Madden Diseases

My brothers and I had a rather creative childhood. (My sister, Lynne, came along 13 years after I did, so she was too young to have participated in most of our crazy activities.) As you know, we did a lot of unusual things. One practice we enjoyed was putting names to certain “conditions” we later called, “Madden diseases.”

As the eldest child, I got it started by naming the first disease, toocleanosis (tu cli no’ sis). This is that searing feeling you get in your nose in very dry weather when it seems like there’s not enough mucus to protect you membranes from the cold, dry air. In other words, your nose is “too clean.” This was always my favorite disease because most people “got it” from time to time, and as pronounced, it sounded like a real disease. My brothers weren’t limited by these considerations

I am not sure I remember all of the diseases or who thought of all the names, but here are a few of the ones I do remember.

Hot neck. This may be Tom’s disease, although I can’t rule out Jeff. As far as I can recall, I only suffered a hot neck on one occasion, following a severe fall off an “ice mound” next to our driveway. We had shoveled the drive after one of those Wisconsin blizzards, and the piles of snow were quite high, especially for kids. We fell naturally into a game of “king of the mountain” once the shoveling was done (or maybe it was the next day, after the show had hardened into ice.) I was almost 6 years older than Tom and 8 years older than Jeff, so I dominated the game (as I did most physical games). However, this time my brothers got together and decided to coordinate their attack. They hit me high and low and caused me to literally fly off the “mountain” into a small crevasse that was just large enough to contain my shoulder. By that I mean that my shoulder went into the opening, but my head stayed up on the side. This resulted in a painful wrenching of my neck as the weight of my body plus that of my two brothers caused my head to be slammed sideways until my left ear was pressing on my left shoulder. I got up and decided to call it a day. My neck felt hot, inflamed actually. I suspect that’s what a hot neck is. I don’t wish it on anyone.

Water breath. This disease describes what happens when you go swimming at a cold lake or the ocean on a windy day. Your lungs get chilled until it’s painful to take a deep breath. Know what I mean? If you’ve had it, you know immediately what it is and how aptly named it is. I can’t recall the last time I had “water breath,” perhaps because the conditions also requires vigorous activity on the beach.

Dry eye. This is definitely a Tom/Jeff disease, and I don’t believe I’ve ever had it. As far as I know, you only get it during highly competitive staring matches. The cause is simple. Your eye dries out during the long period without blinking; a very painful condition. The cure is to blink, you fool, but that means losing the contest. Tough choice for us Maddens.

Dead bones. Remember those hot, muggy summer days when the heat just gets to you so you have no energy for anything? You’ve got the “dead bones,” which could have been named by any of us, but sounds like it might have been Jeff. I still get the dead bones. The cure is to go to sleep in a cool place.

Small TVs. This is an obscure disease that may be more psychological than physical. I don’t think I’ve ever had it, so my explanation may not be quite right. As you might expect, it happens while watching TV. You get a strange sensation that the TV is much farther away, thus causing it to appear much smaller. That’s it. I have noticed something similar where I get a kind of tunnel vision in which the TV comes into vivid focus while the rest of the room blurs away. This may be a cousin to the small TVs. I should mention that the first time my son Dan heard about the “small TVs”he immediately started laughing, saying he already know what it was before we explained it. How’s that for genetic inheritance?

Blind spot. This is a real disease, probably related to migraines. Only Jeff and I experienced it, and we both agree that the impaired vision is much worse than the headache pain that accompanies it. The vision effect is just as it says; you experience a blind spot in your field of vision, I think always on the left side for me. I once told a doctor about it when I was in the Army, and he, being young and also in the army, looked it up in the medical books and gave me the long-winded name for it. I forgot it immediately. The disease or condition has no cure, and at the time, they didn’t know what causes it. Jeff and I, the third and first children, had it in my family, while my first and third children, Patrick and David have suffered from migraines. How’s that for genetic inheritance?

That’s all I remember now. Maybe there were more; it seems like there should be more. Then again, memories are always fuller before you try to nail them down.

At Patrick’s request, I add the Ice-Cream Headache. Through most of my life, I thought everyone got Ice cream headaches; that painful consequence of eating ice cream too fast. Then one day, I mentioned it to a friend who didn’t know what I was talking about. You’ve never had an Ice Cream Headache, I exclaimed? He hadn’t, so it must be genetic (along with the tendency to wolf down food).

My father once told me it was the result of chilling the blood vessels in your neck before they reached the brain. About all you could do was wait it out, allowing normal heat transfer to warm your blood/brain. Sometimes, I would clasp my hands around my neck to try and accelerate the process, but I was never able to determine if it did any good. The way to avoid the headache is to slow your eating in direct proportion to the temperature of the ice cream. I suppose you could wrap a heating pad around your neck if you have limited time and a large bowl of ice cream to eat.

