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  Wednesday January 28th, 2015    

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The exam (09/25/2013)
By Frances Edstrom

The annual physical, a mere annoyance when you are young, hangs over us like a specter when we reach a certain age.

Blood pressure. Is the medical community ever happy about blood pressure? Itís either too high, or too low. Even if itís in the range that most of us would think is perfect, they want you to worry about it. And, of course, they throw in the perennial doctor favorites ó drink less, lose weight, use less salt, exercise more, donít smoke, and donít play with matchesÖor something like that.

As I waited in the examining room, freezing my backside in the hospital gown ďtied in the back,Ē I wondered why fish donít have high blood pressure. Not even whales, who are mammals, seem to suffer from high or low blood pressure. And they take in massive amounts of salt! Why us?

When the doctor arrived, I got out my list of questions and ailments. This is something my mother always did that I scoffed at, but now it seems eminently sensible.

Among my concerns was the fact that this summer I have awakened myself three or four times in the night with a big snort. Since I donít sleep with anyone who can tell me whether or not I snore, I wondered if I should have myself checked to make sure I donít suffer from sleep apnea. It seems many of my peers are having this problem.

The doctor, who has a very, very long Polish surname, and so instructs her patients to call her Lauren, sent me to a little class, where I and my classmates were instructed in the use of a monitor that we were to take home and wear that night. There was a little rubber tube that fitted over one of my fingers, attached to a monitor about the size of a portable phone. It would record oxygen levels and breathing patterns while I slept, and was to be returned the next morning. I have not yet heard the results, so I am assuming I will wake up in the morning for a few more months, at least.

I also told her my right knee tends to give out at inopportune times, such as when I am walking. Her advice was to use a hard yoga bolster to stimulate the muscle. This involves getting down on the floor and rolling my thigh over the hard foam cylinder. But, and you have guessed it already, when I do that, my knee goes out.

My ears crackle sometimes, I told her. I must say, I expected her to say something like, ďWould you like to see a psychiatrist about your hypochondria?Ē But she was very nice and gave me an over-the-counter remedy.

Other than the doctor adjusting some medications, the exam went pretty well. Well, then there was the following visit to the dermatologist, where she burned off sun-damaged spots with liquid nitrogen. I told her a friend had told me that I could buy the stuff at Fleet Farm and take care of the task myself. That stopped her for a minute, but she recovered nicely and said that she still wanted me to come in so she could check spots I may not notice. So she burned and burned and did some slicing to rid me of the little pre-cancerous lesions.

I donít think I am any more vain than other people, but I just donít like walking around with big red patches on my face, or, just as bad, a face full of Band-aids. I have opted for the Band-aids, mostly because even I donít like looking at the sores. People try to be polite about it, but they canít help but stare, and I suppose they wonder if I am contagious. According to the pamphlet she gave me, the spots should heal in a few weeks, and then in a year (?) or two turn into white patches. Oh, joy.

It wasnít too bad, all in all. As they say, itís better than the alternative. 


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