Posts Tagged 'lab results'

Let’s get physical

The year flew by and one of my markers came due.

Annual physicals at my age are always an adventure. Blood chemistries are my favorite part; they reveal aberrations, trends and a shitload of data that hopefully pops up in blue rather than the less welcome red icons.

My normal routine begins about three months prior to my physical. I’ve been congratulating myself for nine months but realize that happy times may be ending. Nine months of ignorant bliss evaporate as I mentally review the things I was worried about last year and prepare myself for results devoid of happy faces icons.

Blood pressure, PSA score, and hemoglobin levels are my A Team of things to worry about. The dire consequences of negative scores produce thoughts that make marching to the guillotine seem like a walk in the park. Visions of a heart attack, prostate cancer (complete with surgically produced impotency), and the requirement for round the clock kidney dialysis help me while away the hours until my day with Dr. H. My perennial low cholesterol, achieved despite shoving everything edible into my mouth, did nothing to cheer me.

The corona virus enhanced the joyous occasion and gave me something else to worry about whenever my dance card had an opening. As a level one hypochondriac, I think that all my symptoms, a cough, an achy shoulder, a warm forehead, a scratchy throat are all harbingers of the dreaded virus. On the other hand, a true affliction with Covid-19 might delay, or perhaps permanently postpone, my annual physical. Oh joy.

I had my blood drawn at Quest Lab three weeks ago. The phlebotomists were garbed in space suits while I was virtually naked. My veins were terrified of the creature with the needle and did the best they could by performing their much-practiced disappearing act. The alien creature won the battle with ax and jousting lance while I had the multi-toned black and blue marks to attest to the outcome. The vials of blood drawn from my conquered arm seemed a bit darker than usual. My clinically inaccurate observation once again filled a vacant spot on my dance card as I wondered if it portended dire results.

A week ago, I received an email from Quest announcing the on-line availability of my lab results. I was torn. In true pussy tradition, I decided to ignore the invitation and wait for Dr. H to announce them during my visit. I took this route knowing that his approach generally downplays the negative while cheering the positive. Had I taken the other option, negative scores would hang over my head for a full week before being coddled by Dr. H.  I congratulated my good thinking.

Wednesday, the day of my physical, arrived without any aberrant clinical symptoms; I got out of bed. Dressed and fortified by the vegetable juice stolen from Jackie’s personal stash, I drove to the clinic. Forewarned, I brought my flimsy face mask with the cute koala bear icons. It has four ties that must be fastened behind the head. It was the third time I had tried this acrobatic maneuver; fortunately, I completed the task before I could suffer a debilitating stroke from the effort.

I was a bit early for my 8am appointment and filled my time browsing the NY Times on my iPhone. The headlines had words that included catastrophic, pandemic, crisis and panic. They did little to soothe my already fragile psyche.

The door to the clinic opened and a creature who looked like an astronaut doing a space walk outside the International Space Station came out with a table and various implements. We spoke without the benefit of an interpreter, and I was heartened to discover that it was nurse Kathy.

She took my temperature and measured my oxygen saturation level with that cute little device that attaches to your finger. The device shoots beams of light through the blood in your finger and measures the changes in light absorption and eventually the amount of oxygen flowing to the farthest part of your body. I passed and was given a sticky note that looked suspiciously like the hall passes I got in high school.

I was weighed and measured. Still wearing my cute koala bear mask, I had my blood pressure taken and was escorted to an examining room. Devoid of magazines and deprived of my cell phone, I settled back for some serious meditation.

Dr. H arrived and, despite a professional looking face mask, seemed to be in good spirits. Not always a good sign, I wondered if I was being set up for a rude awakening and I refused to join in the gaiety.

He asked me some general questions about my aches and pains (none debilitating), my exercise routine (over the top), sleeping habits (whenever I can), and sexual habits (whenever I can). So far so good. Our adventure through the lab tests proved unexciting. Blood good, PSA stable.

We then did the old-fashioned thing. Dr. H listened to my heart and seemed to linger a bit longer than usual. A brief dissertation on heartbeat skipping led to a surprise EKG. What’s this heart crap, I thought. Blessedly, the results were devoid of any problems, and I thought that maybe someone was just reminding me not to take things for granted.

I smiled and silently thanked my parents for their genes. And I gave a big telepathic kiss to Jackie who had religiously forced me to eat my vegetables and dragged me on hikes along Shelf Road, uphill, both ways.

