Tag: health (Page 1 of 2)

The Eyes Have It . . . For Now

shades used after eye dilation sewn to strips of green fabric woven together adorned with multi-colored stitches

I begin to need more light, more contrast. Then there is not enough light or contrast or magnification. I cannot read emails, magazines, menus, road signs. I notice that things seem to bend. Hard, immovable things like trees and boards on the back of trucks. Initially blaming windshields, I flick that excuse aside when realizing that every windshield in every car, truck, even the rental car I rode in at the University of Central Missouri could not be made of defective wavy glass.

Big gray shapes begin hogging the view from my left eye, making it impossible to see anything smaller than the sky. True, the shapes are interesting in form, true, I sketch them out with thoughts of stitching them One Day, but mostly they are annoying. I can’t see through or around them.

At the 6-week mark with no improvement, things become alarming.

Monday, 4/1/2019

With whispers of “in sickness and in health” tickling my ears, I celebrate the 46th anniversary of the day The Engineer and I became engaged by moving “get eyes checked” to the pole position on my substantial to do list. I begin our rare ten consecutive days at home by calling a nearby ophthalmologist I find online. As the scheduler searches for an open widow, she says, “Oh, we’ve just had a cancellation for tomorrow morning at 10:30.” I take it.

Tuesday, 4/2/2019

This morning I draw the Destroyer Oracle Card: “Releasing what is potentially destructive. Preparing for new life.”

Prepared for a diagnosis of cataracts and actually looking forward to being treated because to a person, everybody who’s had cataract surgery tells me they’ve never been able to see better. They even get to design their own vision, most choosing a lens for distance and inexpensive, over-the-counter reader glasses for reading, computer, and hobby work. I have a plan. All will be well.

Not being able to see is exhausting.

Not to mention frustrating.

The ophthalmologist doesn’t follow my script. Scans of my left eye show a lot of blood, so I am met not with a choice of replacement lenses, but  with a referral to a retinal specialist. As the opthamologist’s scheduler searches for the next available appointment, she says, “Huh. There’s just been a cancellation tomorrow at 1:30.”

Shaken, I take the cancellations as a sign. The retinal specialist will scratch his head and wonder how this ophthalmologist managed to get my test results mixed up with someone else’s or come up with such a creative diagnosis.

Wednesday, 4/3/2019

This morning I draw the Beggar oracle card: “Confronts empowerment at the level of physical survival. Awakens the spiritual authority of humility, compassion, and self-esteem.”

Two years ago, I presented my daughter with a quilt top and a promise to finish it asap. Ever since, she chides me lovingly, wondering where she finds “asap” on the calendar and wondering when will she enjoy sleeping under it. Before presenting myself at the retinal specialist’s office, we purchase threads for that very quilt. I’m not being morbid, I simply resolve to amp up and bring to cloth all the images I carry around on the inside.

I go through a repeat of all the tests from the day before and some new ones at the retinal specialist’s office, and while my visual acuity is much improved in the past 24 hours. there is more blood. In the next 12 minutes, we move quickly from tests to the dreaded “wet macular degeneration” to talk of me being in a clinical trial to actually meeting with the clinical trial manager.

Unsure if the rush is because of my vision, the progression of the disease, or of getting me in the clinical trial. I leave the office with my head spinning and my heart reeling.

Thursday morning, 4/4/2019: The Day After

I wake and am able to see better than I have been in over a month. Ignoring the images I was shown yesterday, I think thoughts from the denial column like “Maybe they’re wrong” and “Maybe my eyes were just tired”. I give myself a day of slow ease, a day that quickly becomes filled with emails, phone calls, text messages. Thanks to the efforts of my brother-in-law, I get a second opinion and decided to go ahead and apply to be in the clinical trial. The screening will the place Tuesday morning, 4/9/2019.

“Your imagination is your super power.” 

My friend Joyce texts me this reminder, and as we both know and have talked about before, there’s a flip side to imagination: fear. “Fear comes with imagination,” Thomas Harris writes in Red Dragon. “It’s the price of imagination.” Imagination is not entirely a benevolent creative tool. Imagination has a torturous side, cluing us into the worst that could happen. “Fear is often just the imagination taking a wrong turn,” writes Mary Ruefle in her chapbook, On Imagination. True to form, my imagination glides from denial into fearful overdrive, flapping around unchecked, frantically shouting “Sure, you can write without seeing, but how will you live if you can’t stitch?”

