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What’s Up, Doc


Hearing my name, filtered through the dark shadows of my subconscious, I followed the familiar female voice.


My focus went to the designated portal. Nancy stood in the doorway, a Centurion Guard on duty protecting the castle from intrusive invaders. With chart in hand and wearing whimsical Minnie Mouse scrubs, normally she looks perky, at the moment - not so much.

Standing up, I verbally spouted and raised my hand like a little kid during roll call. “Here,” and I gave my teacher a superfluous smirk.

Following the leader to the digital scale, which I call the monster, I fear the numeric disclosure. Being vertically challenged has its pitfalls. Maintaining a hundred and five-pounds is difficult. Every ounce resembles a fluffy pillow.

The nurse gave her command. “Step-up and I can get your weight.”

Feeling a bit mischievous, “Let’s not and say we did. Since Thanksgiving, I’ve been overeating. It’s going to be a downer.”

Being genial, she grinned. Me, I cringed, because today is fat day. If you’re a woman from thirteen to ninety, you know about fat day. Gently touching the hi-tech deviant device, hoping to ease off five-pounds of girth, it announced the winning number and it wasn’t too bad; not my targeted goal, but within six pounds.

The scale and mirror have not been my bueno amigos since I hit the big 4-0. Feeling quirky at forty, I celebrated by getting a tattoo. My religious friends were horrified. I call my fleshly pictures permanent art. The guy was quite good etching details.

Writing the three-digit number into my health diary, “Barbara, sorry you had to wait so long but doctor has been running late all day. He had an emergency this morning, and we’ve been playing catch-up. What brought you in?”

Walking into the examining room, “I need a refill for my blood pressure meds.”

“Doctor will write the script. Please, have a seat. Reviewing your chart, you missed your last appointment.”

“Actually, I called and cancelled it. Work has gotten crazy.”

“Are the interest rates still low?”

“Yes, but they may start to jump up.”

“My husband and I were thinking about refinancing. We’re not sure of the cost and if it makes sense to go through with it.”

“Nancy, do you plan to stay in the home for the next five years or will you be moving?”

“As of last week, we were going to relocate but Jacob has decided to stay with his company. With my oldest boy starting high school and looking at Appalachian State, I’m thinking we will be here at least eight more years. If we’re staying, I really want to remodel the kitchen.”

“Call me at the office and I can run preliminary numbers for you. With college expenses coming up, there could be more options to discuss other than interest rates. Remodeling the kitchen could increase your resale value in the future and make life easier for you, now.”

“Odd you should say that. Jacob was fretting about college tuition fees this morning. You’re right, we need to sit down and clearly think this out.”

“Nancy, I can put together several game plans to see which one works for you. In the next ten years, your life is going to revolve around dentists, cars, college, weddings, and planning for your retirement. Let’s look at different programs and options and see which one is doable and workable.”

“Barb, it’s overwhelming and we do need ideas. Our monthly income only goes so far. Let me get with Jacob and see when he can take time off from work. We need a sit-down meeting. Is there a charge to do this?”

“No, the consultation is free. Bring a list of your needs and wants. I can pull credit at the meeting and take a look at the big picture. When you call to set the appointment, I’ll give you the documents I’ll need to expedite your refinance.”

I kept quiet while she pumped up the cuff. Taking the medical equipment off my arm, her eyebrow elevated toward her hairline. “Barb, your blood pressure is very high. Have you been taking your meds?”

“Of course, like clockwork.”

“The doctor may check it, too. Are you experiencing dizziness, shortness of breath, numbness, or chest pain?” The woman’s face was dead serious.

“I was born dizzy. No, but I’m having weird dreams and once I wake-up, I can’t go back to sleep. I was hoping to get a sedative, not to use every night but when I have insomnia.”

“I’ll make a note in your file.”

The woman jotted down my concerns. Glancing toward me, “I will call your office tomorrow. Jacob and I need to stop procrastinating. I’d like to go on a cruise.”

“Where do you want to go?”

“This sounds stupid. Most people want beaches but I’ve been there and done that. I would like to see Alaska.”

“Well, I’ll fit that cruise into your options.”

“Great and Merry Christmas. I’ve got to go, I’m late.”

Nancy turned and practically bumped into her boss who was opening the door. Handing him my medical record, “Doctor, I’ve got to run. Paul is in a play at church. We talked about this at lunch.”

The middle-aged man nodded. “Yes, we did. Jeannie has agreed to stay. Go and enjoy your son’s Christmas play. He’ll make a great Herod.”

