Meteor Shows and a Visit to the ER

I had an unpremeditated visit to the ER a few nights ago.  (Aren’t they all?)  Now, listen up, all you oldsters out there, because I’m going to give you some valuable health information: if you have flashing light shows, as in aurora borealis, flaming meteors, or comets appearing at the edge of one of your eyes, it is time to go to the ER, just like I did.

Being a semi-calm and rational person, I did not immediately opt for the ER.  I thought about several practical reasons  for why I might be having a personal light show, none of which were satisfactory.  I could not recall having a history of light shows in my eyeballs, either.

Step #2 was to consult the Internet.  Aha!  My symptoms were described exactly at several places, including Ask Yahoo! where plumbers try — complete with “LOL” comments — to diagnose and scare the livin’ daylights out of people with real medical problems who really should be on their way to the ER, instead of fooling around on the Internet.  Not wanting a plumber’s advice on my ocular needs, I moved on to a place where a real ophthalmologist told me what I was dealing with — and it was not overly comforting.

Step #3 was to call my eye doctor … on a Sunday night … knowing he and his office staff would not be in.  BUT they referred me to an eye doctor who would be in … but was not.  That person’s call service referred me to still another doctor … who was also not in.  Her call service referred me to a nurse … who told me I needed to get to the ER immediately — which I then did.

I asked an idiotic question while they were registering me at the ER.  (I guess I said several idiotic things during the hour and a half I spent there, so why not start out doing that right from the get-go?)  I asked them if they were a PPO for my particular insurance company.  I got slightly nervous when the lady said, “I don’t know what you are talking about.  What is a PPO?”  It went downhill from there.

Both the ER doctor and I knew I was in there because of possible retinal detachment or retinal tears.  He listened to my flashing lights story, asked if I could still see out of my eye in all sectors (yes), and announced my case had him “stumped.”

I didn’t care to hear that the doctor was planning on being of no help.  True to my nature, I decided to help him out a bit: “Do you want to hear what the Internet said you are supposed to do?”

Toilet Plunger by bnielsen via OpenClipArt(He did not.  He said the Internet doesn’t know what it is talking about most of the time.  I thought that was a rash statement, seeing as I was planning on telling him what the ophthalmologist had said, not the plumber spewing advice on Ask Yahoo!  ER doctors do not really want their patients helping them out when they are “stumped.”)

I forged ahead anyway.  After all, this was my eye in need of help, and if I was going to pay ER prices, I at least wanted my money’s worth of care.  “The Internet said you are supposed to dilate my eye and take a look inside to see if the retina is OK.”

Fortunately for me, he did eventually decide to at least turn out the lights and leave me in semi-darkness for fifteen minutes so that my eye would self-dilate enough so he could take a peek.

My husband Paul was with me while I was enjoying the intensity of the meteor show in the semi-darkness.  Have you ever noticed that people tend to fret about little things more when it is dark out?  Paul started to obsess about some minor missing details.

“Don’t you think it’s kind of funny that they didn’t take your blood pressure?  And your temperature — what about your temperature?”

“It’s my eye, not my heart or my thermostat we’re concerned about here.  I’m sure they figured that out.”  (But this did start to make me wonder why I had not been invited to step on a scale.  Doctors always want to know if we are eating too much.)

When the doc came back, he did a lot of scrutinizing of the inside of my eye, and finally pronounced it to be fine.  No retina problems.  (Good!)  He then talked with the ophthalmologist whom I had been trying to reach earlier in the evening.  Apparently he was not routed through several call services, only to get a nurse, as had been my case.  If he had been, the nurse would have told him to go to the ER immediately.

The ophthalmologist knew by my description exactly what the problem was — a vitreous detachment (the same thing that causes floaters) — not all that serious.  It seems that the ball of goo that makes up the inside of the eye is held onto the retina by zillions of tiny fibers, and if some of them get tired and let go, bingo! we have a light show.  This, by the way, was the same info I had picked up from the Internet doctor, who had still recommended the ER, because dilating the eye could reveal whether retinal detachment was in progress.