Stink Shirt This is a disease of the latest Madden generation, which I don’t recall having when I was a kid. It is brought about by the interaction of T-shirts and body moisture. It is undoubtedly due to residual or dormant bacteria on the shirt or the skin. You put on the shirt, often “fresh” out of the drawer, and begin mild exercise. Almost immediately, you are assaulted with the bad smell of body odor. Nothing to do but get rid of that shirt.

Low Voice This is more a condition than a disease, and it is certainly not limited to our family. Generally, it occurs in the morning during cold, dry weather. You wake up and realize that you could do voiceover for a catastrophe movie trailer. Sometimes you can lose it by simply clearing your throat, and certainly it’s likely to go away by the time you’ve showered and had breakfast. Dan and I both had low voice yesterday (11/14/04) as we were leaving Notre Dame following the Pitt game. In fact, Dan’s condition was so extraordinary that he called us to display his voiceover quality on the phone, lest he accidentally lose it before we met in the D-6 parking lot. I think Dan won this bout by announcing that “In name of honor, in the face of battle, in the heart of one man, lives the soul of a warrier. Tom Cruise is the Last Samurai.”

DadMemories/Stories06/27/04 16 comments


Patrick • 06/28/04 1:53 AM:

Ice-cream headache, Dad. I’ll let you just go add it to the entry. Also, please share with the world the cure.

Patrick • 06/28/04 2:02 AM:

I’ve had the blind spot, too, of course, most notably one day in Louisiana, in high school, when I could feel a migraine coming on and I knew I had to get home, but I couldn’t open my combination locker because the blind spot was right where I was focusing. I ended up having to focus just off to the side of my lock, and after a few tries, I got it. I think this was the migraine that Mom had to take me to the hospital for (to get a codeine shot). I haven’t had the blind spot or a migraine for a long time now. Several years.

As for water breath, for me it always happens at the beach after playing volleyball all day and breathing in the sea air. Sometimes it happens from too much pool also. And the irritation is an insane tickling feeling.

As for memories, they’re fuller before you write them down, but they’re only for you until you write them (or say them). Now others can share. It’s a worthwhile tradeoff, I think.

David • 06/28/04 10:29 PM:

No Joke - I had the blind spot last Wednesday. It was the first time I’ve had it in a long time. As Dad stated, it usually is the first sign of a migraine (I can think of dozens of times when I’ve had it, and those are just the ones I remember). Last week’s bout came at the beach in Chicago when I was playing volleyball. I had taken off my sunglasses due to cloud cover, only to have the sun come blazing back at me - super low angle and on the horizon. This intense glare was compounded by the fact that I was playing in a silly league game, and the backdrop was about a thousand other people playing tightly packed jungle ball (thus making depth perception difficult). I managed to fight off the full-blown migraine, and only suffered the blind spot (migraine lingo = aura) and some numbness in my hands.

The first time I got the blind spot, and then a migraine, was in seventh grade. I was in Mrs. Vex’s class taking a spelling test. Next thing I knew I couldn’t read the test. It was crazy. I didn’t know what to do (and the dizziness and nausea didn’t help). She sent me to the nurse, then I went home. And eventually threw up. Good times.

Dan • 06/29/04 8:02 AM:

Small TVs gets my vote for weirdest thing ever. Dad, your description was pretty good, but the first time you mentioned it I not only laughed, I freaked out too. I was pretty happy that not only had somebody else gotten the disease, but that it was a Madden disease. To add to your description, while watching TV, you abruptly feel like you’re in some trance where everything around you doesn’t really exist except for the TV, and that’s a mile away. You can still see the picture well, but you’re so tranced up that you can’t move your eyes at all. It’s super. It’s also probably a result of watching way too much TV during the summer as a kid.

Yeah, we’ve all had toocleanosis. There’s nothing good about that one, but it’s not that bad, just bad enough to say, “Hey. What’s up with my nose? It feels weird.”

Water breath is indeed horrible. I wouldn’t describe it as an insane tickling, I’d say it feels more like my throat has gone completely hollow, no wetness or cilia or even euglenas (or mitochondria) and I’m sucking down exhaust fumes into my lungs, but I feel the pain in the throat. Yeah, that’s it. And why does it happen at the beach and at the pool? Why doesn’t it happen in the shower?

Dad • 06/29/04 11:30 AM:

OK, I’ve added the Ice-Cream Headache to the entry.

David • 06/29/04 12:28 PM:

The ice cream headache DOES happen to everyone else. In the entire world. Most people call it the Brain Freeze. So it is not a genetic thing, unless you’re talking about genetic to all Homo sapiens.

I like how Dan purposely misused the science terms just to get me bent out of shape. I’m not falling for it, pal. Like Dan, I too wonder more about the causes of water breath. It’s nuts. As for ice-cream headaches (I read this once, after kids in class asked about it, and of course, I only remember it sort of). Turns out you’re chilling the roof of your mouth (hard and soft palates) - this happens to be right below your brain and the coldness is transferred from ice cream (by the way, I don’t know that I have ever gotten a brain freeze from ice cream, but I’ve gotten countless ones from slurpees and Italian ices and other frozen ice treats) to your palates, to your brain, and you, the slurpee eater, do not like it. Or something close to that. Either way, I don’t think your neck is really involved.

