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Left Coast / Right Coast: Annual Physicals

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Mike Gold living the dream in the Pacific Northwest. Photo credit: Frank Hammer.
Mike Gold living the dream in the Pacific Northwest. Photo credit: Frank Hammer.

By Mike Gold, A retired entrepreneur living the dream in the Pacific Northwest.

I’m certain most of you have an annual physical. Many people are simply terrified of this event. Why? Because you are always afraid that the exam will uncover something terribly wrong with you.

I, for one, have put my faith in my general physician, or family doctor. Yet when I’m in the middle of the exam, I am always super sensitive to any action, comment, unusual breathing or anything else the doctor does that I view as “not normal.”

Over the years, there have been many cases where my doctor has scared the bejesus out of me.

For example, one year the doctor asked me, “Do you spend much time in the sun?” I suddenly had visions of melanoma.

I did mention to him that I had been a lifeguard in my youth – sitting out in the sun on a lifeguard stand – without benefit of sun screen. Yeah, I used to get the most terrific tans each summer. So he quietly said, “I’d like to have you visit a dermatologist.

Off I went. The doctor examined me head to toe. I’m happy to say that the only thing they found was that on the tops of my ears, there were a few cells which they froze (and then they simply fell off on their own). Then they suggested I come back every year or so to be reexamined.

Since then, about five years ago, they have found similar examples of what is called “pre-cancerous” areas. They simply freeze them and the cells fall off after a day or so. (The worst part is the freezing agent is so cold it actually hurts when they spray it on.)

As a male, one of the things that are examined is your prostate gland. They want to see if it is enlarged (a very normal thing for men as they age). How shall I say this? The doctor puts on a latex glove and does some “inserting” of his finger to feel around this gland – which is located at the very bottom of your rectum. (Do I need to draw you a picture?) What they look for is irregular non-linear outside of the gland. Plus you take a PSA blood test, which is a very good indicator of the health of that gland.

Well, as I’ve been examined by regular doctors and by one specialist, a urologist. I can say with real world experience that the urologist was simply miles ahead of any family doctor in doing this. As they are experts at exploring your prostate with a manual digital exam, they have hundreds or thousands of “insertions” more than a family physician.

I can report that the urologist was so smooth I didn’t feel uncomfortable, whereas the family physician (all of the ones I’ve used over the years) is best described as a man searching for the light switch on the wall in a dark room. They all were “all over the place.”

The last topic I will cover in this brief article is the insurance side of the field. Over the years, the complexity of what medical insurance you need, and how it works is simply beyond description. I am simply delighted that in most cases, the doctors’ billing office manages to take care of this process. All I have to do (with my current coverage) is pay what is called a “co-pay.” The insurance takes care of the rest.

Frankly, it is, to me, the bargain of the century. I believe that our country has about the finest health care (if you can actually afford to purchase it) anywhere in the world.

It is no accident that in Saudi Arabia, for example, they will fly a patient to London for treatment of even routine care. Sometimes, they will fly the patient to the U.S. to see a specialist.

I guess having billions of dollars in oil revenue does have some good associated with it.

One last tip. Never, ever go to the Emergency Room of a hospital on a weekend evening. If you are unfortunate enough to need such a trip, guaranteed you will spend hours waiting until all the auto accident victims (due to inebriation) are cared for, along with every person whose last words (before the emergency room trip) were, “Hey guys, watch this.”

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