You know what really moves me just to the left of complete apoplexy?
“No, Carson,” you reply. “What is it today?”
I will ignore the sarcasm of your snide question, because #1—there’s a bit of truth to it, curmudgeon that I am fast becoming, and #2—you'll read my ramblings anyway.
The answer is: modern medicine.
I have never felt more bovine than when I am visiting my doctor. Oh, and that’s another thing—“visiting” --like it’s some kind of a social gathering—for which you must pay and pay dearly. And since when do you pay to visit someone, anyhow? I think a trip to the doctor should be called “fiscal disquietude” or perhaps, “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here” with a picture of an empty wallet spotted with tear stains, or alternatively, a bleeding stone.
Whether you have health insurance or not, staying alive and well has become financially ruinous. I happen to have insurance, but the policy I could afford has a deductible that rivals the National Debt; so I’m alive and well and now I’m also depressed and stressed out and eating Cheerios three meals a day to pay for all this good health.
It might not be so ghastly if you could actually have a mutually concerned partnership with your medico.
It is to laugh.
These days, at least in Arizona, this is how a patient fleecing usually goes—you sign in and you wait—oh, and before I forget, bring a book with you (preferably War and Peace) and enough food and water to last a couple of days, anyway. So while you’re chewing on your last piece of beef jerky and are on the last page, the doctor’s assistant ushers you into the inner sanctum, where you will be weighed (love that part) and your pulse and blood pressure will be taken. I always ask about the blood pressure results, just to confirm how totally pissed off I am by that point.
The assistant looks at me like it’s none of my damned business, mumbles something, then legs it out of the room.
I sigh. I grab a magazine from the rack in the room. Oh, joy. A copy of “Guns and Ammo” from 1976. I read it with interest, as I am hoping to pick up a few pointers for when I return later that afternoon, with 'my leetle friend.'
Finally, the doctor, or, as I like to refer to him, 'Henry Ford,' because there is nobody but a present-day doctor who can make you understand the concept of an assembly line better, arrives.
Now, I’ve been going to this ding-dong for quite a while now, and though he’s finally learned my name, he is unable to remember much else about me. One might think he’d take a moment to consult my file before he walked in; but no. Such niceties have gone the way of $1.00 a gallon gasoline.
Let me give you an example:
In the initial new patient paperwork that we all fill out, there is an area that requires you to list any surgeries you’ve had. I had a hysterectomy in 1999, so I put it down.
A couple of months later, I came in for a physical.
“You need a PAP smear,” the doctor said.
“For what?” I asked. “I had a hysterectomy. I don’t think that stuff grows back.”
“You need it. You can still get cancer of the vaginal wall.”
At that time, I had no insurance at all, and I knew a referral to an OB/GYN would cost me big. My doctor in Connecticut (whom I miss sorely—he was one of the all-around great guys) always did the smears himself, so I figured this guy could deal with it here.
“Can you do it? I asked foolishly
He got all his mining equipment together squished on the KY and got on with it.
Then, he asked me the question.
“Have you had a hysterectomy?”
“Yes,” I replied, wondering in which landfill my new patient paperwork was currently mouldering. You’d have been proud of me—I didn’t say anything more than “yes.”
The holes in my tongue are pretty well healed up now.
So he did the smear. “Come back in a week,” he said.
“But what about the rest of the physical?”
“I want to get one thing dealt with at a time,” he replied as he hopped it out of the consulting room.
He was with me for a total of ten minutes…for $143.00. And that didn’t include the cost of the lab work for the test.
Okay. One week later, I’m back in his office. He arrives in the consulting room.
“The test was inconclusive. We'll have to do it again.”
Since I had taken the precaution of gagging myself before he walked in, lest I inadvertently blurt out something obscene, I simply nodded.
I did, however, glare at him in a hostile manner.
Another ten minutes, another $143.00, and ‘come back in a week.’
Back in a week.
“The test was inconclusive. We have to do it again.” Behind my gag, I thought of how fortunate it was that I had had the foresight to have someone tie my hands behind my back that morning.
“But the good news is, I spoke to the GYN down the hall and she told me about a better way to do this. Should give us some results this time.”
The mere thought of where in hell this guy got his medical training makes me shudder and take to my bed to this day.
So, in we go again.
“Have you had a hysterectomy?” he asks.
That was pretty much it. The bonds on my wrists shredded like paper, the gag blew out of my mouth and imbedded itself in the opposite wall as Carson Buckingham, mild mannered writer, went somewhere else and the Incredible Hulk, or S.J. Perelman—I’m not sure which—took over.
“WHAT? If I’m not mistaken…Doctor…you have been spelunking in my body three times now! Can you not see that the usual suspects have taken a powder? Do I need to tattoo my inner thigh as a friendly reminder? Of course, that won’t do any good anyway, because I have serious doubts that you know how to read. And where did you get your diploma—Billy Bob's Medical School and Fish Shack? I have seen things lying on their backs at the bottom of bird cages that are more adept!”
Oh, I did go on—for exactly ten minutes—then he left, mid-rant. But believe me; I made those ten minutes count.
And when I got the bills from the lab and the doctor, I wrote a two word message on each and sent them back.