Whenever I visit my doctor’s office, I have to fill out one form or another. Most of the time, the staff simply wants to confirm that my insurance hasn’t changed, which I think is just medical jargon for: “Has your coverage been dropped?” Before my last appointment, they asked me about my medications and about any side effects I am experiencing. I never have any side effects, but I usually write down headaches, nausea, vomiting, hallucinations, decreased libido and heightened impulsivity. That way they’ll think I’m really taking all my pills.
Here is another question I had to answer: What is your nickname? I’d never been asked about this before and I really don’t have a nickname, but they hate it when you leave a blank space so I wrote down “Sparky.” I knew if somehow that ended up on my vial of blood, it would cause a lot of chatter at the lipid lab.
Next, the form wanted me to list any new drugs I’m taking. And then it asked: What is the frequency? I had my gout medicine with me, so I held it up to my ear, but I couldn’t hear a thing.
My alcohol consumption was also something they wanted to keep track of. How many cans of beer, how many glasses of wine and how many shots of liquor do I consume in a week? I called my wife to see if she had any idea. “I buy you a case of beer a week,” she said.
“Wait a second. I don’t drink that much beer.”
“Oh, you mean actually ‘drink’ it? You didn’t say that. I’d say you ingest five beers a week. The rest of the cans I find all over the house, either knocked over by the cat, or warm and three-quarters full in the corners of your office.
There were some questions about my family medical history, requesting info on relatives who had died and their cause of death, including all four of my grandparents. My maternal grandmother died suddenly at 94, her demise the result of large whiskey sours before breakfast and two packs of Camels a day. This should be a lesson to you. I’m just not sure what the lesson is.
The next line inquired about the deaths of my aunts and uncles. We were never a close-knit family, but I thought my brother who still lives in New York might remember some of the details. “Hello, Peter, it’s Dick.”
“Very funny. I have a question about Uncle Sid’s death.”
“Oh, how sad. I’m sorry to hear that. When did he die?”
This wasn’t getting me anywhere, so I simply scribbled in something to fill up the space—a cause of death that wouldn’t raise any red flags. It was likely that no one ever looked at those answers, anyway. But apparently, I’m now quite the topic of conversation in the medical records department. I was told that of all the 2,000 patients in this internal medicine practice, I’m the only one whose aunts and uncles were all run over by a bus.