Cue my internal chorus

With denial and fear beginning to fade, my internal chorus warms up and begins chanting their ever-familiar refrains of  “You ought to be ashamed of yourself because you know good and well that people are dealing with much worse” and admonitions to “stop that pity party right this minute.” Continuing my plan to honor what comes, I listen to the chorus then bid it shush, pointing out that I have never and will not start now using other people’s circumstances as comparisons to shore myself up and feel better about my situation. My diagnosis doesn’t diminish their pain, and I refuse to use their pain in an attempt to diminish mine.

Having ridden this beautiful rock around the sun quite a few times, I don’t throw myself a pity party, I simply take the emotions as they come. Fear. Sorrow. Embarrassment. A pinch of Pity. They come, we talk, they leave. No angst, no wallowing, and fortunately, no overstaying their welcome.

Without apology, I delve into my secret stash of chocolate. More than once.

Friday, 4/5/2019: The Day After The Day After

Knowing that things are piling up in my absence from the computer, we go into town and buy me a pair of reader glasses that I wear behind my prescription reading glasses, and while I can see somewhat better, I still struggle to make out even the enlarged words on the screen, tire quickly, and take frequent eye rest breaks. And so it continues for now.

Note: “I’m going to rest my eyes a bit,” my grandparents used to tell me. Silly me, I thought they were using code for “I’m gonna’ take a nap.”

Onward

If you are part of or wanting to become part of The 70273 Project Tribe and are waiting on quilt labels, bundles, a reply to your email, or something else, please accept my apologies for my tardiness. It’s now Sunday, 07 April 2019, and I’ve been working on this post for several days. Taking the aforementioned eye rest breaks take time, Reading a screen filled with words in 40-60 point fonts takes time, too, as there’s room for no more than 5 words on the screen at a time. That one caught me by surprise. I will get my daughter Alison to proof this (she surprised me by coming up to spend several days with me!), mash the publish button, rest my eyes, then move into the studio to begin checking in blocks and quilts. Replies to emails may have to wait till tomorrow. We’ll see.

The 70273 Project is an international endeavor, amazing in the magnitude of geography, numbers of people, and kindness. With my whole heart, I thank y’all for using your imagination as a force of good – for showing me the patience, understanding, kindness, and compassion you continue to show those we commemorate. Your good wishes comfort me, your continued petitions for healing encourage me,  and stories from your personal experience fortify me.

