Wednesday, 04 December 2013
Journal Entry: Plugged Back in to the Medical World
At my annual vision checkup a couple of weeks ago, Dr. O said my cataracts have advanced far enough for removal and an appointment was made with a surgical specialist.
That's where I spent the greater part of Tuesday – a visit scheduled for an hour to begin at 9:30AM, and I didn't arrive home until nearly 2:30PM.
No one had told me that cataract surgery is not allowed without a physical examination from a primary care doctor. I don't have a primary care doctor. Well, I didn't when I left the house in the morning; I do now.
I was mildly panicked when the assistant in the surgeon's office explained “no physical, no surgery.”
I've never spent much time with doctors and when, now and then, I lecture myself about finding one, none I researched who met my criteria was taking new patients.
(I always wonder if that means not taking new patients or not take new Medicare patients because they always ask what kind of insurance I have before answering no.)
An assistant at the surgeon's office (they specialize only in eye surgery) said that I'm not alone in lacking a physician and they often send such patients as me to one of several doctors in a group practice at the building next door. She gave me the name and pointed the way.
The desk assistant said there were no appointments until mid-February. I shrugged, decided I should think this through some more anyway and turned to leave - already resigned to living with the cataracts for longer than I had intended.
She called me back. Would I mind seeing a different doctor who would be free in 45 minutes? Since I knew nothing about the one whose name I had, I couldn't figure what difference it would make in my life and clearly the assistant – let's call her Jane – was going out of her way to see if she could help me.
We filled those 45 minutes with the de rigeur medical forms – Jane asked questions, I answered, she typed. Just as we reached the end, the doctor's assistant was ready to see me.
It was clear they were accustomed to the occasional cataract patient needing an exam before surgery. It's not a full-blown physical – just some general background, height, weight, blood pressure, heart rate, EKG, some blood work.
About exactly as much as I can tolerate or have patience for.
By the time it was finished, I'd spent four-and-a-half hours with doctors and their sidekicks who take notes, run the tests and stick you with needles.
The second biggest reason I am grateful for my lifelong remarkably good health is that I don't spend much time being poked, prodded and hooked up to various machines – yesterday was the longest in years and half of it was wait time I filled with my Kindle.
The exam went well or, rather, met my standard for going well which is: over and done with quickly. I like the medical assistant. I like the doctor and we decided he'd be my primary care physician. But they never let you off that easy.
Once you're plugged into the medical establishment, it's hard to escape. There are now in my near future, in addition to the cataract surgery, a mammogram, a gynecological exam and Medicare wellness visit.
Supposedly this is all good. Everyone says you're supposed to do these things regularly. I'm not so sure that's true, at least not for everyone. Not for me.
But there is some relief now in having a name to write down in the “primary care physician” box when it turns up now and then on a form and knowing there is someone who has a record of relatively recent test results.
Later, at home, I wondered if I should not have done this so quickly, if I should not have researched some more doctors – you know, check credentials, get the best.
I have never known anyone – not a single person in my entire life – who did not tell me, when talking about a medical procedure of some sort, that his/her doctor/surgeon/specialist was the “best in his field.” Whatever that means.
My new Dr. J may or may not be the best in his field. I wouldn't know how to judge that. But he's smart, thoughtful, personable, asks good questions and he's old enough to be well experienced.
Jane and the other two assistants I spent time with have all worked together for several years with Dr. J. It is obvious each one likes her job, is skilled and eager to help.
If I have reluctantly rejoined the medical establishment – which is apparently so - those are important credentials to me.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Janet Thompson: Riding the Rails on the Old D&RG