Thursday, February 21, 2013

Things the TV Medical Shows Do/Don't Tell You... Take One

For those of you who don't regularly set foot in a hospital or even those who do, I have something to tell. Shhh.... I actually have quite a few truths to reveal about Antiseptic City. Given our love of hospital dramas, we might have preconceived notions about this place of gurneys & backward hospital gowns but I am here to tell you life is far different than on TV.

In a series of posts starting today I will let readers in on what I know and what I have experienced as a veteran patient. In and out of doctor offices and hospital rooms has exposed me to hours and hours AND HOURS of real-life "film" of MY OWN. This is what you could call real reality TV if I had a camera.

So, here it goes...


The Michael Jackson Rule 

Like I've said before on this blog I like to use humor to help ease into difficult and nerve-wracking situations, especially medical ones! So, when I go in to meet a new physician, go in for a follow-up visit, or have a pre-op (a day before an operation) appointment it's not to say I have a whole comedy routine or even a set ready but I have a few bits to ease my way into the conversation and relate to the doctor. I once scheduled visits with a neurosurgeon where I used to live and getting THAT man to cut a smile was as difficult as telling the Kardashian gals they weren't going to be on TV anymore.*

Anyway, this man returned to his office post-retirement, beyond SERIOUS in terms of personality, (in my book a dislike but for a surgeon it's still a good trait) he always wore a white doctor coat and khakis to deliver the latest medical news. It took my sheer comedic strength and still a half grin barely appeared across his face. This man could barely smile. With his white coat and boring plaid shirt peering through, he wore hiking boots to the office, a fact I might otherwise admire on other more personable Doctors of Medicine. As for the boots, I often wondered if the laces were tied too tight. Really tight.

Other reputable neurosurgeons were six hours away and over a snowy mountain pass. It was at this time doctors thought I had Neurofibromatosis-1*. My biggest concern then was my arm and hand pain I was having after a recent surgery. My hand was actually not functioning at the time. The surgeon who performed that surgery said the nerve must have stretched during the procedure. 

To see what might be going on Tight-Laced Boots, the neurosurgeon, sent me to get a nerve conduction study on my right and left arms and hands to get a comparison. A nerve conduction study measures how well and how fast the nerves can send electrical signals.

How a Nerve Conduction Study WORKS

When I returned to Dr. Tight Laces office he told me there really wasn't anything he could do for my right hand. At that time, my right hand was scrunched in a fist. Looking at the nerve conduction study results he recommended that I "put a glove on my hand when it gets cold."
 Who SAYS that? Apparently, THIS doctor.
I wanted to put a fist in the air... Or somewhere! 
How DARE he say that! Say it to me.
Does he call that his Michael Jackson approach to medicine? 
I don't even see that kind of careless doctoring on daytime or nighttime medical dramas. 
This is happening to me.
I am stunned.
"Put a glove it!" 
He thought he was pretty clever. 
I swore he grinned.


Whether a doctor can at least smile at my funny one-liners is my way of seeing what sort of bedside manner they have... Truly, if they can answer my questions without rushing out of the room... That all combines into the score: 
10- soft n' fluffy to 0- might as well sit on one of their own instruments

I mean come on it's part of the job just like knowing parts of the body, if you ask me. My toss of a joke here and there is a chance to see what kind of personality they have. After all, these are not knock-knock jokes.* I want to get a sense of who of he/she is and the reaction to a hospital-related funny. 

"I didn't want to come today for the visit but then I remembered the fancy gift shop. If you hurry up, we might make it out of here and get a chance to go shop!"

To the nurse: "Do you have a stamp program like the Subway sandwich shop? After like 10 visits we could get a free massage, a free visit, or... I got it, even better! On the following visit we get to walk right in & see the doctor!"

Laughter aside... 
In all seriousness, the delicate relationship between a doctor and his/her patient is rarely touched upon in a real way on television. It is exaggerated, sex-charged, and/or diagnosed within a 30-minute or 60-minute time-frame. I haven't seen every medical show out there but I would like to see one focus on the doctor-patient-family-relationship in a real way. One show taking an ice pick to that idea was Emily Owens, M.D. but it got canned for no good reason. It detailed in a multi-episode plot how one doctor's mother dealt with cancer. Her son had a hard time dealing with the reality of the situation. It is a shame a show with such potential wasn't given a second season. Shame on Hollywood!

All that said it would be cool to explore the true dynamics within a doctor's or nurse's family. It is something than hasn't been done before. The show, Providence, went there but didn't go deep enough.

Lights, Camera... Hospital?

