There is a reason for those two snakes on the caduceus!
A few weeks ago, I endured what is euphemistically termed a sleep study. I haven’t the slightest notion under the frigging flaming sun as to why it would be called that, since the whole convoluted process would be more correctly titled a sleep deprivation study. There’s no way in Dante’s Hell that any normal human being could sleep under those contrived circumstances, and certainly not someone like myself, afflicted with mild claustrophobia. Sci-Fi androids probably have fewer wires than those that were slapped on me that night: a giant metal surge protector slung about my neck connecting hundreds of tiny twisted cables; nasal cannula jammed up and drying out my nose; sticky electrodes lining my body from my scalp right down to my calves. And all of this in a stuffy windowless box of a room. Sleep? Who could sleep?!
Even more hilarious were some of the questions on the paperwork I had to complete prior to the study. Do I snore? How the devil would I know? I live alone. My cats haven’t complained. What did I weigh in high school? Are you kidding me? I’m 68 years old. I sometimes can’t remember if I ate breakfast today, and they’re asking what I weighed in high school? A lot less than I do today, was my somewhat-acerbic answer.
Despite this absurdity, the medical powers-that-be somehow determined that I suffer mild sleep apnea. A CPAP machine was recommended. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately, because I wasn’t really thrilled with the whole idea), in keeping with everything else that is unobtainable/scarce/in shortage during the Covid era, CPAP machines are globally unavailable for six to nine months, as I was informed by a phone call from the medical provider’s office. Having told me this, this same provider’s office then scheduled a follow-up appointment just three months down the road. Excuse me? If I’m not receiving any treatment for this condition (of which I remain unconvinced, anyway, considering the bogus environment of the test), why would I fork over yet another $176 fee to learn…what? Nothing? Sorry, doc, I don’t feel called upon to contribute to your next Caribbean vacation cruise.
All of this madness was, I should probably explain, in service of determining the cause of a worrisome heart arrhythmia. So that night of sleep deprivation was followed by yet more ineptitude with a stress test. (“Can you walk?” the cardiologist asked me, and I answered in the affirmative. I enjoy walking.) Unfortunately, she asked the wrong question. She should have said, “Can you jog? Sprint? Run?” Nope, and, suffering asthma, I’ve not been able to do so for perhaps 35 years or more.
The tech inserting the IV in my arm helpfully wrote “ASTHMA” in big warning letters across my paperwork before I was handed over to two techs who had, quite obviously, never encountered an asthma patient in their very young lives. I suggested using my rescue inhaler first, and was voted down. Bad move. I always use my inhaler prior to exercising. So, tucking the inhaler into my clothing where I could reach it easily, I hopped up onto a treadmill set to what they described as a “brisk walk”, with no warm up preceding the rush of movement. Uh… What they termed a brisk walk, I called at least a trot. Not a good idea, without a warm-up, for most older people–joints, you know; for an asthmatic, a very, very, VERY bad idea. Within three minutes, I was suffering a full-blown asthma attack and (since they refused to pause the machine to allow me to use my inhaler) the whole test had to be scuttled. Three hits of my inhaler later, they proclaimed, “You’re having an exaggerated blood pressure response”. Uh, a colossal asthma attack and three blasts of albuterol—ya think?
One week later, while speaking with the physician’s assistant who had received my test results, she complained that I’d been unable to exercise long enough to get accurate readings. “I had an asthma attack,” I protested, and she was surprised. That fact hadn’t been mentioned in my results.
Finally, reading the conclusions posted to my online chart, I sat, stupefied as I scanned the information. My heart, I learned, was structurally sound. There was no evidence of blockage, heart attack, or arterial disease causing the palpitations that I was experiencing. “Continue with your treatment plan until your next appointment,” the letter concluded. See you in six months….
WHAT treatment plan? Wasn’t that what all these tests were in aid of determining? I had no treatment plan.
For two years, Covid gave me an excuse to entirely avoid the medical profession and seek natural treatments for any problems I experienced. While l, along with the rest of the world population, would really, really like to see Covid become a faint and fading, distant memory, I’d still genuinely appreciate another such perfect justification to never see another doctor—never, ever again, for the rest of my life.
If you appreciated this little rant, I’m sure you’d enjoy “Aging Is Difficult Enough Without…”, which I published on July 29, 2020. You can scroll down to the Archives, below, to locate it.