Weasel’s Guide to Doctors, Hospitals and the Minions that work there!

This guide in no way is meant to demean the profession and certainly not meant to take anything away from the patients that are truly suffering. The doctors, nurses, technicians and facilities are wonderful. I hold them in esteem, but I sometimes cope by making fun.

Over the years I’ve had the misfortune to require the services of various medical facilities. I say misfortune, because that’s usually what drove me to these citadels of healing, because believe me; I wouldn’t be caught dead in them otherwise. And misfortunes were usually of the self-induced kind.

My first real brush with these medicos was due to that ultimate in self-indulgence, downhill bump & thump, also known as snow skiing. Plying the slopes with a skill unparalleled in one so new to the sport, I happened to fall. I know this is surprising, perhaps even shocking. It certainly was to me. Especially when I pulled off my glove to discover my thumb about two inches shorter than when I started out that fine morning. What to do, me thinks? Put it back, put it back, put it friggin back. My half frozen mind is racing at this point, the synapses not quite firing in the correct order and so I do. I pull. Gripping the tip of my thumb I pull, drawing the disjointed digit back out and to its proper length.  A small smile crosses my weary cherubic and oddly pain free face.  I’m good. I’m good. Then, of all the stupid things I’ve done this one’s right up there, I let go. Back snaps the thumb to its previous and no longer upright position and forward rushes the up until now, missing pain. At this point I’m lying there, ignoring my screaming digit, staring at the snowflake filled sky and trying to plan my next bold move, which is basically sliding the rest of the way down the mountain using my newly patented technique, the butt plow. That’s when I hear a swoosh of carefully carved snow; Damn, if I could do that I wouldn’t be in this predicament, and a good Samaritan comes to a beautiful two ski, full edge stop, promptly squats, grabs my wounded hand and deftly pops my thumb back in place. Holding it tight, he uses his other hand to swiftly strip the bandanna from his neck. He then wrapped and tied the cloth in an impromptu tourniquet to hold my thumb in the correct position. My savior looks at me with an odd half smile (probably wondering why I’m missing from the bunny slope) and says the only words that he uttered to me that day, “Get to a doctor.” Duh! With another swoosh he’s gone, blending and disappearing back into the snow fog as quickly as he came. I don’t remember his face but I suspect he was either a guardian angel, or a vacationing orthopedist. The weasel will never know for sure.

I understand this is a big build up, but I had to set the scene. Transition now from the snowy slopes to University Hospital where the true odyssey began. If there is one truism in life this is it; Never, ever, trust your body to a teaching hospital! It bears repeating. Never! I didn’t know this then, but in these facilities you have ceased to be a patient, you are in fact a new, unexplored and unplumbed opportunity. Much like our new president Obama, they never let a crisis pass without taking full advantage of your dire situation. I did mention ‘teaching’! I think so. Did you know there are several ways to do any task? Take my thumb, now diagnosed as dislocated; duh, that was a tough one that took twelve years of higher learning and a glance to confirm, and, unfortunately, broken. The fix? You guessed it bubba. Surgery! They really love surgery. And the careful process of pinning my bones back together is the path we need to take. Ok. Surgery, I can handle that. They stick in a needle, put you to sleep and like magic you wake up fixed. How bad can it be? Really. But oh what fool am I because I’m soon to discover that real anesthesia is reserved for the non-teaching cases (and the folks that can cover a co-pay). Instead, the interns need practice. And guess what, I’m today’s chosen lesson! Let’s see? Humm. What’s the best way to conduct the aforementioned surgery? “Knock me out,” I keep repeating. “Knock me out.” “No, no,” tisks the lead doc, “that’s too easy. No one learns from that.” (Insert me whimpering) Instead we have to ‘shoot’ the nerves. Then I’m informed, by a twelve year old intern nicknamed Doogie who is dutifully shaving my arm pit, “This won’t hurt... Much.” I’m a bit stuck on ‘much’ when two burly interns newly escaped from the football practice field, lean over and use their bulk to hold me down while Doogie: whom I suspect may have never done this procedure before, suddenly approaches my denuded and very delicate pit with a needle attached to a large vile of clear liquid. I can hardly describe what came next. Suffice it to say, he began probing with the needle until he found the ‘proper’ nerves; believe me, there were plenty of improper ones, then shot them, one by one. Each nerve touched (stabbed) brought me off the table and I am proud to say, my thin emaciated and pain racked body was all those two linebackers could handle. Some consolation, but it was all the Weasel had. 

