Monday, August 24, 2009

Double Vision

I think when the eye doctor gives you the news about bifocals, he should also give you a complimentary shot of botox -- and I told mine that today.

He seemed a little surprised, and then he told me a great story about how some docs were using off-brand botox and their patients ended up in iron lungs. That was followed by a story about how much botulism it would take in a can of green beans to wipe out the human race.

The lesson I took away was stick with brand-name doctors and brand-name pharmaceuticals. (Why would anybody economize on something like that; they might as well share needles for heaven's sake.)

Mostly I think he was surprised because that was only the second thing I'd said during the entire exam.

The first and only thing I'd said up til then was "I can't read," in response to a question about what had brought me in. At first, he seemed to think I was confessing to illiteracy -- and I sensed a moment of awkwardness, while he pondered the best way around a sensitive subject. Then I just showed him my BlackBerry and the ultra-large 14 point font Lucas and Russell had tricked it out with at the BlackBerry store."SEE," I said. And he did, commenting mildly "well you can't get as much on the screen that way."

The rest of the Exam, I just responded to simple commands like, "Better A? Or B? Better 2? Or...3?"

Spending so much time in the company of my two dads and their legions of oncologists, cardiologists, etc has just taught me one thing and one thing only: the value of shutting up.

For all their differences (one Yankee, one Southern; one's a farmer, the other a lifelong Kodak man), they might as well be the same person when they get in front of a medical professional -- or, as I think they see it: an Audience! For new material! I fully expect the Nurses to remind everyone of the two-drink minimum, and "don't forget to tip your waitresses!"

Having read everything Dr. Oz has said about The Smart Patient, and how many seconds you get to make your case to the doctor about what's wrong with you, I live in fear that these two are going to get themselves killed. I go in armed with arsenals of information, and a very, very few questions -- and I very rarely get a word in. Though my real Dad does at least defer to me on all things medical. If his internist tells him to take an aspirin, he'll call and say "let me just run something by you." He's just such a monologuist -- as is my stepdad -- that he can't help himself.

Knowing I have the same tendencies -- both genetically and environmentally -- I fight it every step of the way.

But the only area where I really succeed is in the doctor's office. I speak when spoken to, and I try to keep my answers specific.

That's how that damn kidney stone went undiagnosed so long (I found out they commonly are in women -- men typically show up at the E.R. In tears and when asked to rate the pain on a scale of 1 to 10 they invariably answer 14. I said 7. That was a mistake.)

The urologist asked me to describe the pain and I said, "It's like if you were in prison, and you taped up a blade and swallowed it?...And then the tape came loose? And the blade tried to work its way out, through your bladder?"

He gave me some antibiotics, and sent me home -- as surprised as I was when a little pebble emerged a few dayslater.

He said I wasn't "hurting in the right place" for a kidney stone.


So today, I was more succinct. I think the last thing I said was when he asked if I had any questions. I asked, "am I going blind?" He said, "Not today."

Good enough.

1 comment:

  1. Great post!

    My most recent blog is about how it's never too late to shut the hell up.

    Great minds tink alike.