So, they sent me on home with instructions to follow up with my eye doctor.  Before sending me home, they did take my blood pressure and my temperature — but they forgot the scale.

My eye doctor is the best.  There is increased risk of retinal problems over the next couple of weeks, so he calls me every couple of days to see how I am doing.  Your eye doctor probably wouldn’t do that.  He would tell you to call him if anything dire transpired, and maybe you would get him if he wasn’t playing golf or doing something else more important right then than your eyes.  But my eye doctor is wonderful, and he calls me.  I will probably give him a thumbs up on FaceBook and Twitter when I get a chance.

I am still enjoying some light shows, which somewhat concerns the doc, but I can see what I need to see (which is a good sign), and I am confident I will be fine.

Watch that Menu!

My friend and avid fan, Ornesta Fruggenbotham, called the other day.  You remember Ornesta.  She’s the one who made guest appearances in this blog with her true-life stories about a dead brother who was really quite alive and a fond memory of a Christmas banquet served next to the bedroom clothes hamper.  Life is weird in Upper Michigan, as proved by the latest phone conversation.

“Well, hello, Ornesta!  How’s the weather in Iron Ore these days?  Has the Big Lake frozen over yet?”

“It’s cold enough to give a polar bear frostbite, I had to use a welding torch to thaw out the phone line before calling you, and an iceberg took out the Edmund Fitzgerald last Tuesday.”

“C’mon, Ornesta.  I’m smarter than that.  I’ve listened to a little Gordon Lightfoot myself, and I know how long ago that happened.  It wasn’t an iceberg, either.”

“I’m not really concerned about the temperature.  It’s a different kind of cold threat I’ve had on my mind of late.”


“Yes.  I was at one of those “bottomless fries”  eateries a couple of weeks ago, and —“

“Pardon me, Ornesta.  You shouldn’t do that.  I just read about the house specialty burger — 93 whoppin’ grams of lardo and a full day’s calories — without the fries.”

“When you live this far north, you need that much grease to keep your joints oiled and moving.  But let me tell you what happened.”

“OK, shoot.”

“The guy at the next table had to sneeze, see?  And he wanted to be polite and not let fly at the woman across the table from him — which was good, ’cause it was one sloppy doozy of a sneeze!”


“No, just wait!  I’ll give you an ‘Ewww!’  He used his menu as a sneeze shield!  Germs and gook all over the picture of the chicken burger!”

“Double Ewww.”

“Now, you’ve got to THINK about this a little!  They didn’t send the menu home with him as a souvenir.  Somebody else had it in his frozen little fingers before —“

“Before the gook dried and the germs died.  I’m eating at home from now on.”

“Well, you don’t have to go to those extremes.  Just do what I did the next time I ate there.”

“Hmmm?  There’s more story coming, isn’t there.”

“I didn’t touch the menu the next time.  I asked the waitress to read it to me.”

“The whole menu?”

“Yeah, and she says, ‘Ohhh,’ in this I-am-so-sorry-for-you tone,  and then says, ‘We have Braille menus for the sight-impaired.’ 

“And I said, ‘No, there’s nothing wrong with my eyes.  It’s the germ factor, Miss.’

“And she gawks at me like I haven’t got my buttons all sewed on, so I explained about menus getting passed to innocent customers when the sneeze gook isn’t dried yet.”

“I’ll bet that impressed her.”

“Pretty much.  She scooted off to find a manager.  And pretty soon, she comes galloping back with one.   ‘Madam, I understand there is a problem with your menu,’ he says in this low, drawly voice.

“‘Not as long as I don’t have to touch it and she reads it to me,’ I replied.  ‘I don’t want to take the chance it has been sneezed on, coughed on, salivated on, or who-knows-what on.  You know, with that swine flu stuff going around, you can’t be too careful.'”

“Ornesta, didn’t you read my post about swine flu?  If you eat enough bratwurst and sauerkraut, there’s nothing to fear.”

