A follow-up routine visit yesterday morning with my new doctor. My former doctor knows me well, is my friend from childhood days, but when I turned 65 last month my Medicare kicked in, so I decided to find a doctor closer to home. The new one is beginning a physical assessment of my current condition. I’ve been down to the lab to have my blood drawn and this morning I return to the office to hear the results. Why do I feel such anguish before going for the visit?
I feel pretty good, have no severe aches or pains anywhere. I have high blood pressure and peripheral neuropathy, but those are not new conditions to me. I’ve had them both for more than five years. I switched my eating pattern two years ago so that I am mainly vegan, and lately have been on a green smoothie kick, where I drink a breakfast of leafy greens mixed with various fruits.
I could sit and worry about my mortality, which I do often enough anyhow, or get busy with some mental activity that carries me away from my own wild thoughts and works of imagination. If I were to visit doctors more often, maybe I’d be accustomed to this accounting for myself.
I drive down to the medical office half an hour early to get a parking spot close to the building. My goodness, there are a lot of people visiting doctors and clinics. I see an acquaintance inside the building looking for a place to have his blood drawn. I know right where I’m going because I was a here a few weeks ago for my initial visit with this new doctor. I bunch myself into the elevator with others and quickly shoot up to the fourth floor.
I tell the lady behind the front desk, engaged in phone conversation while staring down a computer screen, that I am here for my appointment. She nods and gestures for me to have a seat. It’s okay. I know the medical world is busy. That’s why I’m here early. I sit next to a pile of old magazines. One whole stack has to do with living with diabetes. I don’t see any magazines about curing the diabetes, just living with it.
I flip through many magazines quickly, just looking for colorful pictures while wondering to myself what horrible new conditions might have shown up in my blood test. I think I hear one of the staff call my name, so I get up and go into the little exam room into which she has motioned me. She keeps brushing hair back , but won’t say anything to me. Is she angry at somebody? Then she pulls out a syringe and heads toward me. “What is that?” I ask. She re-checks my name and realizes she has called in the wrong person. No apology. She just tells me to go back to my chair in the waiting room. She never did tell me what was loaded in that syringe, but now I understand how lethal accidents occur in hospitals.
I’m led into another exam room by another nursing type of staff member, a young black woman with more personality than the first. She can talk, smile, and interact with me in a calm and reassuring voice. She takes my blood pressure, pulse, and respiration. The blood pressure is high. I had taken it at home, so I knew that. We talk some about pills and such. She’s careful to not share much opinion or advice.
The doctor comes in next. He’s pretty young, soft-spoken, talkative, friendly. We talk about my lab results. With my other doctor I didn’t need to do this because he knew my history quite well. This morning I have to explain little details of my life and the history of my body that I have long forgotten, but, with some prompting from him, I’m able to get out a pretty good accounting of all the idiosyncrasies of my physical existence. It feels like a test, or catharsis, or purging of all the tiny details about me that I worry about once a year or so.
When we finish the discussion, I feel pretty good. We touched on all the topics that I thought necessary for my understanding. We agreed to try another pill for the blood pressure, as the current one doesn’t seem to work very well. I just went to the pharmacy the other day to get my old prescription refilled. The doctor tells me to throw that one out and go back for the new one. I don’t mind. The pharmacy is in the back of the big-box food store and I understand that crab legs are on sale today.