All the Doctors

We had another medical appointment today–a follow-up with Mom’s primary care physician, whom I’ll call Dr. Striker. There was no particular reason to see him except to keep the appointment. As the person solely responsible for scheduling, providing transportation to, sitting in on, and managing all the information from all medical appointments for both my parents, I am beginning to wonder why we have to be such frequent fliers in all these places.

For Mom, in addition to Striker, we see Dr. Wolf, neurologist; Dr. King, urologist; Dr. East, gastroenterologist; Dr. Hawthorn, cardiologist; Dr. Hamilton, dentist; Dr. Randall, neurosurgeon; Dr. Odon, ophthamologist; Dr. Forrest, otolaryngologist; Dr. Lancaster, psychiatrist. I’m sure there are others I’ve forgotten. It just now occurs to me that I have no idea who her gynecologist is, or whether she should be seeing one. I have no plans to look into it.

Dad visits many of these same people, and additional eye doctors: Dr. Neuburger, glaucoma specialist, and Dr. Fenly, retina specialist. Did I mention he’s blind? Every time we see these people they say, essentially, “no, your vision is never coming back. Yes, that must be hard. See you next time!’

After a couple years in this role, I have finally smartened up. I now stretch out the intervals between non-issue “follow-up” visits to various doctors as widely as I can, and in the case of Hawthorn at least, I schedule Mom and Dad for the same time. Neither of them currently has any cardiac problems, but they both see Hawthorn every six months. That puts me in his office four times a year. We’re becoming friends. I recently noticed he stopped wearing a wedding ring and wondered what it would be like to know him in a different context.

It’s a bit much, frankly.

Anyway, there we were in Striker’s office. Mom’s lost quite a bit of weight–40 pounds in six months–which is excellent for many reasons, especially reducing back pain, but nobody can tell why it is happening. She’s proud to say she’s walking back and forth down the hall a lot. That’s great and all, but nobody loses almost two pounds a week from shuffling from kitchen to bathroom. A more likely explanation is that she’s not eating nearly as much as she used to. When we go out for lunch at her favorite restaurant, she always finishes her meal and gets dessert, so I can only imagine that she isn’t eating at home. Striker said the weight loss is good but he’d like to see her again in 4 months, because of course he would.

The major complaints today were the same as they’ve been for years: chronic cough, chronic shortness of breath. I don’t know what to make of the cough, and neither does anyone she talks to about it. It’s no mystery, though, why someone for whom a 30-foot walk constitutes “exercise” is chronically short of breath. Hawthorn, seeing no cardiac explanation, had ordered a CT scan of her lungs, which Striker reported revealed “mild” pulmonary fibrosis. He says “mild” means it wouldn’t probably account for the near-constant panting, but who knows.

We shall now pursue this mystery with a pulmonologist, because we hadn’t yet collected one of those.

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Humblebrag?

I was in a department store check-out line today, with the rest of New England, buying a present for Robin from my parents. There was general chit-chat about how everyone is getting through the holidays — a conversation I’d started by asking the woman behind the counter how she was holding up, and she just shaking her head.

The lady behind me got going on and on about how materialistic her daughter is. It’s all about what she’s getting, she said. She demands to know on a daily basis what items from her list have been purchased already. All she cares about is her presents. She’s addicted to shopping and all she wants in life is to buy things.

Even the young woman behind the counter was all like, “Lady, then you are not helping her by being here. You should get her NOTHING.”

And I did not ask this mother, “how have you managed to raise such a complete little shit?”

But I did say, “Wow. That seems to be a bullet we dodged, at our house.”

“Oh, then you have boys?” Nope.

“Oh, well then they’re not teenagers?” Actually yes.

“Oh. Well mine is just addicted to shopping. Wait till she finds out you have to pay rent and buy groceries too.” How old is she? “25.”

Lady, if my kid ever behaved like you’ve just admitted to a total stranger that yours does as a young adult, I would make a donation in her name to the International Rescue Committee, then write her a card expressing hope for her to become a better person and strongly suggesting that she never again give me a wish list of any kind, ever.

Merry Christmas.