“It might not work up here.  It’s probably just a Wisconsin cure.”

“Yeah, well, go on.”

“The guy didn’t say anything — just motions to the waitress to come with him and trots off.  I didn’t know if they were going to feed me or not.  Well, pretty soon the waitress comes back, and she’s got an accessory in her apron pocket — a quart-size can of Lysol.  And she plunks that menu down on the table, empties half a can onto it, flips it over with a slap, and empties most of the other half a can on the back side.  My eyes were fogging up, my nose was burning, and my taste buds felt like I’d swallowed a bottle of bleach.

“And then she says, ‘There!  How’s that?  Would you like me to do your water glass and your napkin for you too?’  And she lets fly with the rest of the can.  ‘Psssssst!'”

“Personally, I think I would have taken my chances with the menu-turned-sneeze-shield in all its contaminated glory.  Lysol decongesting my sinuses doesn’t sound like a good thing.”

“No, and I couldn’t really taste the burger and the bottomless fries very well that day, either.”

“Ornesta, you said I should try your method, rather than closeting myself at home to eat.  Why, after hearing what happened to you, would I want to take your advice?”

“Well, I thought it would give you something interesting to write about.”

(For more Ornesta-related adventures see Simply Ornesta! in the sidebar, under Archives.)

Keeping Fit in Pitt (Part 2)

I was wrong in yesterday’s post about Pittsburghians not knowing that it is good manners to say “hi” to strangers when passing.  It is not Pittsburghians who are ignorant on this point; it is just the ones on the part of the Montour Run Trail behind Susan’s house.

Today I took the trail where it continues on the other side of the highway, and almost all the folks walking and biking it said hello to me before I had a chance.  I will not have to try to elevate their culture after all.  They were a different group: not so focused on building their muscles and seeing how much wheezing they could handle before cardiac arrest set in.  They were the mom-and-dad type with little kids, or the I-am-just-out-for-a-stroll-to-enjoy-the-weather-and-I-don’t-care-if-I-elevate-my-heartbeat-to-its-maximum-potential-or-not type.

I simply cannot get used to all these houses built into the sides of the mountains.  We’ve got some of the same in Door County and the east side of Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin, but most of our state is mildly hilly or fairly flat.  I also cannot get used to how some houses’ front doors open almost directly onto the highway — or else have a goodly flight of stairs up to the door.  I would be a lean muscle machine if I lived here permanently.  If the up-and-down-hill walking did not do it for me, running from the copperheads in the summertime would.

I am developing a theory: even driving the hairpin turns and up-and-down slopes burns calories.  It would be possible to be quite athletically fit in Pittsburgh even without consciously exercising — if it weren’t for Chick-fil-A to ruin it all at the end of the day.

Susan has always been mystified by part of the local culture.  Although their home is only fifteen minutes from the heart of Pittsburgh, many people from their area — even very youngish people — have never been to the City.  Even more of them have not ever been to the other side of it.  They just live and die in their own small corner of the suburbs (suburghs?).

If Susan had wanted to know the answer, all she would have had to do is ask.  One of the natives explained it to me.  They all get lost if they travel outside of a certain small radius.  You see, because everything is in the mountains, there are no such things as square city blocks.  All the roads wind this way and that, without any organization, rhyme, or reason.  Finding your way around — especially around the city to the other side of it — is nigh-on to impossible.  So they all just stay in their township and the couple of townships nearby.  It is completely a safety issue.  There now.  That makes sense to me!

You might ask, “But what about one of those little GPS gizmos?  Wouldn’t that take care of the problem?”  We tried the GPS gadget to get us to Pittsburgh from Wisconsin.  It’s not all it’s cracked up to be.  It tried to tell us Susan’s address did not exist.  After awhile, it decided the existence was a distinct possibility, but the directions given were not sensible.  If we had listened, we would have ended up on the wrong side of the city, lost forever, never to find Susan or Wisconsin again.

So, I understand.  I would behave myself and stay in my suburgh too.

