A few days ago I went to see an orthopedic surgeon for the care of a minor injury. Actually, I first showed up in his office a week before I saw him. Remember this is the age of the electronic medical record. I was told that before I could be seen I first had to be processed. I dutifully appeared at my doctor-to-be’s office exactly one week to the second before my appointment. A very friendly young woman greeted me. I told her that I felt like a ham, but her blank expression indicated that my superannuated attempt at humor was two generations too late and that she found nothing unusual about processed meat.
She asked for my insurance cards which she ran into a machine which I learned later was directly connected to CMS, the NSA, the AMA, the FBI, ICE, the CIA, the ATF, Amazon.com, the NIH, TxDOT, Walmart, Piggly Wiggly, PETA, AAA, AA, Healthcare.gov, the SEC, HHS.gov, Allen Brothers, LinkedIn, the VA, the US National Cemetery Administration, the American Chiropractic Association, the AFL-CIO, the NRA, the AARP, and the People’s Republic of China. Each urgently needed information about me – all this for a lousy knee. When I asked about China I was told that this was to preclude hacking my data.
She handed me a pile of papers thicker than 10 Chicago pizzas and told me to pay close attention to the Ebola form. It was reassuring to know that an orthopedic practice in Lubbock Texas was ready for the Spanish Inquisition.
I diligently began work on the forms all of which had all my information on them secondary to the data dump described above. But I was was warned on pain of perjury and the wrath of HIPAA that I had to hand verify every datum. After an hour my pen ran out of ink. The nice young woman who had given me the forms came out from behind her glass partition and gave me a cup of ball point pens along with two other Ebola forms. They seemed to me the same as the one I had already completed, but the sweet young woman pointed out the the new forms were in blue and red ink, respectively whereas the first was in black. Knowing that The Keepers of the Ebola Forms were sure to be even less responsive to any attempt at humor by me as had the lovely young woman, I emphasized that except for a sore knee I has never been sick a day in my long life and that my body temperature had never been above ambient during that same span. This seemed to satisfy the peachy young woman who said that if I was really being truthful about my life long temperature I only had to complete one more Ebola – “Form Fuchsia,” she called it.
Ebola out of the way, next up was a Living Will. I approached the pleasant young woman and told her that I already had one. She said it wasn’t in their computer.
“What computer?” There wasn’t one anywhere is sight.
“It’s having its memory upgraded,” said the delicious young woman. “We’ll put your data into it later.” She seemed so tech savvy that I almost asked her if she could have my memory upgraded as well.
The next form asked my favorite color. And what shade of gray I preferred. This took a long time as there are so many shades of gray. In fact I was still weighing the merits of gunmetal gray and slate gray when the office closed. I was instructed to continue my work along with 17 other prospective patients. We were promised pizza for supper. After the pizza arrived we were locked in for the night. Even though this cohort was 100% lame and/or halt they moved to the pizza at near sonic speed. By the time I got there only a slice of vegetable supreme was left. I hate vegetable supreme. Under the last pizza box were directions instructing us to retire to several cubicles. Mine, which I shared with another knee and a hip, had three cots and a portable commode.
At 7 AM the delightful young woman arrived with coffee and doughnuts. I managed to get one glazed doughnut. “You work long hours,” I said. “We rotate mornings she replied. “Please get back to your forms.” I did.
Having settled on gunmetal gray, I was now asked if my menstrual cycle were normal – I checked yes. If I had a financial adviser, if I had a dental implant, if I had a deviated septum, and 96 other potential problems as closely related to each other as were the first four. It was lunch time when I finished this form. The meal was 18 subs from Subway and a like number of tasteless drinks. Alerted by yesterday’s pizza stampede I hobbled to the front of the line as fast as my arthritic limbs would allow and got the only tuna salad sub.
I won’t burden the reader with the rest of the forms save a few highlights like the paper airplane form and the World Series pool. I picked Kansas City in 6. I finished the last form five minutes before I was to see the doctor. I had spent seven nights in the cubicle and had become quite proficient with the portable commode. I handed the stack to the charming young woman who tossed them into a cardboard box.
I was put in an examining room. The doctor came in. He was one of my former students he told me. I drew a blank. “What’s the problem?” he asked. I had forgotten. “Well, what hurts?”
“Nothing,” I replied. Tincture of time had apparently again worked its magic.
“Take some Advil if it comes back,” he said.
I didn’t know what it was. But isn’t modern medicine wonderful?