How about a brand new well-developed character? Cast of characters? What about focusing 
more on the patient-side and have a solid supporting patient character for a dynamic, new
TV medical drama? Just remember this: the hospital, doctors, and nurses would not be there if it wasn't for the patients and their families. 
On TV. 
And in real life.

 ©The Healing Redhead

*Kidding, K-Dash, fans, only kidding! Kris wouldn't have it any other way! 
*I am now diagnosed with Schwannomatosis 
*No offense out there out to knock-knock jokes but a 30-something woman saying one and a cute kiddo saying one are quite different! Bring on the knock-knock jokes!

Images: Microsoft Clipart &  

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Starbucks, car radios, and country music

"To me, a song is more than just something to sing. It's something to learn from. It's somebody else's true feeling. I'm always trying to get at the meaning. ...When I write a line, I'm doing the same thing. I'm looking at it from the perspective of if I was driving down the road listening to it, 'What am I gonna get out of it?'" --Clint Black, country crooner

I was eager to get to Starbucks... I believe it was the Saturday after Christmas and I had not had the privilege of getting a coffee drink over the holidays this year. My lovely Aunt Jamie got me a Starbucks basket* with several cards tucked inside. So I decided I wanted to get out of the house for awhile and treat myself to a red cup, a Starbucks signature holiday drink.

Delicious! How I love coffee!
( When you see * go to bottom of blog to read more)

I sipped a 12 oz. white chocolate mocha -- ahh, the creamy decadence -- in my comfy red Subaru* as my Mom picked up a take-and-bake pizza at the shopping center nearby. I watched vehicles of all makes and models move about the parking lot. I often wonder the stories and backgrounds of each person coming and going. Being a storyteller myself, it passes the time to come up with a few scenarios for the person behind this Chevy Tahoe, that Dodge Caravan, or that Ford Mustang and is especially fun in a busy parking lot like this one next to Starbucks, a liquor store, Hastings, and a large grocery store like H-E-B, a Texas staple. This particular area of Bryan - the town next door to College Station - is always busy -- no matter day or night... At least when I've been here but that has been late afternoon or early evening, a prime time for getting DVDs, Jose for drinks later, or the Honey-do grocery list for the guys on the way home from work. 

As I'm watching this guy and that, the inside of the Subaru is quiet. Well, except for the occasional slurp from yours truly. I'm not a big radio fan.  Confession: I don't listen to top-anything. Yeah, I'm not cool -- at least in that arena. Ha!  I still keep up with what's up, though, via entertainment news. Although I do need some new tunes for my workout list. I need all the help I can get to get off the couch. Send me some tunes or write suggestions below in Comments!*  Love to hear from you!

There was a time I listened to country music in the '80s and early '90s on the radio and I knew everybody. I lived in Texas a lot of that time. A Better Man ~ She's in Love With the Boy ~ Here's a Quarter, Call Someone Who Cares ~ 18 Wheels & A Dozen Roses ~  and more... Get this, I could even tell you the artist and the song in the first 5-10 seconds. Trivial pursuit never has THAT category, dammit! Or as my Dad would say, dadgummit! #gameshow #hereicome 

Something, though, that Saturday while sipping my delicious mocha made me turn that radio on... I adjusted the station because it was scratchy and out of tune. At first it was the DJ maybe or maybe the sweet voice carried through straight away across the airwaves, across the decades, the country classic, "Daddy's Hands." *  

I got tingles. 
Not my NF tingles. 
Regular tingles, similar to goose bumps. 
Maybe it was goose bumps.  
I had not heard THAT SONG since the last time I lived in Texas or maybe longer. We are talking YEARS! I will admit I forgot who sang it at that very moment I was listening, leaning back, listening to every word. 
I felt like no one else was there, like no one else was in the world but me and this song: 

I remember daddy's hands folded silently in prayer 
And reachin' out to hold me, when I had a nightmare
You could read quite a story in the callous' and lines
Years of work and worry had left their mark behind
I remember daddy's hands how they held my mama tight
And patted my back for something done right
There are things that I'd forgotten that I loved about the man
But I'll always remember the love in daddy's hands
Daddy's hands were soft and kind when I was cryin'
Daddy's hands were hard as steel when I'd done wrong
Daddy's hands weren't always gentle but I've come to understand
There was always love in daddy's hands.
I remember daddy's hands workin' 'til they bled
Sacrificed unselfishly just to keep us all fed
If I could do things over, I'd live my life again
And never take for granted the love in daddy's hands

--Daddy's Hands

Holly Dunn is the saint behind this song. She sang it back in the late '80s. A preacher's daughter, Dunn wrote these words, so familiar, so resonant. It speaks so well to the depth of a father-daughter relationship.   

