Monday, December 10, 2012

*Olof Swears Off Medical Care Forever

["Let Inga Tell You," La Jolla Light, published December 13, 2012]  © 2012

The older we get, the harder it is for me to get Olof to medical appointments.

Olof maintains this is because at our age, there’s just no good news to be had.  Do they ever say, “Wow, you look so much younger!” he queries?   Or, “You really should be drinking more Scotch?”  No, he says, they just take pains to remind you that you’re one day closer to decrepitude and death.  

I’ve previously written about our primary care doctor, whom we affectionately refer to as Dr. No.  As in no bread, no pasta, no rice, no potatoes, no fun. Dr. No has a personal vendetta against high-glycemic carbs.   It’s the potatoes that are hardest for Olof who is a serious spud man. 

It’s not, of course, that we religiously adhere to this regimen, but it sure sucks the enjoyment out of eating something your doctor insists will kill you. 
“Shouldn’t have eaten that,” Olof will mutter glumly after a rare meal of pasta.  “It’s got troglodytes in it.” 

“Triglycerides, Olof,” I’ll say. He’s got the concept if not the details. 
At this point, Olof refers to a week without white carbs as being “clean and sober.”   Not coincidentally, he has developed what he calls a “food porn” habit.  He closes the door to the bedroom to watch Rachel Ray make baked potatoes with butter and sour cream although he admits he always feels dirty afterwards. 

Anyone who knows Olof knows that he has a strict Do Not Feed the Lions philosophy about medical care.  In his experience, comments of any kind to a medical professional only engender tests or more drugs, or more commonly both.
Hence, Olof goes into Total Deaf-Mute Mode in a doctor’s office.  He’s only there because I’ve bludgeoned him into it.  Dr. No and I talk while Olof sits there looking like he’d rather be watching a twelve hour marathon of feminine hygiene product commercials.  Never have I known a person with a more world-class aversion to medical care.

But sending him alone to a medical appointment is an exercise in futility.  I carefully write out a list of his medications (he has no idea what he’s taking) and a list of questions which I admit are mostly mine.  OK, totally mine.  Both usually evaporate into the ether between our home and the doctor’s office.  And when he gets home we end up having conversations like this:
Inga:  So what was your blood pressure? 

Olof:  How would I know?
Inga:  Um, you were there when she took it?

Olof:  I didn’t ask.  She wants me to take some drug.
Inga:  For what?

Olof:  I don’t know.  She called it into CVS.
Inga:  Well, did you ask about side effects?

Olof:  She said something about calling her if something happened but I can’t remember what.
Still, I have to admit Olof may have a point about medical care.  Recently I strong-armed him into a physical which, just as he feared, showed something that required further tests.  And then more tests.  Followed by, well, more tests.  (Olof’s theory is that our top-of-the-line medical insurance is just a little TOO good.)  Olof missed a ton of work over this and became increasingly surly about it.  Ultimately, it was determined that although he had nothing symptomatic, and in the end, nothing imminently wrong, that given his international business travel schedule to places with questionable medical care, it was strongly recommended that he undergo a minimally-invasive preventative one-hour surgery so pathetically routine that a child could practically do it.  He could even have dinner the same day!  Back to work in two days!  Then he wouldn’t have to worry about ending up in a (statistically unlikely but possible) crisis in some far away country.

I am definitely adding “it’s a simple outpatient procedure” to my list of cautionary phrases, right after “packed flat for easy assembly.”  Through nobody’s fault, including and especially Olof’s, the one-hour procedure deteriorated catastrophically into five, and Olof spent most of the next week at Scripps Memorial sucking ice chips, pushing his on-demand pain pump button and muttering through clenched teeth, “But I wasn’t even sick!”  I think if he hadn’t been tethered to a lot of machinery, he would have fed me into a wood chipper.  Really really slowly.  Suffice to say, I am not currently his favorite person.  This is EXACTLY, he grumbled, 25 painfully-lost pounds and weeks of lost work later, why he avoids medical care. 
But in all things, there is a silver lining.  When he was finally paroled from Scripps, the surgeon recommended a “surgical soft” diet including – yes! oh, yes! - mashed potatoes.  For the first time in a week, Olof actually perked up from the dead.  He looked at me and whispered, “You will never tell Dr. No.”


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