Category Archives: Medical

I Have A Question

camylla-battani-AoqgGAqrLpU-unsplash

I’m still waiting for a reasonable, honest answer to this question: why did the State of Arkansas fail to require a Covid test for all healthcare workers?

You’ll note that the Governor goes out of his way to classify correctional carriers and other sectors. Notably absent? Healthcare workers – one of the single most important possible classifications to track.

It has always been in the public’s best interest to ensure that all healthcare workers are tested, yet proposals to do so have been unceremoniously shown the door like a drunken Uncle on New Year’s Eve.

We’re required to get flu shots each year, among other things.

We mandated that non-emergency patients be tested, yet did not conduct a baseline safety test to benchmark how many of the healthcare workers helping them might be carrying the virus.

Knowing how many healthcare workers have the virus would give us insight into the behavior leading to getting it. After all, healthcare workers are presumed to be the most cautious and educated about this sort of public health hazard. Their infection rate leads to immediate recognition of how well what we’re doing is working.

When I point this out to people, they get that recognizable and confused, puzzled look on their faces, the one that immediately indicates that they assumed that sort of thing had happened.

It hasn’t.

This kind of question falls under “public safety and worker safety” guidelines, so I of course am unconcerned about asking such a reasonable question publicly. I’ve asked it at least 500 times in the last two months.

I’m still asking.

It’s the right thing to do, even at this late date.
– X

¡ Doh !

thought-catalog-V5BGaJ0VaLU-unsplash

 

Did you know that being generally unhealthy makes you more prone to other diseases and infections?

A team of researchers in Switzerland spent 19 years investigating the link between underlying health issues and onset diseases. On March 23rd, 2018, Dr. Wayne Kerr was inventorying the medical literature section of Barnes & Noble in Lucerne. Suddenly, he found it, the proof his team spent 19 years and millions of dollars investigating. He stood up, screaming for one of his research team members, who was also in the store.

As Dr. Leigh King ran up to him, Dr. Kerr held up the book he discovered:

“No Sh#t, Sherlock: A Field Guide For Discovering The Obvious.”

.

.

.

.

.

P.S. I wrote this after reading someone’s post on social media. His post was rather smart, a fact that amplified my mirth at the idea floating around in my head as a result…

Did you know that being generally unhealthy makes you more prone to other diseases and infections?

A team of researchers in Switzerland spent 19 years investigating the link between underlying health issues and onset diseases. On March 23rd, 2018, Dr. Wayne Kerr was inventorying the medical literature section of Barnes & Noble in Lucerne. Suddenly, he found it, the proof his team spent 19 years and millions of dollars investigating. He stood up, screaming for one of his research team members, who was also in the store.

As Dr. Leigh King ran up to him, Dr. Kerr held up the book he discovered:

“No Sh#t, Sherlock: A Field Guide For Discovering The Obvious.”

You’re Not Going To Believe This One (Read Until The End)

dylan-nolte-HNXi5znlb8U-unsplash

This is true commentary. Some of it isn’t mine to share. I do no disservice to anyone by hitting the high notes of shame and secrecy. When I open up and share, sometimes people share stories with me. Some of them are stunning. Others are evil. A few are joyous. In a bit, I’ll share the general truth of one such story. I’ll do so by telling it anonymously. Whether it happened in Rogers, Arkansas, or Topeka, Kansas, it is a true story.

Throughout my life, I’ve been on the cusp of several discoveries. Some of have been personal, while others have been the sudden surge in my perception of the world. Given the outright ignorance that was mine to claim when I was young, I find myself surprised by who I am. My early life was cloistered and smelled of copper, whiskey, and sweat. Its soundtrack was a cacophony of shouts. I don’t think some of you truly take me at my word: my life was small for the first part of my life. I understood very little and my ability to grow to understand it was limited by the pathology of who I came from. Nature vs. Nurture lost a fight in my head.