Fast forward two weeks and, believe it or not what goes in must come out. In this case, the pins used to hold me together. Can’t have me going through an airport metal detector with these now can we. Oh, the very picture of joy is me. Wow, just think. I get to do this all over again. I can tell you there was no end to the trepidation, and beer. Trepidation not of the surgery, but of the prep. However, this time they were far more civilized in their teaching approach. They wrapped my entire arm tightly in bandages then tied a tourniquet near my bicep. This was, they said, to remove as much blood as possible. They then filled the empty veins with a drug to numb the arm. Not me! Oh hell no, just the arm. Now maybe it’s just me, but I’m kind of a fan of being asleep when someone’s taking a scalpel to you.  I remember the surgery, the tugging and pulling on my dead arm and the quiet conversations around me. Even the drill as they extracted the pins. Then at the end they released the tourniquet. What happened next? Well, as to be expected, the drug rushed directly to my brain and kicked me into blessed oblivion. I ask a rhetorical; doesn’t this seem a bit backward to you? Can I get an Amen? Once again. Heed the Weasel’s warning. Purchase all the insurance you can afford and avoid any place where they teach people to cut you open. I prefer the graying and well seasoned doctor, thank you very much.

Ok, I don’t need this one to be too long, but you haven’t lived until you’ve experienced the wonders of a sinus cavity irrigation. If irrigation conjures an image of copious amounts of water, you got it. A process that involves sticking long spikes (five) with gauze soaked in novacane as far into your nostril as possible and leaving them in place for twenty minutes in an attempt to numb you for what comes next. And believe me, there is a long dark hole right behind your nose. You could hide a Cadillac in there. I remember sitting in the waiting room with these spikes protruding from my face, the people around looking at me like I was Frankenstein. Then the real procedure. A large metal tube with a scooped ‘cutting’ end used to bore a hole through the swollen tissue of your sinus until it pops. Yes I did say cut and bore; as in mining! The doc was a 49’er from way back. Anyway, then you bend over a bucket and experience firsthand, Noah’s flood behind your eyes. It feels like the ocean in a hurricane as copious liters of fluid are literally pumped into your face. With no other option, everything inside gushes out your mouth. Effective? Yes. Painful? Only after the cold air hits your previously fevered and infected sinus tissue. Excruciating don’t do it justice. It’s like an ice-water injection direct to the center of your brain. Once I could finally pry my eyes open and pull up out of my fetal position, I escaped; my two-year old in tow wondering why his dad, a.k,a. The Weasel, was so recently screeching like a little girl. 

Then there’s the shattered heal. Just when you think you’re immortal, an event will happen along to center you firmly back on earth. My fall from divinity involved several of my young nieces and nephews, quite a gaggle as I recall. I was always more comfortable playing with them than carrying on endless and oft repeated conversation with the adults. Never mind I was twenty-something and the oldest clan member chasing me around the backyard may have been seven, the youngest two. Tag you’re it. Giggles and screeches. Me running to avoid the grasping and grubby little hands, most still dripping cookie justice and boogers.  How to escape? Climb a block wall and stand far above them. Great plan, especially when I now believe I can fly. With all of the children lining the wall below me and looking up in awe, I jump, clearing them all by five feet. I was airborne for like five minutes, before aerodynamics failed and gravity grabbed my feet and planted me firmly back on the ground. A 160 pound hammer to the heal. I heard the snap, though it could have been the sprinkler head I unerringly hit, as I came to ground and rolled. Not a neat tuck and roll like they teach you in parachute school, a rolling screaming heap of quivering pain. In those first few moments I taught the shining bright faced and newest members of the tribe every cussword they will ever need in this life, and a few they won’t. I can still see their little mouths rounded in ‘O’s of shock.  In moments we’re off to the E.R., me curled up on the floor board, the wife, far from compassionate, lecturing me all the way. And rightly so, after all, little kids are some of the most dangerous things on the planet. No real issue with the docs on this one, other than they didn’t believe I could break one of the toughest bones in my body, while taking with it a few of the many little ankle bones as well, just by jumping off a wall. I was in no position to argue. So unbelieving they were of my tale, they didn’t even cast my ankle. It was just a brace and a promise that in six to ten weeks I ‘might’ be able to walk again, though not as straight as before. Then a pat on the head and a wish for me to have fun with my ‘little friends’. Geez, you would think a Weasel could have made up a better story than that. Live and learn... Live and learn. 