Keeping Fit in Pitt (Part 1)

Salad Eaters Beware!

The following story illustrates why it is best to
a.) avoid salad bars completely, or
b.) pray hard before the first bite.

My daughter and I decided to do lunch at the local pizza parlor.  The place was nearly devoid of human life when we sat ourselves down with our personal pizzas.  Staring at the puddles of grease atop my lunch and remembering my upcoming cholesterol test, I was having second thoughts and wishing I had opted for the salad buffet.  Not for long.

A young woman and her two offspring made entrance.  The older child, about eight I’d say, immediately sauntered over to check out the salad bar.  While Mom was busy ordering at the counter, he decided to avoid the middle man and go directly for fast food. 

While we gawked in delicious horror, he grabbed the fully-loaded chocolate pudding scoop and  shlugged ‘er all down.  Mom spotted him just as the last few drops dribbled from his chin into the pudding pot. 

“Johnny!!! Put that down!!!” 

Startled by her blood-curdling yell, Johnny’s reflexes kicked in and he did as he was told – dropped that ladle like it was a hot horseshoe. It bounced across the carpet a couple of times before Mama bounded to the rescue.  She retrieved the scooper from the floor and shoved it back into the pot, grabbed Johnny’s arm, and marched him off to their table, hissing, “I told you to stay with me!” 

Keep in mind that all the plexiglass sneeze shields in the world could not have prevented this scene, unless they had completely covered the salad counter and been secured with a padlock. 

The mom did not inform the counter people that there was a kid-contaminated pudding pot in need of some attention.  If the staff saw the incident, they did not care.  They were probably so hardened to moms screaming at their kids that they were not even curious about the cause. 

Now, I still like salad bars immensely, so I do not choose option a. (avoiding salad bars completely).  Option b. (praying hard before the first bite) is more to my liking.  But I never eat salad at that pizza parlor anymore – or anything else on their menu, either.

Elevator Dialogs

Hospital elevators are interesting places.  You are stuck with a bunch of other people who might have the next epidemic exuding through their pores and who wouldn’t mind sharing the wealth.  We didn’t get the contagious crowd this last time, however:  we got the nutcases.

I have no idea if they got on at the psychiatric floor, but I know they did not get off there.  As soon as Beebee and I entered and the doors closed behind us, the fun began.

“I eat a whole banana cream pie every night before I go to bed.”  I glanced at the elderly man who announced this randomly to anyone who wanted to know.  He did not weigh 500 pounds.  Either he had the metabolism of a hummingbird or he was at the hospital to have his brain waves tested.  Perhaps he wanted to let us all know what the secret of his longevity was.

One of the elevator riders decided to be nice.  She giggled and replied, “I like banana cream pie, too.”  But she didn’t chirp a peep about eating a whole one every night for bedtime snack.

I restrained myself from commenting that I loathe banana cream pie.  It would not have been sympathetic, and may have made someone angry, which is not a good situation in an enclosed box that cannot be immediately evacuated.  I also restrained myself from asking, “Oh, banana cream pie syndrome.  Is that why you are here?”

The elevator opened at the third floor, and when no one got off, a young man among us asked, “We’re at ground level.  Why aren’t we all getting off?” 

The woman next to him explained, “This is the floor where they have babies, not ground level.”

He thought about that a couple of seconds and then decided the thirst for knowledge must be satisfied.  “Don’t they have babies on all the floors?  I thought they did.”

I’m not sure what was bouncing through his mind, but I was personally glad that baby-bearing was confined to one floor, and that it was not allowed in the elevator, even if nutcases were.

Mrs. Banana Cream Pie then announced, “In our hospital back home, people can’t have babies at all.”  Before I could wonder if they were missionaries temporarily on leave from the African jungles or if they had a huge infertility problem in their area, she volunteered the name of the rural city they came from.  It was the same place that hit the national news twenty years before because  all its grocery stores ran entirely out of ice cream for a day.  (It was a kinder, gentler world back then, when we all cared immensely if some town in Wisconsin didn’t have ice cream for a whole day.)