An inquisitive mind took me places. DNA broke down doors. I was 52 before discovering I had another sister, one fathered by my racist Dad. While it was an accident, it would have not happened had I not insisted on following family questions over a long road. Revisionists shouted at me my entire adult life. Most wanted allegiance; when not given, they demanded silence. Failing that, they resorted to sustained anger. Their voices are fading though, leaving me to write the history of all the lives I intersected with. I was stunned to know that my suspicions about my Dad were right. DNA collectively slapped my naysayers in the mouth.

When my Dad fathered my sister, he didn’t know about DNA. He didn’t have an idea that it would expose his behavior 40+ years later. Unlike the news stories I found detailing Dad’s misadventures with crime and his DWI fatality, DNA lurked behind the scenes. I won’t share the details of my Dad’s case because they’re not mine to share.

DNA opens doors that people forget existed.

Which leads me to this inept segue…

Many years ago, a doctor told a young woman that her child died during or shortly after childbirth. The woman went home, heart-broken, and barely managed to move ahead with her life. She later delivered another child with the same doctor. That child lived to adulthood.

In secret, the doctor ‘gave’ the baby to a family who wanted children. The baby hadn’t died after all. This family ended up with two such ‘adopted’ babies. They were aware of the circumstances under which the baby was taken illegally from the mother and that the ‘adoption’ papers were forgeries. The stolen baby grew up with her new family.

When the doctor started his nefarious endeavor, DNA wasn’t a calculation. Paperwork could be falsified, lies told, and an impenetrable cloud of confusion could conceal what he’d done.

The doctor? He wasn’t an average doctor. He was respected, known, and had access.

He earned a rich living, had children of his own, and probably excused away his monstrous behavior by convincing himself that the stolen children would have a better life.

This isn’t a new story. It still happens. DNA makes it more difficult to conceal.

I wonder how many of you knew this doctor, or unknowingly knew the mother robbed of her child? Or went to school with the doctor’s children? What would the doctor’s children think of him if his crime were shared with the world? If you’re reading this, it’s possible you’re related to the doctor or know someone else who had their baby stolen from them. It’s one of the reasons I repeatedly tell people to get DNA tests.

Human behavior covers a wide swatch of possibilities. Doctors, midwives, and churches have all taken turns robbing young women of their children.

Because I’ve run across many variations of human deceit, I know statistically that many people out there aren’t related to the people they think they are. Some, although in increasingly smaller numbers, live a life absent a startling truth, one which DNA can help expose.

In this case, the adopted baby girl grew up used DNA testing to find her biological family. She reached out to her birth mom, the one who’d been told she was dead. I try to imagine the shock and horror of getting such a call – one from the adult daughter you’d mourned. I imagine the further horror of realizing that she’d risked having another baby girl stolen her by having her second daughter delivered by the same doctor.

The adopted baby, now an adult, and the mother who suffered a stolen baby attempted to confront the doctor, who still practiced. They confronted him decades after the fact.

How many times can you imagine the doctor stole babies from young mothers?

Did I mention that this is a real story?

The doctor never discovered the agony of being charged with a crime. He didn’t face public shame by looking out the window and seeing a news crew pull up in the parking lot, knowing his crime had been exposed and his face shown on the nightly news.

I wrote a long post about it but didn’t have permission to tell it to the world. I did enough research to discover that the salient points were easily substantiated.

So, I leave you with this doubt: are you SURE you know who your parents are? I’ll say it again. Because of my personal involvement with other cases, I say with full confidence that some of you are living without the truth.

Love, X

 

In Wonderment, I Look

kunj-parekh-3s3JPEXRzUg-unsplash

 

This is a weird composite of thoughts, much like the one I wrote last Sunday. I’m still very optimistic overall, for ‘us’ as a whole. I have my doubts that some of us should be trusted to use toothpicks, though.

