Since we moved my parents from Houston to the Dallas area six years ago, I have spent a lot of time cooling my heels --- along with other body parts --- in doctors' waiting rooms. Medical offices are set at temps cold enough to freeze the youknowwhats off a brass monkey. So are emergency rooms, hospital rooms, intensive care wards, and day surgeries. They claim that the cold inhibits germy growth. Personally, I'd rather take my chances with a bug than freeze to death, but that is not the point of this blog.
As anyone who's been to a doctor knows, the first visit requires a lot of paperwork: name, address, phone, insurance information, emergency contacts, and then it segues into the all-important patient history. Being both blind and hard-of-hearing, my parents depended on me to fill out their forms. I quickly discovered that Dante missed a tenth circle of hell, and that particular circle is found only in subarctic waiting rooms. It is impossible to be discreet while taking a patient history from an elderly parent who compensates for bad hearing by ratcheting up the volume. The following, or something close to it, happened not once, but, God help me, several times:
ME (leaning in, looking around furtively): When was the last time you had a bowel movement?
ME (leaning closer): A bowel movement? When was the last time you had one?
DADDY: YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE TO SPEAK UP!
ME (sighing): When was the last time you had a bowel movement?
DADDY (to my mother): WHAT'S SHE SAYING?
MOM: WHEN DID YOU LAST HAVE A BOWEL MOVEMENT?
ME: Can you keep it down? Geez...
ME (giving up): WHEN DID YOU HAVE YOUR LAST BOWEL MOVEMENT?
DADDY: THAT'S THE PROBLEM, I'M CONSTIPATED!
MOM: I THINK IT WAS WEDNESDAY MORNING.
DADDY: YOU SURE?
ME (to self): Shoot me. Now.
Then there was the first time I had to list my father's surgical history on a patient form. I managed to get through the tonsillectomy and the appendectomy and the dental surgeries without flinching, but when we got to the prostate surgery, I was in waiting room hell again. I thought he had it removed. No, it was reamed out, or as Daddy described the procedure for me and everyone else in two counties to hear, "THEY PUT A ROTO-ROOTER UP THE PENIS AND REAM THE THING OUT!" I swear on my life, those were his exact words. I don't know which made me wince more: the visual or the audio at full bawl.
Thankfully, my mother is long past menopause and sex. I can whip right through that minefield labeled "For Ladies Only". Are you pregnant? (Not bloody likely.) When was the date of your last menstrual period? (Around the time of the Nixon administration.) Do you have painful intercourse? (At 86, everything is painful.)
After the Roto-rooter episode, I typed up both parents' surgical histories and made copies for distribution. Ditto their medication. When there's a new doctor to see, I'll ask if they will mail the paperwork to me so I can fill it out ahead of time. These pre-emptive strikes have done wonders for my blood pressure. Now if only I could do something about the frostbite.
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