Soul Sisters

“Her credentials are stellar and she’s super smart! She’s volunteered in hospice for years, which is rough stuff and at other facilities for the downtrodden. She is gentle but also tough! Her stepdaughter went to school with our cousin’s granddaughter so she is like family to us.” 

That makes you family? That’s a stretch, I was thinking. This guy is lucky I didn’t yet know I share a birthday with Dr. Christy. I would have been all over him about who is family.

“That’s wonderful,” I said trying not to be rude but nevertheless multitasking half listening to him while trying to get forms filled out the receptionist had given me, “yeah, I think she’s pretty amazing, too.”

“Well, that’s not all!” the old portly guy with a cane, swollen ankles and skin issues went on. “The first time I ever met her she put her stethoscope to my heart and went around once, went around twice but didn’t stop there which is normal operating procedure! I should know; I’ve had my share of heart issues! Twice around is when they stop!” I was still trying to get that damn paperwork done. “She went around a third time and by the fourth time around she was dialing a cardiologist and three days later I was in open heart surgery! That lady doc saved my life the first day I met her!!”

As I was just about to say he didn’t need to have the word lady in front of the word doc, Dr. Christy’s PA came out and said loudly, “Thompson!” The man’s wife jumped up while he started rocking in an attempt to achieve some momentum to hopefully get up off the couch.

Confused, I Iooked at the woman and said, “Is your name Thompson?”

“Tomlin,” she said.

I have noticed over the years that physician’s assistants are generally all business and take their jobs very seriously and Angel is no exception and she didn’t even bother addressing the confusion which she clearly noticed. “THOMPSON!!” is all she said, just louder this time and there were only three of us in the room. It made me chuckle.

I stood up. “Sorry,” I said to Tomlin, “I’ll be fast, I just need her to check a couple things.” I really wasn’t sorry and I didn’t intend on rushing the good doctor or myself. I was relieved to be away from that man so when Angel was done with the dreaded clothes-on weigh-in (NEVER wear boots!!) and my white coat syndrome blood pressure reading which is always traumatizing, I might be alone for a few minutes to finish that stupid paperwork.

I did finish it and in addition to the glamorous photo of Dr. Christy on her wedding day, (the only day in her life she ever wore make-up), I noticed a first place prize plaque she and her husband won in a sailing contest. Wow, I thought, not only is she a doctor, she’s a sailor who wins first prizes in contests, with her husband no less!! I cannot partner with my husband in anything competitive. It’s a complete disaster. I will play mixed doubles but he must be partnered with the wife of the other couple and I must be partnered with her husband.

Then I heard the file being taken out of that file holder thing on the outside of doctors examining rooms. Now, normally when you hear this sound you know you have 3 to 4 more minutes to un-sterilize tongue sticks and see what’s in all those drawers because most doctors do not review a patient’s chart until the 3 or 4 minutes before they enter the examination room. Dr. Christy on the other hand, reviews the charts of the people she is going to see that day in the morning. What a concept! So with her, I have to have my hands off those sticks and the drawers closed as soon as I hear the sound.

“Hello!” she said brightly as she entered the room before we even made eye contact.

“Hi!” I said, and we hugged a comfortable, real hug. “Your ears must be ringing,” I said, “that man out there is singing your praises!”

“Oh yeah,” she laughed, “he’s a geek that way.”

We sat down and that’s when I do the emoting and she does the typing, question asking and laughing. We have so much fun together. I got it all out and she asked me to sit on the examination table so she could check a few things. She walked over to me and I was jealous that she looked so thin, and I’m not fat. Jealously at my age of 56 when you are at least a partially evolved human being is nothing like jealous at 13, 27 or 36. At this age you are sincerely happy that your friend or doctor/friend is looking great, you just wish you looked as great. And you might; we are our own worst critics. Maybe the word isn’t even jealous.

As she approached to take my reflexes with that little stick with a rubber pointy thing that reminds me of a primitive tool, I brushed my hand on her stomach and I said, “God, you are so skinny!”

“Really?” She sort of squeaked, “no!”

“Yeah,” I said, “your stomach is so flat!”

“No it’s not! It’s these pants. They are too big for me so they make me look skinny.” She pulled the waistband of the pants to show me how big they were. “And, these scrunchy tops hide a multitude of sins.” She must have been getting what she wanted with the tomahawk because she gently smiled as my feet popped involuntarily toward her.

“Okay,” she said, “I’m going to give you a topical ointment for that little thing on your skin but that’s it. I’ll go get it for you now.” I followed her out of the room.