She went on to explain that people in their town had to drive sixty miles to get to a hospital where they could have babies.  This brought vivid images of certain intolerable scenarios to mind.  I have an idea that no one of child-bearing age lives there anymore.  It is probably entirely inhabited by older people who eat whole banana cream pies before bed each night.

Let’s just hope what happened with the ice cream twenty years ago never repeats itself with banana cream pies, or there could be a violent uprising.

The Cure for Swine Flu

I know, I know.  Nobody is freaking out about swine flu anymore.  But, the experts are direly predicting a comeback of this hysteria-producing disease, come autumn.  Consequently, just in case they are right, we should all protect ourselves with a little common-sense preparation.

I’m not sure if everyone knows this, but the surefire antidote to swine flu is bratwurst.  Yes, bratwurst – not the turkey or the beef kind, mind you.  It’s gotta be the pork variety.  It’s a very simple concept: fight swine with swine. 

Before you roll your eyeballs right out of their sockets, think about it.  What did they do to stop the polio epidemic?  They injected everybody with a weakened polio virus.  How did they devastate measles, mumps, and chickenpox?  Same story. 

I’m not suggesting that we inject bratwurst into anyone’s veins.  Swine flu is a most virulent disease, and a weakened dose of pork will not do the job.  The bratwurst must be applied full strength via the digestive system, in large doses.   Besides, immunologists are just beginning to realize that the more fun a vaccine is to take, the more effective it is.  Modern science is wonderful, isn’t it?

This is why in Wisconsin, where we are progressive and savvy about most things, every man, woman, and child will be porking up on bratwurst all summer long.  Cumulative dosage is key to jump-starting the immune system.  Here in the Badger State, we are anticipating eating an average of 39.35 pounds of brats per capita between now and Labor Day. 

You may ask, “Why, if bratwurst is such a wonderful cure, was Wisconsin the #2 state in the nation for swine flu cases in the spring of 2009?”  Obviously, if you have to ask such a question you do not understand the culture and climate.  The swine flu hit before it was warm enough to grill brats outside, and we were caught off-guard.  Besides, you didn’t hear of anybody in Wisconsin being seriously harmed by swine flu, did you?  This is because, as soon as the cases started appearing in hordes at our hospitals, the medical personnel knew exactly what to do.  They started stuffing Nesco roaster-loads of brats down the patients’ gullets.  They power-dosed the victims by force-feeding them quarts of sauerkraut (loaded with vitamin C for immune system boost).  It worked, and they all went home feeling euphoric about the whole recovery experience.  Nary a complaint was heard about the deplorable state of hospital cuisine. 

As everyone knows, not all drug brands are alike.  Sometimes those generic versions do not work as well.  This is why it is important for Americans to understand that not all brats will work equally as effectively in protecting against swine flu.  Johnsonville brats are still at the top of the heap, and their priceyness is well worth it, if you want to stay healthy.  Klements are a somewhat distant second in efficacy, while the low-income or exceptionally frugal-of-heart individuals will have to muddle along the best they can with the greatly inferior store brands. 

A tragic epidemic among people of lower income could be averted if President Obama would merely issue an executive order allowing the federal government to seize ownership of the Johnsonville Sausage Company.  He could then declare free brats for everyone to make sure all is fair and square.   As a by-product, many jobs would be created, as the company would have to go through enormous expansion to meet the demands for all that free food.  The new jobs would mean more income for the IRS to abscond with, thereby creating a bottomless barrel for pork projects dear to the hearts of politicians.  More pork in the barrel would mean more swine flu antidote, and the cycle would spiral ever upward into an increasingly healthy economy. 

So there you have it, folks.  Bratwurst – the answer to all the nation’s problems, from swine flu to the economy.  You heard it here first, and I don’t mind at all if you share it with Wall Street and the American Medical Association.

