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.