“No,” she said, “stay here, go back in there,” and she pointed to the exam room. She tries to avoid crowds at the PA’s desk because there are two other doctors and their PA’s in her offices. I saluted and dutifully returned to the exam room.

A minute of two later she burst into the room and excitedly exclaimed, “Now I know why I like you so much! We are soul sisters! I just saw your birthdate and we have the same birthday!!” She held her arms wide and we fell into a hug.

“That is so awesome,” I said, “we are both Scorpios and do you know how I found you?” She shook her head. I rolled my eyes around, held a finger in the air and twirled it around and then slammed my finger onto a framed photo on her wall to indicate how random it was.

“Don’t break my picture.” she said with a giggle.

“God, I can’t believe you and your husband won first place in the sailing contest,” I said.

“Yes,” she smiled proudly, “d’ya’ll sail?”

“No,” I said, “and we don’t say “ya’ll” either.”

“I do both!” she exclaimed.

We parted with a “love you”, “love you, too” and I headed down the hall at my normal determined pace to tackle the rest of my day.

“Andrea?” Dr. Christy called.

“Yeah?” I said.

“You are going the wrong way! The exit is this way.”

I did a 180 and I passed her as she took a chart off the wall of a door, made eye contact with me and said quietly, “Okay, in with Thomlin now.” I put my hand on her shoulder. “Good luck!” I whispered and then exited out the correct exit. ___________________________________________________________ *Reminder: My posts are based on true stories.  A few facts might not be completely accurate either because I couldn’t remember or I liked it better a slightly different way.  Names in most of my posts have been changed to protect the innocent.


New Years Eve Surgery in Texas

Dallas, like Scottsdale, has a very competitive healthcare industry. I’m not sure if it’s because there are a lot of sick people, a lot of old people, or a lot of people who are hypochondriacs. The industrial landscape is peppered with numerous hospitals, free-standing emergency rooms, urgent care facilities and wellness centers. Advertisements grace the expressway billboards promising everything from new eyesight, 100 pound weight loss, digestive relief after all these years, recovery from breast cancer, a new you by taking testosterone, and more. They kind-a downplay the Ebola thing around here. Word on the street is they didn’t handle it all that well but finally figured it out when it was too late. I think there should be billboards that say Wait!! Sorry about that last thing! We get it now! Give Dallas another chance! Bring your Ebola to us!!”

In the days leading up to surgery, everything in my mind was categorized as before surgery and after surgery. Like a flight across the ocean, I’m never convinced there really will be an after an oceanic flight. But, each day I would find myself surrendering a little more to that mini break from life and complete loss of control, which is general anesthesia.

On the morning of my surgery I felt resigned and task oriented. I also felt hydrated because I drank almost 90 ounces of water the day before so I would not have the dreadfulness of being thirsty on a morning I could drink nothing. I put on full make-up and fixed my hair. Some sense of control I suppose. As we entered the hospital at 8:00 am on New Year’s Eve, it was very quiet. Four “concierges” with little to do huddled around an entry desk chatting. They looked at my husband and me and one lovely woman said, “Good morning! How can we help you?”

“My name is Andrea Thompson and I’m here to celebrate the New Year by having umbilical hernia surgery!” I exclaimed.

They all burst into laughter and one adorable man high fived me. I loved seeing his black hand meet my white one. “That’s the best thing I’ve ever heard at this desk!” His eyes twinkled.

I quickly found out I was the one and only person having surgery at the hospital that day so the ratio of service providers to patient was about 15 to 1. The first was a very young woman with jet black hair underneath, magenta hair on top. It’s hard for me to imagine why anyone thinks that’s attractive. She told me she was going to take my vitals.

Now, this was a problem because I have White Coat Syndrome. It’s not because I’m scared of doctors, it’s because I’m scared of what they might tell me about my health. However, it’s now evolved to I’m scared someone is going to say I’m going to take your blood pressure. My blood pressure elevates because I’m scared my blood pressure is going to elevate. When I go see Dr. Christy, I take my own blood pressure at home for 5 days in a row and document it for her and it’s always fine.

“Yes, it’s elevated,” the gal deadpanned and didn’t even blink, “177/98.”

“WHAT?” I nearly shrieked, “It’s never been that high even in the presence of the whitest of coats!! Will I be having a stroke here soon?”

“Let’s try the other arm,” she said casually as I was sweating over the fact that I knew no surgeon would proceed with a procedure with blood pressure that high. “126/81,” she said under her breath, “we’re good.”

