Monday, June 18, 2007

Adventures in Health Care

Maybe it wasn't exactly what some would call an adventure, but I had my first colonoscopy today and received a clean bill of health. Or should I say, a thoroughly clean colon?

The prep nurses asked me lots of questions during intake, like: "What was the name of the solution you drank, yesterday?" "Who's coming to drive you home?" "Why are you having this done?" I gave the 'my mother taught me how to act in public' answers: "Ummm....Halflytley" "John Doe, my neighbor." "I was having trouble______and my primary care physician referred me to Dr._________and he said that it would be a good idea to do this, to rule out any problems."

What I really wanted to say was: "Lady, you know the name of that yucky liquid and the little pink pills that I had to take yesterday. You also know that I had to spend most of yesterday afternoon and last night in the bathroom!" "Someone will be here but you don't know him." "You've got Dr. ___'s notes, so you know the answer to this question."

Mostly, I was scared. I knew that they were going to give me anaesthesia and that something would be snaked through my butt and into my intestines, stomach and esophagus. I knew that it was an opportunity for Dr. ___ to see what was going on in there; for him to be a voyeur looking into my colon. I understood this with my mind, but I was still uneasy about the procedure and afraid at the possible results. My college roommate died of colon cancer a few years ago and so did Katie Couric's husband. I'm getting older and that's when more things start to go wrong with the body. I've never been a hospital inpatient, although I have spent time in several ER's both as a patient and an employee. Bellevue, Alta Bates, Highland and I may be forgetting a few others.

For some reason, people who have been running from the highway patrol, overdoing it with recreational drugs while driving, and/or been over zealously accelerating when they're supposed to be stopping for red lights have run into my cars. Several years ago, one car was totalled and the driver's side door had to be sawed off in order to get me out of the vehicle. That was the time when a young man who was running from the highway patrol and driving with a revoked license decided to drive off an on- ramp to I-580. I'd just driven onto the on-ramp and was slowly making my way down the curve toward the freeway. He was barreling up the curve. At first I saw lights in the distance and thought that someone was changing a tire by the side of the road. Suddenly, the headlights were dead in front of me. The emergency worker told me that it was a good thing that my reflexes were so good. That's what saved my life and avoided a head-on collision.

I once worked as a registration clerk at a local hospital. Although I don't own a black cape and don't look particularly scary, I was hired to walk up to people as they lay in bed waiting to be seen; to ask them about their insurance coverage and somehow overlook their blood and pain. I hated being the hench-woman, but liked interacting with the people. Amazingly enough, no one cursed at me, threw up on me or cut their eyes at me as I stood by their bedside. They were more reasonable than I'd have been. I worked evenings and weekends as an 'On-call ER Reg Clerk'. One night, a young woman walked in with her arm wrapped in a towel and calmly told me that she'd put her fist through a plate glass window when she'd found out that her boyfriend had been cheating on her. Her girlfriend stood next to her, shaking her head in assent. Their calm demeanor was amazing to me, given what had happened prior that had resulted in her badly cut and bleeding arm.

I've been blessed with good health for most of my life. I've inherited healthy genes and I've had the presence of mind to take good care of my body, mind and spirit - all of me. It has paid off in ways too numerous to count. It does, however make me a little bit of a wimp when faced with aging and the changes that my body has been going through. Add to that yet another auto accident last fall. Rear-ended at a stop light. Slow down Joyce, even when you're sitting still.

Circling back to my outpatient procedure of today, I've come out on the other side with a clean bill of colon health. Whatever was not working well GI-wise during the first few months of the year has healed itself. Now on to my kidneys. Yes, that means more tests, more prayers and an opportunity for me to adjust my attitude from that of a privileged healthy person who now has health insurance through her employer; to one who is also humbled and grateful for excellent health care providers from both Eastern and the Western healing traditions.
Post a Comment