Generation Canyon

Beebee has old parents, and it is hard on her psyche.  Our daughter is the only teenager in her acquaintance whose father retired about the time she hit high school — and it wasn’t because Dad had made his millions, either.

When other people our age were peering over the lip of their empty nest, we discovered, to our great joy, that we were about to be Mama and Daddy again.  I was an old mom masquerading as a young grandma.  The obstetrician had a geriatric specialist standing by at the delivery.

Beebee frequently pleads, “Please don’t ever get old, Mom.”

I know what she means.  She has witnessed her grandparents become window peekers, people who entertain themselves by watching their neighbors through the curtains, much like younger folks watch TV.  I can’t even glance out the window momentarily without creating anxiety in her young mind.

She keeps a sharp eye out for telltale old-people symptoms, hoping that with early intervention she can slow down the slide.  “Mom, Dad isn’t going to make any wood lawn ornaments, is he?  He is revving up the scroll saw.”

“Nope, he’s too busy doing the real woodworking — remodeling the kitchen.  And besides, I’m not into lawn ornaments, which is why I sold his pink flamingos to some other elderly couple at the rummage sale last year.” 

“Yesterday, when we were at McDonalds,  he was carrying on about hamburgers being six for a dollar when he was my age.  I nearly gagged on my French fries.”

“It’s a clever old-people ploy, my dear.  Slather enough guilt on the children and it chokes the expensive appetite right out of them!”

“Promise you won’t ever get old?”

“Promise.  When I’m eighty-five, I will think just as young as I do now.”  (This will have to satisfy her.  It’s the best I can do.  She already views my mid-fifties perspective as beyond ancient.) 

“But … you tell stories … over and over … just like Grandpa did.”  (My father had favorite anecdotes, all from his World War II days.  They were funny, but only the first twenty times or so.  I seem to be following in his footsteps.  It must be in the genes.)

“I have never told the same story more than twice,” I indignantly reply.  “By time number two, you are all rolling your eyes and covering your ears.  I WANT to tell my stories more often than that, and you ought to let me!  Kids, these days!  No respect!” 

Beebee goes on, in this heart-to-heart chat about the child-as-caretaker problem she imagines she has.  “The worst of it, Mom, is your friends.” 

Again, I know exactly what she means.  My acquaintances scare me, too.  Women within a ten year radius of me all want to discuss their health issues, and Beebee has sometimes listened in with horrified amazement.  Fifteen-year-olds should not have to know the ins-and-outs of premenopausal to postmenopausal woes, hemorrhoids, gall bladder attacks, and plumbing surgeries gone awry.  For that matter, I don’t want to know, either, but I have to be polite.

I like to tease the child sometimes, just to see what she’ll say.  “Beebee, when you were born, you were the answer to all of Mom and Dad’s dreams.  We were always afraid that your sister would move away, and she did.  But now we have you to take care of us through our twilight years, our very own in-home health care professional.  Think of it — you don’t have to obsess like other kids do about who you will marry or what you should do for a career.  All your material and emotional needs will be met for decades to come by your wonderful parents — and I plan on being around for at least another forty years.” 

Beebee calculates quickly and realizes in forty years she will be a tad older than I am.  She stalks off with a good-natured “Humpff!  Mom, you’re even scarier than I thought.”

Fix Your Gallbladder!

Someone just left a comment that he or she had read the definitive book on liver flushes.  It was in response to my post on Mountain Dew Gallbladders.  I can’t imagine why anyone would flush his liver, much less read about doing so!   But it got me thinking about the time I took a friend’s advice  to cleanse my gallbladder.  Maybe she had been reading the same book.  She’s fortunate I didn’t flush the friendship.

I had been having some pain that ominously hinted of gallbladder trouble.  My devoted buddy told me about a “treatment” to get rid of and/or prevent gallstones.  She swore she did it annually.  I think she lied! 

Her cure  involved drinking a mixture of 1/2 cup olive oil and 1/2 cup lemon juice.  Pour it down the hatch, and in the morning you feel wonderful.  I decided to be conservative and drink half the prescribed amount.  It took some doing to get that far.  This concoction does not taste like Gatorade or Starbucks special blend.