The results are in…

Where were we?  Oh yes, we had just completed my prostate biopsy.

Now it was time to await the results.  Dr. Greenberg had said “Should take about a week to get it back from the lab.  I don’t like to phone results to my patients.  So make an appointment and you can come in to see how things turned out.  Good or bad.”  Fair enough.  After all, how long could a week of waiting be?

I strolled confidently to the cute young lady at the front desk.  The one who makes calls to patients’ answering machines and rattles off information faster than any human can write it down.  “Hi” I said confidently.  “How about an appointment next Tuesday?  The Doctor says my results should be here by then.”  Silence.  Followed by her nimble fingers doing speed of light calisthenics on the computer keyboard.  Followed by more silence.  “Hmmmm.  Looks like we’re booked.  The earliest I can get you in is next Friday morning.  How’s 8:40?”  Restraining myself from leaping over the counter, strangling the young lady with her telephone cord, and making my own appointment, I sheepishly said “OK.”

Ten days to wait for results.  Ten days to try not thinking about it.  Ten days to imagine the worst.  Anything from “Hey, no problem, you’re OK.  Go home.”  To “It’s stage four.  Get into Hospice and put your affairs in order…today.”

The days passed and I was, at first, only mildly irritated.  Young children I encountered on the street sensed that I should be avoided.  My feeling of foreboding grew to tsunami proportions and it took all of Sweetie’s cooing and cajoling to keep me from self-immolation.  I pasted a perpetual smile on my face and studiously maintained my public persona so as to avoid losing all of my friends.

Sleeping was fraught with adventure.  Getting to sleep was no problem.  Staying asleep was.  I tried various mind tricks.  First I imagined lush green fields with bubbling brooks.  No good.  So I enhanced my vision of lush green fields by adding romping, nubile maidens.  Not good enough.  So I simply deleted the green fields and focused completely on the nubile maidens.  Nothing was a panacea.

Instead of sticking with the Marx Brothers, Woody Allen and the U.S. Congress for laughs, I made the mistake of reading The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan.  A long repetitive dissertation on the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s, it reveled in a glorious depiction of the misery of those poor farmers who lost their land to the wind, and were forced to rely on clubbing rabbits to death and boiling tumbleweed for sustenance.  As an added bonus, the book described the concurrent, abject misery of the Great Depression and the twenty-five percent of out-of-work, apple selling Americans.  On the other hand, maybe reading about their misery deflected a bit from my own self-imposed malaise.

Thursday night was mostly sleepless as the nubile maidens all sought refuge from me.  Arising well before we needed to, we leapt from bed, did our best to greet the rather dark morning, and got in the car for the forty minute trip to Ventura.  Needless to say, we arrived at the place of execution a full thirty minutes early.

The waiting room was empty except for the young lady with the flying fingers.  She was removing the last vestiges of Halloween decorations including the monstrous hanging ghost that happily greeted us on our arrival.  I decided to read Wine Spectator in the foolish hope that I might get seriously drunk.

A rather large man and his rather large wife entered the waiting room.  He held a large manila envelope that obviously contained a very large x-ray.  The Rather Larges sat across from us.  Mr. Rather Large stared straight ahead for a full twenty minutes and held onto the envelope in the same way that Charlton Heston  famously rabble-roused the NRA with his cold, dead hands speech.  I realized that I was not alone in my misery.

“Mr. Rothenberg, you can come in now.” Nurse Ratched said as she opened the door to the business end of Doctor Goldberg’s shop of horrors.

We sat in the exam room.  My blood pressure reading taken by Nurse Ratched was at the high-end of abnormal and my throbbing pulse could be felt without the need of placing her fingers on my wrist.  “How have you been feeling since the biopsy?” she said.  “Fine” I lied.

Waiting for the Doctor to make an entry, Sweetie and I talked about things of which I have no recollection.  For some strange reason, my mind wandered back to 1960.  I remembered anxiously awaiting the results of my CPA exam, results that would appear in my mailbox.  I remembered what my fellow exam takers had said.  “If your results come in a big fat envelope, you failed the exam.  The fat envelope has all kinds of stuff including how to reapply and retake that awful test.  If you get a nice thin letter, it will simply have your passing grades.”  I thought, “I hope Dr. Greenberg has a nice thin piece of paper.”

He did.  And we went home.


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