Archives for category: medical

I don’t recall exactly how we met. I’m pretty sure it was in the diner. I had started going there so that I could read while I waited for a meal. Eventually I became a Wednesday regular because of the meat loaf special of the day.

Each of us sat alone in our chosen booths reading. I just about always had a physical book. Ron preferred his iPad or newest tablet.

We were both the perfect stranger-readers at first. “What ya’ readin’?

Pertinent information was exchanged then each of us returned to the days read.

Before too long, there were more and longer discussions, but we always showed proper book reading etiquette by asking if conversation would continue or “do you want to read your book?”

Even when I really wanted to read, I could be cajoled to spend time with my friend.

Our paths crossed at another place in town, that shouldn’t be a big surprise. The county library. I was in charge of the library book sale and was scanning and classifying tens of thousands of books. With the weekend of the sale imminent, Ron asked if I needed help. Since the Friends , who sponsored the sale, were a mostly older female group, a person who could lift copy-paper-boxes filled with books from tall shelves was eagerly welcomed.

Ron never missed a sale once he started. And he paid his dues for the honor of working with us.

After I relinquished my chairperson of the sale duties, Ron continued to help the Friends for both the Spring and Fall sales.

Our “rendezvous” became exclusively at the diner. We’d still ask if it was okay to interrupt the reading. It always was.

We talked books. I’d let him know the latest Science Fiction titles I knew about. He sent me sites where I could find free e-books.

He sold his iPad mini to me and one of his tablets to my husband. I’m pretty sure my son, who worked the same place he did, bought a device from him. Ron liked to have the latest electronic gadget.

He is the only single person I know who purchased a 3-D printer. He was always coming into the diner with something new he’d made with the printer. The last one I saw was a toy-soldier-sized Hulk. Who was yellow.

“He’s not green.”

“Yeah, well…”

Then, last fall…

He shared with me that he had cancer. He had gone in to have something removed near his right temple, something he had been through before. This time the news was not good.

He had more invasive work done and the prognosis was worst than thought originally.

He asked me not to say anything to anybody. I honored his request – in the diner, at the Friends of the Library, and at my home.

Ron started getting his affairs in order. He asked me to write his obituary. He let the library know they would receive his 3-D printer. He didn’t want his wife, Sherry to have to worry about anything.

He started Chemo.

He let others know. At the diner and the library, people came to me to see if I knew. All were shocked.

Ron’s and my meetings at the diner were never maudlin or morose. Ron had a great attitude. Thirty years ago he had had a successful heart transplant and he looked at the next 30 years as a gift. Icing on the cake, if you will.

We looked out for each other at the diner. Especially if we didn’t run into each other for a few days.

In the last month, he contacted me for a lunch “date” that both of our spouses knew about and accepted. There was a new waitress at the diner that day. We all laughed when Sherry came in and I pointed out, “She’s the wife. I’m the girl friend.”

Two weeks ago, I was just getting ready to leave the diner when the owner told me to sit back down. “Ron’s on his way in.”

I sat.

He came to tell me things were going well. He was doing well on the Chemo, things were shrinking. He was very optimistic.

I didn’t see him last week. But I sure thought about him a lot.

Today I got two calls. One from the diner. One from the library where I work. I missed both calls. The diner owner called back. Sherry was trying to locate me.

Ron died this morning.

As soon as I heard, I drove to their house. Sherry and I hugged and hugged and hugged.

I said, “I thought he was doing better.”

“He was,” she said, “But then he got the flu and his body just couldn’t take it.”

Before I left, Sherry thanked me for writing Ron’s obituary. I told her, “I don’t want to say it was my pleasure.”

I’ve talked to her several more times today on the phone. At the end of the last call she said, “Thanks for being Ron’s friend.”

I told her, “Sherry, I’m your friend, too.”

She knew, but she appreciated that I was Ron’s friend.

All I could say, “Sherry, that was my pleasure.”

Ron

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A friend called this afternoon to ask me if I would drive her to the emergency room. I told her that I would be right there. I pulled into her drive, she got into the car and looked at me and said, “Did you bring something to read?”

