Medical tests add to winter's chill

February 01, 1994|By Elise T. Chisolm

January and February seem to be high season for doctors who recommend those medical-torture tests. They wait until after the holiday -- after all, they don't want to miss Christmas, either.

So, think about it before you report another bad headache or tummy ache. You may find yourself wrapped, slapped then zapped onto a cold table with just a cheap paper gown open at the back so somebody you never saw before can photograph some private part of you, a part that you'd never worried much about before, or seen inside.

My 85-year-old friend Maybelle says the tests are milking people's Medicare. And she thinks they're sometimes worse than the symptoms you might be experiencing: "I liked the old-timey doctor who just looked at you, examined you and figured out what was wrong with you. And more often than not he was right." Well, I guess he was with Maybelle.

Anyway, after the tests come the agonizing days you have to wait for the test results. Keeping the teen-agers off the phone and the phone line free takes infinite patience. Sometimes it's three days, sometimes eight.

There is a "doctorial" phrase in those reports for which to be on the lookout: "Well, we ought to take a look now, before this gets away from us." Notice they always use the editorial WE.

The "take-a-look" philosophy consists of poking into your heart, stomach or blood vessels. Doctors like blood. They take a lot of blood in the winter, I think. Remember, the tests will probe any small opening. Nothing seems to be too small for those high-tech instruments the doctors use to peek at us with.

I, myself, wonder if the doctors who prescribe the really yucky tests have had the procedures themselves.

My friend Louise has had two stress tests. You know, that's the test where you walk and run on a treadmill and pretend you can do it easily. She'd had a little chest pain. But the stress test and even further tests came out negative.

She has told the doctor she will not have another stress test. Actually she found out her mild chest pain came from wearing her bra too tight.

Horace fainted twice on his stress test. Horace is fine and has nothing wrong with him that they can come up with. He was just tired and needed to change jobs.

Someone I know just had a colonoscopy -- that's the one where you have to fast for two days. It's horrific because you have to drink a liquid goo that tastes like poisoned Perrier.

A few days later he had the one where they run what seems like a garden hose through you -- from the bottom up, that is, to look at your colon. Then he had an endoscopy -- that's the one where they put a tube down your throat and look at your top and lower pipes. They thought he had an ulcer; he burped a lot. He thinks he'd been eating too many bean burritos.

I will say if you live with someone who has to fast before a test -- move out. Go to a motel.

When my husband fasts for a test he turns into a virtual Frankenstein's monster. He even scares the cat. I had to remove the daisies from the dining-room table for fear he'd eat them.

Oh, yes, I know many tests save lives. Please don't write in. Personally, I'm waiting until the medical information super dTC highway comes along. Then we will have an intimate computer hookup with our doctors, and we'll be diagnosed electronically. You won't have to leave your house, or anyway your bathroom.

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