Patrick • 06/30/04 1:19 AM:

Oh, disillusion! Get out of here, David! I have been totally double-clasping my neck to heat up the blood going to my brain, and believing that it works! (Sort of like believing that aspirin or Advil or Tylenol actually help me get rid of headaches, but maybe the headache just went away on its own, no?)

A key feature of Madden diseases (shared with Madden games) is the tricky simplicity of their names. “Ice cream headache” tells you everything you need to know about it. The first time you hear the term, you know what it is. “Brain freeze” is certainly more chic, but “ice cream headache” is better. We don’t need to think up catchy names. We call our game “Reverse Voice” or “Mispronounciation” or “The Exaggeration Game” and that’s enough.

By the way, very recently I had tuclenosis (I like this spelling a little better, but whatever), and I mentioned it to somebody, calling it by name, and they looked at me kind of funny, so I explained it, but I left them maybe wondering if that was the real name for the condition or if I had made it up (both conclusions there are wrong!).

Kathleen • 07/02/04 4:12 PM:

Hey fellas. I was left laughing out loud as usual on this latest reading of maddenation. I have had the blind spot many times, dear father, and I don’t know why you don’t know that. I had one a few weeks ago, just after having Equal in my iced tea. I thought it, combined with the bright glare off the windows and mirrored ceiling, caused it. I took some meds right away and it was gone, very thankfully.

The first time I remember having the blind spot is during the end of a county field hockey game in my senior year of high school. I recall sleeping it off.

Although it’s not a disease of any sort, you all can be glad you’ve never been given too much anesthesia for an operation. Waiting for that stuff to wear off is torture. Your body has the uncontrollable shakes for a few hours. I don’t mean you’re shivering, either. It’s like your entire body goes into convulsions and you can’t stop it! It lasts a few seconds and is recurring. Yuck!

Okay, that has nothing to do with this really, but for some reason I was reminded of it. :)

Dad • 08/26/04 10:15 PM:

By popular request, I’m adding “Stink shirt” to the list.

Dad • 11/15/04 12:00 PM:

I don’t know how we missed low voice in our original list of diseases. I am hereby announcing my intention to add it. See above.

Dan • 11/15/04 3:39 PM:

Yeah, I’ve never had low voice quite like I had it yesterday. Ever try to challenge the lowness of movie-trailer guys? It’s impossible. Well, until yesterday. After a day of some shouting at the game, a late night, and a dry room, I woke up with a new super power. I just wish I could think of something to say other than, “In a world…!”

David • 08/29/05 11:52 AM:

Here’s the latest on Ice Cream Headaches from Scientific American.

Dan • 08/29/05 5:11 PM:

Actually, dad, after rereading the entry on Stink Shirt, I don’t think your sons have been specific enough about the odor. It is not body odor. It’s much much worse. What it is, I don’t know, but probably if you imagine sticking your nose in a vat of heated left-over washing-machine water and some cigarette butts you’d get the picture. The worst case of Stink Shirt occurred when the three of us were playing volleyball with Pat and his club team about 8 or 9 years ago and, upon the first few points of the first game, we all kinda looked at each other with disgusted looks on our faces, silently saying, “Do you have Stink Shirt too??” Yes, we all had it, and no, we didn’t bring spare shirts. It was awful.

David • 08/30/05 4:41 PM:

Stink Shirt is the worst. No doubt. And the smell is beyond horrible. Stink Shirt is also universal. I’ve had kids on my volleyball team with Stink Shirt - the smell is exactly the same. Maybe we can do some sort of experiment on it here at school to isolate the stink toxins.

David • 09/08/08 12:55 PM:

Here’s NPR’s latest on the Ice cream headache.

Also, I recently had a battle with more than just stink shirt - but STINK MACHINE! The whole washing machine stunk like that (after my roommates repeatedly left clothes in there for long periods of time). I looked it up on the internet and found that my machine was growing some mold and junk. So I did a few cycles with high heat and lots of bleach and soap - with no clothes in it.

Dad • 09/09/08 10:29 PM:

Before making this comment, let me say that, after checking “keep me logged in for 2-weeks” when I sign in, Movable Type always ignores me. In fact, sometimes, if I think long and hard about what I’m writing, it logs me off before I can post it. Is it just me?

Now on to the regularly scheduled comment. I think the NPR segment on the Ice Cream Headache got it pretty much right. I still think the “cold neck” might exacerbate the pain, but blaming the soft pallet has the ring of truth. Obviously, more research is needed on a cure for the ICH. It may only last for 8 or 9 seconds, but it’s excruciating.

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