Friday, December 21, 2012

Big City Doctors

Probing Politics of the GOPBack when I worked in Manhattan, all my doctors were also in Manhattan. I may have been living way the hell out in Queens or Brooklyn, but most of my doctor visits were during lunchtime, so that worked. Also, when you have migraines (and mine are especially difficult in the morning) and sleep inertia (it is too a thing), you often have to get all the way to the office before you know if you're actually sick or just needed a little more caffeine.

When I started freelancing, I started finding doctors closer to home. The problem? Some of them sucked. Like showed up to open the office an hour late and didn't even apologize. Or shrugged off two inconclusive scans (inconclusive because they were done by an incompetent person) and didn't order any more scans because...I dunno...she acted like the whole thing was a test to see if she should keep sending people to that radiology place like I was a secret shopper and not a patient.

Of course the problem with Manhattan doctors is that they include a class of elite doctors who are really good at what they do, but don't bother taking insurance because it's too much bullshit. So you have to pay them up front whatever they damn well please and then pray your insurance will reimburse you. And if they charge $800 for an office visit, and your insurance says they should only charge $300 and reimburse you based on that, well tough titties. Which then becomes a pre-existing condition.

When I worked on staff, I sometimes went to these doctors, at least until one decided that she was going to charge $100 if you called the office for a prescription refill. Which, yeah, no. But as a freelancer, I just don't have disposable income to throw around on fancy things like out of network medical care.

But I still prefer Manhattan doctors. Where else can you go in for a mammogram and be told to "drape your arm over the board like the railing of a beautiful veranda" in a Russian accent? It's also nice to be able to have an ultrasound done immediately when the doctor wants to get a closer look at that thing in my left boob which is nothing, and has been nothing for something like fifteen years now, can you people stop scaring me and doing the super-squishie mammo that makes me ache just thinking about it? (Pro-tip: when you go to the same place for a few years, they finally do stop worrying about the nothing. Who knew? You get your card punched five times and you get to skip the super-squishie.)

The inconclusive scan I mentioned before? It was of my ovaries - my grandmother died of ovarian cancer, so I just need to have them looked at every decade or so. On my first visit, the technician did an external ultrasound. She told me nothing, but when I got to the doctor, I discovered that the tech couldn't see my ovaries because of my body type. Um, I'm not 700 pounds here. It should've been possible to press the ultrasound wand hard enough to displace the blubber enough for her to catch a glimpse. But no.

On my second visit, it was trans-vag-a-go-go. She still couldn't see my ovaries, and felt perfectly justified in writing this in a report. Like they had popped around back for a smoke. She was actually pissed that my doctor had sent me back for another scan, started complaining about her day and since I had a migraine and had been stuck listening to crap TV in the waiting room for an hour after my appointment time, I told her to go fuck herself. 

I am not sorry, embarrassed or ashamed of this.

After relaying this whole fiasco to my Manhattan gyn (out of network, but for once a year, I'll splurge), she hooked me up with a referral to THE guy for this sort of thing. And he takes insurance, bless him.

It was like going from Motel 6 to the Ritz. There was no TV in the waiting room. The nurse didn't tell me to drink a ton of water beforehand - I'm not sure if that's because she assumed I'd know that, or because this guy is just that good. I drank anyway, just in case.

The nurse led me to the exam room, and let me chance in private. (In Brooklyn, I'd been expected to disrobe while the tech fiddled around with the equipment in the same room. Classy.) When the doctor and nurse joined me, he actually asked me why I needed a scan, so he'd know what to look for.

Now, my gyn had told me that he was likely to start transvag, because he wasn't going to mess around. What no one had warned me was that thanks to Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, transvaginal ultrasound wands are now hilarious to me. Remember when there was all that nonsense about the mandatory pre-abortion scans, and each of them held up a wand on their show and said, "no, that's not invasive at all"?

Yeah, that's still funny months later when a doctor kindly shows you one and explains that he's going to have you insert it.

I'm getting the church giggles now just writing about it, but with god's divine help, I was able to hold it together at the doctor's office. Because all I could think of when watching those bits on TV was how the hell did their production staff get transvag wands with 4 hours notice? Did they borrow an old one from a doctor? Did they track down a medical equipment sales rep? This is really not what I wanted to be discussing with a doctor and nurse I'd just met while I was wearing nothing below the belt.

So I kept my shizz together and the doctor started scanning, and even showed me the screen. 

"That's your right ovary,"

What I said: "Hmm."

What I wanted to say: "If you say so."

I did not say this because the human brain really has a hard time cracking jokes while remaining aware of the big statue of liberty torch inserted into one's hoo-hah.

The image was as blurry as a big foot photo, and what he said was my ovary looked like black nothingness. I didn't give it much thought at the time, but was that because that's how ovaries look? Or had they really popped around back for a smoke and that was just the space where they should've been?

