I’m not a hypochondriac. I don’t see the doctor twenty times a year, and I don’t have a list of imaginary ailments when I do go. But I do have a problem. I have a degree that was intended to be pre-med (I changed my mind) and several years of clinical experience. This means I have a lot of info and no degree . . . I know enough to be dangerous! Add to that, I have a step-father who is an ER physician.
An ER Physician’s job is to play worst-case-scenario . . . all day long. You may go for a fractured ankle, but your doc is thinking, “Why did the ankle fracture? Is this a sign of early onset osteoporosis? Is there a bone shard or a clot that’s going to float around and kill this guy and maybe get me sued?”
When you walk into the ER with chest pain, it could be any number of things. You might have eaten too many tacos and you’re having heartburn. But what if that’s not it? It could be Angina – a medical term that mostly means ‘chest pain’. But it could also be a bona fide heart attack.
So having conversations around the dinner table about all the things that might go wrong is fun, but it can induce some abnormal concerns. One time, my step-dad saw a kid who was blue. After several hours and several stumped doctors and every test for oxygen saturation known to man, it was discovered that the kid had used some new bedsheets. A cotton swab with alcohol took the blue right off. But the kid was freaked out because he woke up blue all over one day.
So I can think up some pretty bizarre things. When I get a cut, I get my watch and check my clotting time. I can read the bounce in the needle on the blood pressure cuff and tell the nurse what my blood pressure is. (By the way, that blood pressure cuff is as Sphygmomanometer. Teach that to your kids to give them something to chat about with the doctor next time.)
When I get abdominal pain, before I conclude that it’s nothing, I palpate the area and check for appendicitis and kidney failure. (No positive reactions to either test yet!) And two weeks ago, when I felt a pain in my right arm, I began to wonder if maybe it wasn’t a heart attack. Sure, arm pain indicating a heart attack is normally accompanied by other symptoms – of which I had NONE. And sure, the pain is usually located in the LEFT arm. But what if I had reversed internal organs? Yeah, then what?
Okay, I’m about ten years too young to be in any risk category for heart attacks, I have no real family history of heart problems of any kind and I’m not even the right gender for a good MI. I knew my likelihood of a real heart attack was probably even lower than that of having reversed internal organs (a condition that affects about 1 in 10,000 people.)
But it would be just like me to have that. And it would SUCK to die of a heart attack because no one noticed that I had reversed internal organs. Then I started experiencing some nausea, too – that’s another symptom of a heart attack. Then again, I’m not a hypochondriac. I didn’t go see a doctor. I weighed the probability of having ALL these problems concurrently against the probability of looking stupid when I tried to tell the doctor my diagnosis. So I waited. Turned out it was probably bad tacos.
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