“What?” I said, “how did it plummet in 10 seconds?!”

“You probably relaxed,” she said as she put the BP equipment away.

“Relaxed?” I exclaimed, “after being told my blood pressure was 177/98?”

She had no idea what to say to me so she motioned me to get on the scale. God, I thought, with the way things are going here I’ll probably weigh 260 pounds! No wonder I have a hernia! I did not weigh 260, I weighed my normal, acceptable, BMI happy weight of (X + 10). The 10 is my opinion no matter what BMI says.

Next, a clumsy woman attempted several times without success to insert my IV. Suffice it to say it took several stabs in several parts of my arm and hand to finally get it right and I have the bruises to prove it.

After several gadgets, devices, liquids and soft goods were adhered to, hung on or injected into my body by several of these 15 people, I met my surgery nurse. Augustine was tall and buff with a curly head of black hair and had a little trouble with eye contact. Based on his slight accent I guessed he was Jamaican. His demeanor was staid and serious and he did not smile once as he explained my procedure and answered my questions. He was clearly thorough, knowledgeable and competent and I had complete confidence in him. I asked him to keep and eye on the flow to my IV and explained the trouble the gal had getting it in. He promised he would.

I rested a minute and in lumbered my anesthesiologist. I can’t remember her name but she was plump, earthy and clearly marched to the beat of her very own drummer. She had a bohemian looking scarf on that covered her entire head and hair; and she had hair so it wasn’t a chemo deal. Maybe she chose this over a hair net in surgery? Her dangling earrings sparkled in the bright lights. She was a talker and was telling me things about anesthesiology I really didn’t need to know. It reminded me of when a refrigerator repair man comes and wants to teach me how a refrigerator works. I don’t care! Just fix the damn thing, man, and move on. Anyway, her comments were dry and unedited and I like that kind of person as long as there is no anger or hostility behind it and with her there wasn’t.

“No lifting, pushing or pulling for two weeks after surgery,” she said, “so that means Steve will be doing the vacuuming, mopping and laundry.” She got his attention and he looked up from his device and we all laughed.

Suddenly the energetic, confident and ready to roll Dr. Komen bounded in the room. “Ready for your surgery?” she asked excitedly.

“Yes, I am.” I said. “And, it’s good to see you, Dr. Komen.” I’d only met her a week before and I love when surgeons are so cheerful and positive. That attitude might affect outcomes.

“Dr. Komen,” I whispered so just she and Steve could hear, “I’m loving this! Both doctors are women and the nurse is a man!”

“Yes,” she said smiling, “It’s fun….there IS still a stigma about that, isn’t there?”

She talked about what was going to happen during surgery, after surgery and during recovery. She gave me some verbal instructions about what to do and not do when I got home. Steve was listening.

“It’s a good idea to get up and walk around the first couple days after surgery,” she said. “Wear some Shapewear or Spanx for the first week or so when you are up and about.”

“Do you have any of that stuff?” Steve blurted out. He’s a quiet guy and that was the first time I heard him talk in an hour.

“Are you kidding me?” I asked astonished as I turned my head and looked at Steve, “I probably have 10 pairs of Spanx!”

At that, the staid and serious Augustine slumped over, dropped his head and laughed hysterically. Steve looked sheepish. Dr. Komen didn’t even break a grin, she just kinda stared at me; surely she owns 10 pairs of Spanx, too and didn’t understand what the hoopla was about. Augustine was still laughing.

A sedative was dripping into my IV and I was becoming very relaxed. Steve kissed me hard. The bed started to roll with Augustine, still smiling, in the lead. Someone was steering from behind but I didn’t know who and it didn’t matter. I was in good hands. We entered the bright, white operating room and the people there greeted me quietly. I smiled at them through bleary eyes. Then the mask came over my nose and mouth.

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Alternative New Year’s Eve Festivites

Okay, what I’ve learned is that the abdominal wall right near the belly button is fragile tissue because the umbilical cord was there. So umbilical hernias are not that rare. They are usually caused by one of three things:

  1. Many pregnancies, not me, never had a kid.
  1. Overweight, I wish I was 10 pounds thinner but I am not overweight. The good Dr. Christy even called me skinny the last time I saw her. It’s no wonder I like her so much. It’s probably because she is so used to looking at fat people that I look skinny to her. In my opinion, I’d be skinny if I were 10 pounds thinner.
  1. Coughing, that would be me. When I first moved to the dreaded Dallas I had allergies so bad and was coughing so intensely all day every day that I thought I had lung cancer. I was coughing until I either sneezed or almost threw up. (TMI, I know.) I finally googled “internist Dallas,” closed my eyes and picked one and by an incredible stroke of luck, or divine intervention I ended up in Dr. Christy’s office. So anyway, one of my gifts from Texas is Dr. Christy and another one is a hernia. Jus’ sayin’.

