Larry Penkava Column: This won’t hurt at all — well, maybe just a prick
Going to the doctor causes me discomfort, even when I’m told my health is great.
I know what you’re thinking — the discomfort is in my wallet. I don’t dispute that, but there’s more to it than having to hand over a copayment.
For instance, the other day I went to have my eyes examined. It had been nine years since the last time so Ginny scheduled me an appointment, telling me I need to have my peepers checked out after all that time.
If you’re about my age, you’ll notice when you’re in a medical office waiting room that most of the patients are also old. That’s true when I go to the urologist, the orthopedist, the gastroenterologist, the general practitioner or the optometrist. Even my dentist’s office has its share of senior adults.
And when it comes to discomfort, pain, suffering or just plain agony, they all do their part to give me moments or hours of unpleasant bodily sensations.
The dentist may get a pass, depending on how aggressive the hygienist is at separating plaque from my enamel.
But back to the eye doctor. His technician sat me in front of these lenses to find out if
I could read. She would have the type size go from reasonable to nearly invisible, then back again.
No harm, no foul. She indicated that I did fine.
Then she made me lean my head back in order to drip droplets into my eyes. “This will dilate your eyes so the doctor can peer into your brain.”
OK, I exaggerate about seeing into my frontal lobe. But the droplets did the trick while I waited for the optometrist.
He checked me out, said my eyes were in good shape with just a bit of cataracts and to see him again in one year.
As I left I grabbed some portable shades they offered to protect my eyes against the bright sunshine outside. That’s because the eyedrops still had me dilated.
And one other thing — the drops left a film in my vision that made it difficult for me to read the words on my computer screen back at work. It only took about four hours of cross-eyed squinting before I was back to a semblance of my 20-20 vision.
When I pay annual or semiannual visits to my urologist and family doctor, I have to put up with other forms of discomfort before I’m told I’m in the peak of good health.
The family clinic will ask me if I’ve had my annual flu shot and my annual pneumonia shot. And do I want to update my shingles shot?
Then, after the doc tells me I’m in great shape, I have to go to the lab on the way out so the phlebotomist can poke me again to draw blood. By the time I walk out the door, I feel like a pincushion.
The urologist is even worse. Besides the blood sample needle, the doctor must examine my prostate gland, using his finger to probe deeply into my posterior orifice.
Did I mention that I see him twice a year?
When I talk about undergoing discomfort just to find out I’m in great health, my gastroenterologist wins the award for causing distress. Because of my family history and my age, I’m required every few years to have a colonoscopy.
They should give it a name more suitable, something that denotes the fact that you have to make yourself sick before even going into the doctor’s office. Something like colonoscopitis would do, or maybe drinkthisfoulliquiduntilyou’regagging syndrome.
I understand that before the doctor can insert the long tube into your colon, the inside walls must be squeaky clean. For that reason, the hapless patient must drink a gallon of ill-tasting liquid to — how should I put this — wash away any dregs from within the colon and sweep them out the backdoor.
In preparation for a colonoscopy the next morning, the night before I’ve taken to sitting on the bathroom stool while drinking the witch’s brew. That saves me from having to make a sudden movement (pardon the expression) from some other room.
But once the deed is done and the flushing is complete, the actual colonoscopy is a breeze. In the morning at the doctor’s office, he gives me a shot to relax me and I wind up falling asleep for the entire procedure. When I wake up, family members take videos to record my tipsy demeanor while my relaxation wears off.
The good news comes when the doctor once again tells me I’m free of cancer and polyps. “But you might want to ease up on the stimulants. Your speech is a bit slurred.”
Yeah, my gastroenterologist has a sense of humor. I guess that’s his way of saying,
“Sorry we made you get sick. Get well soon.”
All in all, I seem to have more medical appointments each year than I have age spots.
Larry Penkava, who has written Now and Then since 1994, is glad to be in good health.
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