This Side Up

Getting back to the medical basics


Dr. George Perdrizet held up a paper tab with a nylon strand no bigger than a needle. He was about to give me a test.

It wouldn’t take $300,000 of high tech equipment, assistants on standby or hours of analysis. I wasn’t handed any forms absolving the hospital of any liability nor was I told that it might hurt even the tiniest bit.

The instructions were simple. Take off your shoes and socks, lie back in an invitingly comfortable chair and close your eyes. I was ready for a snooze.

Really? This was going to tell me if I have diabetes?

I went to the Wound Recovery Center at Kent to see what Diabetes Awareness Day was all about. My plan was to talk with a few folks, take some pictures and write another story about this disease that is projected to rob a younger generation of years of life. Childhood obesity and diabetes is a serious problem.

The contributing factors are obvious; from being glued to video games, social media and lack of exercise to a diet of sugary drinks and fast food. Naturally, older folks aren’t immune either, so I wasn’t surprised to see many of them clustered around displays of various products designed to help those afflicted with the condition. They understand the seriousness of diabetes and were anxious to learn more, not only for themselves, but quite apparently for their children and grandchildren as well.

But I didn’t get to do any of those interviews.

That’s because I was being interviewed, rather than the other way around. The first question was the most obvious of them all – Have you been tested for diabetes?

“Well no,” I answered, somewhat guiltily.

“Do you want to go through the screening?” a woman wearing a white smock and holding a clipboard asked. I hadn’t planned on this, but why not? I would get to experience what was going on. She handed me the clipboard and I started filling out the basics. I barely started when Jim Beardsworth and Melissa Costello of the hospital communications staff spotted me. Jim was excited to hear I was going to go through the screening.

“Have you had your flu shot?”

“No,” I confessed.

“You can get that, too,” Jim advised.

I was beginning to feel as if I stepped into a Jiffy Lube. At any moment, I expected to be asked whether I wanted my air filters cleaned and a quick vacuum of the interior. This was the express service CEO Sandy Coletta has been preaching about – personal service and no delays.

I was whisked into an examination room and shown a seat. Lisa Castelli, a CCRI nursing student, wrapped my left arm and fixed a monitor to the middle finger of my right hand.

“Now, don’t talk,” advised Jim who was standing in the doorway with a half dozen other people.

“Can I scream?” Nobody thought that would be necessary, but no screaming anyway. Talking, I was told, could affect my blood pressure. Screaming would send it off the chart. Dutifully, I shut up and watched Lisa do her job. The reading came back. My pressure was high, which was a surprise since that’s never been the case before.

That’s odd, I thought. Maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea to go through the screening after all. Next was the flu shot. That took barely a minute and then on to a blood test to measure glucose and cholesterol. Nate Brown of the hospital staff pricked my finger and drew blood as Alicia Haslam, another nursing student, watched closely. I was sent to the next station and told I’d get the results in about four minutes.

That’s when I got to talk with Dr. Perdrizet. He likes his work at the center. On average, he spends about 90 minutes with a patient, going through their medical and family history and performing some basic tests, such as feeling for the pulse in feet and the temperature between feet.

“It’s a lost art, to feel for pulse, yet it is so important, so vital,” he said. He didn’t pick up a pulse where there should have been one in my right foot. He then used a device he said works on the principle of the Doppler effect that allowed me to hear the pulse in my left foot.

“Do you hear that puppy?” he asked. “It’s your heart singing to us.”

There wasn’t any corresponding sound from the right foot. That wasn’t too extraordinary, but he accurately concluded that I occasionally get a Charlie horse in my calf. About this time, I was handed a card with my glucose and cholesterol numbers. The cholesterol didn’t look good, I knew that much.

My God, I was on self-destruct.

Dr. Perdrizet was reassuring.

“It’s not about a single number; it’s about the whole picture.” Also, I was reminded that I’m 71, not 17, and time has taken its toll.

Then he showed me the nylon strand.

“Patients are in here [the Wound Recovery Center] because they have not been given the basic fundamental stuff.” I was about to get the fundamental stuff.

“Do you feel this,” he asked, running the nylon strand down by arm. Yes I did.

I closed my eyes and he went to work on one leg and then the other. Each time I felt something, I told him. I opened my eyes.

“You don’t have diabetes.”

I gave him the glucose number.

“Just as I thought,” he confirmed.

As for Jim’s prediction that they would find me pregnant, well, that got plenty of laughs.

I left thinking Dr. Perdrizet is right. If we paid more attention to what our bodies tell us and follow recommendations about exercise and what we eat, we’d be a lot healthier.

It’s really pretty basic stuff.


No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment