Wednesday Nov 25 2009
When it comes to health care, mum’s the word
By: Tony Overbay, humor columnist
With all the talk lately about health care, I found myself thinking back to my first health-care crisis. I was 5. I had a friend named Blue. He was 3, maybe 4 and not much of a talker. I loaded him up in my Radio Flyer and pulled him around the driveway. We took a turn hard and Blue spilled out of the wagon and landed on his arm. When he tried to get up, his arm didn’t bend the right way. I sprinted home to get help and was immediately distracted by my brother eating a Drumstick ice cream cone. I wanted one so I looked for my mom. I remembered Blue a few hours later and went to his house to find him in a cast. His parents assumed he simply fell out of the wagon. Blue didn’t feel the need to tell them that it was my fault so neither did I. I learned to hold my tongue that day. I’m not saying it was right, but in that situation, it paid off. Fast forward to just a few years ago. Occasionally I suffer from seasonal allergies. The kind that stuffs your nose up so bad you can’t even taste ice cream. You eat it anyway but you can’t taste it. Sometimes when they were particularly bad I would get asthma-like symptoms. They would last for a week or two and a quick puff on an inhaler would clear me up. One day, I took a puff and nothing came out. I had switched insurance companies and, in order to get a new prescription, my provider required me to meet with an asthma specialist. Soon I found myself in an examination room with a grandmotherly-looking woman with hands like ice. She felt around my back and chest, listened to me breathe and lectured me on how to alleviate my asthma-like symptoms throughout the year. I held my tongue. I just wanted the new prescription. Just when I thought I was done, she pulled out a small tube-like device, hollow, with a mouthpiece on one end. It resembled a small recorder, the last musical instrument I ever attempted to play. I still remember the day I brought the recorder home from school. We were going to be best friends. The recorder and I would spend many, many ... and then I noticed my brother had a Drumstick and the recorder was immediately left behind. The doctor asked me to blow hard into the mouthpiece of the device. The top featured a row of numbers and an arrow that gauged one’s wind. The numbers ranged from 0 to 20. On my first blow, the red arrow just passed the number 10. Always a competitor, I decided I would do my best to bury the arrow. No doubt she’d be impressed and talk about me and my wind in the break-room, the guy who blew a 20. On my second attempt, I gave it all I had and the arrow moved close to 14. Impressive coming off of my first attempt but not close enough to be lunchtime fodder. On the third attempt, I decided to leave nothing to chance. The room was deathly quiet. I inhaled like I was about to blow the candles off America’s next birthday cake. I breathed out with a force that rivaled a typhoon. I watched as the arrow moved past 10, then 15. If only I could push just a bit harder! So I gave it everything that I had and then it happened. I was so focused on setting a record. I pushed out with such force that, well, the excess pressure needed an escape, and unfortunately, it wasn’t through my mouth. Worse yet, it was loud. Among my kids, I’d be a hero but I doubted the doctor shared our fancy for flatulence. There I was, mid-30’s at the time, in the room with a woman who could have been my grandmother, trying my darnedest to impress her with my wind and impress her surely I did. The sterile floors, the thin walls, the echo could no doubt be heard in the waiting room. I could immediately “own it” or pretend it didn’t happen. Maybe her hearing wasn’t good? If it was, then her acting was, too, because she pretended not to hear anything. She simply walked over to her prescription pad and wrote me the prescription. As she handed me the paper, I saw a smile form on one side of her mouth. I thought back to the driveway with Blue. Keeping quiet had again served me well. Although no doubt talk of my wind would indeed be the topic in the lunchroom. Tony Overbay is a Lincoln resident.