Updates to follow, I promise.

~~~~~~~

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Not an Insignificant Exchange

DahliaStruts

The short version for those who don’t have much time:

  • Where I live, there are 3 Great Voices of Authority: God, Doctors, Football.
  • Single words, short phrases, or simple sentences, have The Power to change lives.
  • When something stupid, thoughtless, inconsiderate, moronic, or potentially harmful falls out of a mouth – even the mouth of one of the 3 Great Authorities – you have not only the Right but a Duty to speak up.
  • Speaking up at times like #3 can change lives, too.

The longer version:

Two years ago, at our first visit, the cardiologist looked at my husband (who was then a recent recipient of a stent in his heart) and said, “You’re lucky. You know how you’re going to die.” I sat there and said nothing, in part because I was struck speechless with such a stupid thing being said by one of The Great Authorities, and in part because this was a conversation between my husband and this doctor to which I was a mere observer who didn’t want to risk the doctor “taking it out on my husband.”

Today, this same cardiologist walks into the room, and instead of saying “Wow, you look great. I can tell you’ve been seriously exercising” or anything comparable, he immediately starts hammering away at Andy about nutrition and eventually says (and I quote), “If you want to live to be 88, you need to watch what you eat and to cut down on the fried foods.”

Having heard enough, I take Andy’s face in my two hands, look into his retinas, and say, “Baby, we’re shooting for at least 98, okay?” When he nods, I turn my attention to the cardiologist . . .

“You deal with hearts,” I say, “I deal with psychology and emotions, the driving forces in life.” And before I can finish that train of thought, he says, “I deal with more psychology than you might think.” I am both relieved and borderline thrilled to know he realizes that.

“Then you understand about the power of suggestion,” I tell him. “When you put a finite number on how long my husband or anybody else, for that matter, will live, you plant a seed that might grow into a self-fulfilling prophecy. So what say we leave out the finite numbers and ages and stick to concepts, information, and most important of all: encouragement and support.” I guess it comes as no surprise to hear that my contribution quickly brings the visit to a close.

To his credit, though, when the cardiologist shakes my husband’s hand as we exit the office, he says, “Okay, we’ll shoot for 108. Or 109. Yes, 109. Let’s make it an odd number.”

And me? I just smile and say, “I like odd.”

[ :: ]

Jeanne Hewell-Chambers has long owned and seldom apologized for her authority issues.

I Felt So Bad I Forgot to Put on Lipstick

NancysNewDrawingJuly2013

THIS ‘N THAT:

Since we last met,

  • I traveled out to the rehearsal dinner and wedding of the son of my cousin Stacy;
  • helped with all the needs to be done during hell week of Twilight’s last production (Les Mis, school edition)
  • sold a house (can I get a hearty YAY?)
  • threw myself into an unplanned, time-consuming, and ultimately fantastic studio makeover
  • visited Nancy and picked up about 500 new drawings. That’s one of her newest there at the top of this post – um, yeah, I’ll be stitching till kingdom come, and honestly, I can’t think of a better way to spend the rest of my life. Her teacher keeps colored pencils and paper within reach of Nancy at all times. Says when Nancy draws, she calms down, smiles, and focuses. Art will do that to a girl, I tell you.
  • finished stitching In Our Own Language, 2.1, have based In Our Own Language, 2.2, and conjured an image of what In Our Own Language 3 will look like
  • gone and gotten myself sick (see below)
  • finished my art class, graduating With Distinction.

[ :: ]

FROM THE SICKBED . . . I MEAN SICK SOFA:

I felt so bad this morning, I forgot to put my lipstick on when i went to the urgent care for the third consecutive day. I have a place on my face that I thought was a pimple caused by using hotel lotion as my nighttime moisturizer since I forgot to pack mine when we traveled down to see Nancy almost 2 weeks ago. Well, if this was a pimple, it was the pimple to end all pimples. One thing led to another, and a week ago I went in to let a professional have a look see. She declared it a spider bite (ON MY FACE? eeeewwwww) and prescribed some antibiotics that didn’t work, as anybody could see. Friday morning I told Andy that I had to go back because it took way too much energy keeping my imagination in check. I’ve been to the urgent care unit so many consecutive days that they’re just running a tab for me. I expect we’ll all be swapping Christmas gifts. Same goes for the pharmacy where I’ve gone every day to get a new prescription. Yesterday was a pretty awful, horrible day, and today I woke up feeling so bad, I forgot to put on my lipstick before I left the house.

Every time I encounter somebody and they don’t throw up or run away screaming, I tear up with gratitude. Once I’m on the mend and the various aches and pains are on the run, I’m gonna’ have to devote some pondering beauty and identity and vanity and such as that.

[ :: ]

HOUSEKEEPING NOTE:

