Personal History: 50 / 50 Medical Terminology

My vision was crap yesterday evening and so my 50/50 arrives this morning. I will post another later this evening so they are not on top of each other. I think about topics for this series of blogs I am writing. Things I have encountered or learned in my first fifty years on the planet. Oftentimes, the subject is health related. Could be that as I am getting older shit is just falling apart, so it’s on my mind constantly. Could be that a huge chunk of my life was spent in doctor’s offices and hospitals either with my Parents or for myself. For whatever the reason, I will depart my wisdom here, to you, friend.

Physicians' Desk Reference, 1989 by Physicians' Desk Reference - Used (Acceptable) - 0874897009 by PDR Network, LLC |
This is not Ma’s copy, but it is exactly how I remember it.

My Ma was an RN when I was very young. Then she had a back injury. Then she became a hypochondriac. Ha. I jest but also a tad serious. She had all of these ailments but she kept coming up with things that she thought she also had. I blame too much time on her hands and her medical encyclopedias. She would read about all of these diagnoses and then review her catalog of diseases and see what would align. Her Physicians Desk Reference was always close at hand. When I was a kid, I would read in the news or hear at school about a disease or plight and when I came home I would look through all of her reference books to see if I could find it. It was one of those odd things that I felt compelled to do. Is this a “real” condition and what are the underlying symptoms. Weird, I know. But we didn’t have the internet “back in those days” and we had to actually look things up in books. And for a kid with a curious mind, it meant that I was always flipping a page of some sort.

Bokhee on Grey’s Anatomy
Bokhee is a scrub nurse in real life and continues working with open heart surgeries in LA. 

When Grey’s Anatomy first came on TV, I was fascinated with the show. Ever so often (with today’s interwebs), I would/will look up an ailment they discuss to read more about it or to gauge the accuracy of its portrayal. It pretty much is a carryover from my youth and when I would use Ma’s medical reference library to better understand a topic I had heard about. I never thought back then that researching random medical topics would ever be useful.

Fast forward to Dad being in the hospital for his heart December 2012 at the VA in Richmond, Virginia. The doctor had come out to discuss with my Sister and I what we could expect from his bypass surgery. He mentioned the “cabbage” procedure. Then he thought for a moment and looked at me and said, “Oh, let me explain that term.” But before he had the opportunity, I sort of nervously blurted out that it is a Coronary Artery Bypass Graft that is used during bypass surgeries like Dad’s. The doctor raises his eyebrows and asked, “Are you a nurse?” My reply: “No, I watch Grey’s Anatomy.”

Image result for the guy with the tattoo on grey's anatomy
Russel Hornsby portraying Digby Owens
Season 1 Grey’s Anatomy

There was another Grey’s anecdote that happened while Dad was at a VA facility. This time we were at the Beckley WV VA. Dad had been in A-fib and they were struggling to get it under control. This required them to test out various drug cocktails. It really is hit-or-miss with that kind of treatment. What you think might work in reality does not and it requires regular adjustments to get it just right. By this time, I was researching every treatment and med they would give Dad. I had a friend in pharmaceuticals who I would routinely email to ask questions. I poured over web pages of drug makers to learn the intricate details. Dad’s doctor knew this because on occasion, I would ask him to spell the drug names for me because sometimes there are names that are similarly spelled but vastly different. During the A-fib crisis, he says, “We are going to try Amiodarone.” And as I went to jot down the drug he started to spell it for me. I stopped him and said, “I know that one. It’s an anti-arrhythmic med. I think it requires testing of the liver if used over a long period of time? Or kidneys?” Again with the doctor-ly raised eyebrow. “They gave it to Digby, the gunshot tattoo guy.” As if the doctor should know who that was. Eyebrows raised further and arms crossed. “Grey’s Anatomy.” I then explained that the drug name sounded fake and it made me wonder the authenticity and correct usage so I had looked it up. And it was a random quick mention in the melee of the scene but it struck my ear and raised my curiosity. The character’s name was also unique, so it came to mind easily. In a Holiday-Inn ad style tone I looked at hims straight faced said, “I’m not a doctor but I watched Grey’s Anatomy last night.”

There is a lesson in here somewhere, my “moral to this story”: Ma’s p.i.t.a. hypochondria gave me the resources to be inquisitive and build a trait that would come in handy when Dad was in need. We’ll go with that. The other lesson that runs in the same thread of my mind: if you do not understand something a doctor tells you, do not be afraid to ask questions. Do not just “take his word for it” because he is a professional. That was my Parents’ M.O. their whole lives. My doctors now – if there is a major thing I am going through, I bring a notepad filled with questions and having room for notes to be taken. I am frank and open and honest regarding discussions of my medical issues. I don’t need “extra ailments”. Well, I guess that was another life lesson I learned. Thanks Ma.

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