Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Doctor Dread

Why is it that we dread going to the doctor so much? No one looks forward to it, and as I drove to my appointment the other day, I couldn't really remember what was so dreadful about the whole thing. Apparently, it had been so long that I'd completely blocked the awfulness that accompanies even routine visits.

My new doctor's office is at a GIANT medical complex right in the middle of the Salt Lake valley, it's so big in fact, that they offer complimentary valet parking. Valet parking! I passed on this option, feeling like I could leave that to the sick people. Plus, I haven't cleaned my car in awhile and I'd prefer not to have strangers see it in its current state. I managed to find a parking spot, the building was just a distant speck to me then, got out of the car and made the LONG trek to the building, which I found out, was no speck, but rather a great and spacious building. This should have been a sign to me of the unpleasantness that lay waiting inside, but instead I entered, unsuspecting.

I didn't even make it inside before the unpleasantness began, as I was walking through the doors, I noticed something wasn't quite right....I shifted around a little and realized my bra had come unsnapped. Thinking that would send the wrong message when the doctor came into my exam room, I navigated the maze that was the first floor of 'the tower' and fixed the issue in the bathroom.

Then the real problems began. When you walk into the lobby of this place, there is a long list of doctors on the wall next to the elevator. If you're not there just to see one of those physicians, you better ask the info lady standing near the door because if you don't, there's no way you'll find the right place. Signs for various labs and procedures point every which way and it would be quite easy, especially if you are, as many of the people I saw, old, infirm, or ill in any way, to get lost. My problem was, I knew I was there to see one of the listed doctors, but I couldn't remember which one. So I did a very not-me thing to do. I have a habit, most common in adult males, of not asking for help and/or directions. But I didn't want this appointment to take any longer than it had to, so I meandered casually over to the info desk lady and said, "I don't know where I'm supposed to be. I think I'm supposed to see one of those doctors," gesturing to the exhaustive list, "but I'm not sure which one. I know the guy I saw last time has a beard." Realizing how stupid this sounded as it came out of my mouth, I suddenly saw a name that sounded vaguely familiar, so I told the lady, "Nevermind, I think that's him. Thanks." It was a gamble, but one I was willing to take in order to avoid looking completely stupid in front of that woman, again. I took the elevator up to the floor I guessed I was supposed to be on, everything looked right, and the woman at the desk knew who I was so I had guessed correctly. Evidence of my brilliance.

The nurse called me back almost right after I got there, highly unusual for a doctor's office, especially since I had arrived thirty minutes early. (When they called to remind me of my appointment they said to plan on thirty minutes to park and check-in, I thought it was ridiculous but after seeing the parking lot I understood why.) Anyway, she took me back and then I remembered why I don't like doctor's appointments. We walked around the corner and there was the scale (pause reading here for emphasis, were this a movie the music would suddenly get frightening) with a chair next to it where she said I could put all my 'heavy stuff'. I wanted to ask exactly how much 'stuff' I could put on that chair, but didn't. I stepped on the scale, she wrote down the number, but then said, "That's your weight in kilograms just so you know," then pushed a button, "and that's your weight in lbs." As if I thought I suddenly weighed as much as my six year-old brother? As if she thought I had some delusional hope that the very small first number was my weight in pounds?! She didn't even write down the pounds number, she just showed it to me as an FYI, as if I needed to see that? And so it began...

I do have to say that the nurse was really nice, she remembered me, even though I had only been there once, remembered my mom and asked about her, remembered that I go to BYU, and responded very reasonably when I told her I was majoring in Philosophy. She also said I had 'perfect' blood pressure, I liked those numbers a little better than the first ones she insisted on showing me. Then she left me to wait for the doctor. An interesting phenomenon occurs during that waiting period, even if you're just there for a routine check-up, siting amongst all those tools, in the sterile room, listening to people in the halls walking around and talking in hushed tones, waiting until the footsteps stop at your gets a little uncomfortable. Then a sound exactly like my elementary school bell went off and a woman came on the intercom saying, "Emergency department, shock/trauma, priority one," followed by a room number. So I started thinking about the poor person who probably just flatlined, images of Grey's Anatomy running through my head, getting me all worked up, when the sound comes again and the woman says, "Please disregard alarm, please disregard." What, did the guy not even last until the emergency crew got there? Must they announce things like that to every room in the building?

