my GREAT-grandkids.
After the 15 minute operation and a hour so in recovery, I took a 20 minute nap at the hotel and went out for a 3 mile walk down the Riverwalk in Tampa (and I haven't done a walk that long in years). I flew home the next day, have absolutely no pain two days after the procedure, as I type this am back in my office in NW Connecticut. I have energy, and APPETITE!!! and slept the night through waking refreshed and clearheaded.
If you've got this nasty little disease... these are the folks who will change your life. Don't put it off, even though the disease won't kill you (right away at least, it just primes the pump for the heart attack or other catastrophe that will actually do the job). The undefinable "vague neurocognitive symptoms" and hard to characterize "malaise" just make life...well, not so much fun. 15 minutes in the OR and bingo, like Dicken's Charles Darnay, RECALLED TO LIFE.