Wednesday, May 14, 2008

"Doctor's Visit"

I do not feel positive about visits to the doctor. Most doctors’ visits, they tell you you’re fine. But at least once, they don’t. And you never know which visit that’s going to be. It could be the one coming up.

Part of my attitude derives from my natural negativity and fear of death. But some of it stems from my Canadian upbringing. There’s a whole different perspective on medical problems between the United States and Canada. The Canadian view, evolving most likely from British antecedents, is nowhere near as cheery.

There’s a children’s hospital in downtown Toronto, or at least there was. You know what it’s called?

Sick Children’s Hospital.

I know they’re just being honest but come on! Children, holding their parents’ hands, climbing the steps of the hospital, they look up at the sign:

“Sick Children’s Hospital.”

How do you think that makes them feel? How about this:

“Oh, my God! I’m sick!”

Can that really be helpful? Is that really a positive influence on their brain chemistry, which may be the only thing that’s giving them a fighting chance? Sure, the kid knows they’re not doing great, or they wouldn’t be checking into a hospital. Healthy children aren’t doing that. Healthy children are frolicking in playgrounds. But if you’re climbing those steps – already scared – it seems to me the last thing you need to be reminded of is

you’re sick!

America – the Smiley-Face country – has a different approach. What’s the most famous children’s hospital in the country?

City of Hope.

That’s better, isn’t it?

“Sick Children’s.”

“City of Hope.”

Which one would you bet on?

From a medical standpoint, I was raised with a decidedly negative vibe. When I visit the doctor, I am not going with hope.

So here’s the deal. Every few months, I’m required to have a blood test. I take certain medicines, and the doctor needs to know whether those medicines – helpful in controlling my cholesterol and my blood pressure – are destroying my liver. Apparently, they don’t make medicines that help something, which don’t, as a side effect, annihilate something else.

They ought to work on that, don’t you think? A medicine that helps more than it hurts is nice, but we really need to do better. How about a medicine that just helps? Is that too much to ask?

Don’t think I’m being ungrateful. It’s not like I don’t give these medicines credit. I’ve told people on many occasions that I’m currently living on borrowed pills.

When you step into the Waiting Room, you know that every person waiting to see the doctor has a disease. Nobody’s there for a shoeshine. So the first thing you have to do, after signing in, is to decide exactly where you’re going to sit.

I usually sit as far away from everyone else as possible. I’m not a doctor; I can’t tell what people have by looking at them. I mean, the sneezers, people coughing into a hanky – they’re easy. But we’ve all heard about “The Silent Killers.” How are you supposed to tell who’s sitting there with one of those time bombs ticking inside them?

Keeping your distance is just plain common sense. The problem is the people who arrived before me are already occupying those seats. People spread out in a Waiting Room like a basketball team playing “zone.” Nobody’s risking “Man-To-Man.”

This first visit, I won’t be seeing the doctor. Unless he passes by. Then, we’ll wave. What I’m there for today is the blood test, no small concern in itself. The blood test is the indisputable evidence. You may be feeling tip-top. The blood test tells you, “Not so fast.”

The news my doctor will deliver two weeks from now will result from information, in the form of numbers, compiled by a blood technician who may not have ranked at the top of their class. Those numbers are significant only if by “significant” you mean they will determine my entire future.

And then, of course, there’s the featured player in the blood test – the needle. That’s how they get blood out. They can’t wait till you cut your thumb slicing a bagel and then scoop the blood up off the counter. They jab a hole in your arm and they go in and get it.

The blood-taking station at my doctor’s office is an open affair. That means there are several seats side by side, so that a number of people can have their blood drawn at the same time. The consequence of this arrangement is, if you turn your head to avoid seeing the needle being plunged into your arm, you’re looking directly at a person having a needle plunged into their arm.

You know how they say it’s nice to know you’re not alone in your suffering. I’ve never found that to be helpful at all.

There’s one other issue. It’s a little sensitive. At my doctor’s office, there’s one blood taker who, to me, is superior to the others. His name is Lewis. Lewis is a magician with the needle. The Sultan of Syringe. He easily finds a suitable vein, and when he draws your blood, you can barely feel it. It’s like, “I’m done? Really?” Also, there’s no scary-looking weeks-long “after-bruise.”

The problem is sometimes I’m assigned to somebody else. It’s hard for me to say, “Can I wait for Lewis?” I don’t want to hurt the inferior blood-takers’ feelings. Usually, what I hear back is, “Lewis is busy.” Sometimes with a vindictive edge.

“You like Lewis better than me?”

A needle in your arm is painful enough. It doesn’t help when the person administering it is a jealous jabber.

I’ll return to this when my results come in. If you don’t hear from me again, you’ll know they weren’t good.

Sorry. That’s just me being negative.

I can’t help it.

I’m a product of “Sick Children’s Hospital.”


Anonymous said...

Now I don't feel so bad, I told a young guy drawing my blood that he was the worst I'd ever had. Seriously, the other technicians looked at my arm differently, some fine line, but this guy stabbed, and my skin dented. It really crushed him when I told him the truth, but I couldn't let others go on suffering. It's nice to know we're not alone in this business.

Max Clarke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rusty James said...

I've always been uncomfortable with the thought of having my testicles examined/held/squeezed in those little Doctor rooms. I mean, there's barely room for your leg when it kicks out during reflex tests.

Imagine two grown men in a toilet stall-sized, halogen blinding, white walled room - with carpet - and the Older guy's holding the younger guy's balls.

I wish Doctor's offered 'after hours' visits - I'd much rather have this lump looked at at night.

Hope all's well Earl.


Anonymous said...

Love your Blog (have read several entries). You write just like you speak (my grandfather always told me that was the best way to write). Helpful to hear things from the patient's perspective - never even thought about the "view" when turning your head away from your own needle.
Maybe we should start using blindfolds.....
Thanks for the smiles - wish I could return the favor.
Wishing you all the best in HEALTH,
Dr K

Earl Pomerantz said...

Hey, Dr.K.

Thanks for reading. For the follow-up to this story, take a look at "Numbers." I mention my subsequent visit at the end of it.

Don't spend too much time on it. I wouldn't like to think reading my work is taking time away from saving lives. Which is almost as important.