Anyway, the doctor finally came in at 1:45, my appointment time exactly. Unfortunately, I had forgotten that at this place they have residents who come in first because they're trying to learn. Ugh, I'm all in favor of education but this was a real inconvenience, I had to get back to work, and whatever I told this guy was just going to have to be repeated for the real doctor. Now my description of resident boy may sound a little harsh and judgemental, but medical students need people to push them so they can be the best doctors they can be!

So this guy comes in, and he's basically a child. I mean really, I'm young I know, but he looked like he was in high school, plus he was smaller than me. He was a teeny, childish man. I judged him, and the minute he started speaking I started to rate him on his doctoring skills...first item, awkward small-talk. He failed patient small-talk, failed. He asked me what school I went to, what I was doing there, I said Philosophy, he said, "Oh, lots of philosophical things," with a knowing smile and a laugh as though he had just made a good joke! I get a lot of odd comments when I tell people my major, lots, but this was by far the least intelligent. All he did was turn the word Philosophy into an adjective! If I had said I was a Biology major, would he have said, "Ah, lots of Biological things," or what about English, "Ah lots of English things"? I was less than impressed. Then he asked me a bunch of pertinent medical questions, including whether or not I was allergic to any medications. I said Ceclor, he said, "Ok, what is that?".... What is that? Honestly, that is not the question you want to hear from you doctor, and I have no idea what it is! I just know my mom used to say that when she would take me to the doctor. So he pulls out his little PDA and has to look it up. He says, "Ah it's an anti-biotic." Oh wait, I did know that, I just thought he needed something a little more....complex than that, for example that it's in a group of drugs called cephalosporin antibiotics.

Then we went on to the actual medical testing, checking my heart beat, checking my throat, I had a piece of gum in my mouth so I'm sure he enjoyed looking down my throat and seeing that. Then there was the ear-checking and the eye checking, which he took VERY seriously. He started about eight inches from my face, and over the course of forty-five seconds moved to within two inches, once for each eye! He made me think I had some cornea problem that was hard to diagnose. But then after checking each, he put the light away non-chalantly and said, "Alright, looks good. Now the reflexes."

Can I ask something? Why is it, I mean really, why is it that even for a routine check-up doctors insist on hitting your knee with a hammer? What problem can be diagnosed if for some reason my leg doesn't kick up a little in response? If anyone reading this is in med school and/or understands this please explain.

After this, and some more awkward check-up stuff, he left to get the real doctor. More waiting, more examining of various medical instruments and curiosity about what exactly went on in that room before I got there....then real doctor came in (pictured at left). He was extraorindarily condescending, sometimes saying something, then repeating the phrase using smaller words so as to clarify in case I didn't understand. Then he had to listen to my heart because apparently he didn't trust resident boy to do it right, and let's face it, neither did I. But all-in-all I was happy to have made it out realtively unscathed. No needles, no unnecssary tests, just the routine awkardness and unpleasantness that is inescapable at every doctor's visit.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Facebook 'Friends'

Social's the next big thing. People of all ages are participating, even businesses are getting in on the game.

Now I enjoy Facebook as much as the next person who loves knowing all about people without having the burden of maintaining a non-virtual relationship. But what Facebook has done to the word "Friend" is interesting. It seems to me that this social networking business has altered the meaning and thus the usefulness of the word.

What exactly does it mean to be someone's 'Friend' on Facebook? A few examples from my own Facebook Friend collection:

We went to the same high school and might have had a class or two let's be Facebook Friends, it will boost our numbers.

