DR. DAVEAre we there yet?
Are we there yet?
Are we...?
Dad, why do they call the place we’re going to the Petrified Forest? 
Well you remember that dark shadow that snaked across your bedroom wall and then slunk under your bed. You could hear it as it sharpened its knife and teeth....
I’m not going!
Fine. You can stay here in the car yourself.
I hate you.

And so another harmonious Hepburn family vacation found us in northern California slinkerfying into the Petrified Forest. Got me to thinking, that as doctors, our job truly is to petrify you, not by wearing my new argyle socks with sandals and Bermuda shorts, which “apparently” isn’t all that attractive, but to petrify you into petrifying yourself. 

19th century Luther Burbank was, in California checking out surfer chicks and Johnny Carson when he made a side trip to the Petrified Forest. He figured out that a volcano exploded so violently a kazillion years ago, that it hurled down giant redwoods like matchsticks and worse yet, broke several beer bottles. The ash then covered the trees. As the tree fibers decomposed, water, laden with silicates in that ash, seeped down into the gaps, replacing the wood cell by cell with crystalized silica until the entire tree became stone. If only we could do that with our bones. Your bones need to be rock hard and if we have to petrify you into doing this, so be it. Here, let me petrify you with these osteoporotic facts:

-23% of patients who fracture a hip are dead in less than a year.

-352,000 American hips fracture every year, one every 1.49 minutes

-1 in 4 women and at least 1 in 8 men over 50 have osteoporosis.

-Hip fractures related to osteoporosis end up in death in up to 30% of cases! (Actually 100% of those with hip fractures will eventually die.)

-Osteoporotic hip fractures consume more hospital bed days than stroke, diabetes, or heart attack.

-only 44% of people discharged from hospital for a hip fracture return home 

-a 50-year-old woman has a 40% chance of developing hip, vertebral or wrist fractures during her lifetime. 

-my son’s hockey bag has been labeled a biohazard

-the lifetime risk of hip fracture is greater (1 in 6) than the 1 in 9 lifetime risk of developing breast cancer.

-1 in 4 women who have a new vertebral fracture will fracture again within one year. 

Osteoporosis, a pediatric disease with geriatric consequences, the infamous “silent thief,” is a disease so debilitating and common, that pharmaceutical companies focus a forest load of research into fixing it. The latest weapon in the battle of the bones is the discovery of something called a RANK ligand (discovered in my son’s hockey bag) which turns an immature osteoclast into a mature osteoclast. We’re not crazy about mature osteoclasts as they are the little devils that dissolve bone. 

A new medication, Prolia, reduces RANK ligands and hence osteoclasts remain immature, much like my mother’s only son. 

I don’t have to remind anyone who has watched family members shrink, hunch over, break their backs, snap their hips and live in pain, that anything that helps in the battle against a horrific and dangerous disease like osteoporosis is a godsend. So, here’s hoping you all get stoned and are petrified.

Are we there yet?
Are we there yet?
We’re closer.

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