For the past several weeks I’ve been working to merge my two blogs. Why? Because I am tired of living a containerized life. Books, art, cloth, laughter, sickness, health, saging – these things and more are my life. Period. Gone are the days when I had a tote bag for each different interest – now my life is my art, and my art is my life. There may be some hiccups along the way, so thank you in advance of your patience. That kind of tinkering under the hood is quite tedious and time-consuming. I’m sure I don’t know/didn’t think of everything, and I would like to thank my son Kipp for helping bail me out of A Big Huge Pickle I got myself into last week – a pickle that had to do with links and broken links and 301 redirects, I won’t bore you. If you just want the feeds, try this: feedly.com. I’m still working on how to generate just rss feed – I’ll keep you posted. If you want to subscribe by email, though, click right this way. If you’re receiving this email, you’ve already subscribed, so thank you.

[ :: ]

AND NOW:

It’s time to take my new meds and try to finally start the healing process. I’ve missed you.

sinuses obviously can’t read a calendar

Hhi3

Hhi2

Hhi1

here i am, spending a week on the beach in hilton head when along comes a sinus infection. i’m taking my antibiotics and using the prescription nasal spray like a good little girl, but still everything tastes like cardboard or soap. so while the others order all sorts of tasty goodies, i just feast on the menus.

Hhi4

he has a good heart

blessings

it is his fourth
battery of tests
in less than a year,
there is no comfort in that.

they do not make eye contact
when we check in,
there is no comfort in that.

we are directed to go
across the hall
to sit and wait
in the waiting room
with taupe walls
and taupe baseboards
and taupe carpet.
with signs taped
to the wall
ordering us
to turn off cell phones
and demanding that we
ring the bell
only once.
there is no comfort in that.

we were not told
before our arrival
about all of the tests
to be run today.
that is not good
to hear,
but maybe,
just maybe,
not knowing
prevented much
anticipatory stress.

other patients
come and go
without so much as a
grunt about why he
is Back There
for hours
and hours.
there is no comfort in that.

finally the tests are done
and we are directed
to go to another waiting room.
this one as cold
as the other was
stuffy.
we wait
and we wait
and we wait,
more than
one-and-a-half hours
after the
appointment time
we’d agreed on
some eight months ago,
we wait.
there is no comfort in that.

eventually
we are escorted to
a taupe
exam room,
adorned with
a poster of a sailboat
in a cheap frame.
where the assistant
looks over his records
and seems quite
surprised
to hear that
his medications
changed over
six months ago.
there is no comfort in that.

finally
we are told
that he passed
all the tests –
every single one of them –
with flying colors.
blood pressure: excellent.
blood flow: excellent.
overall circulatory system: excellent.
and there’s great, huge,
tremendous
comfort in that.

creating less and less of me: day 3

“day 237”. “day 464”. “day 729”.

those are things i long to write at the beginning of my daily journal entry – and i want those numbers to represent consecutive days. you see, i’m trying to create less of me. writing a minimum of 1000 words daily so that eventually i’ll spill more and waste fewer words. walking daily to burn calories and create less of the physical me.

i will walk the same route day, adding an extra hill or bend every week, knowing that with each repetition, i will see the same things differently.

i will write in my journal – the one adored with the three graces – each day, knowing that with each entry, i will say more in less words.

that’s just the way it is . . . or so i’m told. now i’m committed to finding out for myself.

today is day 3, and though i promise not to bore you with every single walk, i did want to share some of the amazing things i saw on walk #3:

mypath.jpg

my path. see that little butterscotch-colored dot a little less than halfway up? that’s my walking mate, phoebe. a welsh corgi who has a funny way of herding.

buddingrock.jpg

made me think of my friend julie daley who’s winding up a trip to ireland. a budding dolmen, perhaps?

gardenia.JPG

a late-blooming gardenia.

and this exquisite companion that came along to color my way:

butterfly.JPG

 

the persistent stowaway

lotusopening.JPG

they’re never on my packing list,

but i never leave home without them . . .

 

hot flash strikes.

out of the blue

no warning

no discernible trigger

just the teensiest little ole’ warning i’ve come to recognize

from paying close attention to myself:

nanoseconds before a hot flash arrives

i can breath more clearly.

my breathing passages just flat-out open up

heralding the arrival of

the intense heat that spreads rapidly through my body,

not discriminating against any one particular area.

i feel like i’ve just been wrapped in plastic wrap –

not the kind you buy in the store –

this plastic wrap sticks.

no air can get to me.

moments before, i could breathe expansively

now i can’t breathe at all.

while my brain races

frantically looking for an exit sign,

my body quietly points to the exist sign

and my brain calms down,

settles in.

i toss out the dismissive, overused phrase “this too shall pass”

replacing it with

“more women than i can count have survived hot flashes. i will be fine.”

then i tune in and notice my body like never before.

this amazing body

that has long been a source of embarrassment

instead of a place of refuge and strength.

on any given day and for far too many years

i scold it, scoff at it, ignore it.

and now, during this wildfire,

i find my way to appreciation.

breath holds my hand

until the hot flash recedes,

regrouping for next time

it will show up unannounced and uninvited

to beam me into my body,

into the present.

 

 

