Patsy Porco

Posts Tagged ‘doctors’

Medical Karma

In colonoscopy, Humor on July 25, 2018 at 7:07 pm

I had a terrible sinus headache today. I also had an appointment to meet the doctor who would be performing my colonoscopy. He is in the same practice as my primary-care physician (medical lingo for “regular doctor”) but he’s a specialist and I had never met him before.

After the nurse had escorted me into a little room and had measured my weight and blood pressure, she left me alone after assuring me that the doctor would be with me shortly. Judging from my experience, I sincerely doubted it. So, I lay down on the white paper on the vinyl bed and closed my eyes.

The lights in the room were motion-activated and, since I wasn’t moving, they went off. That suited me fine because my head was pounding and light exacerbates my headaches.

After awhile – a long while – the door opened. I shot up into a sitting position and the lights went on. The doctor grabbed at his heart.

“Oh my God!” he said.

“What?” I asked.

“You scared me to death,” he said.

“I did?” I said. “Why?”

“I thought you were dead,” he said, shaking his head. “I walked into a room that was pitch black and saw you lying on the table. And then you popped up and the lights came on.”

He reached behind himself to make sure there was a chair, and sat down and put his head in his hands.

I laughed. And laughed. “You really thought I was dead?”

He took his head out of his hands and managed to produce a shaky chuckle. “You have to see it from my point of view. When I work at the hospital, I occasionally walk into a room and encounter a dead person. You were lying with your hands crossed over your chest in a dark room. What else would I think?”

“Wow,” I responded. “Did you ever find a dead person in one of your consultation rooms before?”

“No.” He shook his head. “But there’s a first time for everything.”

“I’m sorry I alarmed you,” I said.

“You scared the crap out me,” he said. “By the way, nice to meet you.”

“Nice to meet you, too,” I said.

Later, when I was being given instructions on how to prepare for my colonoscopy, I thought it was only fair that I got to scare the crap out of him – considering what the horrible-tasting liquid he prescribed was going to do to me.

Dr. Sammarco






You Can’t Make This Stuff Up

In Aging on January 27, 2017 at 10:40 pm

I went to see an ear-nose-and-throat doctor today regarding my chronic sinus pain.

While I was at the reception desk, the woman checking me in, Mary, told me that I had an outstanding balance of $15.

“How can that be?” I asked. “I’ve never been here before.”

She looked at me in confusion. “Yes you were,” she said. “On December 5.”

“No,” I said. “I had an appointment, but when I called I was told it was canceled.”

We appeared to be at an impasse. “Oh, just go ahead and add it to today’s bill, and we can figure this out later,” I said.

Mary shook her head and ran my flexible-spending-account card through her credit card machine.

While she was busy, a doctor walked into the office and stood behind Mary. He looked familiar. Very familiar. Had I seen him on television?

Then I looked around the office. It seemed to me that I had seen the same coffee machine and basket of complimentary snacks before. That’s when it hit me.

“I have been here before!” I said. Mary looked up from her work with a wary smile. “This appointment is to review the results of the CAT scan I had!” I said. “It’s been so long since my last appointment that I forgot all about it.”

Mary glanced gratefully at the glass separating her from me and nodded.

“Sorry,” I said. “My Alzheimer’s is acting up.” She laughed, in a we’ve-all-been-there-before kind of way. But it wasn’t sincere. I have a feeling she talked about me after I left.

There’s something about doctors that brings out the crazy in me. It has the same effect on one of my sisters.

She recently went to the doctor and told him she suspected that she had a tapeworm. She said the doctor looked very nervous and asked her, “How do you think you contracted it?” He then headed to the sink to thoroughly wash his hands.

Somehow they determined that she did not have a tapeworm, so she broached her next concern. “Could I have an X-ray for lung cancer?” she asked him. When he ascertained that she didn’t have any symptoms that would call for such an X-ray, he suggested that perhaps she should go home and lie down.

As she was leaving, he asked, “Are you seeing anyone?”

“No!” my sister exclaimed. “I’m happily married.”

“I was talking about a psychiatrist,” the doctor responded.


Disorderly Conduct

In Humor on September 17, 2016 at 10:42 pm

bed-1299479_960_720Of all my disorders, the one I’m willing to discuss publicly is my sleep problem.

I went to the doctor recently and he asked, “How are you sleeping?” I don’t think he really cared, though, because he didn’t even bother to look up from my patient file as he asked the question. I thought that was odd since he didn’t look like he was actually reading it, just staring at it.

I said, “Sleeping is a big problem for me.”

“You’re not alone,” he said, continuing to pretend to read my file. “All I hear from my patients is that they don’t get enough sleep, and that they’re tired all the time.”

“That’s not my problem,” I said. “I sleep too much.”

My doctor finally looked up. “Really?” He smiled. “How much do you sleep?”