The skinny man beamed while the silver-framed glasses sat catawampus on his nose. He pushed the metal up to the bridge but as soon as he put his head down, the frame slid back to its natural position.

Eyeballing his nurse’s updates, “Barbara, I don’t like your blood pressure. This is not good. Let’s put you on another drug and see if that corrects this dangerous situation. You’re on the starter pills.” Looking over his bifocals, “I know you’re a stickler about drugs. Are you okay with that?” He sat on the rolling stool.

“The BP is that bad?”

“Yes, and I would like you to start on a salt-free diet for a month. I know it’s the holidays but this is a real concern. And, you must come back in a week. I want to check your pressure, again. I trust Nancy, but I want to see how the new meds work.” The man’s eyes went back to the lines and his thumb flipped through the pages of my life.

“I think we need to do a stress test.”

Our eyes locked in place. His lenses were still cockeyed.

“You’re the doctor.”

“Other than that, your weight is good. I’m sure Nancy asked this, but are you having any dizziness, chest pain, shortness of breath or numbness?”

“No, actually I feel great.”

 “That’s why heart disease is called the silent killer. You don’t know you have it, until it’s too late. Let’s be proactive and do the testing.”

“I agree; go ahead and schedule it.”

“Good, I’ll make the appointment. Louise will call you with the date and time.”

Pulling a pad from the white-lab coat pocket, he scribbled out an apothecary order. Scanning his nurse’s written commentary, his voice questioned.

“Nancy wrote on your chart that you’re also having trouble sleeping. Is that right? Is there a pattern or is it occasional?”

“No, it’s been every night for almost a month.”

“What kind of dream is it?”

“Doctor, it’s hard to say. I’m in this big building with one door.”

“Do you feel like you can’t get out?”

“Sort of; I’m too afraid to open the door.”

My primary care physician cerebrated through the thick glass sitting on the flare of his nostrils and interrogated. “What are you drinking before you go to bed?”

Thinking to myself, well Doc, a liter of Jack because I’m about to lose my job. Do they sell Jack by the liter? I guess I shouldn’t be complaining, but my dream is driving me nuts.

“Usually, I have Irish tea before bedtime.”

“Barbara, that’s your problem; no more tea at bedtime unless it’s decaffeinated.”

“I don’t like the unleaded kind.”

“If you want peaceful dreams, eliminate the caffeine after dinner. I’ll give you a prescription for a mild sleeping pill but if you start using this more than twice a week, I may suggest counseling to find out what is making you fearful. Anxiety could escalate into panic attacks. First let’s try the no caffeine, and you do know caffeine is not good for your blood pressure. You drink Irish tea?”

“Yes, it’s very soothing, relaxing.”

“I recommend Earl Grey or Bigelow decaf. You’ll get use to it, I did. I also suggest four-ounces of red wine after dinner, but not with the sleeping pill medication. Sedatives and alcohol don’t mix. It’s a deadly combination and, no more than four-ounces of red wine. I don’t want your weight hitting the one-sixty range, again.”

Closing my medical history, “Is there anything else I should know about?”

“Interest rates are still low. Doctor, I’d get you the best rate.”

Grinning and nodding, again, “Yes, I’ve been watching Wall Street. Barbara, we put our house on the market a month ago and when it sells, I’ll come to you if we purchase something here in North Carolina. I may take early retirement and move to sunny Florida.”

Handing me two note-sized papers, “Here are your prescriptions. I will need to see you back in a week. Please, call the office if you have dizziness, numbness, shortness of breath or chest pain. If it’s really bad, call an ambulance.

“Plus, I want you to monitor your blood pressure morning and evening. Make a journal and bring it with you when you come back. If your BP goes higher, call the office. I will want to see you, immediately. Do you have a pressure cuff?”

“I do.”

“Good. Use it, because you need monitoring. If it were a couple of points higher, I’d put you in the hospital. Insurance would frown if I sent you to Hickory General with your systolic and diastolic readings. They’re not elevated enough for you to be placed under observation. But, knowing your family history of heart attacks, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. It’s in your genes.

“Cut out the salt and caffeine as much as possible. Don’t worry; we’ll get this under control. I’m going to have Louise put a rush on your stress test. Merry Christmas, and I’ll see you in a week. Call the office if your pressure goes higher.”

The man left the room, and saluted his last patient hearing his boisterous salutation through the adjoining paper-thin wall. Leaving the doctor’s office, I went to church. Father Joe is presenting the Book of Job. With all my problems, it might be a good idea to find out how Job dealt with his woes before my drama-fest turns into a pity-party. My crosses are getting very heavy. I need to look-up not down.


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