Saturday, June 25, 2011
Yesterday I had some medical tests performed at my local HMO. I lay down on the examining table, pulled up my shirt so a young Indian (or perhaps Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Sri Lanka or Maldivian) woman could do a sonogram of my kidneys, liver, bladder and stomach. She was friendly in that oh-so-distant way cops, medical technicians and lawyers on the opposite side are taught to be. The tests are not particularly unpleasant save for having to drink 32 ounces of water an hour before and then having your bladder leaned upon, and I’ll add here that I think my HMO is a well-run institution with which I have had no qualms of late.
The woman left the room twice for five minutes each without explanation. I reasoned that maybe examining people’s bladders eight hours a day might make you want to pee pretty often, but this is not the sort of thing discussed with an aloof Indian Asian person, so after her first departure I kept my thoughts to myself. The second time she left, though, I started getting antsy. Had she seen something that necessitated instant reporting to the powers that be? Would I be whisked from examining table to operating table in a matter of minutes? Was there something wrong?
I’m not stranger to tests. In fact I’m one of those rare men who underwent a mammogram when there was a slim possibility that I might have breast cancer (roughly one out of a hundred cases is male), and I’ve had my share of colonoscopies, barium exams, MRIs, EKG and other procedures. I have always believed that being left alone during or after the exam is fairly thoughtless. Granted, it is not up to the tech to interpret the results of the exams, but tests, by their very nature, imply that perhaps something is not working properly. They raise our awareness of mortality. It’s impossible, as one goes through these things, not to entertain the thought that Oh My God I Might Die!
While waiting for the tech’s reappearance, I wrote my own obit, questioned its placement in the Washington Post (lead obit page where the death of semi-notables are noted, or page after that meriting only an announcement paid for by friends?) I wondered what said friends would say, and decided my will was not as current as it should be. I speculated about the disposition of the stuff I own and decided to look into being buried in my Avanti automobile, then remembered I wanted to be cremated and it would be a shame to burn such a fine car. Then the Indian woman rematerialized and told me I could go.
I won’t get the results of the tests for a few days, and since I am not a physician I will leave their interpretation to others. My doctor has already explained the best- and worst-case scenarios, and there’s no reason to think the direst will happen. But still. A smile would have been nice, and any small reassurance welcome. Isn’t that what are called bedside manners?