I just about upchucked on the spot.  “Mind over matter,” I told myself, while attempting to force my stomach to retain its goods.  Believe me, there was a titanic battle between my mind and the matter for the next hour or two. 

Shortly after I retired for the evening, stabbing abdominal pains set in.  I thought I was going to die, or at the very least be forced to visit the emergency room and ‘fess up to what I’d done.  I had visions of the ER folks employing gastrointestinal roto-rooters to save my life and the insurance company refusing to pay for my rescue from self-mutilation.

Eventually the pain stopped, I fell asleep, and was relieved to wake up the next morning in the same realm I had dozed off in.  I want to see heaven — just not quite yet.

My friend received a bright-and-early phone call that I can only hope got her out of bed.  I hotly suggested that she keep her home remedies to herself in the future.  She was unsympathetic — said it helped her, and she had never experienced the drastic symptoms to which I was testifying.  She dropped the names of a few famous people who all use the treatment.  Good for them!

We have a forty-year friendship, and it has survived.  Yes, I forgave her.  But shhh!  Don’t tell!  I’ve never had the gallbladder issues since.

Give Me What??

My doctor is a drug addict.  You are shocked, I dare say.  But it is not what you think.  I will give her the benefit of the doubt that she is not “on something.”  I mean she is addicted to prescribing drugs. 

For the last twenty years I have endured migraines – nearly daily.  I know how to cope, and they are not the consuming thought of my life, other than when one the size of a tsunami hits.  But the doctor is concerned about my comfort.  This is very kind of her, but I am not fond of the solutions she comes up with. 

“So, you say the migraines are about the same.  How do you manage them?” 

“I use Head On first, ibuprofen if that doesn’t work, and I break out the $30.00-a-pop little white pills you gave me as a last resort, so that I don’t spend an entire day zonked out in my recliner with a barf bucket close at hand.”  (She doesn’t want to know about the barf bucket.  I wish I didn’t have to know about it, either.  It’s a fact of migraine life – if I don’t do the $30.00 pill now and then.)

At the mention of Head On, she rolls her eyes.  I cannot help it if she is not a believer.  What works, works. 

“Migraines do not happen on the forehead.  They say to apply it to the forehead.” 

“So they lied.  I smear it where it needs to go.  They just make the stuff.  We don’t expect them to know how to use it effectively.  I tell you, it’s a winner.  I’m going to buy stock in the company.  Sales are way up since I discovered them.” 

She moves a little closer for effect, and starts to wheedle.  “I can give you something that you can take daily so that you never have to have another migraine.  Wouldn’t that be nice?” 

I shrink back.  “No, I don’t want to take pills everyday. I don’t need that.”  

(I don’t want to tell her that I would not be capable of remembering to take a pill everyday.  She is younger than I am and doesn’t understand about fifties-brain.  Fifties-brain is normal.  All my friends have it, so I know I’m OK.  It’s possible she could misdiagnose me with something dire if she knew about the forgetful moments.  Then she might really want to plug me full of pills – and maybe send me to a social worker besides.  I will never tell her about this blog, either.  That might also cause a date with a social worker.) 

“But you would never have to suffer a headache again!  Why would you not want to take a pill a day?” 

“It’s all about trade-offs.  The last doctor I had told me every time I take a pill, I’m deciding between alleviating a symptom and damaging some part of my body to get rid of the symptom.” 

“You told me the last doctor suggested narcotics for the migraines, too.  He did not know what he was talking about!”

“Which is why I see you now, instead of him.”  (This mollifies her a bit.) 

“There are many varieties of daily medication that I could give you,” she drones on, as if I have not already said no.  “Some are hypertension drugs and some are antidepressants.”  