~~~~~

This post was birthed by my participation in Bindu Wile’s 21.5.800 project, and (even though it’s officially ended) Dian’s Self Evidence project (self-awareness).

Technorati Tags: #215800, #SelfEv

yoga, betty crocker style

YogaMat.JPG

back in the day, betty crocker and some of her friends baked cakes from scratch, and they never had all the ingredients they needed, which meant baking a cake took nearly all day long what with all the trips to the grocery store and all. so they got smart and developed a cake-in-a-box mix. only women wouldn’t buy it, the corporate fable goes, because it was too easy. they didn’t feel like they’d really baked a cake by just opening a box, so betty revamped her idea to include adding water, milk, oil, and/or eggs. women liked that. it was easy, convenient, and they had contributed just enough to give them the satisfaction of accomplishment.

for years, i’ve been dreaming of my days as a bowl filled with yoga and writing and walking and reading. years, i tell you. dreaming.

this year i stepped things up a notch and created a collage around the beginning of the year. it was my way of telling the universe about my plans so she could take care of it.

and eventually, she – in the form of bindu wiles – did take care of it. betty crocker style. bindu put together a plan that stirred writing and yoga into every day. easy peasy. she even brought in marianne who has a yoga for writers video. all i had to do was open the box, add words, stir, and bake for 21 days, only 21 days – just the right amount of time it’s said is needed to develop a habit. twenty-one days and my life would be soooo different. soooo much better. i would be leaner and stronger. i’d have clarity. i’d be able to set old roosters to rest and stand other things on their head. when my friend angela kelsey and i finally meet in person, we could do a yoga duet. (when we’re not swapping stories, doing metaphysical diagnoses of each other, or comparing bags and electronic gizmos, that is.) shoot, i might even have a book i hadn’t exactly expected to have.

but here’s the thing: in a scant 4 days, the timer chimes, indicating the end of the 21 days. the program will be done, and i’ve done yoga, what – maybe 3 non-consecutive times now and written a blog post or two (also non-consecutive). (oh, sure, i’ve written more in my head, but i don’t need to read the directions on the box to tell me that writing in my head does not count. in fact, head-writing is precisely what i want to get away from.)

then yesterday, bindu announced a 10-day extension. what? an extension? was this a coveted second chance to bake the cake of my dreams or was it a dreaded second round of opportunities i’d let pass me by? would my cake rise or would it fall? would it burn from staying in the oven too long or would i take it out before it’s done? well, didn’t i just stick my toothpick into this cake, and when it came out with some of the batter sticking to it, i decide: to put it back in the oven for another 10 days.

now for years, i’ve been going to bed every night vowing that tomorrow will be The Day I Get Up And Do Yoga Then Write before anything or anybody has a chance to derail my day. and, well, i just told you how that cake turned out. but the funny thing is, it was yesterday afternoon when i decided to stick this cake back in the oven, and last night, i plumb forgot to drift off to sleep thinking about how marvelous my tomorrow was gonna’ be.

this morning, i got up, did a few things, then popped in the yoga video. i didn’t make it nearly all the way through. my knees cried foul and my wrists quit in protest. my ankles walked right off the mat and watched the remaining video from the sofa. but i did enough to make my entire body smile with satisfaction and possibility, and i’m writing minutes after turning off the tv, choosing to reheat this topic out of the plethora of topics (some half-baked) (sorry, couldn’t resist) that are vying for attention.

that part of me that loves to distract and derail, that part of me that thinks thinking is the only way to go, wants to know why i didn’t bake the cake the first 21 days and what makes me think the next 14 days will be any different. my heart, that part of me that thinks in ways the brain cannot ever understand, already knows the answer . . .

two nights ago, i was treated to a phone call with danette, emma, and julie, the loverlies known online as oliveandhope, pleasurenotes, and unabashedly female. that phone call had all the ingredients for baking the most delicious cake ever, and one thing emma tossed into the mix near the end of the call has stuck with me. in the midst of vowing there’d be no more self-bashing around our campfire, emma pointed out that sometimes saying that we didn’t quite accomplish what we’d hoped to could be cathartic. when we say i didn’t do this or i didn’t do that, it takes the power away so we can move forward. when things stay hidden in the shadows, they grow, feasting on shame and embarrassment. there was something so freeing about that. not admitting failure or defeat, not hanging the head or wringing the hands, just saying i didn’t do quite what i’d intended to do then moving on.

