It has been two weeks since I climbed Katahdin and while I have written about the trail since then, none of it has been migrated to this site – obviously I am letting other aspects of life take forefront. That stops now. Why now, you might ask? Because I see that I am letting attempts at perfect style and segue become the adversary to timely.
Yesterday morning I transcribed numerous pages of AT notes made while traveling south from Millinocket into several pages of typed content – but it was too much content for the Yankee’s ability to consume in one sitting, so I planned to parse it into smaller elements. I intended on doing that yesterday afternoon until yesterday morning’s events got in the way. Let me explain.
After we arrived back home last Sunday following stops in Kennebunkport, Guilford, Jersey City, Woodbridge and Fayetteville (NC), I worked on getting up and down the staircases with the same agility I managed on the Trail. Surprisingly, staircases have not been easy. More rest was needed. Then I began to catch up on missed appointments, like the optometrist on Thursday and my physician on Friday. That left the weekend open until a Medicare Wellness appointment Monday. I had wanted to cancel that appointment since I saw no ROI; however, the physician and Lana convinced me to keep said appointment. In retrospect I should have stuck to my plan of skipping it; except that by attending I found reason to start writing anew. Here is what happened on Medicare Wellness Monday…
I approached the door to the medical clinic behind a man of my age who was struggling to keep pace with his much shorter wife and her short stride. In turn, I had to slow my pace, but not by much, to follow him through the buildings cluster of doors. I confided to the fellow that I was going to take my memory test (part of the Medicare offering). He laughed and said that he took it recently and that the answers were Sunrise, Chair and Banana. I repeated them out loud to make sure I heard correctly; I had. We took the elevator to our floor and I let him and his wife proceed to the receptionist’s counter while I quickly sent a text to Scamper gleefully sharing the test answers. After registering my presence and purpose with the receptionist I was given a clipboard with several pages of Medicare Wellness questions. I competed the forms, returned them to the receptionist and took to reading a copy of Sports Illustrated with its dull, front-page story about basketball prospects for each pro team – while occasionally pulling out my iPhone to review the test answer. Three minutes past my appointment time, I was called by Nurse Squinty who stood in the passageway leading to the patient treatment rooms. As she led we made a stop at the railroad-sized scales to check my weight. Never mind that it had been checked on the same scale on the previous workday. This time I had to remove my shoes – which turned out to be part of the test. She noted I had demonstrated “Good balance!” And then, to get my height measured, I got an overly solicitous suggestion to “Please place your back and heels against the wall and stand very straight. Goood!”. Good grief, here we go… My height is already a permanent entry in my medical records and has not changed in, well, let me just stipulate there has been no change in the 22-years I have been using the clinic for medical purposes. Stick with the Wellness protocol.
I was then ushered into the treatment room where Squinty carefully pointed out my chair – it was the one right next to the desk with the laptop…just like in every other treatment room in the clinic. As soon as I settled into the chair she began the next stage of the Wellness visit: “I see from your records that you recently fell and that you have an appointment with Dr. Jones about it tomorrow; is that right?” followed immediately by, “Where did you fall? I should have seen it coming, but I admit to being a bit dim-witted at times. I was not ready with a humorous reply, like “I fell down the spiral staircase at the White House”. No, I took the easy way out and said I fell on the AT. That drew a look of consternation and she admitted to not knowing what an AT was, so I clarified it: “On the Appalachian Trail”. That was no help to her so I offered a few more sentences of explanation which were readily accepted. Or so I thought. She then took to reviewing other answers I gave in the questionnaire, one of which asked if I had fallen more than twice in the last year. Twice, mind you, was the threshold for concern. She asked the question as if I had not actually answered it in writing. I paused to ponder my options: should I admit to the minimum threshold, or should I stick to my original answer.” I stuck with my original answer and said, “Conservatively, I’ve fallen 75 times – and I believe I set a record of falling seven times in one day”. I thought she was going to go for smelling salts for self-administration. She squinted at me as if that was going to squeeze the truth out of me. “Where?”, was her only response to which I replied, “On the AT!” With a quicker wit I could have tried a “Who’s on first?” gambit, but I was beginning to get agitated and went stoic. I was then asked if I had a fear of falling to which I offer a simple, No. (Who hikes the AT with a fear of falling?)
Without a segue, she moved on to the abuse questions: “Has your spouse or significant other abused you verbally?” – and – “Has your spouse or significant other abused you physically?” I am certain that the anticipated answer was “Yes”, but I replied No and saw her squint. I remained agitated; why was I being questioned as if I was a 96-year-old soon to be 97, rather than a just turned 66-year old with a diminishing sense of humor? It was a question I should have posed early in the process, but failed to ask. (I intend no offense to any 96-year-old reading this blog.)
The next part of the Wellness checkup was to read my BP – “Oh Lordy, here we go again”, I thought. With the cuff in place and my knees properly uncrossed, the gauge proceeded to register 40-points higher than what an OMRON machine at home had read earlier in the morning – just two hours earlier! Clearly, I was a patient in near distress so she recommended that a confirmation reading be taken in a few minutes. She moved on to questions about my advanced medical care directive – did I have one, she asked with squinty eyes – and, where is it? I gave quick, knowledgeable answers to both questions. A subsequent BP reading — taken after I thought “happy thoughts” (about the wonderfully, pleasant technician at the optometrist’s office) — read a mere four points lower. I could have predicted the results!
Then the topic moved to hearing aids. “I see from your chart that you are wearing hearing aids,” Squinty stated, which I presumed was a lead-in to another test question. I confirmed that I did, but when Squinty could not see them I noted that I wear them mostly for my wife and I was not wearing them now. I did not hear her reply to my answer, so I may have failed the whisper test I saw mentioned in my electronic records later in the day.
Finally, the dreaded memory test was pulled from the folder on Squinty’s desk. It was a plain sheet of white paper on which she wanted me to draw the face of a clock and enter the time of 11:10. But first…she gave me three words that I was to repeat to her to ensure I heard them correctly (A helpful step for the hard of hearing!). Those three words were to be fed back to her after I drew my clock. Dang if it wasn’t a trick question: Squinty had changed the words from those that I memorized on the elevator to three new ones! Arragh!! Still, I passed by forgetting the specified time while silently repeating the three words as I mechanically drew a plain clock face. She then reminded me to draw 11:10 on the face of the clock – “Ha,” I snorted to myself, “Patient passes memory test via trickery!”
Let me just offer this as a close out on the topic of Medicare Wellness; I had placed “Funny” in a remark block at the bottom of the multi-page form before handing it back to the receptionist. I am sure there are aged folks and caregivers who might not use the same adjective or who might express some manner of umbrage with my word choice. Fair enough. Perhaps a triage question is in order: “How would you describe the previous questions?” Those who describe them as funny or something similar would get to skip the test. (We could then share the right adjective in elevator #2 at, say, 11:10!)
Later I wrote to my doctor via his message-portal that I’d like to pass on taking next year’s test; I think I already have the answers.