“Well,” I said, “If I don’t have to be anywhere and I don’t set an alarm, I can sleep for 15 or 16 straight hours without waking up.”

He stared at me, his mouth gaping. “Really?” he repeated.

“Yes,” I said. “I cannot get up. I just sleep and sleep. And my dreams get weirder and weirder the longer I sleep.”

He then burst out laughing, which made me feel a little better. I had been worried that he would call for a gurney and have me immediately transported to a sleep-study room.

He tried to compose his face while looking back at my file. “Are you depressed?” he asked. “We could try an antidepressant.”

“Not anymore,” I said. “You’ll see in my file that I’m already being treated for that.” I knew it! My suspicion that he was only staring at my file was confirmed. I didn’t know whether to feel gratified or irritated.

“Oh, yeah, right. Hmmm,” he said, still smiling from his laughing fit. “Well, maybe you should set an alarm every day and get up after eight or nine hours,” he suggested.

I just looked at him. Did he not know about “snooze” buttons? I could, and have, hit mine for hours.

He closed my file and said, “Well, your physical results came out fine. See you in a year.” He held open the door.

“Aren’t you concerned about my ability to sleep away most of a day?” I asked.

The corners of his mouth began to turn up ominously. “We should all have such problems,” he said, ushering me out.

Off My Meds and Out of My Mind

In Humor on April 15, 2016 at 1:10 pm

I once temped for a lawyer down in the Wall Street area of Manhattan. She worked out of her apartment and used one of her bedrooms as her office. There was an alcove with louvered doors across from her living room where her assistant worked. When she closed the louvered doors, the assistant’s office equipment and desk were hidden from view and her apartment became a home again. It was a very clever arrangement.

What I remember most about this assignment was how she could turn anger on and off. There were times when I’d be in her office and she’d be talking to me pleasantly about that day’s duties. Then the phone would ring. She’d pick it up and start yelling at the person on the other line as if she’d been furious for hours about whatever that person was telling her. Then she’d hang up and continue talking to me as if we hadn’t been interrupted. It was good to know that her work-related anger was manufactured, just in case she decided to yell at me someday.

I thought of this today when I called my doctor’s office to request that they respond to my pharmacy’s repeated faxes. My doctor’s office has a policy that patients aren’t to call them for prescription refills. We’re supposed to request our refills from our pharmacy. If a refill needs permission to be refilled, the pharmacy faxes the doctor’s office for approval. It’s a system that could work … if the doctor’s office ever read their faxes.

My pharmacy faxed my doctor’s office for a week to get my prescription approved, with no response. When I had gone two days without my anti-anxiety medication (yes, I realize that present and future employers will now know that I’m anxious, but that’s pretty apparent as soon as someone meets me, so I’ll take my chances), I begged the pharmacist for a few pills to hold me over until the prescription was approved, because I had already gone two days without any medicine. They gave me three pills. This was on Monday.

This morning, Friday, I went back to the store and was told that the doctor’s office still hadn’t responded and I couldn’t have any more pills until the prescription was filled. I was now on my second round of two days without medicine which was making me really anxious. To top it off, as I mentioned, it’s Friday, and the office stops answering the phones on Fridays in the early afternoon, whenever they decide that they’ve had enough, and they don’t listen to messages until Monday. I wouldn’t be able to hold myself responsible for my actions if I had to endure a weekend (plus the two days before it) with my normal anxiety, compounded by the anxiety produced by not being able to get a response from my doctor.

So, I went home and called my doctor’s office. I pressed #4, which was the button to press for medical emergencies. Otherwise, I would have gotten a voice recording telling me to leave a message, which nobody would listen to. I got a nurse who, after listening to me calmly tell her my problem, told me that this was the line for emergencies. At this point, some lunatic-switch activated in my brain and I replied in an insane, frantic voice, while she was still talking, “This IS an emergency. I am losing my MIND and I need that prescription filled NOW!” That stopped her in her tracks.

“Okay, okay,” she said nervously, over my rant. “I’ll take care of it.” I think she was afraid that I’d come over there and talk to her in person. After I hung up, I calmed down immediately, probably because I had accomplished my goal.

Within the hour, I had my medicine and was working peacefully in my home office, which disappears behind its louvered door after working hours. It turns out that I learned a lot from that lawyer, especially that, sometimes, acting crazy is the sane thing to do.




My New Excuse for Everything

In Humor, Medicine on January 12, 2015 at 1:14 pm

A few days before Christmas, I developed a horrendous pain in the right side of my face that waxed and waned in rapid cycles. Each time that it waxed, it did so harder than it had in the preceding cycle. I initially thought that the pain was caused by a sinus infection–the kind that makes you think that you have a toothache when you don’t. After 24 hours, the pain had become excruciating–an exquisite pain, as some writers describe it. This exquisite pain landed me in the emergency room. It didn’t actually propel me there (my son drove me), but it was the catalyst.

