Unnecessary tests

One of the things that drives up health care costs is the use of unnecessary tests.  I was subjected to this recently.  One of the doctors I went to, who I have been seeing for years, decided to check my height using this elaborate contraption attached to his scale.  This despite the fact that he has paperwork stating my height.

I’m disappointed that he didn’t trust me.  It’s embarrassing to find out that I’ve put on a few inches since college.  Apparently I need to get more gravity into my diet.

Warning: Faulty Warning Ahead

Once upon a time, thousands of years ago, there were three causes of death: falling off cliffs, getting eaten by wild animals, and starvation.  Very few people died of anything else, largely because nobody lived long enough to get (for example) cancer.

With the invention of, respectively, guard rails, zoos, and fast food, people now live long enough to require new classes of stuff that will kill you.  And, since people tend to be much more sensitive about being killed than they used to (mostly because of the paperwork involved, I think), mankind has evolved a powerful defense mechanism against danger: the warning.

I became sensitized to the power of warnings after I had my stroke.  As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, much of the dialogue between me and the medical community during my recovery consisted of them warning me to 1) be careful and b) don’t fall.  (Disclaimer: I was giving off a pretty strong “suicidal 92-year old daredevil” vibe, so it was understandable).

Since that time, I’ve become sensitized to the power and limitations of warnings.  We live in a warning-rich environment, and while in theory this makes us safer, the sheer volume of warnings can become counter-productive, because so many warnings are poorly conceived and poorly implemented. Continue reading

The Stroke Saga

The Stroke Saga

Once upon a time, there was a little boy who had a little stroke…

OK, technically I was neither little nor a boy, but on May 26, 2011, I had a minor stroke, or to be a little less oxymoronic, a very small part of my brain starved to death one morning.  I didn’t know what it was at the time, but I ended up spending 3 weeks in the hospital learning how to stand and walk again.

During that time, I kept my friends updated via Facebook.  I did this for a number of reasons, the most important of which was to stay ahead of the rumor mill.  But I also wrote about my experiences for my benefit, to make sure I was still me, and that the damage was purely physical and not mental.

But something odd happened.  What started as data points slowly turned into a story.  A story about a man trying to mock his way through the worst thing that had ever happened to him.  And largely succeeding.  After 45 years of watching TV, I was suddenly living in a poorly scripted House/Scrubs crossover episode.  And since I seemed to be the only one aware of it, I took it upon myself to make the experience as entertaining for everyone else as I could.

A lot of people laughed, both in and out of the hospital.  That made the whole experience livable.  Once I started to write that the whole experience would have been fascinating if it were happening to someone else.  I never wrote that, because if this had happened to someone I cared about, I would have been basically useless.  I can laugh at things happening to me that I couldn’t if they happened to someone else.  Because I believe that the good Lord is looking out for me.  Laying in the hospital the first night, I found myself faced with two possibilities: either God had forgotten to keep me from having a stroke, or God knew and let it happen for a reason.  And once I got down to that question, the answer was easy.  And my response was surprisingly easy, too.  “OK, let’s see what you have planned this time.” Continue reading

Helping a Hand

(Note: This is part 1 of a longer story.  Parts 2 through 4 are here, here, and here.)

Back in November, as part of my ongoing regimen of Immortality Aversion Therapy, I started having a problem with my hand.  The ring finger of my right hand started getting stuck.  Whenever I would close my fist and try to open it, that one finger would stay in place, and then suddenly snap up like a rubber band breaking.  All my other fingers were fine.  Since it didn’t hurt much as long as I didn’t clench my fist for any length of time, I didn’t get around to seeing a doctor about it until this morning.

I expect certain things when I go to the doctor, and I’m not often disappointed.

1) I had to fill out five forms (though I’ve been to this practice before).  Three of the forms asked almost identical questions.  (Apparently, these forms don’t get along well enough to share information.)  The others were some sort of permission slips (in case the doctor has to take my hand on a field trip, I suppose).

2) On the other hand (no pun intended), the receptionist that handed me the bale of forms was very cute, and the doctor’s assistant was downright gorgeous.  I have come to expect this, even though it defies the laws of probability.  (Note to self: find a reason to hire a receptionist and doctor’s assistant.) Continue reading