Thursday, January 19, 2006

I wonder, if my orthopaedist's gajillion-dollar hourly fee was being extracted from my checking account and not Blue Cross/Blue Shield, whether he would be quite so cavalier about leaving me freezing and naked in Exam Room 3 for nearly an hour.

It all starts out fine: The nurse asks why I'm there and I describe the sound that issues from my knees when I climb, squat and kneel: "It's kind of like... slowly cracking a celery stalk under a summer-weight quilt." (Dorky, but accurate.) She asks me if it hurts and I say yes, most of the time. Am I taking anything for the pain? No, I don't care for pills. I just use the elevator and try not to drop things on the floor. The nurse scribbles and nods in a way that says, "I feel you, girl," then hands me a paper tablecloth and tells me, "Take off everything but your underwear. Don't forget the socks. This opens in the back." And with a click of her pen, she is gone.

It's cold in that room. Cold and... what's the word I'm looking for... blowy. A blanket would be nice. Maybe some hot tea? The paper 'gown' (and I use the term as loosely as the big napkin fits my form) keeps malfunctioning -- over my shoulders and down toward my lap. I see it's labeled size L; must stand for Linebacker. I could try and fish my sweater from the pile of clothes on the floor but who knows when the doctor will show up, and I don't want to greet him with my gown parted like a curtain and my panties center stage.

So I sit. Stay. Start to look around. Stacked on the air conditioner, for my entertainment: Nine different golf magazines. Who do they think they're dealing with? Oh -- look at that! Medical illustrations taped to the wall behind my head. Fifteen minutes later I understand the inner workings of the shoulder. (Complex! Fascinating!) After 30 minutes I have memorized the knee. If I was staring at the gynecologist's wall I'd have learned to birth my own baby by now. But my gyno never keeps me waiting this long -- she's in and out before I know what's what. Women get that you're on the clock; I appreciate that now.

Why, oh why did I leave my iPod in the office? Maybe there's something to this doctors-on-retainer idea. Housecalls and undivided attention... Though I imagine even that could turn into a cable-guy situation if enough greedy patients catch on. "You say you might be having a stroke, Mrs. Goldman? Let me check the book... Okay, Dr. Berman will be there between 9 and 2 tomorrow."

I'm counting metacarpal bones on The Human Hand when Dr. G finally breezes in. He really is a nice man, and a good doctor. He asks, he listens, he does the hokey pokey with my kneecap and even indulges me in a bit of light gossip. (Suburban Jews know all the same people.) His parting gift: A hypochondriac's smorgasbord -- 23 local physical therapists from which to choose. But (this time) the problem isn't in my head, it really is in my knee. "Most of your cartilage is worn away," Dr. G says with matter-of-fact sympathy. "Not much we can do to fix the damage, just try and stop it from getting worse." And then he shrugs, grins and pats me on my paper-clad arm. "Welcome to aging, young lady. It's all downhill from here."

13 comments:

Washington Cube said...

If you need a physical therapist go to James Clarke in Rockville. Hordes trek out of D.C. to see him and his team. They are the best.

A superior orthopedic surgeon is Daniel Pereles. He's in Kensington, Maryland, but Washingtonian magazine consistently lists him as one of the tops in his field...and he won't keep you waiting for lengthy periods of time in cold rooms. He's also a marathon runner and a lot of D.C. runners pop in to see him for check-ups before a big run.

P.S. I am sorry you are in pain. I'm busy being treated for an old sport's injury myself, so I know of PT's and Ortho's.

Barbara said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Indri said...

You might try glucosamine (I know, it's a pill, but I know people who swear by it), and bumping up your salmon intake for the omega-3s. Both are supposed to support joint health.

But whatever you do, don't ignore any new pain. We're not really built well to walk upright, and there's a lot of stress on the ankles and knees. Stuff happens. I've been through two knee surgeries now, and I'm getting close to the point where I can predict rain on that side...

I-66 said...

Anything that can cause you to need to eat more salmon can't be bad, yesno?

Your doc may be a good one, but I wonder whether you could've gone without the aging reminder :)

Reya Mellicker said...

I know a bunch of great physical therapists, too, also a really great osteopath.

I'm loving your week-o-rants.

Anonymous said...

I myself suffer from chondromalaicia patella, which is a tracking disorder that wears away cartilage in the knee. Probably why I'm not in the Major Leagues right now.

But that's another story.

Anyway...do you have any candids involving the gown?

P.S. Check out this verification word, for real: "tmpcraqk" I bet that's what your knee sounds like.

Ann Spam said...

:)

Sorry to hear that! My mother's having knee problems as well. But she's taking these pills that apparently help.

Have a good weekend!

Meredith said...

You're best and funniest writings happen when you're mad and horrormonal. You're not easy to talk to, but boy are you funny with the pen.

playfulinnc said...

Ouch.

A doctor told me the same thing about my bersitis in my hip 10 years ago. I hate that answer!

Claire said...

Weird. Back when I went to an orthopedist about my knee, they just told me to wear shorts. Not ideal for January DC weather I realize, but still... I hate when they tell you to totally strip and you didn't need to. That's working against the whole 'preserve dignity' thing.

Cyn said...

My OBGYN office usually leaves me waiting 1/2 hour in "gown" if that's any consolation...a lovely 30 minutes with nothing to do but quietly focus on the indignities ahead.

Snowflake Chaser said...

Hooray for knee problems, being able to predict rain, and consuming more omega-3s. Ok, well, maybe not the knee problems. I've had years of them too, and they're just no fun. But look on the bright side - it's an excuse to eat that much more sushi, and we'll never have to guess about needing an umbrella, right?!

Eric the Something said...

Glad I am not the only one aging. Imagine my fat butt in your paper gown, though. That's why I always wear interesting boxers.