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There's no Penelope waiting at the end of this one
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As we near the end of the year, my thoughts turn to… well, not holidays, not family gatherings, not gifts, but to LISTS. There will soon appear all sorts of end-of-year best-of worst-of who-died person-of-the-year type lists. These will make my obsession with lists seem almost normal for a short period of time. So before we are inundated, here is my what’s-been-happening-while-I-haven’t-been-writing-journal-entries list. Today’s entry will focus on the recent medical odyssey I’ve been on, filled with sirens, one-eyed monsters and angry gods.

1. Visit dermatologist. Get two more skin potions to add to my growing collection and an appointment for a full-body skin scan. Am impressed with paperless office – prescriptions are faxed to pharmacy, all notes are taken on tablet PCs and any stray papers are shredded.

2. Have annual gyn exam. Gyn doctor asks “With your family history of heart disease, why aren’t you taking an aspirin a day?” Me: “I’m allergic to ibuprofen and an allergist told me to avoid aspirin as well.” Gyn doctor: “Get tested to see if you really are allergic. If you are allergic, wear a medic alert bracelet because one of the new quality control procedures in place at many hospitals is putting all patients on an aspirin regimen. If you aren’t allergic, start taking a baby aspirin each day.” Me: “Ok. I’m so glad to know that my escalating health care costs are reflected in a better profit margin for the Bayer company.”

3. Go to allergist. He frowns a lot and disappears into another room after I explain the situation. Comes back with large sheaf of papers containing indecipherable information about aspirin sensitivity in asthmatics (fortunately, I am not one) and claims this is the only recent research done into aspirin allergy testing. Tells me he needs a note from my family doctor explaining the need for the testing, and that he can’t tell me what the risks are of being tested, because he’s never done this before but not to worry because it probably won’t be fatal and he’s right across the street from the hospital anyway. He doesn’t mention his proximity to a funeral home, so I’m thinking this is a good omen. Me: “Sure. I’m so glad to hear that your insurance company requires you to pass the liability buck to another doctor.”

4. Make appointment with family doctor.

5. Receive call from allergist who asks when he can expect the note from the family doctor so he can get the two full days (TWO DAYS?!) worth of testing scheduled. He seems ghoulishly eager to get this underway.

6. See family doctor. Blood pressure is surprisingly elevated. We spend 95% of appointment talking about this and the blood work that will need to be done and the home monitor I’ll need to obtain and when to schedule the next appointment. As an aside he writes the note to the allergist. Me: “Wonderful. I’m so glad that I can look forward to waiting an hour at the lab and then having a needle jammed into my arm.”

7. Same day as seeing family doctor donate blood at the Red Cross. Blood pressure is normal. The volunteer who gives me cookies and juice after the donation offers to analyze my handwriting. Surprised at the extra service the Red Cross is offering these days, I agree and write a short paragraph, print the same text and then sign my name. She gives me a more thorough and accurate personality profile (Her: “I sense a bit of stubbornness in you.”) than any multi-hundred question test has ever done in the past. Me: “Terrific! I’m so glad to have the fact that I’m a controlling, anti-social bitch confirmed!”

8. Have annual mammogram. Me: “Great. I’m so glad that I can have my boobs squashed between two cold glass plates while holding my breath.” Think that the Breast Health Center should have little stickers you can wear that are similar to the “Be Nice to Me. I Gave Blood Today.” ones, except theirs would read “Be Nice to Me. I Had My Boobs Smooshed Today.”

9. See dermatologist again for full body scan. Have possibly pre-cancerous mole on thigh removed. Doctor: “I’m going to take this off because even though it doesn’t look bad in isolation, it’s darker than all the other moles you have.” Me: “Lovely. I’m so glad to fund another tablet PC for your office.”

10. See family doctor again for blood pressure follow-up. BP is fine (a little elevated when he takes it, but he’s a rabid Republican which is probably the cause), blood work was fine, everything is fine. Mention the aspirin thing again and ask if the fact that my mother died from a hemorrhagic stroke (caused by an aneurysm) rather than an ischemic stroke (caused by a clot) of any concern. Doctor’s eyebrows levitate off the top of his head and he says that because aspirin use can increase the risk of a hemorrhagic stroke I should never take it, much less be tested with it. Doctor: “Not only that, but you need to have your head examined – literally – to see if you have any un-exploded aneurysms in your brain.” Me: “Amazing! I was just thinking that I hadn’t been stuck in a big tube while giant magnets making astoundingly loud noises around me while worrying that maybe I’d forgotten that I had a metal plate in my head for a really long time!”

11. Me: “I am so glad that, despite my cynicism, I have good health insurance and a medical system that, while not perfect, provides excellent care and allows me to find out if I have any ticking time bombs in my head.”

To all, a Happy Thanksgiving.

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