• Albury: Let’s get physical
    May 05,2014

    When your car is running well, you don’t take it to the garage to have it

    looked over for fear that a mechanic will find some sort of unseen repair that needs to be made.I have been feeling good lately, and for the same reason have hesitated to schedule an annual physical exam.God forbid they should find I need a new belt. Or worse yet, that I have a gas leak. Despite these concerns, I decided, at the age of 54, to tempt fate and make an appointment to be sure I am in good health.

    When I arrived at the doctor’s office I was greeted by a receptionist, who said that before being examined I would need to answer a few questions about

    my insurance coverage. She asked about group numbers, ID numbers, telephone numbers, prime numbers, and Roman numbers. Then she got down to the hard stuff.

    Receptionist: Do you ever put your right foot in?

    Me: Yes.

    Receptionist: Do you ever put your right foot out?

    Me: Yes.

    Receptionist: Do you ever put your right foot in and shake it all about?

    Once I finished the insurance hokey pokey a nurse showed me into the examination room and asked that I take off my shoes so that she could weigh me.I cracked a few lame jokes about receiving combat pay for dealing with patients’ sweaty feet and observed how, if she worked at the fair, she could guess my weight. She gave me a look that said she had access to plenty of sharp medical instruments and wasn’t afraid to use them.

    When it was time to check my height, she had me stand against the wall with my heels to the baseboard.

    “Five-foot eleven,” she said matter-of-factly and wrote on her clipboard.

    “That’s a mistake,” I said.

    I worked for over five decades getting to six feet, I wasn’t about to let some doctor’s assistant “shrink” me.

    “Five eleven,” she repeated.

    “Let me try again.”

    “I’m sorry,” she responded. “Five foot, eleven inches tall.”

    “But I’m six foot tall,” I said with a slight trace of desperation in my voice. Maybe my feet weren’t close enough to the wall. Or my neck was slouching. I’m six feet tall.Really.You need to change that.”

    She looked at me like I asked her to intentionally lie on her tax return.

    “OK,” she said with the tone of a parent whose three-year old told her dragons lived in his closet. “I’ll just change it.” She proceeded to pretend to make a correction on her clipboard.“Six foot.”

    Next, the nurse put the cuff on my arm to take my blood pressure.

    “Well, that’s pretty low,” she said.

    “Is that bad?” I asked.

    “Well, it’s not good. Let me try something.What do you think about the Affordable Health Care Act?” she asked.

    My mind went to the 50 minutes I recently spent on the phone with Vermont Health Connect without any resolution, about the concept of a high deductible and co-pay, about coverage tiers, medical loss ratios, balanced billing, network providers. I could feel the blood in my temples starting to pound.

    “Let’s try that again,” she said as she pumped air into the cuff.

    “Much better.It’s a little high now, but should get back to normal shortly.”

    When the doctor came in, we exchanged niceties and then he looked at my chart. He checked my heart, looked in my ears and eyes and down my throat. And then he uttered words you never want to hear from a doctor.

    “Turn and cough.”

    “But I don’t have a cough,” I responded.The next thing I knew he directed his attention to a spot not usually associated with the common cold, and I coughed like I had tuberculosis.

    If this particular portion of the exam was awkward, the next part was downright disturbing. I won’t go into detail except to say it involved rubber gloves and checking a body part that rhymes with “bra state.” And trust me, this had nothing to do with women’s undergarments or where you live.

    When it was done I wasn’t sure if I had a clean bill of health or a date for Saturday night.

    Next, the doctor said that they needed to take some blood.

    I quickly looked at the degree on the wall to make sure he had an “MD” after his name and not the “ESQ” usually associated with bloodletting.

    The nurse approached with a needle.A few minutes later I regained consciousness, with the help of smelling salts, and learned that my cholesterol and blood sugar levels were fine.

    Today, I have peace of mind knowing that I am a healthy individual. Unfortunately, I think my car needs new struts.

    Mark S. Albury lives in Northfield Falls.

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