Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Quick Scan Of My Health

I just scheduled an appointment with my doctor. And I am excited. I am! I haven't seen him in three years. I am long overdue for a visit.

We have a lot of catching up to do. So much has happened since the last time I saw him. I battled the flu for several days in the winter of 2012. I discovered a mole on the side of my neck last January. My blood pressure may or may not have reached dangerous levels. And I watched a commercial for Nexium, and I can't stop wondering whether it's right for me.

I have a very special relationship with my doctor. I've known him for most of my life, and he's treated me very well. I feel very comfortable sharing whatever concerns I may have with him. And if he feels the need to stick a tongue depressor in my mouth or strike my knee with a hammer while I'm sharing my concerns with him, so be it. I would prefer he gave me his full attention rather than pretend he's Dr. Thor, but he's earned my trust.

The reason for my upcoming visit is a simple physical examination, which typically begins with a measurement of my height and weight. That's handled by my doctor's assistant. I can tell she doesn't have a high opinion of me.

She'll ask me, "How often do you check your height?" I'll reply, "Other than when I'm here? Never." And she'll shake her head in disapproval. "The doctor recommends you check your height at least once per year."

I'm certain that's not true, but since I'm not one to ruffle feathers, I'll sheepishly apologize to the assistant as I let her record my height on a doctor's scale. She tends to exaggerate the results. "Oh, you're 5'6" and a half now. Did you grow a half-inch since your last visit?" Nice try, but no, I didn't grow a half-inch. I haven't grown a half-inch in years. I was watching new episodes of California Dreams the last time I experienced a growth spurt. If I'm growing in any direction at this point in my life, it's down, not up.

I do grow paranoid on the scale when she measures my height. Especially as she lowers the height rod to the top of my head. I worry that my head will stick to the rod, like the construction worker who glued his helmet to a steel beam in the old Krazy Glue commercial. I wouldn't put it past her to pull a Krazy Glue prank on me one day.

I'm uneasy with the idea of the assistant measuring my weight, too. Not because I'm embarrassed by how much I weigh -- I'm not -- but because most individuals, including myself, prefer to measure their weight in private. It's why we keep scales in the bathroom. The assistant should understand this. I'm not some piece of fruit you can stuff into a clear plastic bag and purchase by the pound, you know.

My suggestion is to put the doctor's scale in the lavatory. Allow me to weigh myself while I'm providing a urine sample. Kill two birds with one stone. In fact, I'll measure my height in there, too. I'm confident I can pee, weigh myself and check my height all at once. I'm reasonably sure of it.

Since we're on the subject of urine tests, let me share with you one small concern I have. I can't hold it in any longer. The concern, not the urine.

It takes far too long to process the results of a urine test -- sometimes several days. I can't wait that long. I demand instant analysis. I'm a very competitive person. I've been that way since I was a student. I need to know whether I performed better than the other patients I sat with in the waiting room -- the man with the thick glasses, the woman chatting on her cell phone, the kid reading Highlights magazine.

I know we have the technology to make this happen. I saw it at work in high school, when I took countless multiple-choice, fill-in-the-bubble tests that were graded electronically. In a matter of seconds, a machine would process and grade a test. I could then compare results with classmates I knew I was smarter than. It was great.

I remember the machine would register a loud tick every time it detected a wrong answer. If I performed poorly on a test, I'd hear a long series of ticks. Now that was an awful feeling, but at least I could experience it right away.

So I ask: Why can't urine tests be graded electronically? Let's make it happen. Just pour the urine into a machine and let it work its magic. Tick, tick, tick, tick.... "Hmmm, it appears you have acid reflux disease. Please wait one moment while the machine prints a prescription for Nexium for you."

When I visit my doctor, I'll ask him for his opinion on whether urine tests should be electronically graded, and whether that would be right for him.