Friday, June 3, 2011

In Which the Geezer Rambles on About His Health Care Provider


Until I was almost 60, doctors didn’t do much for me.  If I had a problem, I went to see one, he or she fixed me up, and that was that.  Times have changed. . .

Now I see my “health care professional” (HCP) twice a year, just like my dentist.  They check my blood pressure, my breathing, all that stuff.  Every time I go, I have to have “blood work” with fasting, and the fasting is a real bummer for me.  Every time I go, something new pops up that the HCP wants to pursue.  Boring beyond belief, and sometimes scary.

I had a male physician (MD) when I first moved to West Virginia and I didn’t like him.  My daughter, in nursing school at the time, was being cared for by a Family Nurse Practitioner in a little town nearby.  I went to see Erin, the Nurse Practitioner, and it was love at first sight.  She lived in my town, and I would see her out and about with her kids when I would go for my walks.  She was gentle but insistent, and she knew what she was doing.  She and I would talk about everything in my life, and about some of her life, too.  She was a friend.  She is still the only straight HCP to whom I have come out.  She treated my daughter, my granddaughter, and Beni.  All of us loved her.  Her husband was transferred to Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2007, and I was bereft, really saddened, by her move.

After looking around for a new doc, and after discussing with Sarah, by this time an RN working at a big hospital nearby, I decided to see a female physician in Winchester, Virginia.  She and I did not get along.  I found her to be too reliant on pills as the first treatment of choice for any problem.  She also seemed to see me through a prism reserved for “older” people.  The first time we met, she asked me my age by asking how “young” I was.  I know she was trying to be nice, but I was so used to Erin and her real conversations that this woman seemed superficial, facile, and dull to me.  She was and is, without question, a competent physician, she just isn’t meant to be my physician.

One day, I went in for my scheduled appointment with this doctor, and the woman at the desk told me that I would be seen instead by one of the Physician Assistants on staff with the practice.  I was a little miffed, because the receptionist told me the doctor wasn’t in that day, and, later when I went in to the examining room area, I saw the doctor in question going into an examining room.  Apparently, the dislike was mutual!

I went into the room and a short while later in comes Whitney, a young woman, barely taller than 5 feet, full of energy and with the most delightful Southern accent you can imagine.  She is a year older than my oldest daughter.  I used to think consulting professional people young enough to be my kids would be difficult.  I was wrong.  I reacted to Whitney just as I had to Erin.  I knew this was a fit.  Before the visit was over, I had asked her if I could change it so that she could be my primary care provider.  She said she was honored, and she told me how to do it.  I’ve been seeing her ever since, and my respect for her grows every time we meet.

One of the things that Whitney does for me that, heretofore, only Erin had done is that she treats me like a regular person.  On a recent visit, she was drawling on about the various improvements she expected me to make in my diet, exercise regimen, and other areas.  I was a little pissed!  When she was finished, I condescendingly said, “Whitney, dear, have you forgotten how old I am?  I can’t do all that.”  She said, “Yes you can, and you’d better.”  She and I have had long conversations about living to be 80 or 90 years old (the usual age span for my family), and how difficult I think it will be.  In the most recent of those chats, I tried some of my tricks to get her off my back.  She won’t let me get away with any self-pity or attempted manipulation.  She sees through me very accurately, she calls me on my tricks, and she’s only 32 years old!  Am I that obvious????

I’m lucky.  I have good insurance (federal employee health insurance, just like Paul Ryan, that idiot, has).  I’m pretty healthy, despite my self-abuse (and no, I don’t mean that).  And I have had two great professionals to take care of me.  I never would have expected to pick a woman as my health care provider (the prostate exams are very embarrassing), nor would I actively have looked for a provider as young as Whitney.  Fate has been good to me and I am thankful.

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