Wednesday, September 26, 2018

1999 The Well Baby Visit

That’s what they call it when you bring your infant to the pediatrician for a checkup. Usually, it happens once a year.

Seniors get the equivalent. It’s called the wellness visit or the wellness exam.  Call it what you will, it’s still the well baby visit.

It gives you a chance to talk with the doctor for maybe 15 minutes, which is six minutes longer than a “regular” visit.  And it has all kinds of fun stuff, some of which may actually spot a budding affliction in its early stages.

If you’re on Medicare, there’s no co-payment.

The co-payment with a Medicare Advantage Plan would have been ten or 15 bucks.  Enough saved to head over to Cracker Barrel or Wendy’s to boost your cholesterol or triglycerides if your labs look OK.  After all, you won’t have to have your blood tested for another year, maybe longer.

And it’s pretty easy to cheat on a lab test. All you have to do is eat healthy for 30 days before you take one, and fast the night before.

It’s 7:58 on a weekday morning.  The parking lot is pretty full.  But -- surprise -- the waiting room is empty. You check in and the desk clerk, Lorna Loud, beckons you to her cubicle where she conducts an interview at top volume.  Medical privacy? Only because there’s no one within 100 feet to hear Lorna.

Lorna: “Do you have your insurance card and photo ID?”

You have known Lorna since she was in grade school. She calls you by your first name.  She still needs to see your credentials.

Patient: “Yes.”

This is followed by a long silence which she breaks by saying “May I see them?”

Eventually, Nurse Fidget beckons you to the back room.  Lot of beckoning goes on in this place.

You have to weigh in.  You find that you’re even fatter than you thought.  And shorter.  But you’re not really sure because the digital scale measures your weight in kilograms and your height in centimeters.

Next stop, the exam room.  The trip is too short to mentally convert the figures so you don’t even try.

Next in the well baby visit:  Questions.  Lots of questions.  Nurse Fidget is filling in forms.

Patient: Don’t you want to know my birthday?

Nurse: Oh, yeah.

Patient: gives date of birth, complete with the day of the week, the time of day and the time zone.

They ask that because they want to make sure you’re the same person who gave the same information to Lorna Loud, that that checks with what’s in their records and that you didn’t slip in an imposter somewhere along the 20-foot trip from the otherwise empty waiting room to the alcove where the scale sits.

Endless questions:  Can you stand on one foot for 12 seconds? (Who knows?  Standing on one foot is not part of the patient’s exercise routine.)  Do you have accidents before you can get to the bathroom? (Accidents? Like what? A head on collision with a semi-truck? Dropping a bottle? Missing the ash tray or the spittoon?)

Nurse: Come on, you know what I mean.
Patient: No, I don’t have accidents.

Blood pressure: 117 over 68.

Patient: You don’t scare me.  I don’t have white coat syndrome.
Nurse: I’m not wearing a white coat.

Eventually, the doctor shows up.  She is a woman small of stature and big of brain. We exchange pleasantries, ask about each other’s families, chit chat about fruit flies (she has a PhD in genetics in addition to her MD.)

Finally, she lands in the chair and turns away to log into the computer.

Patient: “Cabbage, Apple, Watch.” (It’s the answer to last year’s memory test.)

Doctor: I really have to think up a new short-term memory test.

Patient: At a certain point in life, one year IS a short term.

She hands the patient a pad and pen. He draws a clock with the hands at 3:40 and hands it back. No words necessary.

She reports the lab results which are fine. Listens to breathing, and asks the stand-on-one-foot question. And the one about accidents on the way to the bathroom.


Doctor: There’s a new Shingles vaccine. You should have that.  I’ll write a prescription. You’ll go to the drug store for the shot.  Maybe January.

Patient: The drug store is right across the street. Why can’t I just stop by after this exam?

Doctor: Because there’s a national shortage and no one has any. The exam takes only a little longer than the discussion about fruit flies.  Good for another year, barring a collision with an 18 wheeler en route to the bathroom.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2018

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