Sunday, March 1, 2009

Medical History

So I went to the dentist yesterday for the first time in.....well, a while, a fact about which both the hygienist and the dentist were sure to remind me numerous times. I felt like telling them that if they didn't charge $400/hour (more than my real estate lawyer), I'd be tempted to drop by a lot more often. (I feel this same way when I get the prescribed maintenance checks on my car: $475 for them to tell me nothing is wrong. But I digress). I wasn't in a particularly feisty mood yesterday, so I decided to play along as the repentant, prodigal dental patient that they wanted me to be.

My experience at the dentist, however, reminded me of a particularly strange and funny element of medical appointments: the Medical History Form. You know this one, where they ask you about three-hundred questions about your health history and current medical situation. I find myself getting very anxious about these types of surveys. For instance, the survey asks "Do you have asthma/breathing problems?" I circle "no". But maybe it's "yes"? Perhaps my early childhood battle with pneumonia and asthma were really a sign of something more terrifying, now hidden under the surface of my adult vitality, something that could rise again to the surface during my routine cleaning. And so on and so on.

These surveys always make me feel a bit deceitful. The survey asks if I take any medications. I list them. But I don't list the three Advil I took yesterday and the day before, and I don't fess up to the NyQuil I took this weekend to help battle a cold. Am I lying? Will they find me out somehow? If so, will I be forced to confess to my omission, thereby losing the trust of my dental practitioners and putting the sanctity of my dental cleaning in Jeopardy? Or what about things I've never heard of? I circled "no" after "Do you suffer from Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease?", but how do I know? I have been having a strange tingling sensation in the back of my throat lately....

But the REAL test comes when the dentist (or doctor or nurse) "reviews" your answers with you. I've never understood this step (although I'm sure some of my friends who practice medicine could explain it to me.) I've just spent 15 minutes in the waiting room pouring out my soul onto this yellow sheet of paper, agonizing each and every answer, and now the dentist is "testing" me on what I wrote:

"So, are you allergic to any medications?" (I can clearly see where I've circled yes on the sheet, so I wonder why she is asking this.)
"Well, yes: viocodin." (Which I have clearly written on the line below where I have circled "yes.")
"You're allergic to vicodin?" (Now she's testing me. As if my consciences might get the better of me, and I might blurt out "NO, I'M NOT REALLY ALLERGIC TO IT AT ALL!!!")
"What happens when you take it?" (Now she's really testing me.)
"I vomit uncontrollably."

She then makes a notation on the form next to where I've already clearly written these things and we move on.

The only things worse than the dental or medical history form interrogation are the ones you get at either Planned Parenthood (where they probe the depths of your sexual habits ad naseum) or the blood donation eligibility survey (whose questions lead you into a complicated assesment of the health history of everyone you have ever had contact with in your life.)

For now, I'll settle for celebrating that I'm cavity free (at least for the moment) and move on in hope that I won't be forced into an impromtu assesment of my morality (or my health) again soon.

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