Speaking of curled up on the floorboards, that was not my last time. Fast forward a few years and once again I have assumed the position very early on a dark morning, my guts screaming for attention, my appendix demanding immediate delivery. Here I can tell you that I have a few complaints. Is it right to have your ER doc betting you that the malady currently sending shockwaves of nausea and repetitive pain equal to a west-sieed 505 gang banger  using your belly for shanking practice, is really a kidney stone? Yeah, let me put a fiver on that. Too bad I left my money at home with my insurance card, wench! She lost the bet by the way. Then an ultrasound and a mad scramble for surgery. For you see, my kidney stone was in reality a ruptured and gangrenous appendix that had spread its poison throughout my intestinal cavity. The fix? Cut a hole in my previously pristine belly, remove the now flaccid organ, pull fourth a few feet of small intestine, hose it off, stuff it all back in and hope for the best. Kind a paints a picture don’t it. Well ‘the best’ didn’t completely happen. It seems the stuffing back in caused a kink of some sort which resulted in 14 days of intravenous feeding, 30 pounds of weight loss and a seizure. Hey, it’s all good in a hospital.

Ok, there have been a few other events, though not as note worthy, so we fast forward again. 2009, summer turning towards fall and I am luxuriating in The Valley Of The Sun. 110 degrees of coolness and the Mayo clinic. I’m here to solve a medical mystery. Well, to be accurate, I am the mystery and no one in Albuquerque can figure it out, despite many many tests. So it is time for a little Mayo magic. The promises are large; they have the tools, the tests and the brains. All I need to provide is one six-foot plus specimen. I am here to meet Alyx, the chief inquisitor of this particular dungeon of horrors. With a certain trepidation I try to envision this person to whom I am about to entrust my fate. Old and rather hunched, gray and thinning hair, coke bottle glasses and a rather sullen or skulking look. Surprise, the inquisitor is none of these. Young, female, bright-eyed and extremely willing. With a gleam she interviews me, conducts a number of seemingly inane and very painless tests, then provides a very feminine, humm. Well, “Mr. Weasel, we need to dig deeper.” “Ok, dig away.” Says I. She rattles off the schedule of my next few days. Autononomus Systems, Neck MRI, EMG and so on. Cool! How bad can that be? Well, let’s find out.

The first test is later that same day and of course, requires a fast. (Don’t they all?) I show up, hungry, but ready to place my feet on the path to wellbeing. At the Mayo it is all about bait and switch. A beautiful facility looking more like a four star hotel than a hospital, and hiding the well dressed minions of Torquemada, the chief deputy to the inquisitor Alyx. The first of this small army ushers me into the first chamber. As with any process, we start slow and build to a crescendo. This is the Autononomus test. The many arcane ways to assess whether your capillaries dilate correctly, your skin sweats and your lungs do all those lungy things. “Blow into this,” she says. “And keep it at 40 until I say.” 40? As in PSI? I look at her like she’s crazy. I’m fit and all that, but blow up a car tire? I blow and my eyes bulge as I watch the counter slowly climb. Sparkles and black dots obscure my vision and oblivion is but a moment away. Finally she relents and says enough. Like an air hose that’s lost its nozzle the breath bursts forth, spraying across the room. “Ok.” I hear. “Only four more times.” Holy s…

Next we try the sweat test. I had not thought to bring my workout clothes but ok, I can run a treadmill. Piece of cake one would think, and I am cruzin. Ahh, but this is Mayo and we don’t do mundane, especially when there’s technology to be used. “Lay back,” she says while trotting out cords and cables and flat adhesive sensors. It takes fifteen minutes to ‘hook’ me up and I have these large white stickies up and down my leg and arm. You hear the beeps and buzzes and wonder what is good and what is not. Again, this is a sweat test. Should I move? Run in place? Pushups? “Ok, we have to make you sweat. To do so, we inject a chemical under the sensors. This chemical will stimulate the skin and make it do what we need, then the sensors will measure the result.”  “Inject?” I ask in a quavering voice. She laughs. “Just in the sensor. It goes between it and the skin” The first one goes in, cold and oddly pleasant. Then the second and third. At this point the cold suddenly changes to burning. They could have warned a body they were injecting battery acid! And that’s what it felt like, all over my skin the burning intensifying to the point of alarm. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of technology, but in this case I’m thinking I will stick with the tried and true methods of sweating. I tell you there was a relief that could only be described as vast, when those sensors were removed. Score one for Mr. Torquemada.