it’s so simple, and surely it’s something i’ve known for a while, but those words on that phone call came at Just The Right Time. like julie says: “Now this might be Life 101 for many of you, but in my experience, the truth comes around again and again and again until I realize it deeply and profoundly. And then it comes around again.”

and with that, my friends, i’m shoving my cake back in the oven to bake for another ten days. then we’ll see. we’ll just see.


~~~~~

This post is part of  #SelfEv, #215800

lines of engagement

MeltinHeartInDenver.JPG

 

” . . . and so,” the cardiologist said in wrap-up mode after reviewing the results of the nuclear stress test, “i say you go straight to the hospital and let’s do a catherization tomorrow to see what’s going on.” armed with a direction, i launched into native jeannemode, directing my brother-in-law to go to the airport to fetch our son who was flying in from colorado; calling our daughter, alerting her to the change in plans; and plugging my phone in to recharge the battery for a few minutes. that done, i exhaled and said, “i feel better now.” to which hubs said, “this isn’t about you. this is about me.”

a simple statement of truth delivered from a man who seldom redirects the spotlight on himself. and let me tell you: those 8 truthful words unleashed a cacophony of voices past, hissing and spitting and chiming in to remind me of things they’ve told me repeatedly in years gone by: who do you think you are, missy? nice girls don’t talk about themselves. good mothers sacrifice. you’re bossy. you’re manipulative. good girls don’t say bad things. good girls let people talk about themselves. you’re too sensitive. you need to think more than feel. why are you focusing on that – it’s not important. this is not about you. you’re too self-absorbed. lighten up.

and a whole lot more.

that nasty, piercing chorus has chipped, chirped, and harped at me ever since. i second-guess every sentence that contains a personal pronoun. i replay various happenings in my life and find the aha’s – you were, too [insert horrendously selfish behavior of choice]. but mostly, i ponder where we separate and where we come together. where is the line drawn between andy and me? where is the us? we’ve always had spaces in our togetherness, and true: it’s his body, it’s his life, but this sure seems to be about me, too.

drawing boundaries, they call it – something i’ve never excelled at, honestly. i’m good at empathy. lean towards the inclusive more than exclusive. i shop for cards and gifts, but they’re always from “us”. i can’t watch shows like america’s funniest home videos. i compare other people’s experiences to my own. i learn from other people’s stories. when my kids were in high school, i read the books on their required reading lists so we could talk about them (and yes, i was accused of living vicariously).

for the past week-and-a-half, i’ve wrested with the lines separating wife from mother; caring from smothering; support from dictating; allowing from detaching. i’ve pondered where and after much (and i do mean much) consideration, a lightbulb: i see lines as suggestions. i tweeted it, given the few times my realizations fit comfortably into the 140-character space. “for crossing or guiding?” asked my twitter friend mrs. mediocrity. “both,” i told her.

lines in a coloring book? suggestions.

lines on the blank page? suggestions.

lines in the sand? suggestions . . . tinged with warnings.

line outside the ladies room? suggestion to station a friend to guard the door and use the men’t room..

and that circular, insulating, would-be impenetrable line around hubs and his heart issues? a suggestion for separation that after much consideration i’ve decided i’m not buying into. his heart may be the one that now houses a stent and his heart may be the one that endured the catherization and angioplasty, but over the past 36 years, 10 months, and 8 days, the line between our hearts has faded.

and i am not interested in drawing it back. period.

SELECTING A NEW CARdiologist

 

SteeringWheel.JPG

 

when it’s time for a new car, i go through a grieving process because i love my cars – love them, i tell you. i drive my cars an average of 14 years, and log hundreds of thousands of miles on them. we have a relationship, my car and me. i take good care of my car, really good care. i keep her clean inside and out. i deal with only the finest mechanic – someone i was referred to by someone i love, someone who loves me back. my car gets her oil changed the first week of every quarter, regardless of what the little sticker says. i keep her in new shoes, new brakes, new batteries. i keep my car happy and she, in return, gets me and people i care about where we want to go and back. safely.

as much as i value my wheels, i find it odd that folks spend more time looking for a new car than they spend looking for a doctor . . .

when my husband’s blood pressure spiked for no apparent reason, we headed to the primary care office because the insurance company says we don’t know a thing about shopping for a cardiologist, and we might choose one that, given our particular policy, is out of our price range. we made an appointment, arrived 15 minutes before the appointed hour on the appointed day, then waited 45 minutes beyond the agreed-upon time to get some face time with the primary care doc. (not necessarily eye contact, mind you, but we do catch a glimpse of his face.)