Dr. Christy was able to simply push my hernia back in for a while. The last time I saw her however, she couldn’t do it so she referred me to a surgeon and I’ll be ringing in the New Year with surgery on New Years Eve! I hope each and every one of you has something just as fun and festive to do to ring in yours! I’ll be recovering from anesthesia and drinking chicken broth while all you guys are drinking expensive champagne, swinging from the chandeliers and kissing each other.

On Monday I got the call from the admissions person at the hospital for the typical pre-surgery health and lifestyle interview. She started by quizzing me to be sure I wasn’t a complete idiot.

“Do you know why you are having surgery on Wednesday?” Peggy asked.

“Yes,” I said, “I have an umbilical hernia that the surgeon and my PCP Dr. Christy thought should be repaired,” I said.

“Do you know what your surgeon’s name is?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said, “Dr. Komen.”

“Do you remember what time they asked you to stop eating foods and beverages the day before your surgery?” she asked.

“Yes, midnight.” I said.

“Who will be driving you here on the day of your surgery”?

“My beautiful husband,” I said.

“What time is your surgery?” she asked.

“10:00 am.” I said.

“What time do you need to be here?” she asked.

“8:00 am.” I said confidently. I was kicking butt on my interview!

After determining that I had at least a couple of operative brain cells, she went on to the more complex questions.

“Do you live in a house, a condo, an apartment or a trailer?” she asked cheerfully as if each of these were an equally delightful situation. Why do they need to know that? I thought.

“Who else lives with you in the house other than your beautiful husband?” she laughed.

I laughed too, “beautiful doggies,” I said.

After she did all the family medical history stuff, who’s dead and who’s alive, what kind of shape everyone is in, the surgeries I’ve had, whether I smoked, drank, took illegal drugs (who would say yes to that!?), she moved on to more esoteric stuff.

“Do you like to ingest information from written material and figure it out by yourself OR do you prefer someone explain it to you and walk you through it OR both?” she asked.

“Probably both,” I said, “but what a weird question.”

“I know,” she said, “but we have patients who can’t read and they don’t want to admit it which is understandable.” I loved her for her sensitivity. “This question is a great way to let them off the hook so they don’t go home with instructions they can’t read but rather with a visual and explanation they can adhere to.”

“That makes perfect sense.” I said.

“Okay,” she said, “last question. Do you and your beautiful husband know where the hospital is?”

“Uh, yeah….” I said.

I’m nervous about two things; going under anesthesia and not drinking water for so many hours. Going under has always made me a little nervous. I’m envious because my sister Lisa and my friend Michelle love going under! They see it as a mini escape from life!

I snuck some water in tiny amounts the morning of my hip surgery and I planned on doing that again. I am a rebel and I think some rules like that are for the convenience of whoever made the rule and really have nothing to do with me. But my husband told me today if you are under anesthesia and 1 teaspoon of water gets in your lungs, you could drown. Sounds a little dramatic to me and I’m not sure I buy it but it was kind-a motivating and my husband does not make stuff up.

Today is Tuesday and I think I’ll stay up until midnight drinking water.

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The Good Doctor (Part II)

“How are you?” Dr. Christy said as she entered the examination room. I could tell she was happy to see me. I was happy to see her, too.

“Good!” I said, “well maybe….”

“Well yeah, there’s a reason you’re here,” she laughed. (Of course she laughed. See an earlier post called The Good Doctor.)

“Right,” I said, “so it couldn’t be all good.”

“So what’s going on, Andrea?”

“Well, I’ve been nauseous for about two weeks. If I weren’t 56 years old, I’d swear I was pregnant. I’m concerned that it might have something to do with that umbilical hernia you diagnosed that we decided not to treat just yet so I thought I better come see you.”

“Hmmmm,” she murmured. She was thinking and typing. She types everything I say into her laptop computer, which I love because I know it means she’s keeping good records on me. “Do you have any cramping?”

“Nope,” I said, “just nausea.”

“Yeah,” she said, “the hernia would cause cramping, not nausea. And I was reading your chart this morning before you came in and the one prescription drug you take and the OTC drugs you are on for allergies would not cause nausea.”