I looked back at her and said, “Who do you think you’re asking?”
Then she laughed and said, “Of course you would.”
The book I’m reading is for my book discussion on Tuesday night. To her, I didn’t seem to be very far along (about 50 pages). I told her that I had read that last night before I went to sleep.
She was taken into the doctoring section while I found a quiet spot (without blaring TV) and read until I heard my name called. My friend wanted me in the room with her. She asked how much I had gotten read. I had better than doubled my count.
For the next 4-1/2 hours, my friend talked almost nonstop. I learned much about her life – stories about her late husband, her sister, our church, and people in the community I might have known. The only breaks were when she went to the restroom and when she had an x-ray taken.
It was decided she would spend the night in the hospital. Before she was taken up to her room for the night, she asked again, “How far are you now, Linda?”
I laughed and said “You’ve talked all afternoon! I haven’t been able to read much since I came back here!”
She laughed.
Now, if you’ll excuse me I have a tough decision to make – read my book or watch the Tony’s. (Thank goodness for commercials.)

Earlier this year I visited my doctor’s office where I was asked to step on the scale. Next, I was invited into an examination room where my blood pressure was taken. At that time, I suggested that if the medical staff wanted to be happy with one of those numbers, they might consider switching the order for those parts of the exam.
Now, I have a new suggestion for a medical visit.
Anyone who has ever visited a medical professional is familiar with filling out an amount of paperwork that would have Leo Tolstoy crying, “Uncle!” Followed by signing forms allowing release of information to those designated plus the HIPAA paperwork.
I’d want to see one more signature – the doctor’s on a form that says the paperwork I painfully and meticulously filled out was read.
I had intended to drive about halfway back to Ohio from North Carolina, but I began having more than usual trouble focusing my left eye, so I found a motel and called it an early night.
Waking up this morning, I knew I had a problem and suspected my diagnosis because my eyelid was crusty. “Aw! I bet I have pinkeye. How could I have gotten that?”
The mirror reflected an eye so red that either my guess was right or I’d had one heck of a party last night and didn’t remember (and cleaned up afterwards).
I put my sunglasses on over my prescription lenses before resuming my drive home. Kentucky was overcast, but the light bothered my eye.
With several stops, I made it back home and went directly to the local urgent care clinic since I’m between doctors. I complimented the office staff because I only had to fill out one side of one sheet of paper for information.
I didn’t wait long to be called to the back. True to form, I was asked to get on the scale (I asked to have it moved away from the wall but did not explain it would have made me feel claustrophobic otherwise). Disappointedly, the scale proved I’d had a good weekend in Asheville.
Next, on to the sphygmomanometer for the blood pressure check. This one, electronic, inflated the pressure cuff on my upper right arm automatically until the squeeze hurt. I’m not averse to short term pain and have certainly proven through many surgeries that I have a high tolerance for pain, but my hand went numb. It deflated and I thought, “Thank goodness.” but the attendant stayed at her laptop inputting while the machine started to inflate again. Once again, my hand went numb and tingled and I asked her to take it off.
She got a smaller-width cuff, put it around my lower left arm while she held it on. My hand went numb. I told her.
She replied, “That’s because it’s electronic.”
I stayed silent despite having had many blood pressures taken over many years even with electronic devices and never had a numb hand before.
She questioned my health history. I included 2 broken legs, 3 rods in my back, torn meniscus, rotator cuff and removal of my right eye.
The last was the only thing she questioned an I told her, “I had a tumor and they took it out when I was 3 weeks old. Retrolental fibroplasias, I think.” trying to remember the exact diagnosis. She typed on the laptop.
She asked about medicines and a couple of follow-up questions about those and then left the room.
Shortly, the doctor came in the room and asked about my symptoms. He asked if I had double vision.
“You can’t have double vision with one eye.”
He quickly opened my chart, I thought to see what he had missed. He said he wanted to give me an eye exam and I told him that I just had one.
“When?”
“Two weeks ago.”
“What was your vision?”
I worked to recall, “20 / 30.”
I pulled both sets of glasses onto the top of my head so he could look at my inflamed eye.
He questioned whether I could see well enough to drive. I told him that I was pretty good at catching the county number from Ohio license plates (as long as I wasn’t in heavy traffic at 70 m. p. h.)
He smiled and said he would write a prescription for eye drops, told me I was contagious for the next 24 hours and would write me a note to get off work and left the room.
I opened my ever-present book and read about 1-1/2 pages when the woman came back in and advised the doctor wanted to test my vision. We went into the hallway where she pointed to the eye chart at the end of the hall and tried to hand me a white spoon-shaped tool and said, “Place this over your right eye and look down the hall…”
I interrupted, objecting, “But I don’t have a right eye…”
She interrupted me, “You still need to put this over your eye.”
I pulled both sets of glasses onto the top of my head, tapped my prosthesis thrice with one of my fingernails so it “click, click, clicked” and said, “It’s plastic. I can’t see out of it. It comes out.” and used my thumb to prove the last part true then held my plastic eye in front of her face.
“Well, you don’t have to get rude about it.”
“I am not being rude.”
She relented and did not force me to use the white spoon-shaped tool and asked me to read the chart. I knew I got the colors (red and green) correct and after I asked, she told me my vision was 20 / 30.
This incident is more than two women not seeing eye-to-eye. She wasn’t listening to me. She was operating by rote.
I never take my eye out in front of anyone who is not sleeping in the same bed with me. Taking my eye out is tantamount to standing naked before another.
Is it too much to ask the medical personnel to use their eyeballs to look at the paperwork that seems so necessary to them?
I said something to the receptionist on my way out. All she said, “It’s the way we’re used to doing things.”
That still hit me in the eye.
I am very specific about my wording. I always say to doctors, “I don’t have a right eye.” never “I have no vision in that eye.” There’s a difference.
In my mind’s eye, there are a lot more people who would say the latter than people similar to me. Wouldn’t my situation be a tad more memorable. Or am I asking too much for someone to remember let alone understand the words that I’m using.
It is difficult to have an eye for detail, but I hope this might be an eye opener for some. Perhaps we could all go on strike and refuse to do paperwork at the doctor’s office unless the doctor agrees to read what is written down. That would be an eye-catcher, wouldn’t it?

