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Not Without My Anus
June 6, 2003 - 11:09 a.m.
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I hate doctors. Not personally, but as a profession.
One of the reasons that I hate doctors is that I'm at the age now at which part of a routine exam is checking my prostate. That means a finger probing my ass in a non-erotic way. It's worse because I have colitis, so I also have a gastro-intestinal specialist who has long tubes to ram up my ass for a for a look at the intestines. Being diagnosed with colitis involving a half hour of a long tube searching around up my ass with a little camera. (I'm sure there's some sort of porn fetish for this kind of movie somewhere.) I remember the doctor asking me if I wanted to be awake for the procedure so I could watch the monitor. I told him that if there was going to be a huge object probing my ass for a half-hour, I wanted to be knocked out for it. That's the least that a college roommate rapist would do for me.
Today's appointment with a doctor didn't have anything to do with my ass, thank God. I've had a persistent cough for a year now. It started when I got pneumonia-like sick last May (right in time for exam week, as I recall). That knocked me out for a week in which I could do nothing but lie in bed and sweat, except for one day when I wrote a take-home exam with a 103° fever, and I drove to deliver it to school (60 miles away). I once had a semester in which I took incompletes for being deathly ill, and after that experience, I'd much rather die in a car crash than deal with another professor who is inconvenienced by my illness. But anyway, my cough started with that illness last year. The rest of the illness went away, and the cough hung around.
When dealing with the nagging cough last year, the doctor gave me some inhalers and assured me that it might just take a few months for my lungs to heal and the cough to go away. Well, twelve months have passed, and I think twelve is more than a few.
Let me describe my cough, by the way. I constantly feel like I have a cough ready to come up from my throat. If I speak more than a few sentences, I start coughing. If I get up off my ass and walk out of my room, I've exerted myself too much and I start coughing. And sometimes, I just cough for no reason. If I sing with a CD in the car, a lung comes up. It's not a dry cough either; gunk comes up with it.
Coughing has actually become so much a part of my life, it's at that point where my brain half blocks it out so I'm barely aware of it. Yes, I'm just dealing with it like it's natural.
So what's the motivation to deal with it now? Well, if I want to do dating again, I should probably lose the cough. Besides the cough just being annoying and distracting, imagine this scenario: I actually go on a date, it doesn't go half bad, there is a good-night kiss involved, and I cough a gob of phlegm straight into her mouth. That would be one of those factors that weighs in heavily as to whether there is a second date.
But one of the things that ticked me off today was that when I went to the doctor's office, the receptionist handed me a form to sigh. She told me that it was a release form. Okay, pretty standard, and I was just about to sign it when the lawyer in me kicked. "Hey, why don't you read it before you sign it," the lawyer's voice said. So I did. It wasn't a release at all, as it turns out. It's a form that supposedly complies with a disclosure law that requires doctors to tell patients how they share medical records. The wording of the form is that, by signing it, I acknowledge that I have had an opportunity to receive a pamphlet that tells me how the doctor will use my confidential information. No such pamphlet was offered to me, and the receptionist didn't even correctly identify the form.
So got up to stand behind another patient talking to the receptionist, so I could ask about this pamphlet that I was supposed to receive. While waiting, I saw a pamphlet rack on the desk, and I started sorting through it. The disclosure pamphlet was there, but to figure out what it was I had to get my face up to it to read it because the lettering was so tiny. Having discovered the pamphlet, I just picked it up and signed the form. I didn't think there was any use to tell the receptionist that she was misleading me about the form she asked me to sign, because she was probably following orders from the doctors who pay her salary.
I will, however, ask Hoover what he thinks about the misleading procedure to circumvent the disclosure law. Suing doctors is up his alley.
So that whole procedure had me ticked off to begin with. (Though I probably shouldn't blame the doctors entirely; somewhere there's probably an attorney they hired to advise them how to skirt the disclosure law.)
So I saw the doctor, who assured me that I was having an asthma flare up (same diagnosis as last year), and he prescribed an inhaler (which I was prescribed last year, though this is a different inhaler; he must have a new sweetheart deal with a different pharmaceutical company), and I have to go to the hospital today for a pulmonary function test (I had one last year). The thing of it is, this is all of the stuff that was done last year that didn't help me. I'm starting over again. And oh, the cost of starting all over again.
There is a bright side to all of this. I get to go to a real family practice with a real doctor, rather than an HMO with a nurse practioner. I'm lucky enough not to be stuck with an HMO because I'm lucky enough not to have health insurance. Woo hoo.
(Nothing against nurse practioners. I'm sure that most of them work hard and are competent to the level of their training. But please, you can't tell me that all that extra education and practice for an M.D. is meaningless, especially has heatlh probelms get more complex.)
I actually have one positive experience with a doctor. A few years ago, I was sick with something, I don't remember what, and I went to one of these urgent-but-not-emergency clinics. I was actually the only person left in the waiting room when I was called back to one of the examination rooms. I figured I'd be seen right away, but I waited and waited. While I was waiting, I could overhear the doctor talking with a pharmaceutical salesman. And they kept talking and talking. For a half hour while I waited nearly dying (at least it felt like that) in the examination room, and he was prioritizing talking to a pharaceutical salesman over attending to a waiting patient.
I was steamed, but fortunately I'm not a person to just erupt at a person who ticks me off. Despite how upset I was, I was still dependent on this doctor to cure me, so I figured I should at least wait until he was done diagnosing me before I started asking him about what long hold-up was.
Well he diagnosed me, and told me that I needed a prescription medication. Then he told me that it was a pretty expensive prescription. However, he continued, I was lucky to arrive when I did, because the doctor had just met with a salesman from a company who sells the drug I needed, and the salesman had left a ton of samples. The doctor loaded me up with all of the free samples I needed.
Let me tell you, it was worth the wait.
Please forgive the South Park referendce in the title.