“What?” I blurted out.

“What?” she looked surprised.

“You read my chart this morning?!”  I was shocked. “Oh my gosh, Dr. Christy, thank-you!!

“For what?” she looked bewildered. “What are you thanking me for?”

She has not invited me to use her first name and when I really respect a doctor (which is kinda rare,) I like to call them Dr. so and so out of respect until I get that invitation. And I don’t care so much whether I get the invitation or not. Medical school is a huge commitment and a lot of work and they deserve to be called Dr. if that’s what they want. However after this question, I spontaneously blurted her first name.

“Melody!” I said, “do you know how many doctors I’ve had over the years who make it completely obvious when they walk in the room that not only have they not read my chart, they don’t remember who I am, anything about me or what my medical history is? I’ve known for years that when I hear the doctor on the other side of the closed door take my chart off that little chart holder attached to the door that it’s the first time they’ve so much as glanced at it in months. And because 30 seconds after I hear the chart holder noise, the little knock/come in the room thing happens so how much could they have really read!?” I ranted.

“Then,” I raved on, “I have to spend the next 20 minutes accommodating them while they fumble around verbally trying to recall who the heck I am and what my deal is. Oh, right, they might finally say, you’re the one with the umbilical hernia. It’s an OUTRAGE, so yes, thank you for reading my chart this morning, Dr. Christy!”

Dr. Christy is incredibly unpretentious and she just laughed.

“Do you take pain relievers like Aleve or Ibuprofen or anything?” she was getting back to the nausea thing.

“No, I don’t take that stuff, just plain old aspirin. And I don’t take it often but I have been having a little trouble with my low back and have been taking it for the past 2 weeks or so.”

“Yeah,” she said, “that’s probably what’s causing the nausea.” She went on to explain how aspirin might aggravate another little situation I have going on and she told me to quit taking it until the nausea subsided. “Lay back” she then said, “let’s check that hernia and push it back in.” I lay back, pulled up my shirt so she could get to my belly button and she started pushing and prodding.

“Why are you fighting me?” she said smiling, “relax your stomach muscles for me.”

“Oh, sorry,” I said, “I’m trying to seem skinny.”

“You are skinny!” she smiled. I relaxed my stomach muscles.

“You know,” she said after a while, “I can’t push it back in this time, and it wasn’t so long ago that I could and that bugs me. I’m going to refer you to a surgeon and I think you should go talk to her about getting this fixed.

“So, you think I should have the surgery now?” I asked.

“Yes, I do,” she replied.

“Okay, but Doc, if I have to go under general anesthesia anyway, can we work it out so I can have a face lift at the same time?”

Dr. Christy laughed.


The Good Doctor

“You have an umbilical hernia,” my doctor said laughing, “and the weird thing is, so do I.” My doctor laughs at just about everything, which utterly delights me. The first time I saw her, shortly after we moved here just over a year ago I was a complete wreck.

“I hate Dallas,” I said back then, “there is nothing beautiful here and the weather is a joke.”
She laughed and typed on her laptop.
“I miss the nature and wildlife in Scottsdale so much I could cry!” I moaned.
She laughed and typed.
“I used to be a public speaker and had audiences of three hundred; now I can’t make it to the grocery store without a half of my dog’s Xanax.”
Laugh and type.
“I cough all day, every day and I have horrible anxiety because I’m sure I have lung cancer!”
Laugh and type.
“I used to write management training programs for corporations, now I can’t sort out a recipe!”
Laugh, type.
Her laughing didn’t put me off. It made me think she didn’t think anything was wrong. When I was finished emoting she diagnosed me with “severe allergies” which apparently is very common in Dallas, said I probably had PTSD (which was confirmed by a therapist several weeks later), sent me for a chest x-ray to calm my nerves about lung cancer, and gave me some OTC allergy drug recommendations.

“So, what do we do about the hernia? “I asked, “What did you do about yours?”
“Well let’s wait and see. I just push mine back in from time to time.” she said, “and I just pushed yours back in. Let me know right away if you experience any new pain and if you do, we’ll think about surgery. But for now just carry on and exercise as you normally do, abs and all. But before you go,” she went on, “how are your menopause symptoms these days?”

I’m fine,” I said, “but I’m on hormone replacement therapy and you’re not and the last time I saw you, you were having a very rough time, so I’m wondering how your menopause symptoms are.

“Well,” she laughed, “I was drinking way too much red wine and I think it was making my hot flashes worse, so I switched to Scotch and I’m feeling soooo much better.”

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