Not only did the temperatures warm enough to give me the tease of summer, but I saw two more indicators that we will soon be shedding winter coats if not jackets. First was a restored 1965 Chevy pickup truck complete with historical plates. Most vintage vehicles hibernate to avoid the potentially deadly combination of snow and road salt.

The second sign proved there are optimists. Dueling garage sales, advertised in the newspaper, meant someone believed the weather forecasters much earlier in the week than even me and my rose-colored glasses.

I noticed the garage sales en route to a series of medical tests, including a mammogram. As anyone who has one will likely testify, there is nothing pleasant about having a body part squeezed into a clamp with one’s body in an unnatural position. I also have been having “issues” with my right arm for which I started physical therapy this week.

I wasn’t dreading the mammogram, I just figured letting the attending medical personnel know my needs and everything would be o.k. As it turned out, the pinching machine was more pleasant than the humans who ran the machines.

The mammogram technician started barking orders before I could explain that I would do what she wanted if she told me ahead of time and gave me the time to get myself in position. That didn’t seem to go over well since I soon felt that I was being pushed and prodded into place before words were spoken about lifting an arm, bending the back, moving my chin, etc., etc., etc.

The experience continued with the X-Ray technician. Push, prod, probe, poke. Pass on to next tester.

Finally, a human being with a smile on her face and a demeanor that restored my humanness, the ultrasound technician. She tried to slowly and painlessly remove a bandage someone else placed in my armpit over a suspicious spot. Originally it felt as if she was trying to pull hairs. I didn’t know there was a bandage there and told her to just do it quickly.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

The only disappointment to this final test was when I asked her, “Is it a boy or a girl?” I was rewarded with a chuckle, but when asked, she admitted that I wasn’t the first to ask that question. She did admit the previous jokesters were usually male. (Oh, and she told me it was twins – one of each.)

I received good news before I left the facility. Good enough to put the spring into my step.

If the medicine gods are kind, this will be the last blog for some time about medical or medicine issues. I don’t think my system can take much more.

Days after I last filled my prescription for my blood pressure medicine, I received a post card encouraging me to call the 800 number on the card to get a savings for that medicine. The brand I take is not on the $4 generic list. In fact, it is the single most expensive drug I take. It might cost more than the combined cost of the six medications Husband and I take.

I put the card aside since I wasn’t going to need more pills for about a month. I did, however mention the card to Kim, the pharmacist when I was in a few days later. She encouraged me to call informing me we could rebill my most recent script and get me a refund.

That was encouragement for me.

