Pill Rolling for Fun and Profit

My thumb continues to heal. That’s the good news. I also learned several things about myself during my recent hospital stay. Most of them were good.

I have a blood oxygen content of 97; that’s very good. I know the figure by heart because they measured it four times.

My lungs? They’re good. The x-rays came back completely clean.

The ER gave me my first electrocardiogram ever. I passed; electrically, my heart’s a genius.

Mechanically, though, it’s acquired a ding. “I’m picking up a swishing sound every few beats,” said the old doctor with the stethoscope. “Means you’ve got a leaky valve.

“T’ain’t no big thing. Arnold (Schwarzenegger) got his fixed, but that was ’cause he wanted to train with heavy weights for some movie.”

But I like to train with heavy weights, too, so it is a big thing. And in truth really hard workouts have grown tougher lately; I have no energy for an hour afterwards. But are better workouts worth an operation? Don’t think so; I may drift toward the lighter end of the dumbbell rack.

I also learned that I am unusual, a sport, a prodigy, a mooncalf. At least in the hospital’s eyes.

“What medications do you take?” asked the ER nurse. As later in my hospital room, did the charge nurse, a roving pharmacist, and a clerk filling out forms on a computer built into a wheeled cart.

“None,” I answered.

“None at all?” each repeated. Four times I shook my head.

I asked the pharmacist, “So is it unusual for a 57-year-old man not to be taking prescription medications?”

“It’s very rare,” she said.

But it’s not rare; people without insurance often don’t get prescription meds. What she meant is that people with the wherewithal to go to the hospital, of a certain age, are almost always taking prescription medications.

But is that because they need them? Or because the system thrusts drugs upon them?

For two years a young primary care doctor at CorpoHealth Clinix has pushed blood pressure medication at me. MY BP has measured in at around 140/80 for 20 years. That used to be called ‘high normal,’ and not treated. Now it’s called Stage 1 Hypertension, and they want to give you drugs. Not because you need them badly right now, but so that you’ll already be on the drugs later, when you really need them.

Honestly, that’s the logic. I looked it up. Not everybody uses that standard. But when you’re paid by the treatment, you treat as quickly as possible; in a 15-minute appointment, it’s quicker to throw a pill at someone than to have a deep discussion on lifestyle changes. And then the patient has yet another pill to take for the rest of his life.

And that’s why the hospital rarely sees patients who don’t take prescription medicine.

CorpoHealth lays down the treatment recommendations, and my primary physicians follows them. He’s not experienced enough to be cynical, or good enough to listen very well. I’ve lost 30 pounds in two years, and my measured blood pressure has dropped slowly. But Doctor Young still kept pushing the pills.

Finally I told Doctor Young, as he was checking the thumb that would send me to emergency two days later, “My blood pressure actually goes up when I get it taken. I can feel it.” It’s true; it’s always been true. I’ve never been sure how much it skews the measurements, though.

Doctor Young actually listened for about five seconds and gave me a blood pressure log to fill out at home over several days. I guess I’ll have to, for cred against a medical community that wants to treat me more than it wants to cure me.

Two days later I was back to see Doctor Young with the grotesquely pus-filled thumb that would cause him to dispatch me to the ER. I had other things on my mind while the medical assistant took my blood pressure; so I did not think about the test.

“Wow, 116 over 70,” she said happily. “Your blood pressure just keeps getting lower and lower!”

They can all trundle their pillboxes away and come back to me when they actually start practicing medicine again.

6 thoughts on “Pill Rolling for Fun and Profit


    I and a lot of people miss your comments @ CR, but I understand the issues. I’m only a year older than you but I’m in the same situation as you with your Primary Care Physician (PCP). In March, my triglycerides came in @ 447 where the normal range is less than 150. He prescribed a 20 mg dose of generic Lipitor and a 5mg dose of generic Norvasc. I decided to go on a organic(not USDA Organic, ugh) fish, chicken and vegetable diet five days a week and eat organic grass fed beef on the other two days. I broke out my food scale and did limited portion control. Four months later, my triglycerides came down to 135 and my BP leveled out at 125/85. I have an appointment next week with my PCP and I want to quit the Lipitor and the Norvasc. I believe the diet change was the key and the Lipitor can cause diabetes. I just have to make my case. I’m glad your thumb is getting better and I look forward to reading new blogs in the future.

  2. admin Post author

    Steelhead, the first doctor ever to read me for high-ish blood pressure was a switch-hitting MD/homeopath. He read me in at 142 (this was 25 years ago) and said, “Let’s try a little meditation, right now.” He walked me through five minutes of it, and got me down to 135. Told me if I meditated regularly, I’d be in the 120’s in no time. I said, no way. So he recommended that I buy a recliner and sit in it 20 minutes a day doing nothing; next best thing. I tried it for awhile; then I left town and got too busy to do nothing. My loss; now I try to meditate 20 minutes every day.

    And I’ve never met another one like him since; he’d prescribe drugs, but he’d always give you a choice, and explain it. That’s the kind of doctor we all need. I’m still trying to find one. Good luck making your case; it’s a scary world when you’ve got to find your own cures because your MD only thinks inside a really tiny box. If we didn’t have the Internet, we’d be @$@#ed.

    I miss a lot of you guys over at CR comments, and the old days (I mean hey, you bought one of my books ;-)); but the old days are gone.

  3. LK

    Yeah, my doctor tried to start me on the pill treadmill a couple of years ago. Told me the blood pressure medicine would cause a little tickle in my throat but that I’d get used to it. I felt like I was choking. Stopped that after a couple of weeks. When I saw the doc again, I told him I wanted to try diet and exercise before doing pills. His response, I kid you not, was “Okay, we’ll play that game.” Seemed a bit cynical. Anyway, I’ve been on a diet along with CC for the last few months and we’ve both lost weight and are feeling better over all. In my case, I’ve lost about 20 pounds. The diet is an ongoing one, not temporary. We plan to eat this way for the rest of our lives. I won’t go into detail, but it is doable and healthy and I’m so disgusted with my Kaiser doctor that I don’t plan to see him ever again. After your article tho, I’m wondering if it would make any difference to see a different doctor there. I kinda want to show them that good health doesn’t have to involve pills. At least, not automatically. Anyway, Boomer, keep fighting the good fight! Be well.

    1. admin Post author

      Thanks, LK. You, too.

      I was going to boast about how healthy we eat down here, and then Rhumba has go and have a craving tonight for pesto pasta 😉


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