Opinion: Rewriting (medical) history

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Whenever I visit my doctor’s office, I have to fill out paperwork. But now, with Obamacare and the pandemic, things have gotten complicated. The staff starts by confirming that my insurance hasn’t changed, which I think is just medical jargon for, “Has your coverage been dropped?” Before my last appointment, I had to write down all of my medications and about any side effects I might be experiencing. I never have any side effects, but I usually list headaches, nausea, vomiting, hallucinations, decreased libido and heightened impulsivity. That way they’ll think I’m really taking all my pills.

Here is another question I had to answer: What is your nickname? I’d never been asked that before and I really don’t have a nickname, but they hate it when you leave a blank space, so I wrote down “Sparky.” I knew if somehow that ended up on my vial of blood, it would cause a lot of chatter at the lipid lab.

My alcohol consumption also was something they wanted to keep track of. How many cans of beer, how many glasses of wine do I consume in a week? I asked my wife to see if she had any idea. “I buy you a case of beer a week,” she said.

“Wait a second, I don’t drink that much beer.”

“Oh, you mean actually ‘drink’ it? You didn’t say that. I’d say you ingest five beers a week. The rest of the cans I find all over the house, either knocked over by the cat, or warm and three-quarters full on top of bills in your office.”

There were questions about my family medical history, requesting info on deceased relatives and their cause of death, including all four of my grandparents. My maternal grandmother died suddenly at 94, the result of large whiskey sours before breakfast and two packs of Camels a day. This should be a lesson to you. I’m just not sure what the lesson is.

The next line inquired about the deaths of my aunts and uncles. We were never a close-knit family, but I thought my brother who still lives in New York might remember some of the details.

“Hello, Peter, it’s Dick.”

“Dick who?”

“Very funny. I have a question about Uncle Sid’s death.”

“Oh, how sad. I’m sorry to hear that. When did he die?”

“Nineteen-eighty-five.”

This wasn’t getting me anywhere, so I simply scribbled in something to fill up the space — a cause of death that wouldn’t raise any red flags. No one ever looked at those answers, anyway. But apparently, I’m now quite the topic of conversation in the medical records department. I was told that of all the patients in this internal medicine practice, I’m the only one whose aunts and uncles were all run over by a bus.


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