I’ve been around a few people who need a dose of Negan. Some have been angels. I’ve been a right bastard myself a few times. I used a character from The Walking Dead purposefully, though I abandoned the show a while back. This won’t be the last pandemic we face. It’s a good blueprint for how we’ll do if we don’t substantially snap the heck out of our inability to give everyone good healthcare. Though I’m a liberal, I think our biggest enemy is ‘us.’ Not because we’re separated into nations and interests, but because each of us is part of a collective which pushes the urge toward militancy and diminishes the embrace of things which make our individual lives better. Healthcare, education, and stability continue to bow in service to defense.

Who knew a virus would observe our trillions of dollars of military might worldwide and laugh? Now that we’ve winced long enough at the mercy of an invisible enemy, can we take back a slice of our resources and dedicate it to the prevention of the next one?

Given the presence of asymptomatic carriers, universal precautions are the only means to protect yourself until the bubble pops. Despite doing everything perfectly yourself, you are only as safe as your weakest link. Contact with anyone or anything outside your perfect bubble is a non-zero risk. Universal precautions are not possible on a long timeline. Those that tell us this might be angry when they do so, but they’re not wrong.

Given the false negative rate of the covid test, people who tested negative are not necessarily negative. We have to use the only test we have available, whether it is approved for that use.

If you’re one of those people who are essential and travel in the world, the probability that you’re going to be exposed approaches 100% on a long enough timeline. The Venn diagram of you amidst all the potentially contaminated people and places makes the math irrefutable.

Those who resume their careers in patient care, whether they’re nurses, doctors, aides, or therapists, need a little more praise in the ‘after’ of this. Surviving this cost them invisibly. In the future, everyone in the medical field will have to swallow their fear a bit more, as they agree to stand in the unknown.

We’re all fallible, even those with perfect intentions. ‘We’ rely on people who have to get out into the world while we’re in the bubble. I’m one of those people who have to get out of the bubble. It rarely worries me because I’m almost individually powerless to foresee, much less avoid, danger. I don’t stick the gun in my own mouth. As I tell my friends and family, I earned the right to expect the plane to fall out of the sky onto my head. I don’t walk with my head cocked in anticipatory fear.

As for those who practice perfect isolationism, you’re going to be exposed at an eventual rate of 100%. Time and necessity will insist on it.

If you experience symptoms, it will be very hard for you to get tested – no matter who you are and where you work. We’ll change that by the next pandemic. For this one, though, don’t make the assumption you can get a test. It isn’t true for most people with symptoms.

Even if you are tested, not only are you going to wait days for your result, but at some point you’re going to wonder if you are a false negative. What will help you get over the unease of being an unwitting carrier? Focus on the fact that you were going to be exposed one way or another, anyway. Much like the denizens of The Walking Dead, they discovered they were already walking around with the disease. Unfortunately for us, our condition is that we are genetically no match for the types of viruses that include the coronavirus.

We’ve been focusing on protecting the most vulnerable and of ensuring that our medical system doesn’t collapse.

Despite it being repeated a million times, this was never about guaranteeing you won’t be exposed to the virus.

You will, as will every person you’re accustomed to seeing in your daily life. All of them.

I’ve emerged from my personal experience with some strange observations about my fellow human beings; some bad, some great.

In the ‘after’ of this first wave of the new coronavirus, we must wait to see the data that we’re allowed to see: hospitalizations, intubations, # of those tested, # of those refused tests despite being symptomatic, total deaths, total deaths attributed to the virus, and a mountain of other data.

Reverence for data is important; incorrectly deriving unsupported ideas from raw numbers is to give leeway to manipulation. Science doesn’t demand perfection. It demands a relentless pursuit of ‘better,’  revision, and admission of the need to take another look.

Science can admit its error even when humans cannot. Some of us, myself included, will walk into the ‘after’ in need of more willingness to trust those with expertise to at least throw the dart closer to the target than our limited knowledge can. We’ve moved away from this a bit in the last few years.

We’ll look differently at some of those around us. We’ve  listened and watched as they’ve surprised us. Some with great acts of informed compassion, others with callous disregard. When we catch our breath, literally and figuratively, we will need to deal with what we’ve seen people around us do and say.

