I’m pretty sure I have a broken arm.
Three weeks ago I slipped on wet tile in our laundry room, and the resulting fall was neither gentle nor graceful. I basically did an Atomic Elbow off the left turnbuckle, smashing my forearm on the floor and uttering a few choice words for the slobbering dog who dribbled the lethal water slick near his bowl. Initially my arm looked all jacked up, but eventually the bruises and abrasions went away. Now it just hurts. Is it still supposed to hurt three weeks later? I should probably get it looked at. But I’m not going to. Where health care is concerned, I’ve reached the conclusion that the best thing to do is nothing at all. If Blue Cross offered a plan called Rub Some Dirt on It, I’d sign up for that.
Now, don’t get me wrong: If you have a mishap with a nail gun and find yourself with a galvanized spike in your skull, get yourself to the hospital right quick. And if you’re a guy who just turned 50, make an appointment with Dr. Jellyfinger. But if you feel fine, don’t go looking for trouble, because you’ll probably find some. We’re all a little bit out of spec somehow. As the saying goes, if you shake the coconut tree, don’t be surprised when a monkey falls out and bites you. Was he rabid? Now you have something to test for.
A few months ago, I went in for a physical, my doctor’s annual shakedown so that I can get my Propecia refilled and sustain the fantasy that I’m not edging toward a look that I’d call “pale Pitbull.” They did a blood test, and of course something was off. “Your bilirubin is a little bit high,” she said. “I want you to come back in for more tests.” I asked why I should care if Billy Rubin is high, and she said it could mean I have Gilbert’s syndrome. I dropped to my knees and began to weep. No! No! Why me!? I’m too young for Gilbert’s syndrome! What is Gilbert’s syndrome?
She explained that Gilbert’s syndrome doesn’t really do anything. It’s the laziest of syndromes. From what I understand, high bilirubin means you might have Gilbert’s syndrome, and Gilbert’s syndrome means you have high bilirubin. Either way, we can agree that it’s very brave of me to live with such a debilitating condition, assuming that I have it. I still don’t know, because I never went back in for the follow-up test. I feel fine. Strong like bull. So let’s stop shaking that coconut tree, Doc.
Of course, my less-is-more health care philosophy falls apart when my kids are involved. One recent weekend, I was home solo while Heather was off pursuing her nurse practitioner degree, the completion of which will hopefully mean I never have to see a doctor again. (At least until I’m 50, unless we want to take our relationship to a new level.) During the night, my 3-year-old, Finn, wakes up and complains of a bellyache. I figure he just has to take a giant crap, so in the morning I give him Ibuprofen for the pain and Pedialax to speed up the process. But he’s in pretty bad shape, crying and clutching his abdomen, so I take him to the pediatrician.
There, the on-call doctor opines that… he probably has to take a big crap (my kid, not the doctor). But just to be safe, he wants me to bring him to the hospital for an ultrasound. An hour or two later, we’re sitting in a dark room while a technician waves the electronic wand across the kid’s stomach. Four years ago, I was sitting in a similar room with Heather while she had the same procedure. How ironic that the baby in those ultrasounds is now sitting here getting an ultrasound of his own healthy food baby. “See that?” the technician said, pointing to some indecipherable blobs on the screen. “That’s a big poop making its way through.” Thousands of dollars in high-tech equipment and years of training for skilled medical professionals, all brought to bear on an overly rocklike turd. Which, let’s recall, is exactly what I thought the problem was all along.
I haven’t yet received the bill for the ultrasound, but odds are that Finn will hold the household title for Most Expensive Bowel Movement. But what was I supposed to do? If the doctor tells you to bring your kid for an ultrasound, you gotta do it. Even if both of you are pretty sure that the solution is just to eat more raisins.
I know, I should be glad nothing truly serious was awry. And I am. But I’d love it if we could go a whole year without testing for ailments real or imagined. I’d applaud that. Softly, though. I don’t want to hurt my good arm.