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August 2006
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A Pious Gesture

Earlier in this century, circa 2002-2004, I was very conscientious about checking my health, including my blood pressure which fluctuated but was a bit on the high side. Taking off some weight had lowered it and all was well. My doctor had scheduled an annual physical. However things happen. Medical Disassociates, the organization where he had offices, moved, and in the course of things records and schedules strayed and scheduled physicals never happened. Yours truly never noticed - time passes rapidly and, after all, I was quite healthy. Had been all my life, and I wasn't about to stop now.

It was all a mistake. In the intervening two plus years my blood pressure was steadily climbing...

On our trip westward we stopped in Cody, Wyoming and stayed overnight in a motel. In the middle of the night I woke up to go to the bathroom. After doing my business my head was feeling a little woozy. I thought I was having an allergy attack so I turned on the vanity light and searched for a benadryl. The light woke Our Lady of the Large Black Dog who asked me what I was doing. I graciously replied that I was getting a pill. She insists that I growled, but I am quite certain that I must have been gracious. In any event, I was feeling even woozier so I turned the light off and headed back to bed.

At this point it's better to relate events from her point of view. The lights went off and then she heard a large thud. Very alarmed she asked, "Where are you?" I replied, "I'm in bed." She looked over at my bed (we were in two queen sized beds) and saw no one there. Again she asked, "Where are you?", and again I replied, "I'm in bed." Very alarmed, she turned on the light and saw me laying on the floor. At this point I had finally figured out that I was not in bed (the roughness of the carpet gave me a clue) and I got up and stumbled into bed. She proceeded to take me in hand. I was wringing wet with sweat. She wiped me down and insisted I sleep in her bed where she could keep track of me. We settled that I had fainted. Possibly it was no big deal, possibly it was something to worry about. She worried about it.

We made our way to Jackson Hole. There we did the tourist thing. Along the way we stopped at a Kmart. Excellent, we thought. Let's check Richard's blood pressure. Eeek! It was 180/80. This is not a set of numbers you want to see. We stopped at a clinic just outside Yellowstone where we measured it again. It was even higher. The nurse there ran me through a series of tests to see if I might have had a stroke. These are sort of weird - things like touching yourself in various places, sticking your tongue out, and, ah, putting your hands on your thighs and flipping them back and forth. Actually, the lady said to put them on my lap. I didn't quite appreciate what she was getting at so I put them on my tummy and vigorously flipped them back and forth. The nurse and Deborah did their best not to break out laughing. The nurse turned to Deborah, and asked, "He doesn't dance very well, does he." Deborah said something like, "Not at all." My dignity never gets the respect that it deserves. The upshot of all this was that my physical reactions were all normal with no sign of a stroke. She did an EKG and that checked out fine.

The roadside clinic visit was on a Thursday. I called my doctor's office and made an appointment for the coming Monday. My regular doctor wouldn't be there, so they scheduled with a doctor whom I will call Houston. Still very worried about all this, we stopped at the emergency room in Rapid City and had them look at me. They checked me out. They did an EKG, a cat scan, and blood work. Every thing checked out fine, except for that pesky blood pressure (only the systolic was high, not the diastolic nor the pulse rate.) The doctor who saw me didn't want to interfere with whatever my doctor might want to prescribe so he prescribed me a five day supply of a diuretic called hydroclorothiazide. Oh yes, there was one anomaly - my blood sugar was high. The doctor asked about this. I said that we had just come from breakfast and that I had had a couple of packets of sugar on my cereal. He said that would do it.

Homeward we went where I took it easy and kept quiet. Monday morning we went off to see Doctor Houston, a man famed for his bedside manner. I rather like him. He heard my story, looked at my records including the tests taken at Rapid City, and told me (perhaps not quite so crudely as I am phrasing it), that (a) my blood pressure problems were a long time acoming, (b) that my fainting spell was probably because I was drunk, (c) that I was prediabetic, and (d) that my cholesterol numbers were probably awful. He also stated that the Rapid City doctor's prescription was "a pious gesture" and the Rapid City doctor was gullible for accepting my explanation of the high blood sugar reading. He then ordered some more blood work including a cholesterol test, and gave me a month's supply (doctor's sample) of a serious blood pressure medicine called Avalide.

We went home and worried. My blood numbers have always been normal, I'm not obese, and I eat disgustingly healthy. It seemed most unlikely that I would be prediabetic but who knows? Bodies tend to betray one in unexpected ways. Two days later I got a letter from him which I quote in part:

The results of your blood tests have returned and indicate, contrary to what I was suspicious of, your blood sugars really are in the normal range and you are not diabetic. The remainder of the blood tests appear to be in good repair.
Chortle.

Since then my blood pressure has been slowly but steadily coming down. Exactly what it might be is somewhat of a mystery. I'm on the third home machine that I've tried. The first two were totally whacko. The third gives readings that at least are consistent and somewhat near the readings the professionals get. However the people in the local clinic get readings 10-20 points below what my machine reads. Of course these are the same people that measured my temperature as being 94. Just call me the man with the reptilian heart.

In addition to all this I've scheduled a checkup at Mayo clinic in early August. We shall see what we shall see. I have every faith, though, that I am in excellent shape for someone in my condition.


This page was last updated August 1, 2006.

Richard Harter's World
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August 2006
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Hyde County, South Dakota is the Pin Tail Duck Capital of the world. Visit scenic Highmore, SD in 2006!