Those with means will have different views about the pandemic that those without savings, credit, or the ability to remain inside.

Those with family members suffering from underlying conditions will emerge with ideas, too.

Those who lost family, friends, or livelihoods will reach a distant beach, one that will take some time to come back home from.

Those with fixed ideas and hardened hearts will be untouched by the ability to consider this pandemic from the perspective of the world.

That, without a doubt, is our biggest disease.

 

 

 

X’s Observations on COVID

engin-akyurt-Ct1qRMGfXj4-unsplash

If you’re being screened for COVID19 and you see that the screeners are using temporal (forehead) thermometers, you need to check your temperature with an oral thermometer. Despite what some might say, an oral thermometer will eliminate environmental variables, assuming you haven’t been chewing whole ice cubes. While the absence of a fever doesn’t preclude that you have COVID, it occurs in the majority of cases. I’ve personally witnessed a 2 or 3-degree temperature difference between oral thermometers and other types. (*Generally speaking, of course.)

If you don’t own a pulse oximeter, you should purchase one. If you are infected with this virus, the flu, or have other health conditions, your 02 level is one of the single biggest ways to answer the question: “Should I be concerned?” It will signal that you’re deteriorating or at what point you need to call 911 or go to the doctor/ER. You should buy one of these even after our current virus crisis is over.

Additionally, the number of medical people being tested is artificially limited by how willing screening clinics are in administering the test. All those saying we haven’t tested nearly enough people are correct. You would be surprised by the number of people refused tests, even those working in the medical or emergency services fields. We don’t want to squander tests needlessly, of course. With anyone in the medical field or those who must be ‘in’ the world on a daily basis, it should be automatic with symptoms. The same guidelines for the general public don’t translate to dealing with medical workers.
.

In Northwest Arkansas, there isn’t a big scarcity of testing kits available, compared to other regions. Our bottleneck seems to be the number of labs at our disposal to perform the lab tests. Some people are still being told it might be a WEEK before getting their results. Senator Rand Paul had to wait 6 days for his, and he’s a United States Senator, and he didn’t self-quarantine during that time. (That’s not a criticism of Senator Paul, by the way, in part because he is a Senator and his job duties are critical. *Someone correctly pointed out that he did go the gym and do some stupid things in the meanwhile, though.)

If you are tested, you are now required to self-quarantine until you get the test results, which is of course an improvement over the previous policy. However…

Those who have symptoms or are turned away then return to their jobs or their families, often with the misguided belief that if the screening methodology indicates they don’t need to be tested, that they are in fact, not positive and pose no risk. For the purposes of this post, assume that those who are turned away or discouraged from a test work in the medical field or another field in which their presence is ‘essential.’ They return to their lives, potentially infecting many more people. ‘Not tested’ does not equate to ‘not infected.’ For public health, these cases should be treated as positive, even absent a test, as it is the safest course of action for society as a whole to prevent needless spread of the virus. In a crisis in which the virus spreads so easily, it’s obvious that anyone working in a critical field should be tested immediately, even if their symptoms only include a fever – but do not rise to the critical level. If our medical system did become overwhelmed, which I do not think it will here in Northwest Arkansas, we’d have to reexamine that policy.

If you’re already quarantined, this won’t affect you on an individual level.

By not quarantining even potentially suspected cases as they arise, we’re creating an expanding circle of exposure. (Obviously, I’m referring to those who can’t be at home each day.) We all know that we’re almost all going to eventually be exposed to the virus. It’s not about being able to sidestep our eventual exposure. All of us will ultimately step up to the fact that we’ve been exposed.

Another concern that people are misunderstanding is the tendency toward a false negative test. (You have the virus, but the test shows that you don’t.) A false positive might scare you, but at least you’ll think you have the virus and take immediate and drastic measures to avoid spreading the disease. In the case of a false negative, the opposite occurs. Given the way the tests are performed, the margin of error is actually quite high. If you google “Bayes’ Rule for COVID19,” you’ll see that false negatives are the biggest threat for how we deal with the virus.

