Friday, July 20, 2012

Today's Aneurysm



I arose late for my Aortic Sonogram. It was scheduled for 8 a.m. and I woke up at 7:30. The woman who scheduled it told me that I had to fast, nothing by mouth (what other method is there?), from midnight, and to please arrive early in order to fill out some forms. It’s part of the “Welcome to Medicare” program. When you become my age you are enrolled in Medicare, an allegedly free-ish system to provide health coverage to older citizens. It’s a way to see who is and who is not close to death. I am at the time in my life where there are many agencies that want me to pass away. They urgently desire for anyone who isn’t earning and buying and paying taxes to die quickly with no complications, no lingering, no expensive surgeries, treatments or hospitalizations. These are referred to as “The Golden Years.”

So, “Welcome to Medicare” (big smile and a handshake). During my last physical Doctor S. noticed my age and said that he was “required” to assist me with the “Welcome to Medicare” forms. There are always forms. He read off the questions and I answered. We got to “Have you ever smoked?” and I said, “Of course”.

“But not now?”

“Nope. Quit 17 years ago.”

“Good for you but you have to have a sonogram of your aorta. It’s required if you’ve ever smoked or if you have a family history of aneurysms.”

Unfortunately, both.

About ten years ago I made a pledge to never use the word “aneurysm” and if someone spoke it in conversation, or even if I overheard a stranger say it, I would rebuke them and immediately leave the vicinity. An aneurysm is a blister, weakening or ballooning of the wall of a blood vessel that, when it eventually bursts and gives way, blood gushes and splatters just everywhere, causing strokes, heart attacks, internal bleeding, a “high risk of death” and all the crap that I’ve been trying not to think of but do anyway. It’s an ugly word that can only lead to unhealthy obsession and distress.

At the hospital, after registering and being asked more questions while the receptionist filled out a computerized form, I was directed to the Imaging Department where the technician asked me to lie on a padded table and pull up my shirt. She then smeared a viscous, somewhat vulgar lotion on my chest and stomach and prodded my lower torso with a hard plastic wand for about fifteen minutes. At times the sound of my heartbeat filled the darkened room as she broadcast it over a speaker so that she could hear if there were any audible anomalies. To my untrained but anxious and sensitive ears my pulse sounded like thunder; fast, thready, irregular thunder. A hyperactive kid stomping on a long sheet of bubble wrap, but really loud. I expected the tech to say, “Wow, there’s an aneurysm on your aorta the size of a ripe bing cherry.”

There was nothing obvious in, on, or around the aorta that indicated that I would soon die and relieve the concerned agencies; I will continue to be a financial burr in their underwear. I wiped the lotion off of my chest with the provided towel and went to the grocery store, my next stop on this aneurysm-free day.

Filling out goddamn forms occupies a large part of my life. Ill die because I failed to fill out a form properly. How happy they will be.  Online forms, surveys, questionnaires, purchases, enrollment in various organizations, the gathering of data for research, opinion, support, customer satisfaction and aneurysm analysis,.

I use a plastic swipe-card at the grocery store that gives me barely perceptible discounts on certain items. A robot-woman’s voice says “Welcome, preferred customer” and it’s a little like a lottery. I swiped my card and noticed that the cherries which I thought were $1.99 a pound registered at 10 dollars for around two pounds.  Apparently my card, the one I’ve been using for ten years, was no longer accepted by the scanner and I was being charged the “non-discounted” price of $4.99 a pound, much more than I expected or would pay.

I like fruit. I’ve heard, and believe, that fresh fruit added to one’s diet is a good way to avoid health problems like high cholesterol and aneurisms. I use the word freely now. It’s too late to quibble.

I brought the high price of cherries to the attention of a clerk and he gave me a package with a new plastic card and a mail-in form. He explained that it would be easier if I logged on from my home computer and filled in a questionnaire, conveniently registering for the discounts and bypassing the U. S. Postal Service. He also swiped his own card and I got the cherries for the discounted price. God help me, I thanked him for his generosity.

The website for the supermarket chain came up on my screen and I completed the form and pressed “continue”. Nope. The scolding red line of text that says I didn’t fill in one of the lines accurately appeared at the top of the page with a lot of exclamation points and I was kicked back to the beginning and all of the info I’d entered was blanked out, so I started over again. The section for my phone number was marked with an asterisk. I retyped everything, paying particular attention to the phone number. Another red asterisk. I was doing something wrong, I guess. I knew the phone number was accurate. I separated the area code and the last seven digits. Red asterisk. Eventually, I tried it with a couple of hyphens separating the groups of numbers and it worked. I pressed “continue” and after a long wait was told that I was now enrolled in their Savings Program and was eligible for all manner of benefits. I declined a further relationship with the grocery store and their dubious largesse. Upon exiting, however, I was directed to log on to my email where I would receive a message from the company that would allow me to “verify” my data. I bailed, booted up my gmail account and saw that there was the expected notification in the inbox. All I had to do was hit a link that would take me to another page where all I had to do was acknowledge with another simple mouse click, that “Yes” I was me.

So now, while they’re in season, I can buy cherries for a relatively fair price instead of the inflated cost of $4.99 a pound. The cherries were a little tart but I ate them anyway. Aneurysm. Jesus Christ, imagine the forms that I’ll have fill out at the hospital if I survive.


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