Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Doctor Is In.


At this point in my life I really should have known better than to announce that this blog would update every Tuesday, because inevitably, once I give myself a schedule, the forces of interference will converge around me and do everything in their power to prevent me from clicking that “New Post” button.  Two weeks ago, I didn’t update because…well, that’s a story that deserves its own post, and last week, I was afflicted with a sinus infection so severe that I was about three coughs away from an iron lung.  All right, that’s an exaggeration, but I’m pretty sure I either cracked a rib or developed pleurisy, so really, it’s not that far off.

Anyway, while I was incapacitated and otherwise away from the computer, October had begun with or without me.  And this being the month of Halloween, and me being a horror fanatic, of course my returning blog post had to be about something creepy.  What I should write about, I wasn’t sure, until renting the incredibly unsettling psychological thriller Jacob’s Ladder and making a trip to the campus health center in the same week reminded me:

On second thought, I'll skip the anesthesia.
I have a terrible fear of doctors.

In childhood, this was due to a series of painful allergy tests and shots, but as I grew older, the needles stopped bothering me.  I suppose there’s only so many times that one can get a syringe in the arm before adjusting to it, and anyway, needles don’t stab people.  Doctors (and nurses) stab people.

Is it an irrational fear?  Absolutely.  If it weren’t for medical professionals, my weak ginger body would have quit on me before I started kindergarten, mostly likely.  And I thank everyone in the medical field for helping me overcome natural selection.  But with that said, there’s just something unnerving about doctors: the overpowering smell of disinfectant in their offices, the cold metal instruments, the thought of going in for a routine checkup and coming out with a terminal diagnosis.  It’s not that the human body fazes me—my idea of fun is going to look at preserved corpses—as much as the reminder of just how fallible that body is, and how much we depend on others to keep it running.

As Dr. Crane and his mask demonstrate, this goes for psychologists too.
And sometimes those others are just plain creepy.

I could go on and on about why various doctors and medical procedures make me uneasy –maggots on burn victims, people, maggots on burn victims—but it’s easier to illustrate it with a single story from my life, specifically the first semester of college last year.

At the start of my junior year, I began experiencing chest pains.  As I am a hypochondriac, I figured it was just stress and I was making a big deal over nothing.  It wasn’t until I learned that the Yaz I was taking had a good chance of giving me blood clots that I decided a trip to the health center was in order.  Even then, I figured they’d either tell me I was fine or that I should switch pills, and that would be the end of it.

Instead, I went to see the doctor one Friday morning and about forty-five minutes later found myself on a campus van en route to the hospital for blood tests and chest X-rays.  Not exactly how I had planned to start my weekend.

I was unnerved, of course, but not yet because I was in a hospital.  I was just afraid that they would find something seriously wrong with me.  I was uneasy when I registered at the front desk and had blood drawn, but that unease didn’t become full-blown fear until they sent me down the hall to radiology.

The hospital’s lobby had been full of people, heading down the halls or to the elevator, or darting in and out of the gift shop.  Likewise, I’d had my blood taken in the office where I’d checked in, surrounded by other nurses and phlebotomists, and I’d long ago adjusted to needles.  The hospital was brightly lit, clean, and altogether full of unthreatening activity.

The hallway to radiology, on the other hand, was completely empty.

At least they're not scary when they do Thriller.
The building was far from dilapidated, but going to have X-rays for blood clots in the heart while three hours away from my family was frightening enough without adding deserted hallways on top of that.  The halls were absolutely silent as I walked, without even a hum from the air vents or fluorescent lights, and my discomfort quickly blossomed into full-blown fear.  I turned a corner in the hall, half expecting to find myself confronted by an army of Silent Hill nurses.

Instead, I found myself in another empty hallway.  Or at least, a hallway that was empty until I was halfway through it.  Right as I reached the midpoint of the hall, a few yards away from the door to radiology, an orderly appeared at one end of the hall, pushing an unconscious patient on a gurney. (I can only hope that patient wasn’t headed on a trip through medical hell.)  And at that exact moment, with all the timing of an SNL comedy sketch but with none of the humor, another orderly appeared at the other end of the hall, pushing an unconscious patient in a wheelchair.  Neither of those patients ended up in radiology.  I wasn’t, to my knowledge, near a surgical ward or patients’ rooms, so to this day I have no idea where those patients and their silent orderlies were headed.

An X-ray, blood test, CAT scan, Holter monitor test and EKG later, I’ve still yet to receive a definitive diagnosis.  On the bright side, the chest pain has stopped—or at least, it had until I started coughing out my lungs.  The moral of this story isn’t “don’t see doctors,” however.  If there is a moral, it’s just that hospitals are a creepy place to be.

And that’s my irrational fear for the week.  Feel free to share yourself, and I’ll be back next week—I promise—with something else Halloween-related.