The truth is that many organizations say that all those tested should be quarantined on the side of caution, even though who are tested negative. In the short term, it may cause needless isolation. That needless isolation of critical medical staff will statistically reduce the spread of the virus. We already know that up to 1/3 of all negative tests are incorrect, depending on the variables in the testing system. For every 100 people testing negative, it is possible that 30 of them are actually positive.

After having said all that, a significant portion of the population has been infected and has no symptoms at all. It gives us a sense of false confidence as we proceed with our lives.

Even though you’ve not read my definition of a public place, here it is: any place outside your house where anyone other than the people you’ve been with for the last 14+ days has breathed. If anyone ‘new’ has entered your house, your house is public for 14 more days.

I don’t personally feel alarmed, even if it kills me. Many of us all are doing to do everything perfectly. Yet, it’s going to hurt someone of us badly. I read your posts and hope that we can get back to being pissed off at each other for stupid reasons.

We’re going to get a vaccine, eventually. It won’t be permanent, though. We’re going to need to invest in and trust researchers and science. We’re going to have to stop pretending that anti-vaxxers have a valid viewpoint. Maybe we’ll finally get universal healthcare. Maybe we’ll manage to achieve a cohesive non-profit nationwide collective of clinics and hospital making decisions from the viewpoint of public health.

Our hospital system will not be overwhelmed here locally. I also don’t think we are going to run out of PPE or necessary medical equipment. You would think I’d be cynical about this. I’m not though. I think we are incredibly more prepared that many areas around the United States. No matter what happens, I hope you remember after all this that I was optimistic in our ability to diminish the impact.

We’re lucky we live in Northwest Arkansas. Comparatively speaking, it’s a great place to be quarantined – and an even better place to be if you find yourself needing immediate medical care for the virus. We have an incredible confluence of food, resources, and medical clinics/hospitals to help us get through this.

P.S. Although a few people missed it, much of my post indicated it referred to those in the medical field or those who go out into the world because they are ‘essential.’ Taking this into account quells many of the comments people might make. ‘Err on the side of caution’ is a cliché precisely because it is true and fits the commentary here.

No, You Didn’t Get a Cold From Your Flu Shot

matthew-henry-U5rMrSI7Pn4-unsplash

 

 

My apologies in advance. Evidently, it’s impossible to get people to stop spreading incorrect information.

Reactions to flu shots are not contagious.

You do not get a communicable cold from the flu shot.

I can’t believe I still need to preach at people about this.

It’s an old and inaccurate wive’s tale that you have a cold because you got a flu shot. You have a cold because you were already exposed to another virus.

If you get a flu shot and exhibit fever, cough, runny nose, or body aches for any length of time, you need to treat the episode as if you have been contaminated with another virus. It didn’t come from the flu shot, and you certainly didn’t get a cold of any magnitude from getting the flu shot*.

It is possible to get a flu shot after being exposed to another virus, one which could be the common cold or any number of a variety of other viruses. You don’t “get” a cold from the flu shot. If you develop a fever, cough, and other more pronounced symptoms that persist, especially with intense symptoms and duration, it’s because you were already exposed to another virus – not because you got the flu shot. Flu vaccines do not contain live viruses. Rather, they contain dead viruses or gene pieces that trigger an immune response.

You don’t get a persistent fever, cough, runny nose, and watery eyes from the flu shot. Some people have mild reactions such as soreness and low-grade fever that dissipates quickly. You do not get a cold from getting a flu shot, just as you can’t get the flu from a flu shot. In blind studies, people who got either salt-water injections or the flu shot, the only differences in symptoms was increased soreness in the arm among people who got the flu shot. There were no differences in terms of other symptoms.

There are many myths about the flu shot.

I would apologize for being so preachy but it’s agonizing to see people fail to take basic precautions when they are infected with viruses unrelated to their flu shot.