in the precious 10 minutes allotted us, we asked for the name of a good cardiologist because obviously hubby’s heart’s gone wonky, and we didn’t study the heart in this context, in the classes we took, or in the lives we’ve led.

“give us a name,” we asked, “tell us who can help us.”

primary care filled out the paperwork and gave it to his “scheduling girl” without telling us the name or phone number of the person who will be calling us. we didn’t even talk about what criteria he used to decide that this one particular person is The One We Should See. does he beat you at tennis once a week, primary care? did she graduate at the top of her class? do you belong to the same church or investment club? or does this person you’re sending us to pay the highest referral fee?

we want the name of the person you’d send your mother or your dad or your wife or yourself to see.

a  week goes by, and we’ve heard nothing, so we call the primary care office and we’re told oh, they’ve been trying to call, but well, they’re just so busy, you know. when i point out that is the very last thing we want to hear, they are dumbfounded. (yes, i did take the time to explain.) hours later, we are informed that we have an appointment with somebody 2 weeks from now. oh – and by the way, it’s an hour away. nobody ever asked us if that would be a good day and time for us, if we’re even going to be in town, if we’re willing to drive. our time is obviously not valuable. our health and peace of mind of no concern.

primary care dude and crew, here’s the thing that’s overlooked far too often to suit me: we are your customer.

that’s right: i said CUSTOMER. i know you prefer the word “patient” because it’s familiar, and there’s something so elevated about it. “customer” is so common, and there’s not the embedded hierarchy as in the word “patient.”

well, we’ll take it from here, thank you very much. we’ll find our own cardiologist. we’ll ask family members who they would suggest we see. we’ll get a suggestion from knowledgeable people to whom we are more than a car payment.

we get permission from the insurance company, we make our own appointment, getting in more than a week earlier at a time that’s mutually convenient. yes, we’re still driving an hour, but it’s our decision. a choice we made.

we’ll see you soon, joe the cardiologist who studied the other workings of the heart. we’ll see you tomorrow, actually, and i want you to know this: i have spent more than half my life with this man. we have a mere 36 years’ worth of miles on us at this point. and we have miles to go before we sleep. miles, i tell you. chunks of miles.

consider our first meeting an interview. we’re not committing to a lifetime together – at least not yet – and you should probably know that i’m not afraid to fire doctors. i’ve done it before when my loved ones weren’t being well cared for. oh, and i should probably mention that we’re auditioning your staff tomorrow, too.

i’ve been told i have authority issues with the medical community. call it whatever you want, but i am not afraid to ask you to call me by my first name, and i’m equally unafraid to call you by your first name in return because that levels the playing field. i am not afraid to remind you that our differences right here, right now come down to the fact that we took different courses in college. i know you were taught differently, but then maybe you had an incomplete education. maybe they should have taught you the basics of customer service.

you are providing a service we are in need of. you have knowledge we can use. you weren’t born with this knowledge, you weren’t annointed with it. you simply did what the rest of us did to learn the invaluable things we know: you studied, you read, you took notes and tests, then you went out into the world and that’s when the real learning started.

some of the best business relationships are pillared by the same things that support other lasting, mutually-beneficial relationships: empathy, respect, listening, and genuine caring. those other workings of the heart that we‘ve studied, read about, took notes, and been tested on.

we may appear cool, calm, and collected tomorrow, but make no mistake: we are afraid. you’ve been around this block many times before, but it’s our first time on this particular corner. we want and need your knowledge. we want and need at least one good reason to feel confident in your abilities. we want and need a reason to trust you, to feel comfortable following your suggestions, and we don’t build that kind of relationship just by looking at the framed certificates hanging on your walls or the top of your head as you remain bent over your clipboard.

when we show up at your office tomorrow, here’s a little something to keep in mind: we’ll be kicking tires and taking you out for a test drive. i don’t care how many cup holders you have or if you have sirius radio, but i do want to give you some idea of what we’re looking for. i sure do hope you’re The One We’re Looking For, joe the cardiologist, because there’s not much i hate more than car shopping.

 

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