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A Painful Ailment

By Emory Jones
Cleveland, Ga.

America is facing some pretty serious situations these days. But what I know to be the biggest catastrophe of all never seems to even make the papers. So I’m going to change that right now by declaring that the biggest challenge we face is this; we’ve got to get a better name for gout.

That’s right. Not only does gout hurt beyond belief, but being called “gouty” just adds to the suffering. Gout doesn’t even rhyme with anything decent: grout, snout, rout, lout – see what I mean? That’s probably why no poetry has ever been written about it.

As a victim, I can tell you this; when you mention you have gout, people will respond in one of three ways. One: “People don’t still get gout, do they?” Two: “Been drinking too much port, have you, old chap?” Three: They laugh.

My retorts are: “Yes, I’m stunned, too, but by golly, gout is still here.” To the second: “I’m not even certain what ‘port’ is.” And: When someone laughs, it’s hard not to hit them.

I guess gout ignorance is natural. I fondly recall my own pre-gout days. Back then, when someone said they had gout, I would snicker and picture a king resting his throbbing foot on a velvet cushion. He usually had a bottle of port.

Once, at the Beltwide, someone actually congratulated me on having gout. “Such an upper-class ailment,” he said. “Only the most interesting people get it.” You could say the same thing about whooping cough.

A farmer friend in Arkansas suffers from gout, and when his doctor retired last year, he interviewed a dozen new ones before settling on one about 60 miles from his home. “He’s not the best of the bunch,” he told me. “But he’s the only one who’s had gout.”

Gout hurts so much that I am hereby throwing down the gauntlet. I declare gout pain as unrivaled. There, I’ve said it and it feels good!

I know some folks will bristle at this because people have long accorded childbirth the “most painful human experience” honor. And I tip my hat to any woman who’s given birth. But I checked with a woman who has done both, and she assured me that gout was the worst. (Okay, it was my mother, and she may have been humoring me.)

At my age, I’ll never experience childbirth. So this isn’t something I can really know for certain. But I do know that gout is excruciating. And for farmers who work around heavy equipment and livestock, gout is especially hard-hitting and hard to kick. (No puns intended.) I’m not surprised that a survey showed two-thirds of gout sufferers ranked their attacks as “the worst pain possible.”

The other third must have already reached a state of delirium.

At some point, even the most macho will beg for medical attention. If you choose a medical professional who has not experienced gout, he will make your appointment for sometime next week. If your doctor has actually experienced gout, he’ll meet you at the emergency room.

Either way, you’ll be told about the various side effects of gout medications. Your doctor will explain that they include diarrhea, nausea, headaches, weight gain, weight loss, mood swings, osteoporosis, heart attack and kidney failure. None will seem noteworthy.

But changing the name to something more expressive than gout will eliminate lots of needless suffering and maybe even boost research funding. So I challenge the medical community to find something better than the current four-letter word we have for it. Let’s at least spell it in all caps and put an exclamation point at the end.

GOUT! See? That’s better. Or how about GOOOOOOOOOUT? Anything would be a big improvement.

– Emory Jones, Cleveland, Ga.

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