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 priority. 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.
While traveling south from Millinocket, I transcribed numerous pages of AT overnight notes into several pages of typed content on my iPhone. I concluded that was too much content for the Confederate Yankee to consume in one sitting, so I planned to parse it into smaller elements. I intended on doing that yesterday afternoon until events got in the way. Let me explain further.
After Scamper and I arrived home last Sunday following stops in Kennebunkport, Guilford, Jersey City, Woodbridge and Fayetteville (NC), I worked 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 stick with the program. 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 wife despite her much shorter stride. In turn, I had to slow my pace, but not by much, to follow him through the building’s double set of doors. I confided to the fellow that I was going to take a “memory test” thanks to Medicare. 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; he confirmed I had heard and remembered correctly! So my outlook on the appointment was instantly improved! We took the elevator to our floor and I let them proceed ahead of me to the receptionist’s counter. As they registered their arrival, I quickly sent a text to Scamper gleefully sharing the test answers. After registering my own arrival, the receptionist gave me 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 memory-test answers. Three minutes past my appointment time, I was called by a nurse who stood in the passageway leading to the patient treatment rooms. 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, she made an overly solicitous suggestion to “Please place your back and heels against the wall and stand very straight. Gooood!”. Good grief, she was treating me like a geezer. My height was already a permanent entry in my medical records and has not changed in, well, let me stipulate there has been no change in the 22-years I have been using the clinic for medical purposes. (Note to self – stick with the Wellness protocol.)
I was then ushered into a treatment room where she carefully pointed out my chair – beside the desk with a laptop…just like 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. So, I was not ready with a humorous reply like, “I fell down the spiral staircase while visiting 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”. Even 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. Was this part one of the dreaded Memory Test? I paused to ponder my options: Should I admit to the minimum threshold for falls, 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 self-administer smelling salts. 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 so I 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 segue, Nurse Squinty 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 again. 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 earlier in the process. (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 my, oh my”, I thought, “this is going to be hysterical”. With the cuff in place and my knees properly uncrossed, the gauge proceeded to register 40 points higher than the Omron BP gizmo had read at home just two hours earlier! Clearly, she saw that I was a patient in distress, so she recommended that a confirmation reading be taken in a few minutes. Without delay she moved on to questions about my advanced medical care directive – did I have one, she asked with squinty eyes – and, do I know where is it? I gave quick, knowledgeable answers to both questions – Yes! The subsequent BP reading — taken after she advised that I think “happy thoughts” (To self…How about thinking about that perfectly pleasant technician at the optometrist’s office.) — read a mere four points lower. I could have predicted the results!
Then the topic shifted to hearing aids. “I see from your chart that you are wearing hearing aids,” Nurse Squinty stated, which I presumed was a lead-in to another test question. I confirmed that I did, but when she obviously could not see them, I offered that I wear them mostly to appease 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 in Nurse Squinty’s hands. It was a plain sheet of white paper on which she wanted me to draw the face of a clock and enter the time: 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 hard-of-hearing geezers like me!). I was advised that the three words were to be fed back to her after I drew my clock face. Those three words were… Dang if I wasn’t being tricked! Squinty gave me three words that were different than those I given to me the elevator! Arragh!! Still, I tried to hold myself together while silently repeating the three words and very mechanically drawing the plain clock face. Uh oh!! While I could mentally recall the three words, I had forgotten what time I was supposed to draw. But good Nurse Squinty helped! “Don’t forget to draw 11:10 on the face of the clock!”, she chided. “Ha” I snorted to myself, “Patient passes Medicare Wellness memory test by trickery – failing to remember the time!”
Let me quickly offer a cautionary comment 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 final, triage question is in order like, “How would you describe the previous questions?” Those who describe them as Funny or something similar would get to skip the test.
I later wrote to my doctor, via his medical practice message portal, that I’d like to pass on taking next year’s test; I think I already have the answers.