It’s exactly how other people get your viruses.

You can ask your doctor, of course. That’s how science works. Knowledge defeats old wive’s tales, no matter whom you hear them from or how long they’ve been passed around.

A Rose By Any Other Name

fart face.

*This story is true. Seriously. You will not be smarter after you read it.

Since I was on another visit to the doctor’s office, I chose a spot devoid of other people to wait. I assumed the wait would be long and wanted to be courteous. I just wanted to sit with my eyes closed.

Five minutes later, a woman of dubious appearance entered the vast waiting area and sat a chair away from me. I opened my eyes and nodded toward her. I’ll call her Liz for clarity. Inexplicably, she sat halfway across the otherwise empty chair next to mine. In her arms, she held a baby. Moments later, an elderly lady shuffled in and sat next to the first woman. Thus, all 4 people in the waiting area were now sitting in a space of 4+ seats, in a waiting room comprised of multiple large spaces.

Liz’s phone started going off immediately. I only noticed because she put it in the narrow space between her left hip and my right leg and because the volume was on maximum. It rang, playing a song worse than any song by Kid Rock, if that’s possible. Her phone rang twice and notified her a dozen others.

Another lady entered the waiting room area I was in and sat two seats away from me, leaning on the pony wall by the bathroom. A gentleman came in sat under the television across from the rest of us.

I should have moved but I didn’t really feel like moving. I certainly didn’t want to commit the social faux pas of giving someone the idea that I moved as a result of their presence. I won’t make that mistake again. Emily Post can kiss my butt.

Liz’s boyfriend Facetimed her and she answered. She immediately started demanding that he explain why he unfriended her on FB last night. He denied it. She shouted and demanded to know who he was texting. He told her he was playing a game. She offered him a bit of poetry disguised as profanity and he calmly replied, “Kiss my ass!” She coyishly told him she was at the doctor’s office and didn’t appreciate that type of language. Going for the point, he pointed out that accusing him of undefined misbehavior was the greater of offenses. Liz became embarrassed and hung up. I don’t think Dr. Phil has enough hours in the day to address what was going on between them. Jerry Springer could fix it in a few minutes, though.

Even though no one was listening, she proceeded to explain in graphic detail what the phone call had been about with her boyfriend. It was more than I ever needed to know. My Jerry Springer reference was apt. “Well, you know how it is, Mom,” she told the older lady next to her. Another bit of information explained.

Within seconds, Liz lifted her hip off the chair and farted, a harsh trumpet. She immediately looked toward her mom and made a face. She looked down at the little toddler in her lap and said, “Jamie, you shouldn’t have!” She turned to the lady to my left, the one leaning against the pony wall, and said, “It wasn’t me. I promise.” The other lady was mortified. I watched her body language after the gassing.

I made no move, nor did I bat an eye. It had indeed been Liz. The smell of old shoes, spoiled eggs, and weird fish filtered through the air. Because I had been swallowing the urge to cough, my need to immediately cough deeply overpowered me. I coughed five or six times, each giving me a deep, shattered-glass feeling in my lungs. The fart was simply too much.

When the coughing fit cleared, Liz was giving me the look. She said, “…um, hello?”

“Excuse me,” I said.

“Well, you’re not excused. There’s a baby here. This baby ain’t got no need to be exposed to what you have.” You can imagine the horrible sound of her voice attempting to be sanctimonious. The fact that she had just farted openly and triggered a coughing fit – and just discussed her sexual misadventures in the waiting room didn’t quieten her.

The gentleman seated across from me openly let his jaw drop open to the floor, like a waiting room Wile E. Coyote.

Because I wasn’t feeling well, I just whispered, “Everyone in here knows it was you who farted.” Arguing with her wasn’t going to bring back my dead nose hairs.

Incredibly, she said nothing else to me. The man across from me said nothing. He simply nodded and gave me a very small thumbs up.

