Thursday, November 08, 2007

Let's Get [a] Physical

This is not my "G" entry. I'll continue the Encyclopedia of Me with that letter tomorrow, but in the mean time, this'll be another non-alphabet-related post.

If this were my "G" entry, however, I would ascribe that letter to a most unlikely word: Geriatrics. Why? Because that is the word I saw on the diploma hanging in my new doctor's office last night. People, I know I'm no spring chicken. Oftentimes I feel as though I'm an 85-year-old woman cleverly disguised in the body of her 33-year-old counterpart. My joints ache, my muscles are sore, and I am repeatedly baffled by the goings-on among "kids today." I am an old lady; I know this. And yet, when I called a new clinic for a routine physical, I didn't really expect to be assigned to a general practice physician who specializes in geriatrics.

As it so happens, it was an all right choice, as my new doctor was actually sort of awesome. She was friendly and personable and amusing, and under different circumstances, we might even end up being friends. We'd hang out, laughing into the wee hours, polishing off full bottles of wine, me saying, "Shh. Don't tell my doctor about this. She thinks I drink only once a week!"

My appointment was the last one of the day, and Dr. K came into the exam room shaking her head and giggling at a conversation she'd had with the nurse just outside the door. She stumbled through a few sentences while perusing my records, and said, "I'm sorry; I'm not usually this rambly! I guess it's been a long day."

"I'm ALWAYS this rambly," I replied. I figured it was only safe to warn her.

Most of you don't know me in real life, so you might not be aware that I suffer from an affliction routinely referred to (by me) as "no mental goalie" or "no brain filter." Usually I can keep this in check in more formal circumstances, but the lines between Work, Play, and Other are apparently growing increasingly blurred in my feeble (near geriatric) brain. Obviously I didn't know where to draw that line with Dr. K.

I know you're supposed to be honest with your health care professionals, but I'm guessing there are certain areas where "more or less the truth" would suffice. Why I pick the most uncomfortable of questions to seek to clarify, I have no idea, but I kid you not, I actually answered her routine, "When was the last time you were sexually active?" question with, "Um, that depends on what you count as active." I like to be precise, people! Even for medical purposes, one act does not equal another. If she was asking whether there's any chance I could be pregnant, the answer would be heavens no. But if she's asking whether any parts of me have touched any parts of someone else in such a way that might put me at risk for any unfortunate diseases, well, I couldn't answer quite as confidently to that.

And so I tried to explain this to her, somewhat unsuccessfully, in my bumbling and ridiculous way. And just in case oversharing with a poor unsuspecting health care provider wasn't awful enough, now I'm oversharing with the Internet as well. Oof. Lord help me. It's no wonder my blood pressure reading was a bit high.

Yes, the numbers from last night's blood pressure reading were on the very high end of normal, a fact we initially attributed to my rushing there from work and then sitting in a doctor's office waiting nervously to be speculumed. (Firefox's spell check says that is not a word, but I'm letting it stand anyway.) Add to that the questions about how much sex I am not getting, as well as the suggestion that I review their paperwork on living wills, and frankly I'm not at all surprised my blood pressure was a bit elevated. People, I am supposed to have a health care agent--someone to take responsibility for my care should I be incapacitated. Apparently this is why I need a husband. It has nothing to do with love or tax breaks or simple companionship; it's a way to avoid becoming a ward of the state should I become a living vegetable, my meager savings drained and me, unconscious and destitute. Heart-warming thoughts, are they not? It's no wonder I answered the "Have you ever worried you might drink too much?" question with a hesitant, "Um, no?"

I got through the rest of the physical without too many more alarming outbursts... At one point, though, I may have actually said, "I'm sure it's not a stomach tumor; I'm just getting old and fat"... and at another, I said that I wanted my pill prescription renewed (even though we'd already established I clearly don't need it right now) because, and I quote, "I dig being regular." I did manage not to mention my "I'm impervious to viruses" superpowers when I declined a flu shot, however, so there is that at least, I suppose.

I'm really hoping the elevated blood pressure was just situational, but Dr. K sent me away with homework anyway. She gave me a little card listing my latest blood pressure reading and told me to check it periodically, when I'm relaxed and at ease. "Check it when you're at the grocery store or at Target and not rushing around too much," she suggested. "Or at the fire station. You can check it there, too," she said.

The fire station?? Did any of you know this was a service our fire fighters provide?

It is, apparently. "I called to check just recently," Dr. K explained. She said she told them she'd been sending patients there for blood pressure readings and wanted to make sure they still did that for free. They do, they assured her. "They're bored a lot of the time," she explained. "And sometimes they're CUTE!" she tacked on. We'd already clarified that I'm single and not getting any action, so perhaps she thought cute firefighters would be an incentive to encourage me to follow up and monitor my own health. If they really are cute, it's probably not going to help my elevated blood pressure any, but cute firefighters is never something to complain about, I suppose. My geriatric self knows that, anyway.

In addition to the blood pressure homework, Dr. K also instructed me to get more dairy in my diet. At least this is good news... Whoo hoo; more cheese! Doctor's orders! (What? You expect me to get calcium from broccoli? Um, yeah; have you met me? That's just crazy talk.)

But the last part of my appointment was the worst part--the part where I winced and looked the other way while one nurse poked and prodded for blood samples and another stuck a Tetanus shot in my left arm. Incidentally, if this were my "G" post, "G" could also be for "God damn, my arm hurts," as I forgot about the fun side effects of that particular shot.

