The Annual Physical
The Annual Physical
One of the rights of passage, into the golden agers club of humanity, is the ritual of the annual physical.
Every year about this time, we go in for our early morning blood tests the week before the event. Then, anonymous chemists pull apart our samples and run them through a battery of tests looking for increased levels of cholesterol, monitoring our liver functions and a number of categories that are too esoteric for me to grasp. It is a chemical report card of sorts that you hope your General Practitioner can read and interpret to see what is needed to keep the old chassis running efficiently for another year.
The actual physical itself is often anticlimactic. A nurse or PA takes your blood pressure, with an arm cuff, and then asks a few questions about your general health and well being. That being accomplished, you climb into one of those drafty-reared hospital gowns that are never comfortable to put on.
The doctor soon enters and begins reviewing your numbers from the blood tests. A series of questions about your general health and any specific ailments leads into the proscriptive phase of your treatment. Electronic prescriptions are e-mailed to your pharmacy of record. A blood test form for next year’s analysis if filled out and any other paper work is completed. Referrals to specialists for more intense analysis of a condition are made. And even the dreaded hospital stay can be scheduled if the situation calls for it. No one really wants to go to these places but the alternative is usually worse than any experience in these mysterious fix ‘em factories..
All Doctors and hospitals now have your medical records on line for instant retrieval. This can be a lifesaver if another physician or hospital needs information about you in a hurry due to illness or accident.
The Physician finished up her appraisal. It is really amazing what information and analysis that these medical professionals can bring to bear to help you out. The interactions of the nervous, muscular and skeletons systems and how various enzymes, chemicals and other internally ingested items can react with one another is fascinating. Like their medieval predecessors, these fine men and women are as much artisans as they are scientists. The good ones have an intuitive grasp of the various subsystems of the body and what they think might interact positively with them to ameliorate an ailment or effect a cure. And they do it seemingly in an instant, as you talk with them. An above average native intelligence, a great medical school education and years of practical experience enable them to recognize and diagnose things I would never have even thought of.
Most of us are hip to the lingo from watching years of medical series on television. And after a number of years on the planet, and several maladies, we too pick up the medical terminology as we experience the illness and the cure of same. But, I would never imagine putting it all together so rapidly and understanding the causation and remedy for a given situation. In this respect, Doctors are still like ancient shamans to all of us, pinching, prodding and prescribing herbs and pills for a cure to what ails us.
The process reminds me rather much of dragging the old automotive chariot into an automotive garage for the annual inspection. The older vehicle undergoes the same analysis as we do, and is prodded and poked to see what ails its mechanical and electrical subsystems. The gifted mechanic is part witch doctor as well. He/she figures out what the needed remedies are and how much they will costs us to keep the automotive antique rolling properly along.
In both cases, we do our best to follow good practices so we can make it through another year effortlessly. And probably in both cases, we sometimes forget to do this or that a problem springs up that needs to be addressed by a phone call or another visit.
We continue the cycle every year, until the automobile or the person gives up the ghost and is recycled in the greater scheme of things that governs the universe.
Joseph Xavier Martin