The next few minutes were spent listening to Liz and her mom cackle on about the craziest assortment of subjects and Liz’ phone urgently telling her of important matters.

The nurse opened the inner sanctum door and recited a female name. Lo and behold, it was Liz’s mom who had the doctor appointment. Liz had come with the baby because she was bored. I only know that because she told the nurse while simultaneously berating her mother for walking slower than molasses.

The nurse tried to politely tell Liz that neither she nor the baby should go to the back. Liz insisted, saying she needed to hear the doctor tell her mom to lay off the booze. I winced. The nurse gave up her attempt at being reasonable.

As Liz went inside and out of earshot, the man seated across from me asked, “Did I hear that right? She got on to you for coughing with your mouth covered because she farted on you and she brought a baby here for no reason and went to the back with it after being asked not to?”

“Yes, that’s about it. I’ll add it to my list of reasons I’m ill if it’s covered by Blue Cross.”

The three of us in the waiting room shared a laugh.

“I hope you feel better,” the man told me.

“Me too. Otherwise, the next step for me is cremation.”
.

Airlifted To Payment

fff

In the last few days, another accident near Springdale started the same conversation about needing a Level 1 Trauma center here in Walmetro. (It’s a reasonable nickname for this area, don’t you agree?) I enjoyed reading the teeth-gnashing commentary on social media news sites. I’m pretty sure that about half the locals misspelled the word “trauma.” I’m not a big freak about spelling like some of my other weirdo friends, but it is worth noting that someone needs to tell everyone that the ED isn’t for erectile dysfunction. (Unless you have taken 16 tablets of Viagra mistakenly. Or on purpose, too, I guess.)

I don’t want to be airlifted anywhere. If I am airlifted against my will, the paramedics should use me as a human bomb. I’ll allow you to drop me onto any local Walmart, where low, low prices won’t be stymied by a falling corpse. (May commerce live forever.) Just leave the door open as you fly over and give me a directional push: no one will know. I’ll just drop in. If the paramedics can drop me through one of the roof skylights, they should get extra points for effort.

A couple of times when I was young, I survived, even on the occasion I might have been technically dead for a bit. During that episode of “Frighten Grandma,” I lived in the middle of nowhere in Monroe County and the only reason I’m here is that some milk or ice cream truck miraculously went by.

The other time, I lived here in Northwest Arkansas, back when no roads came here on purpose and the word ER meant that everyone hoped someone was on duty (and sober) if he or she accidentally shot their own face off. I came out of that one with 160+ stitches. I’m not even sure anyone in NWA knew what a helicopter was back in those days unless they were James Bond fans or Vietnam draftees.

Historical fact: until the 1970s there were literally no roads to get to Springdale. They didn’t want us getting in or out. True story. *True-ish. Okay, it’s totally false, but we’re living in a post-truth period.

Since then, the medical community here has developed to such an extent that it’s difficult to imagine the necessity of being airlifted anywhere. Whether we have a Level 1 Trauma center is immaterial to me. As long as the billing department is operational, I’m sure I’ll get all the required attention I need.

Another fact: if you experience trauma, they always cut your pants off first. It’s not to give you better medical care, as you probably learned on episode 12,367 of Grey’s Anatomy; rather, it’s so that they get to your wallet first.

Let’s be honest about this anyway: it’s likely that if the medical crew discovers it’s me needing assistance, they’re likely to play a round of golf before getting around to transport me. Ever since the infamous incident wherein I recreated the Alien stomach-burst, the paramedics put me on ‘the list.’ (I think they aren’t sci-fi fans.)

I’ll take my chances, especially now that I’ve lived over half a century.

If I am to die, I’ll take a slight risk with the local medical talent here. I don’t want to be in some miserable hospital away from home, imposing a burden on the few people crazy enough to be interested in my early demise. (Not hasten it, I might add, even if they seem to be in a betting mood.) Having spent a lot of time in hospitals, it is important that you understand that they are misery factories for family and friends. The burden and expense of being away from home is completely objectionable to me.