When he got to the left side, he stopped talking and I realized that he'd found something worth looking at. I refused to panic because I'd been tricked too many times by the nothing in my left boob. I may have gotten a little concerned when he decided to do an external ultrasound to get a better look, but the ultrasound gel was pre-heated, which is a really nice touch, so that calmed me right down. (Need I tell you that in Brooklyn, the ultrasound gel wasn't heated? You don't get that kind of pampering on the mean streets of Marine Park.)

When he was done, he told me it was just a little uterine fibroid, nothing to worry about. I know this is nothing to worry about because he did everything but tap on my abdomen and yell "hello, little fibroid there," and he didn't tell me I needed to see my doctor immediately, which he would have if it had been something to worry about. Because Manhattan doctors don't fuck around.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Cleanup, Part Two

Gas CanThe second weekend of cleanup was all about the garage. What can I say about it? The garage took on several feet of water and it was a study in injustice.

Items that were damaged or destroyed:

  • my mother's high school yearbooks
  • several canopy/shade tents that actually did get used at least once a year
Items that came through just fine:
  • the crocheted afghans from the 70s, in colors as ugly as you're imagining
See? We do not live in a just universe. We just don't. Though once they get washed, I'm totally going to start using some of those afghans. Some things are just so ugly that they've come right back around again to awesome.

After they'd been without power for about a week, my dad went to the store a bought a generator. By that point, it was still possible to buy generators in the area, but you couldn't buy a gas can for love or money. They were able to borrow two cans, and I was able to convince my dad that since they owned a generator, they needed to own some gas cans. So we went on Amazon and ordered two*.

Guess what we found while cleaning out the garage? 

Yes, that's right. Two gas cans. 

It was such a mess that no one had any inkling they were there. My dad is lucky that mom didn't try to beat him to death with them. I say "try" because I'm really not sure how effective plastic gas cans are as weapons, especially when empty. I'm thinking they'd bounce right off him. I'm really enjoying the mental image way too much.

Anyhoodle, the indestructible afghans did get wet, so we draped them over the fence to dry. At one point, a car packed full of people (three woman and two kids) drove down the street very slowly. They were having a close look at the trash piles. Because waterlogged crap is ripe for the scavenging, I guess? They stopped right where I was standing because they spied a crate of liquor bottles. Bottles that had been open when they were stashed in the garage, left there for, oh let's say ten years, then covered in sea water, mixed with motor oil, raccoon poo and whatever the fuck else was in that garage.

The woman in the back of the car got out and started picking up bottles. My mom and I warned them. "No, no. They're full of salt water. They're poison."  The woman in the front passenger seat, apparently the Imperious Leader said, "I'll take my chances," and her underling took a couple of bottles while my mother yelled at them for being tacky enough to scavenge from disaster victims. 

Seriously, with the cost of gas, it would've been cheaper for them to just go to a liquor store. Apparently, people will keep looking to naturally de-select themselves even after society collapses. Or something. I got nothing.

*For those of you outside of the storm zone, smaller gas cans were better than large ones, hence the need for more than one. With the gas shortage, real or imagined, you couldn't just drive up to the gas station and get your gas can filled. There was one line for cars and one line for gas cans. I guess the gas can people had to park several blocks away. Five gallon cans were way too heavy when filled, but 2.5 gallon were OK. So file that info away for your own Mad Max-esque post-apocalyptic experience.

Monday, December 3, 2012

I Don't Even Know Anymore

Not So PeculiarThe Setting: A festive family gathering in honor of my cousin Caitlin's birthday. The same menu as the annual corned beef fest, but with a more intimate guest list (translation: less than everybody we've ever met ever). Ain't no party like a corned beef party.

The Dialogue

Me: [quietly] Mom, why is Dad wearing suspenders and a belt?

Mom: [shrugs the shrug to end all shrugs, a shrug that conveys the futility of trying to understand my Dad, a shrug meant to remind me that some of us are just more Asperger's than others.] Go ahead, ask him.

Me: Dad, why are you wearing suspenders* and a belt?

Dad: Let me put it very simply. [pause long enough for us all to contemplate how this is in no way going to be simple explanation**] The suspenders are to hold my pants up, and the belt is to hold my pants together because my previous pants*** were missing a button.

* Let the record show that they were stars and stripes suspenders, so faded that they may actually have been purchased for the bicentennial. 

** Nothing that is actually put simply begins with a six word preamble. I get tons of blog material out of stuff my Dad says, but I could never start a Twitter feed, a la Shit My Dad Says because nothing my father has ever said EVER has been 140 characters or less.

*** So he was wearing a belt because the pants he was wearing the day before (henceforth to be referred to as "previous pants") required a belt. He also said something about having lost some weight now that he finally has his diabetes under control after three decades, but I failed to grasp how that situation was more than the suspenders could handle. 

And now we see once again why my brother lives way the hell over in another time zone. Because of previous pants.