I lost my Dad to cancer related to Neurofibromatosis. He was 51. Listening to this song, I had been thinking about my Dad's birthday - Jan. 12 - and just got through another Christmas without him. A good childhood friend wrote on Facebook she just lost her father after Christmas. Hearing these words on the radio soothed me and just seemed so right, so fitting. I was stunned by the timing of it all. I wanted my friend to hear the song, too. She grew up on a ranch in the idyllic Texas Hill Country. We met in Comfort,TX  - Hard to believe, right?- and remained friends ever since via stamped letters, e-mails, Christmas cards, and Facebook chats. 

More than a decade out, a decade of holidays, a decade of anniversaries, and a decade of birthdays it is still not easy. It never will get easy. Losing a parent. Losing a dad. Even typing it isn't easy.  

Doing my signature "Bulldog" face :) --
Easter Sunday in Arlington, TX

In my case it's been people, nature and even animals, often my pets, that I've surrounded myself with have cushioned the rough spots and helped me sleep better at night and brought sunshine to dark days.

"If you're feeling low, don't despair. The sun has a sinking spell every night, but it comes back up every morning." --Dolly Parton 

Songs provide a balm at times (like above) and other times in sudden moments I find myself in mere seconds sobbing in quick need of a tissue like the time in downtown Seattle when a street musician started to play a song I heard a lot during my childhood and it reminded me of Dad. I can't recall the tune right now. I wish I could. 

There were times in Lewiston where I lived in high school and college and I thought I heard my Dad's Ford pick-up nearby or coming up to the garage. It has happened one to two times here in College Station. Our house was next to a large gravel lot and alley in Idaho. I could always hear the acceleration, gears shifting, the tires across rough pavement, rumbling across the gravel. He's finally home, I thought... But he isn't. It's such a visceral experience. Like a dream, you wake up, shattered, flattened even, by the realness of your life.

I know the rhythm of my Dad's Ford pick-up coming home is something I will never forget; it's like how I know my name, a friend's name, an unforgettable song, or a quiet, lilting hymn. It meant a homecoming. Meeting him through the double doors with his backpack still on... 

There was always love in daddy's hands.

I am just so glad my friend was able to send one last Christmas with her father. She has a wonderful husband & two beautiful daughters. They all spent one last holiday together. That is a lasting memory she will carry with her... Forever.

I am thinking of my friend often! The best we can do is check in with friends without being a nuisance (Ha!) and let them know we are thinking of them during a time of sadness, sympathy, grief. 

Ideas... instead of the classic casserole, 
think of sending:

-A blanket and a good book (unrelated to grief unless they ask for one*) 
-DVD of his/her favorite shows: 30Rock, Madmen, Season 1 Gilmore Girls, Magnum PI, etc.
-My auntie's idea: Starbucks basket (inexpensive basket, fill with construction paper or tissue paper, cute mug that looks like "her" or "him" and some 'bucks cards. Or just the cards in a sweet 'thinking of you' card.
-Dinner delivery -- So many places deliver now, just get a card from their favorite place so they can dial in a meal. 
-Depending on how well you know each other, How about new PJs? Everyone loves new PJs or get a gift card with a nudge to get that instead of kid stuff or husband stuff*
-A friend did this for me and I adored it: A pedicure w/ the works! She got a certificate for me to my favorite local salon... How sweet is that? Plus, she lives in a different state! 
-A special greeting card and don't just sign your name. Write a little something. 

I made it through my Dad's birthday. It has been harder living in Texas than Idaho. I feel the grief more. I feel less connected to him because I'm not near trees, mountains, and animals. It is hard to say but part of me feels as though I betrayed him because I moved here. Although, deep down I know that's not true. I just wish I felt the same connection I felt in Idaho. It's different somehow. 

Time has passed too. 

If I could do things over, I'd live my life again 
And never take for granted the love in daddy's hands

 ©The Healing Redhead

*Let's just say I squealed with delight when I got THIS Christmas present! My cousin also added another card to the bunch! So I was ready to go! Drink it up! 
*I apologize for all the product placement! I do love my Starbucks & my I even named my car. That's a whole other blog post or... Couch time w/ a psychiatrist... (wink!) 
*Send me your suggestions at: 
*One book that helped me during my time of grief was  "When Bad Things to Good People" by Harold Kushner. Yet laughs, a mystery/suspense or a good romance might be a great way to lighten the mood... At least for awhile. All depends on the person. It is always the thought that counts!
*If someone is, in fact, grieving it's important to spend a little "you-time" right now. No one should make you feel guilty for it. Kid stuff is important, of course, but one cute PJ set caught on sale shouldn't bust the budget! Feeling comfy/cozy is important.