Before you ask, yes, that means I’m willing to roll the dice with my life a little bit if it means that the locals get a stab, so to speak, at me first. Driving through Johnson is a risk and I’ve mostly survived that.

Keep this in mind if something unexpected happens to me. Keep the helicopter for someone else. Feel free to drive me 140 mph down the interstate if you wish, jumping hell and high holler. Everyone needs a little practice driving the ambulance, so let the new guy Jimmy give it a try if you pick me up. An escort by Roscoe P. Coltrane might be nice, too.

While this might have made you chuckle, I’m writing in all seriousness.

Death is no laughing matter unless you’ve made plans to be buried in a jack-in-the-box coffin. I recommend that everyone at least ask their preferred mortuary if they offer such a thing. If only for the laughs.

We have world-class medical facilities here. Don’t fly me anywhere, unless I’m already gone and someone needs my liver – or he/she answers to the name Hannibal Lecter.

Who Says A Doctor Visit Can’t Be Fun?

656355435k.JPG

 

This story is true. All of us involved laughed at least 25 times during my visit. I’m beginning to question their sanity.

I was seated in a nondescript patient room, amusing myself with wordplay and possible shenanigans. I vainly tried to make the interactive patient information display do something unexpected, such as indicating “Stop Touching Me.” I remembered to add something to my to-do list: bring a few crazy magazine titles on my next visit and exchange them with the normal magazines on the wall racks. I pulled this prank a few times when I was younger and it never failed to bring the expected confusion and hilarity. The interactive computer confirmed that I needed to lose more weight and recommended a haircut, preferably one starting with my back hair. Computers these days are increasingly impertinent, a trend which I enjoy.

My doctor asked me to come back in after 3 months, allegedly to determine if the blood pressure medication worked well enough to suit him. Being a doctor, though, meant that any condition not generally characterized as “still not dead” was an acceptable one to him. In my opinion, though, my visit was probably due to his suspicion that I had resumed eating for two people. No, I’m not currently pregnant, despite the rumors being broadcast by the waistline of my pants. I simply tend to eat for more than one person – not to be confused with a cannibal, who would tend to eat more than one person.

Because I arrived early, I could hear the goings-on of the doctor’s office as staff bantered, medical reps bartered their wares, and patients attempted to conceal the horror presented by the specter of a medical office. For most patients, a medical office is indeed a Pandora’s box, one filled with a hypochondriac’s WebMD web search. From outside, I heard the medical assistant say my name. “X” sounds like a curse when spoken in a normal tone of voice. Once people get to know me, they also tend to add an inexplicable “hissss” sound after my name, something that renders me slightly suspicious. I had already entertained her by claiming that the Med Rep in the inner sanctum of the back offices had given me free medical marijuana samples while in the lobby and that imbibing this sample resulted in the very low blood pressure reading she had elicited from me.

Assuming that the doctor would be on the cusp of opening the door, I placed my purple cellphone screen side down on the exam sink counter. I then quickly stepped behind the door, jamming myself in the corner as tightly as possible.

I felt the door open more than halfway. I held my breath.

I knew that on the other side of the door that Dr. Brown was scanning the length of the room, probably noticing my purple cellphone while doing so, and wondering where I went.

“Did the patient escape?” the doctor asked the two medical staffers seated nearby at the administration counter.

As he asked this, I quietly stepped out and away from behind the door, directly behind him, in plain sight of the two staffers, both of whom were looking at the doctor as he turned to face them and inquire as to my whereabouts.

Because decorum demanded it, I made a terrible, crazy face. Both staffers burst out laughing. The doctor sensed something behind him and half-turned, freezing as he saw me in his peripheral vision.

He shook his head and also burst into laughter.

Once we all stopped laughing, he told me, “No one has ever hidden behind the door from me like that, X. Well played. Well played.”

P.S. I don’t know what the billing code for playing “Hide-And-Seek” at the doctor’s office might be.