Now we’re on to the real ‘meat’ of the procedures. There were other tests but this one stands out. It’s called EMG and I don’t even want to know what it really means. I call it Egad, My god and Get me the hell outa here! This was a two part test designed to see how electricity passes through your body. Yes! I said electricity. And there are two kinds. Natural and induced. We started with induced. Still more sensors up and down the ol leg and arm and I am reflecting back on battery acid. That’s when they pull out the tazer! They tell you to relax. Lay back, don’t tense up. Easy for them to say. A little tough when your leg or arm is flopping around like a gaffed fish. Shock after shock after shock pulses through, each stronger than the last until you’re left hoping the power in the whole valley goes out so it will stop. I’m sure there were at least one or two brownouts all across greater Phoenix. I can just see it. Each time the damn machine pulsed, lights in every household flickered and dimmed. “What do ya think it means mama?” “Hush,” she says, looking towards the Scottsdale hills. “We don’t talk about what they do up there.” Ok, I made it through. They should have done the sweat test after that one. The beads had turned to small rivulets, and guess what. Moisture is a great conductor. I really wasn’t looking forward to what came next, but hey I ask again, how bad could it be?

They left me then, happily lying on my table in little more than a hospital gown, and a promise that the doctor would be in shortly. In hospital speak that’s anywhere from ten minutes to a couple hours. The wait was interminable and cold, but probably on the low end of the speak scale. I was wondering if a complaint was in order when much to my mortification, in walked Torquemada himself! I didn’t recognize him at first in his oh so clever disguise, rather tall, glasses and black hair, but it was him alright. “Good afternoon Mr. Weasel,” he says cheerfully. And he may well be happy, he isn’t the one up on the table. “Today we are going to test the electrical signals in your muscles to see if they are doing what we hope they are.” My ears perk up at the operative word in that sentence. Did he just say in? Tell me he didn’t say in? That thought burst in my brain like a star shell. Maybe, me thinks, maybe this is done with those nice little sensors and another taser. Maybe some more acid. Certainly in didn’t really mean anything. I had this hope right up until Torquemada pulled a spike from behind his back. A spike masquerading as an electrode with a long wire leading to another machination of evil. If I closed my eyes I could feel the black vapors pouring from that computer. Yet I didn’t dare close my eyes. Who knew what old Torqui would do if I let my guard down. “Most people get through this ok,” he says with a gleam and a small half hidden smile. Then he spikes me for the first time in the calf, spearing the damn thing deep. “Move your foot,” he says. Hell, I am half off the table. I’ll show you move my foot! The computer screams and squeals appreciatively accompanying my moans of agony. Again he spikes me, this time lower in the calf. Then again, this one to the inner thigh. He’s headed for the jewels! My mind screams in protest and i don’t know what to do. But he hasn’t broken me. I’ve told him no secrets. I am strong, a rock. Bring it on Torqui! Bring it on. And he does. I am not sure how much muscle you have between your toes, but I must have less than most. In plunges the spike as he wiggles it back and forth, pulling it part way out then deeper, ever deeper. (Sounds like a porno, not that I’ve ever seen one) I’ll tell you anything, I scream. Whatever you want I’ll say it. I’ll sign the confession. I’ll give you a puppy. Hell, I’ll even lie to you and tell you you’re handsome. Just make it stop. (Obviously I can’t be trusted with state secrets). Yet the computer remained quiescent, a numb nothing was all that came from the electrode impaling me. Could it be unplugged? Did the brownout burn it up? Wasn’t from a lack of trying on Torqui’s part. I’m in full submission at this point as he moves on to my arms. Let me tell you, there ain’t much meat between your fingers either. Kind a like a chicken wing or light beer. Why bother? But that didn’t stop him. Stick and probe, stick and probe. I’m not sure why he stopped. Maybe it was a lack of blood on my part, or the slack jawed look on my face. Perhaps he just got tired. It must be hard jabbing that thing in over and over. With little more than a grunt to put my clothes back on and leave, he exits; me wounded and none the brighter or more enlightened for having endured his ministrations. Ahh, modern medicine. I believe I’ll go old school and stick with leaches.

Lady inquisitor pronounces me a continued medical mystery and sends me packin' with a promise to take a double hard look at my case. Maybe she and Torqui can uncover something. She invites me back in a few months for a repeat. Wow, I can hardly wait.

I have only one other comment left to make in this particular Weasel Guide; Don’t even get me started on dentists!