I stare at her in horror.  My blood pressure is fine, and she wants to mess with it for the sake of migraines I already know how to control.  Antidepressants!  I have friends who take those!  One feels like she has her mouth stuffed full of cotton at all times, and the other breaks out in hives.  Both of them still cry way too much of the time.  I would probably get so happy I would giggle at inappropriate times, which would shock people who erroneously think I am dignified.  I don’t think so! 

“I think I will stick with the occasional little white pill.  I never use more than a couple a month, ibuprofen is effective a lot of the time, and the Head On works fine, as long as I’m not dumb enough to apply it to my forehead — really!”

“But too much ibuprofen is not good for you.”  (Neither would a daily dose of antidepressants or blood pressure meds be, but it’s all in the perspective, I guess.) 

She changes tactics.  “You are stressed?  Or depressed?  Migraines are often related to stress or depression.”  She eyes me sharply, looking for a chink in my armor. 

I am not depressed in the slightest, and I am not going to falsely admit to such a thing, no matter how hot the interrogation gets.  I am feeling a little stressed, though, about whether I am going to get out of this visit free of blood pressure and antidepressant pills.

I finally manage to squeeze out of her the refill I need for the $30.00-a-pop last ditch migraine-stopping pills.  I have been victorious in avoiding the daily dose treatment. 

As I leave the office, the light dawns about why the big pill-push: she probably owns stock in several pharmaceutical companies and wants to boost their business.  Maybe it would be better for all concerned if she invested in Head On.

Doctor Visit

A few days ago I dutifully visited the doctor’s office for the yearly physical.  I had as much fun there as you have when you go.  There was the usual extended stay in the waiting room – long enough this time to grow cobwebs on the end of my nose if I hadn’t purposely shifted around a little here and there expressly to avoid them. 

The medical assistant eventually called me back to the examining room.  I had met this person once before.  At that time, she was throwing around some vulgar language.  “She sounds like a mill worker!” danced through my shocked cranium.  Moments later, she began to share her recent history. 

“You ever been in here before?  Don’t think I seen you ever.  I used ta work at [a local paper mill], but they laid off, so I went back ta school, and I been here for ’bout nine months now.  The pay ain’t as good, but whatcha gonna do?”  (I have left out the expletives for the sake of your innocent eyes.)

We discussed the reason for the visit, and I was relieved that she knew and used the correct body part terminologies. 

On this second occasion, she was the soul of apologies for the long delay.  I tried to soothe her.  “Well, I understand.  It’s late in the afternoon, and I know things gradually get behind during the day.” 

“We weren’t behind until a few minutes ago.  We were right on schedule, and then I dunno what happened!” 

I made the mistake of telling her about a doctor’s visit from my past.  I had been left in an examining room in the “everything-off” state for forty-five minutes, and had begun to look for a “press button in case of emergency” apparatus.  The doctor arrived before I had found the button or had restored myself to my preferred public appearance.  He profusely apologized, explaining that the previous patient had needed more attention than anticipated. 

“Ohhh!  Dr. ___________  did that yesterday!  She had a guy waiting for her in the examining room for an HOUR!  And she was just sittin’ in her office doin’ I-don’t-know what.  Probably nuthin’.  I finally knocked on her door and said, ‘That guy’s been sittin’ in there for an hour!  Get your [posterior] in there!'” 

My eyes got wide.  “You said that?  To the doctor?”  She nodded, a satisfied smirk on her lips.  “What did she do?”

“She just looked surprised and smiled.  But she quit foolin’ around and got herself in there!” 

I pondered during my examining room wait why this woman still works for the clinic, and came up with the probable reason: the doctors are all afraid of her.  If anyone ever tried to fire her, she would no doubt tell them, “I dunno what yer problem is, but I ain’t leavin’.  If you wanna go, you can just all clear yerselves outta here, but it ain’t gonna be me that goes.  I got work ta do.” 

Or perhaps the outlandish behavior she continually surprises them with is valuable as a source of entertainment in their otherwise humdrum routine of poking other folks’ anatomy.  It’s possible she retains good rapport with the union boss at her former mill job, and that boss is intimately acquainted with Mafia people who have a thing against doctors.

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