We went to elementary school together, I always thought you were crazy, but now that we're Facebook Friends I can see actual of you at your Wicken cult meetings, etc.

We're second cousins, the least we could do is become Friends on Facebook, we share a great-grandmother!

We were in English class together where you were constantly on Facebook. We were talking one day while waiting for the professor to arrive and you said, "What's your last name?" I said, "West." You said, "Ok I'm adding you on Facebook,"and I, well it would have been awkward the rest of the semester if I hadn't accepted. Now your constant status updating is extremely agitating, especially the Nicholas Sparks quotes, but addicting at the same time. I can' get enough of the weirdness.

You play for the Jazz, I friended you on a whim and you accepted! I love you and I love Facebook!You're 60 years old, have no idea how to use Facebook, and so I feel as though I get all the benefits of Facebook Friendship without the burdens. Plus, you're more likely to put some interesting tidbits out somehwere I can see them because you don't quite get just how open this thing is to everyone under the sun.

You friended me at least three times, I didn't have the heart to say no again.

You were dating one of my friends, now you're not, I barely know you and yet we are still Facebook Friends.

I work with you, and it was easier to get a response from you by facebook messaging you than by actually coming to your office. You respond faster to Facebook messages than emails anyway.
I've never met you in person, but we apparently will be going to Europe together this Summer so we may as well start the virtual relationship now to prepare. Plus your profile picture is of you scuba diving next to a GIANT fish and I want to know it real? Was it dangerous? Where was this taken?

Should I consider all these people my friends? Do we hang out on the weekends? Could I call them up if I was in trouble? No, I think not. But what? This is a quasi-relationship that needs a term, and I think this term lies somewhere between Friend and Stranger.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Bruce - A Eulogy

Last week I received some bad news that Bruce had given up the ghost, so I thought it would be appropriate to dedicate a post to him and the good times we shared.

I was introduced to Bruce through my dad. We hit it off immediately but I don't think either my dad or I could have guessed how great Bruce would be for me and my family, and how long he'd be such a big part of our lives.

Bruce, well he was a character. He was a little older than was acceptable for most people my age, he had some scars and stains from the wrecks and spills of life, and had a pretty expansive trunk for his size, but he was my first and I'll never forget him. I never would have been able to get around without those first few times with Bruce.

He was a great listener, I could talk for hours with him, and say whatever I wanted and never worry about what he thought. He didn't require conversation, and could appreciate the value of silence. Sometimes we'd just sit there not saying anything, but at the same time we knew were moving in the same direction.

We shared some deeply sad moments, I could cry with him and he would just be there for me, but also some extraordinarily happy moments, I never sang louder than when I was with Bruce.

There were some troubled moments too, once we had an uncomfortable confrontation with an undercover narcotics agent when we were caught giving in to peer-pressure and doing some things we shouldn't have. We were a little gun shy for awhile afterwards, but we laughed at the experience later and became better because of it.

Some of our greatest triumphs together were conquering the elements. Once we found ourselves in the bleak, blizzardy, sub-zero temperatures of Wyoming, but we really bonded then. He kept me toasty warm through the whole ordeal.

The heat of Utah summers used to get to Bruce too. We had some scary health moments when he'd get a little over-heated due to over-exertion, but I was able to sit with him until he cooled down or help arrived.

I've moved on to a more robust and younger model now, but it's never quite been the same as it was with Bruce. He struggled with the peaks and valleys of life, stalling on the steep ones occasionally, and some said he wasn't fit to be with me, but his flaws made him lovable.

He did his best and never let me down. I am just so grateful to have had him as long as I did and he will truly be missed.

I don't have many pictures of Bruce, but this one captures his spirit pretty well. Even when he wasn't exactly clean, he had a certain glint and shine to him.

For those of you who got to know Bruce, feel free to post your comments below.