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On getting older and a visit to the doctor’s office

Posted by joeabbott on March 9, 2013

I visit my doctor as often as I need and not a day sooner. When fall came and went, so did my annual pilgrimage to the UW Clinics. Then winter breezed through Seattle with nary a snowfall and, again, I missed getting in for the annual physical but wasn’t too worried. Well, spring is here and I figured I’d best get in for a checkup. While I wasn’t motivated by a particular pain or problem, I do like having a regular series of “data points” to compare, year to year, and give myself a chance to spot any trends that may be arising. Having taught First Aid for the Red Cross and Mountaineers for 16 years, I have often preached the value of consistent, regular data points.

And so I found myself calling to make an appointment with Dr. Glynn-Thami, my regular doc. Unfortunately, she was on sabbatical and I wasn’t sure waiting another 3 months before getting in was the right thing to do. Which is unfortunate because I don’t often warm up immediately to folks poking, prodding, and basically getting way more hands-on with me than I let most people. I liked Dr. Glynn-Thami.

When I first met her, she was jovial and red-faced, carrying a tiny bit more weight than a health care professional might, and wearing Birkenstocks. She gave me advice on family planning (“listen, you gotta shit or get off the pot; you’re not getting any younger”), rebutted my comments about being heavier than I should be (“sure you can live with it but every step you take, that’s 30 more pounds of pressure on each and every joint”), and basically introduced me to low pressure, straight fact, we’re-talking-about-your-health-and-you-should-care sort of medical advice. Loved her. She didn’t pull punches and wasn’t afraid to tell me that I should help my wife out by making dinner a few times a week.

While some people might question my “low pressure” comment in the face of the characterization above, it really was. She’d say things once, be direct, and then respect my prerogative to listen or not. I guess … verbally, at least … I can take a good punch but wither under repeated jabs.

But, there’d be no Dr. Glynn-Thami this time. Would I accept an appointment with Dr. Umapathy? Sure, whatever. My biggest concern was making sure I’d say the name correctly, so I asked a few co-workers from India to help me with the pronunciation and I was set.

My appointment came and I dropped into the waiting room. I signed another sheaf of insurance papers, found a seat, and proceeded to play a few rounds of AlphaJax on my phone while I waited to be called. Which wasn’t a very long time at all.

We headed to the scale and I was told I was #242 … holy smokes, I think that’s as big a number as I’ve ever seen while standing on a scale! And this was after earlier wanting to drop a few pounds. I see that “wanting to” and actually doing something about it are two very different things. Then the real kicker … when measuring my height, for the first time in my adult life, the number read less than 6’! So I’m not only getting fat(ter), I’m shrinking!! What?!?!?!

So, I haven’t even met the new doc and things are going all south. Unhappy with only myself (and time) to blame, we march to an examination room and start running through a few other tests.

It was here I got good news. My waking pulse was 56 and my blood pressure showed numbers that had the nurse saying, “very good numbers; you work out?” Unfortunately, it’s been a while since I’ve worked out regularly but it would appear good genes have more to say about the situation than what you do.

When the good doctor showed up (I wasn’t kept waiting long … which helped my mood), I was immediately struck by two things: she was a she and she was young.

Now, my previous doctor was a she so I have no gender bias in regards to esteem for skills. But, I do know that in all the poking and prodding, I’m less comfortable when women are doing the poking and prodding. And while I work with may very talented younger people (and believe I have no age bias), a “young she” doing the poking and prodding? Ugh. Suddenly  I was a bit less comfortable.

But, she won me over quickly.

Dr. Umapathy is bright, brief without being terse, personable without being too personal, and able to ask me questions that might be uncomfortable without breaking eye contact or showing her own discomfort. Her behavior was the very definition of professional. Loved it. She then looked in ears and nose and mouth, tapping on my back and chest, listening with a stethoscope … all sorts of doctory behavior. By this time, I was loosening up and liking my new health care provider: she had answers to all my questions and when she caught me off guard and slipped in a “do you have a healthy sex life” … amid questions about eating habits, activity levels, and whether we harbor fire arms in the house … I chuckled and replied a ribald, “oh yeah!”, she again, didn’t miss a beat, didn’t enter the metaphorical locker room with me, and moved on to the next question. Nice work, Doc.

The one uncomfortable part was at the end of the exam she said, “time to check for signs of hernia”. Now, I don’t visit the doc enough to know what I do one trip to the next and I wasn’t up on “doctor code words”, so I sort of looked at her blankly. She then explained she’d need to see my “junk” (not sure what word she used but essentially it was, “this is where you drop your pants and expose yourself”) and I again paused.

I’m not prudish or carry a crazy Victorian sense of propriety, but I was trying to recollect if this was part of the standard exam, if I’d just forgotten about this part previously, and of all the things we could check (tennis elbow, torn ACL, strained shoulder), why a hernia check would make it into the top Things To Look For™. But it was on the list and to allay my apparent concerns, she offered that I could turn to the wall.

I did, dropped my pants, and then very comically, she spun the wheeled chair directly in front of me and did a bit more poking and prodding. I almost laughed at the situation: uncomfortable patient turns another direction to avoid directly facing doctor, doctor cuts him off and gets in front! Doctor – 1, Patient – 0.

But, it was very clinical, over in a jiff, no lingering, no comments; and, thankfully, no hernia (wouldn’t a guy have known he had a hernia without poking him in the scrotum?). She then directed me to the lab where a small vial of blood was drawn and I sauntered out, all the happier for having completed my yearly exam.

I’m not sure if I’ll see Dr. Glynn-Thami when she returns or continue with Dr. Umapathy, but I’ll be happy either way. And now, now I need to sit up a little straighter and get back to 6’ tall and drop a few pounds, maybe even get back into shape! I believe Suzy and I will take a little walk later today. That’s the ticket!

I hope this finds you both happy and health. Thanks for reading.

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4 Responses to “On getting older and a visit to the doctor’s office”

  1. Laurel said

    Fred says that’s a double whammy on your BMI when ya shrink and gain weight! Glad the rest of the appointment went well and love your description of the “yearly”. Health and happiness to you!

    • joeabbott said

      Hey, thanks for the note! I wasn’t sure anyone would read a long post that didn’t contain pictures! And Fred’s right … it was a double whammy! Fortunately, the doc liked what she saw with regard to other vitals but I do have to start dropping a few pounds.

  2. I have to thank you for the efforts you’ve put in penning this website. I really hope to view the same high-grade content from you later on as well. In truth, your creative writing abilities has inspired me to get my very own website now 😉

    • joeabbott said

      Thanks for the comment and compliment! When I started writing this blog, I wanted to include more social commentary and be a little edgy. I guess that just wasn’t me and this really has turned into “letters back home to mom”.

      But, I’m very happy with that! Drop me a line with pointers to your blog; I’d be interested to read some of your stuff!

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