Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Home Health Exam

As I told you back in March, I have a Google Alert on the phrase “Tree of Death” in an effort to keep tabs on my book. This has inadvertently kept me up to date on all the horrifying news from around the globe of the interesting and bizarre way people die at the hands (limbs?) of trees on a daily basis. Since we own six full-size trees, I decided to update our life insurance, for obvious possible tree-related reasons.

One of the fun parts about buying life insurance, besides the phone interview, is the home health exam. A highlight of this exam is when you get to bring an open-top container of your own urine to your dining room table for someone to scrutinize. We’ll get back to that.

My wife and I had our home medical examinations scheduled for 8:00 A.M. on a Saturday. The nurse showed up conveniently at 7:30 A.M.

She may have been early because I’m guessing breakfast at the nursing home is around 5:00 A.M. or so. I’m not saying she works at the nursing home, I’m guessing she lives there. Now, I don’t want to insult Edna, the travelling R.N., by calling her old, but let’s just say when she used to work at the hospital in her younger days, it very well could have been the first hospital.

The directives for the home health exam were no food or drink except water twelve hours before the exam, and be prepared to give a blood and urine sample. The blood is no problem, since I always carry it with me, but trying to “be ready to pee” is a different thing. I had to pee at 7:00 A.M., but decided to hold it, just in case. I was actually relieved that she was a half-hour early.

Trying to be a gentleman, I let my wife go first. Actually, she just told me she was going first because she really needed to pee. I am not a gentleman; I was just too stupid to argue. That was a mistake. I realized, as I hopped around in the other room, that I was well past the point of no return regarding urination. I should have gone at seven o’clock. I could have drank enough water to be ready again by the time it was my turn. Now Edna was already here. If I peed now, there was no way I could re-fill the tank in time. Not with just water. Beer, maybe, but not water. Dammit!

When it was finally my turn, I danced into the dining room and sat down with Edna. She had a certain order that she needed to fill out the parchment forms with her inkwell and her feather quill, so I was forced to try and sit still while her arthritic hands worked their magic. Fortunately, urine was third on the to-do list and not all the way at the bottom near John Hancock’s signature.

I am 6’-1” tall, and have been that tall ever since I stopped growing taller. Edna, on the other hand, has no doubt been shrinking over the years. I would put her at about 5’ even. After she wrote down all my pertinent information in calligraphy, (two score and one years aged), she tried to measure my height by reaching up to put a ruler on my head and measuring up to the ruler with a small, flimsy metal tape measure.

“I have you at six-foot-five.”
“Hmm. Sounds a bit high. I’m usually six-one.”
“OK, we’ll go with that. I don’t like to get up on chairs anymore.”
“I understand.”

This got me thinking two things. The first was, “Holy cow, I have to pee.” The second was, “What would the life insurance implications be if Edna had written down 6’-5”?”

What if they did an autopsy on me when I died and found out I was a full four inches shorter than shown on the policy? He lied about his height! Probably to get his height-to-weight ratio more in line with our actuarial tables. This tub of lard was probably fishing for a lower rate! Fraud!!! Sorry lady, payment denied!

Finally, after Edna had used her abacus to convert feet and inches into cubits and scrawled her findings on the parchment, it was time to pee. Yes!

This is where things started to go wrong for me. I blame some of my poor judgment on my urgent need to urinate, but mostly on Edna’s incredibly poor instructions. Still, truth be told, I should have figured it out.

She handed me two small stoppered glass vials, about the size of my pinky finger, and a little open-top plastic cup, roughly 1/4-cup in size (or, in deference to Edna’s more familiar measurement systems, about 0.0002 hogshead, or 0.001 firkins).

“Fill these two vials, and fill this cup up just past the little temperature gauge on the side. Don’t fill it up too much or it will spill. Be careful with the vials, because they fill up fast.”

Now, looking back on the situation with non-yellow-eyed clarity, what she should have said was, “Pee into this plastic cup, and fill it up all the way. Then, when you are finished emptying the contents of your bladder, and have the luxury of using both of your hands again, use this handy little pour spout here on the side to fill the two glass vials, and just make sure not to pour out the rest until I have read the temperature gauge on the side of the cup here.”

Those instructions would have been a whole lot better. As it was, I grabbed the three containers, ran for the bathroom, and followed her instructed order of events.

Filling the first vial took about a half a second… Now what? I can’t put the stopper in this thing one-handed, and I can’t set it down without the stopper in it… Must think fast…

Now, I won’t go into all the details of what happened in that bathroom, but suffice it to say, I managed to fill all three containers, and let’s just leave it at that.

It was only when I was walking back into the dining room that I noticed the cup had a little pour spout.

“What was that, dear?”
“Nothing. Never mind. Here’s my urine. Please don’t set it on the table.”

Edna read the temperature and handed the cup back to me. “You can throw this away now.”

After we had both washed our hands (again) she took my blood, surprisingly with a needle and not leeches, and then we were done. She packed up her bag and pulled out her iPhone to check the time.

“Oh, good. I’ll be early to my next appointment. I have a full day, but hopefully I can make it back to Shady Acres for the late dinner serving at three o’clock.”
“Good luck with that, Edna. I’ll be here cleaning the bathroom.”
“What was that, dear?”
“Never mind.”

See you soon,


Copyright © 2014 Marc Schmatjen

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