Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Resetting my healthcare gauges

I’ve had a small healthcare adventure over the past few days, and it was all routine, and also necessary. The results of it all were interesting beyond the obvious reason.

The story began the middle of last week when I sent through a prescription renewal request to my doctor. I’d received the last month’s supply of my current prescription, and I the pharmacy was reminding me to organise a new prescription.

On Thursday of last week, I got a text from the doctor’s office telling me he wanted me to come in to get weighed and have my blood pressure taken, and that they’d sent an order for blood tests to the company that does them. I rang the office to schedule an appointment to come in for the measurements, and that was set for the following Monday.

On Friday, I went to the vampires to have the blood drawn—after checking what locations were open because, due to “severe staffing shortages”, several locations were closed—including the one located in the medical offices where my doctor is located. I also was reminded that because the place is considered a health care facility, masks are required: It was the first time I’d worn a mask in months—maybe a year or so?

Over the weekend, I checked the doctor’s patient portal to see if my blood tests were posted, but they weren’t. The doctor has to review them before they’re posted, and because I got the blood drawn on Friday afternoon, I thought it might’ve been delayed. Normally, an afternoon visit wouldn’t be a problem, but maybe those “severe staffing shortages” were causing problems?

I went in for my appointment on Monday morning: It was the first time I’d been inside the facility in a just over two years. Due to the pressures from Covid, medical practices discouraged in-person visits for routine reasons in order to free up capacity for people who were sick. Since my last actual visit, I had a phone consultation with my doctor in April of last year, and we’ve traded secure messages through the patient portal in between times.

On Monday, my blood pressure was a little high, which was probably “white coat syndrome”, because when it was last taken in office around three years ago it was similar, and both were higher than what I measure at home (my home measurements are normal for me at my age).

My weight was also around the same as last time it was measured there (same time as my BP), though I was roughly a kilogram heavier, which was still fine because of my height.

Speaking of height, I’m measurably shrinking: I’m a massive 1.5cm shorter than I was in 2016, the last time I recorded my height in the Health app on my iPhone (and, for the avoidance of doubt, yes, I’m being sarcastic: 1.5cm is about 3/5 of an inch, and, yes, I’m aware that nearly all of us get shorter as we age—thanks, gravity, thanks a lot!).

The nurse said that she’d seen some of the blood test results, which at a glance looked fine. My bloods have been fine for years, something I know because I made a spreadsheet with all my blood test results going back more than a decade. I knew my doctor would tell me if anything wasn’t okay.

The nurse was also impressed that I have many years of measurements of my vitals (mostly BP and heart rate), and that I have all those blood test results. I also used to weigh myself every Friday and record it, and I did that for at least 15 years, but I stopped some time in the last 5 years because, it turns out, not even I can obsessively collect data on everything

Finally, at 7:53 this morning, I got a text from my doctor: “Hi Arthur, I am pleased to tell you that all your blood tests are okay…” I joked on Facebook, “So, I’m the very picture of good health—assuming the picture is like that one of Dorian Gray…”

However, the reality is that, taken together, the results of this latest little health adventure really are all good. There are still things that can be improved, of course—aren’t there always?—and this obviously doesn’t mean there won’t be new problems that come along in the future, but right now my existing physical health issues are under control and the general indicators are currently okay. All we’re ever assured of is the very moment we’re in, and that just happened to be an excellent moment.

This small healthcare adventure over the past few days was routine, but also necessary to keep tabs on how I’m doing. The results of it all were interesting precisely because things are okay: With everything that’s happened over the past several years, it’s easy for me to worry about what the state of my health is or may become. This adventure kind of re-set my gauges, so to speak, so my awareness of my own physical health is again re-grounded in reality, and that’s good, too—and in some ways, it’s every bit as important as the results themselves.

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