Running With Scissors

1 Conversation

Scissors Banner by Wotchit

Rx: Run for Your Life

Let me state right off the bat that I have a testy relationship with the medical establishment. I'm convinced they're trying to kill me. Accordingly, I refuse to set foot in a doctor's office unless I risk dying without his attention. I figure at that point he and whatever life-threatening injury or illness I have can fight it out between themselves for the privilege of doing me in.

I've felt this way most of my life. When I was a wee sprout, I had a tonsillectomy. We were living in a backwater where the architecture, the attitudes and the state of the medical arts were stuck somewhere in the 1950s. Before the surgery, my mother sat me down and explained carefully what would happen and what to expect. She also mentioned that the ether that they would use to put me to sleep may make me sick afterwards. (Ether?! What — no leeches?) Being a precocious pest, I asked her why they would use something that would make me throw up if they were cutting on my throat. She didn't have an answer for me. Great, thinks I to myself, I'm 4½ years old and I have a better handle on things than the grownups around me. This is not good.

My fears were later borne out when after the procedure I upchucked and haemorrhaged all over the bed, necessitating a frantic trip back to the hospital. My only consolation is that before the surgery I had howled down the surgical ward and bitten the anaesthesiologist before they'd managed to subdue me. Thus the opening salvo in a protracted war.

Well... I haven't bitten anyone in a long time, but I often find myself ready to scream when I'm confronted with somebody in a white coat. Case in point: recently I found myself in need of an MRI. First off, anyone looking at the machine can tell it was not designed with patient comfort in mind, as it resembles a coffin thoughtfully equipped with a jackhammer for the victi- — er — patient's listening pleasure. Fortunately I'm not horribly claustrophobic, so I'm able to tolerate close quarters without shrieking or chewing my way out. No, we hit our roadblock when the technician explained about the IV and the contrasting agent that is used to help different structures show up more clearly. I'm notorious among my friends and family for my oddball reactions to fairly innocuous drugs (for some reason I generally have no problem with things that end up getting taken off the market for safety reasons — go figure). So I mentioned in passing that of course there would be a doctor armed with epinephrine lurking nearby in case I had a bad reaction, right?

The cynics among you already know the answer. Of course there was no doctor around! Did that mean that the technician could shoot me up instead if need be? Of course she couldn't! She wasn't a doctor. She'd have to call 911 if there were any problems. I gave her 'the eye', and she hurriedly informed me that the drug was well tolerated and that the most she'd ever seen was a few patients getting hives, as if hives were no big deal.

So what we had here was a technician who is licensed shoot up people with potentially dangerous substances but who is forbidden to shoot them up with something that would save their lives if a problem arose. Worse, hives indicate an allergy and can be an early warning that someone is going to go into anaphylactic shock, which is a severe allergic reaction that shuts down a person's airways and kills him if he doesn't get attention pretty darned quick. And the patient is inside that lovely Jackhammer Deluxe, out of sight of the technician. What on earth are they thinking? I must have given her my patented 'Do I Look Stupid to You?' squint, because she rapidly decided that we would reschedule the test for a time when a doctor is around.

So this latest round went to me, and I live to fight another day.

What's worrisome is that I'm a well-informed layperson who's pretty vigilant about her health. What about all the people who aren't and instead go along with whatever somebody in a white lab coat tells them? Come to think of it, they probably sleep better at night than I do; ignorance truly can be bliss, at least until such time as your ignorance gets you dead.

In spite of this confrontational relationship, I actually find medicine pretty fascinating. I just prefer that somebody else be on the business end of all the activity. In my more desperate and disgusted moments, I even flirt with the idea of doing a pre-med degree, just so that I can keep a more-informed eye on what the white-coat brigade is trying to do to me. What I really want, though, is one of those Star Trek thingies that you can just press against your arm and it fixes everything.

In the meantime, bring on the leeches...

I never let the facts get in the way of a good tale. However, I must be honest and admit that I have met many medical personnel who are conscientious and competent. I'm sure they won't kill me, at least not on purpose.

Running With Scissors Archive


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