I'm sure I can find some way to keep my mind off that pain, however. Wine and calcium-rich cheese with a cute fire fighter might be a good start...


-R- said...

You totally need to go find some hot firefighters to take your blood pressure!!! (Yes, the multiple exclamation points are really necessary in this case.)

3carnations said...

It's hard to choose my favorite part of that post. I think it's "I dig being regular."

I love the too much information to your geriatric doctor. By all means, go to the fire department. Then report back to us.

High blood pressure is something I've never had. As a matter of fact, I run quite low. It often takes nurses by surprise. Then they check to make sure I am conscious. (just joking about that last part...)

One Smart Cookie said...


I love this post. I especially love "I dig being regular."

I also have the high blood pressure problem at the Dr's office. What can I say, they make me nervous! I have never heard of going to the fire house to have it checked, though...

nancypearlwannabe said...

Yep, those tetanus shots hurt like a mofo, don't they? I was just talking to a co-worker who had attended the free flu clinic at school and she horrified me by telling me that the needle broke off IN HER ARM while they were giving her the shot and the stuff sprayed all over, so they had to do it again.

WTF? I would so not let them "do it again"!

lizgwiz said...

Yeah, I've been checking my blood pressure at the drugstore...but I'm thinking the fire station might be more fun. Tulsa's finest are HOT.

Dr. Friendly McGeriatric was probably just glad to have a patient to pose those "sexually active" questions to that didn't leave her with uncomfortable feelings about her grandparents. ;)

Jan said...

Stefanie, I found you on the NaBloPoMo randomizer -- love your blog!

Once upon a time, when my husband and I had been married 5 or 6 years and were both students, I went to Student Health for my annual girly visit. I had to fill out a form that asked (1) Was I sexually active [yes]; (2) Did I use condoms [no]; (3) Was I concerned about STDs [no]. I felt like such a moron -- yup, givin' it out right and left with no protections, but I'm not worried! Who, me worry? Pshaw.

I told the nurse I thought a box you could check indicating you were MARRIED would be useful.

Lara said...

Ha! Hilarious. I definitely think firemen are the hottest uniform-wearers out there. Pun intended. ;) And, your "I dig being regular" reminds me of the time in my single days when I asked my GYN to renew my birth control pills' prescription, then realized I had just said I wasn't sexually active and therefore felt the need to say, "I mean, I know it's superfluous, but there's nothing wrong with being optimistic, right?"

VermontRockies said...

Hee! This post belongs in your "Best Of" archive, if there is one.

You know, firefighters have to pass both a physical AND a psychiatric screening. They're pre-filtered FOR you! (So it doesn't matter as much that you lack filters...) You know they're fit *and* not nuts before you even go on that first date, and really, what more is there? Aside from being to spell your name, I mean.

The Other Girl said...

Oh, this is too funny. I did know you could get your blood pressure checked at the fire station because I walk past one every day and there's often someone there having it done. The person in question is never younger than 70. We're also close to a golf course so sometimes if the person doesn't want to walk the whole way, he'll hijack a golf cart and just drive it down the sidewalk beeping that little horn. I will try not to picture you doing this, but I may not be successful.

Anonymous said...

Oh boy- I really thought this post was going to go down gyno alley. Which sounds even dirtier than I thought this post was going to get.

Stefanie said...

R--I understand. Sometimes, multiple exclamation points ARE necessary!

3Cs--If I do go for a blood pressure check at the fire department, I'm actually hoping it's a blog-worthy experience to share.

OSM--I know! I totally think it's situational. How am I supposed to be relaxed when I'm thinking about a piece of metal going up my girly parts and a needle stuck in my arm??

NPW--Agh! Yeah, there is no way they'd be "doing it again." I'm totally with you on that.

Liz--She actually told me that my oversharing about the sex stuff was totally fine and it takes way more than that to throw or embarrass her. Now I realize what she probably meant!

Jan--Hey; thanks for stopping by! It always surprises me when that randomizer thing lands on me; there are what, 2000 or so blogs in there? And yes, a MARRIED box would be helpful. Silly oversights at a college clinic...

Lara--Hee! I told her that I am assuming I might need the pill again EVENTUALLY, but I didn't go so far as to say "Let's be optimistic." You crack me up, my friend.

VermontStefanie--Hmm... You do make a good point... ;-)

TOG--Ha. I suppose for the over-70 set, getting your blood pressure checked at the fire station is a legitimate activity to fill your retirement days. And I have actually never driven a golf cart, but whatever makes you smile, so be it.

Monkey--Gyno Alley sounds to me like a place I never, ever want to visit.

Maliavale said...

Goddammit! My arm huts, too! I got my flu shot yesterday.

I LOVE that you said "I dig being regular." Don't we all?

Pam said...

Great post Stef! Not only did I get more fodder for my "it sucks to be single" argument (so I don't become a ward of the state when I'm a living vegetable) but now I know where to shop for one - the fire station! I had no idea!

And Monkey: I'm still ROFL about Gyno Alley. Especially since I just had my annual trip there this week.

L Sass said...

I always struggle with the "Are you sexually active?" query. When I was single, I would automatically something stupid like, "Well, we'll see how this weekend goes!" Because, seriously, how do you answer that? "I haven't gotten any lately, thankyouverymuch. Know anyone?"

Noelle said...

I would rather break my other ankle than get another tetanus shot. I hope you don't have the long recovery time I did, and I hope that your friends don't accidentally hit it as much as mine did. (and you're so not old, ps)

Jess said...

I LOVE your explanation of the complicated answer to the sexually active question. It was so... detailed. And hilarious.