I was diagnosed with trigeminal neuralgia, a facial nerve condition, and was given drugs and told to make an appointment with my regular doctor the next day. My regular doctor was on vacation so I saw his substitute. She ordered a battery of blood tests and told me to get an MRI on my brain. She suspected that I had had a stroke. She gave me in-office stroke tests and I passed them, but she still wanted verification because I was slurring my words. I blame the oxycodone (prescribed) I was taking at the time, but I’m not a doctor, so I scheduled the test.

The MRI was uneventful, once the nurses covered my eyes with a washcloth to ease my claustrophobia. The MRI machine was open-ended, which didn’t matter at all because my head was in a vise and I couldn’t see the opening. In my mind, my head was in an enclosed tube. However, the washcloth and closing my eyes calmed my initial hysteria. I was in there for almost an hour and I think I entered a trance-like state. In the last five-minute photo session (the brain scans were done in groups with a brief break between each one), I fell asleep and jerked awake, which ruined those images. I had to have those pictures taken again. But, all in all, it wasn’t so bad, only loud. When I got off the table, I was told that the images and report would be sent to my regular doctor.

When I saw my regular doctor, who was back from vacation, he was unaware that I had even had an MRI. He left the examination room to search for it in the hospital database. In a matter of minutes he returned with the report, which he must have read on the walk back from the computer. He acted, however, as if he were fully caught up on my status. His cursory glance at what was going on in my brain worried me, until I persuaded myself that he was a speed reader. He told me that the scan was fine and that I hadn’t had a stroke (which was a relief) and I didn’t have a tumor (which would have been good news, if I had even considered that possibility).

I received a copy of the MRI and the report. I will now give you the best advice you will ever be given: Unless you are a doctor, do not read your MRI report. I read mine and, among other conditions that sounded scandalous, the worst was mild atrophy in several areas of my brain. Brain atrophy. My doctor might not have been concerned, but I sure was. Since I had planned to work from home that day (after my appointment), I emailed my boss that I had brain atrophy and needed the rest of the day off. Wouldn’t you think that that was the best excuse ever for not being able to work? Well, my boss was totally unfazed, and not because she had already suspected this outcome. She was unmoved because she immediately texted her husband, a neurologist, who told her that all MRIs mention brain atrophy and that I shouldn’t be concerned. There went my request for sick time.

I don’t believe that all MRIs show dead areas of the brain, but mine does, and I was told not to worry, so I guess I won’t. I’ll probably forget about it anyway, like I forget everything else, but now I can blame my forgetfulness on my brain atrophy. None of my friends are neurologists, so I expect them to be very impressed.

Physical Fitness for Free

In Humor on May 22, 2012 at 2:11 pm

I’m getting a physical examination on Thursday. My last one was a long time ago, way before my memory took a permanent vacation. I can’t remember where I’m going when I’m driving, so I’m not surprised that I can’t recall my last real physical. I remember my fake one, though.

It was about six years ago—when I applied for life insurance. The insurance company sent a guy over to our house with a bunch of medical testing equipment. Looking back, I can’t quite believe that I let a complete stranger into my house and then allowed him to extract blood from me. He could have been anyone—a DNA thief, a cat burglar (an unlucky one since we have a dog), or an insurance salesman.

He turned out to be legit, I think. I received a letter from the insurance company approving my application and supplying me with the results of my tests. Knowing insurance companies’ wily ways, I’m pretty sure they hired a real medical tester to weed out the high-risk applicants. Now, if a credit card company sent someone to my house for blood, I’d tell them that they had already tapped that stone, or turnip.

So, six years ago, I had my last physical, if you want to call it that. I did call it that, and even had the insurance company forward the results of my tests to my doctor. When my doctor raised his eyebrows at my unorthodox physical, I pretended not to notice. I just asked him to put the results in my permanent file. He said he would. Who knows if he did? He might not even be a real doctor.

My fake physical got me thinking, though. An enormous percentage of the U.S. population is lacking health insurance. I remember the times when I didn’t have health insurance; I lived in fear that I would develop a fatal illness or fungus nails, and that I wouldn’t know until it was too late. Death I could face. Not being able to wear sandals in the summer, however, would be tragic.

I needn’t have worried, though. I could have applied for life insurance. I would have gotten a free physical and peace of mind, to boot. Those insurance physicals are thorough; they even test for AIDS/HIV.

Of course, if I had gotten bad news, then the peace of mind benefit would have been out the window. But, at least I would have known where I stood. That’s not always a good thing (ignorance being bliss when it’s folly to be wise, and all), but at least I would have had the option to find out how I was—instead of imagining the worst.

And then, after my insurance physical, I could have gone over to the Red Cross and donated some more blood. They give you juice and cookies.

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