The adage about March coming in like a lion has been particularly apt these past few days. Heavy sustained winds and plummeting temperatures have accompanied uncharacteristically grey days. As grey as the skies may be, a sense of dread has also been present. This is due in no small part to the recent passing of one of my extended family (see February 28's blog "In the midst of joy there is pain") as well as the concurrent health crisis of his son, my brother-in-law Russell. Russell is very sick; make no mistake about that. He has fought a long battle with Crohn's disease, a malady that attacks an unusually large number of Jewish men of Ashkenazic (central and East European) heritage. Crohn's disease is an inflammatory affliction of the lower bowel that starts with pain and diarrhea, but can, if untreated, lead to debilitating and life-threatening consequences. There is no cure for Crohn's, but there are treatments that can lead it into remission. It is truly ironic that my other brother-in-law has also suffered from Crohn's. In both cases it manifested in them as young men and, after one episode, essentially vanished for decades. Then, without warning they were each suddenly and horribly stricken again with debilitating intestinal pain. Luckily, my other brother-in-law had a recurrence last year that was found to have been caused by aspirin therapy to prevent heart disease. He has recovered completely. That has not been the case with Russell. The disease has progressed over the past decade in a sinister fashion. Prior to Hurricane Katrina he endured several corrective surgeries and only with the grace of God survived. He was confined to a hospital bed in his home and was constantly connected to intravenous feeds for his sustenance. Since the storm he has been cared for in hospital facilities outside of the city and eventually returned to New Orleans when health services were restored. More recently he has been confined to a nursing home with a host of other problems including renal failure. He has made several trips to the hospital over the course of the last decade. His ability to undergo kidney dialysis has been compromised lately because he has been put on pain medication. The two are incompatible and unless he goes off the drip for pain, he cannot undergo dialysis. Now it appears his liver functionality has also been greatly diminished. Russell has moved back and forth into consciousness, appears jaundiced and is about to be moved to hospice care for short term care for what is considered a terminal case. With the recent passing of his father from Alzheimer's disease, family members are reeling. We are hoping for the best, but knowing that little can be done other than to wait for the inevitable. This is an insidious disease that robs young people of their lives and makes living an intolerable and almost unendurable ordeal. Oftentimes surgery results in having to live with the ramifications from one or more colostomies and, when the bowel becomes even more diseased, fissures can occur, which must be drained. Americans with Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are at a much higher risk for contracting colorectal cancer. For more information check out the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America.