As a septuagenarian, my greatest fear has nothing to do with my physical health. I worry most about losing my mind. I was always in awe of Steven Hawking, confined to a wheelchair, with a myriad of physical disabilities, yet he was brilliant. My mind is the only thing that distinguishes me from a blob of protoplasm. Some will argue, “I’d rather walk than spend my life chained to a wheelchair or lying in bed. Just imagine how many new people I’d meet each day.” Not me. I’d rather lie in bed and be able to recognize my kids, to wish my nurse Merry Christmas, or to read a book.
This week I had my annual physical. Of course, these days it’s called The Annual Medicare Physical–one of the government’s new bureaucracies, which translates as mounds of both physician and patient paperwork.
“Sue, I’m going to say three words: umbrella, typewriter, and guitar. We’re going to continue with the exam, and in five or so minutes I’ll ask you to repeat umbrella, typewriter, and guitar. Got it?”
I’ll spare you the details of poking and probing, but then he looked at my knee. “Dr. A, I have bursitis and maybe a Baker’s cyst.”
“Correct diagnosis, Dr. Sue. Shall I order an MRI? Are you contemplating a knee replacement?”
“Absolutely not. If it gets worst I’ll have a D and C!”
“D and C?”
“Isn’t that what arthroscopic knee surgery is–a dusting and cleaning out?”
He laughed, “And what are the three words?
Even though twenty minutes had passed, I vomited back umbrella, typewriter, and guitar.
“You know, Sue, this simple exercise is well-researched and has be proven in numerous studies to be over 95+% accurate. You show no signs of Alzheimer’s. If you’d missed one or two, I’d ask you more questions. If you missed all three, I’d refer you for more extensive evaluation.”
With the exam concluded and the flu shot given, I completed the inane Medicare questionnaire. Some or hundreds of random data bases now know I have banisters on my stairs, I walk without assistance, I can dress myself, and I still drive. Yet, I smiled all the way to my parked car. “I’m still with the program. I am sane. Hard to imagine three words can have such an accurate assessment.”
Damn it! Where are my glasses?