I used a portable phone to make the call. An automated system answered and started asking questions. They weren’t hard questios: my name, my birthdate, which form of the pill, my phone number. I had no problem answering the questions. Unfortunately the automated system could not understand my answers. I had to repeat and repeat and repeat answers to the point that I was yelling into the phone. That didn’t make the system understand any better. In fact, the system hung up on me after it couldn’t understand me one too many times.

Husband was getting ready to leave for work and seemed greatly amused by what he observed, “Tell it to learn English!” he taunted. I waited until he went out the door before trying again – this time on the phone attached to the wall.

Again, I went through the entire list of questions. Being on the wired phone did make a difference in my being understood.

I got further in the call then I had with my previous attempt. I was excited. How much money was I going to get back? How much would I save each month?

Just a few more questions, I was told. “What type of insurance do you have? Press one if you have insurance through your company or work. Press two if you pay for your own insurance. Press three if you have Medicare or Medicaid or press four if you are uninsured.

I pressed four.

“I’m sorry. You do not qualify for this program. Good-bye.”

What?”

Who needs this program more than someone without insurance?

No wonder my blood pressure is high.

Two months ago I ran out of one of my prescriptions while on the road to Vermont. I covered those adventures in an earlier blog titled Drug Dealings.

I was able to get the medicine I needed at a national chain store in Albany, New York. I thought that was going to be the end of that story. Well…

Two weeks ago, my cell phone rang. The display showed a number I was not familiar with most noticeably, an area code I did not recognize. Being on a family cell phone plan with measured minutes, I let the call go to voice mail.

Later, I listened to the voice mail that resulted. I was amused since it was from that chain store in Albany. A pleasant female voice wanted to know if the pharmacy could contact my doctor to continue my prescription. Did they not notice they were calling a number with an out of state area code? How far did they think I was going to travel for my drugs?

I did not return the call, figuring my silence would be their answer.

But, a week later I was in The Container Store in Nashville, TN when again a strange number called my cell. One more time I let it go to voice mail. Again the Albany pharmacy. I returned this call.

Instead of the female who left the message, I talked to a polite man who understood the drive from Urbana, Ohio to Albany, New York might be a tad excessive and promised to remove my number from their call list.

Move ahead six days.The following Wednesday, I wake up in my own bed and start my “breakfast before breakfast” routine (taking my medications). As I take the last of the prescription that I had left home in April, I questioned why “my” pharmacy had not called to let me know my automatic script filling had been filled. Was I out and needed to see the doctor? I checked the empty bottle. The expiration date was not until September.

I called the pharmacy and was told they needed to call my doctor since the script had expired. I told her that the bottle showed a September date and then gave her the numbers of the scripts.

I heard keystrokes over the phone before she said, “Oh, that’s the prescription we transferred to Albany. I’ll just call them and get them to transfer it back here.”

“O.K., thanks. I’ll pick it up when I bring Son to work.”

Hours later I arrived at the pharmacy counter to learn there was no prescription for me. Now it was time to panic (or I would if I didn’t get this script).

The pharmacist explained that she had called the store in Albany and was told that in the state of New York, a prescription could only be transferred once and my once was transferring the script TO Albany. Albany could not send it back home.

The pharmacist added that Ohio used to have a similar law, but it only lasted a short period of time. She would call my doctor to get a new script.

I caught my breath at this news since I have been putting the doctor off until we have health insurance again at the beginning of next month.

The trick then became the fact that this was Wednesday. My physician only worked a half day. In addition, their phone lines was perennially busy, but the pharmacy would continue to try. I would stop back when it was time to pick up Son from work.

Four hours later, still no script. The doctor’s office did not return the call. The pharmacist loaned me a few pills to get me through the next day.

The next day, I took Son to work, stopped at the pharmacy. Kim, today’s pharmacist, had not heard from the doctor’s office. She would try to call. I said, “Would you like me to call?” And dialed on my cell phone.

Kim was concerned the line would be busy again, but Marcia picked up quickly. She knew nothing about a prescription for me. I handed the phone to Kim who got the information she needed.

After the call, Kim showed me the post-it note left for her about my situation. It started “LM doctor.” I looked puzzled until Kim said, “left message doctor.” OH! I thought they were using my initials – Linda Marie.

A few hours later my prescription was filled, but should two little pills be giving me this much story? Again, I’m glad they were not for my blood pressure.

That story is next time.