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Patience, Patient, The Doctor WILL Call You

You try to trust doctors with your life, not just your health. They are the ones who studied hard so they could be able to get the big bucks to tell you when things were up, down, right, wrong and very wrong. You sit before them, naked as the day you were born, physically and mentally, and wait for them to hand out the verdict.

Then they tell you you need more tests.

And after the tests they promise to call.

It’s like the results of what you thought was a promising date. They hold the balance of your life in their hands and they take their sweet time getting back to you.

Unless, you are willing to look up your results online.

Prior to rotator cuff surgery I had to have the prerequisite check up to see if the old body would stand a good cutting into that might take forever to heal. (Trust me, it feels like that every day of this winter).  A week after surgery the doctor had one of her henchmen call me to explain that my ALT levels were too high- much higher than when I had my physical the year before.

Not wanting to just take her word for it, I asked what this meant and was given the information that it was my liver. “And if your liver goes, well so does the whole body.”

Okay, that much I knew. But at the time this person called I was a one armed bandit still adjusting to sleeping sitting straight up and living with one arm in a sling, as well as a type of pain that made me desire on more than one occasion, a morphine drip. What was I supposed to do to change this high ALT?

The henchman said the doctor wanted me to stop taking over the counter pain medication for a week and then come in and get tested again.

I wanted to slap her. Instead I explained the pain and she said: “Oh you can take what your surgeon prescribed, but nothing else.”

What my surgeon had prescribed couldn’t calm a hang nail, but I didn’t want to die so I stuck with this new plan and a week later I got the blood work done.

I can’t say I was anxiously waiting for the results. I was not in the frame of mind to take more medication or to have any more surgery on anything. Not even a new hair style!

But the doctor didn’t call.

I waited two weeks, three weeks, because I was doing physical therapy and I didn’t feel as if I was dying. Plus, if I WAS dying, I was sure the oath the doctor took would cause her to reach out to me.

One month later, nothing.

I put in a call to my doctor, left a message that I needed test results. the henchman that answered this time told me I could check the results online since I was now part of this medical ‘group’.

Wish the doctor had told me that. So I asked how to sign up for it.

I followed the instructions and couldn’t get in. I tried again and again and finally, a little on the furious side, I called back, requested they have the doctor call me.

“You can use. . ” the woman started to say before I cut her off explaining, with as much charm as the pain in my arm would allow, that I had done that.

She decided something was wrong and decided to check my records.

They had spelled my email wrong when they typed in my paperwork the first time I joined the ‘group’. Once that was changed I was able to get in.

And of course I had no idea what the hell I was looking at. How is a patient supposed to be able to ascertain what all these letters mean and all these tests!  I searched for ALT and found a number. Then I looked at the record from before the surgery and saw the ALT was twice that number. Then I looked back at the physical the year before and saw that the number was low as well. As low as the one I had gotten almost five weeks before.

But the doctor hadn’t called and I didn’t know what any of this meant. Except my ALT level was lower. There were other things I couldn’t understand without a medical degree. I had questions such as why did I have to get all these tests and what did this all mean.

Two days later the doctor left me a voicemail explaining that my ALT was lower. Well simple math allowed me to figure that out.  She explained that ALT’s can be raised by having alcohol a few days before the blood tests as well as taking over the counter medications.

She said I was fine and that if I needed further information I should call her.

I decided I was good for the moment. But if I ever need to speak to the doctor again I will pre-plan it since it will take a lifetime for them to get back to me.

I can imagine my 91 year old mother going off on the medical profession. I think I’ll let her handle this.

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Minnette Coleman is a writer, actress and singer born in Atlanta, Georgia. She is the author of two novels “The Blacksmith’s Daughter” and “No Death by Unknown Hands.” She resides in Harlem, New York and is a member of the Harlem Writers Guild.

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