another round (thomas vinterberg, 2020)
geezer cinema: concrete cowboy (ricky staub, 2020)

my life in a medical report

Over the years, Kaiser (and I assume most health plans) have moved a lot of things online, in a good way. I can see information about myself that wasn't easily accessible in the past (i.e., I had to ask the doctor). When I check my medical record on their website, I can see notes on doctor visits, which is especially useful for someone like me, who doesn't always pay enough attention to what I'm being told.

But there is something ... not exactly ominous, but unsettling, about seeing that information on the "page" (screen) in front of me. It's one thing to know something about yourself ... somehow, seeing it written out makes it more official, more final.

I remember many years ago when I decided I wanted to go on meds for my emotional problems. I visited a doctor, she made a prescription for a couple of drugs, and it turned out I was one of the lucky ones where we hit on the right combination from the start, and I have benefitted from the medicine. When I got to her office, we chatted for a few minutes about this and that ... she was from Spain, I remember. Then I explained my symptoms as I experienced them, she asked a few questions to narrow it down, and then said something to the effect of, I don't like using labels, they are limited and don't tell the whole story. But basically, what I was telling her sounded like what they call bipolar 2. (Hey, I didn't know there was a sequel to the original bipolar.)

Sometime later, I was assigned the first of many personal pharmacists (Kaiser does this for people like me who take a lot of meds, they keep a close, learned eye on what I'm on.) At the first visit, we went over my various medicines while she looked at my record. At some point, I said I noticed that the psych meds didn't seem to be in my official record. She explained that in the name of privacy, psych stuff was kept in a separate place from the regular records, so she couldn't access that information. I thought this was funny ... I noted that she could see what meds I took, and as a pharmacist she knew what those meds were for, so there clearly wasn't any big secret about my use.

Nowadays, as I explained above, I can access my records whenever I want. This has been true for a few years. One day, out of curiosity, I looked, and found the names for things I have (like my stuffy nose is "allergic rhinitis", and yes, I do have a history of MRSA). But what made me stop was this item on the list of my ongoing health conditions: "bipolar".

OK, first, I wanted to know where the "2" went. But I was mostly just taken aback by seeing it on the screen. I knew what my diagnosis had been all those years ago, even if they didn't like labels. But it was seeing that word in my file ... "bipolar" ... something about reading it made me feel like I was really sick. Part of me was like, "hey you guys, I told you I had problems!" But the other part of me realized this was something I live with. And I recalled that first doctor who, when prescribing the medicine, said, "You know you might have to be on this the rest of your life".

Which brings me up to date. I have a few things backed up because I postponed everything I could during the virus, but now that I'm vaccinated, I'm ready to roll. I had a video appointment with my doctor (it was actually kind of cool), and when I explained my lifelong sinus problems by pointing my finger at the spot that gets stuffy, she made me an appointment with the ear/nose/throat department. They looked up my nose ... now I'm scheduled for a CT Scan next week (polyps is the early prediction). I went to the website to see the notes that had been left after my appointment and saw this first sentence: "Steven P Rubio is a 67 Y male who ...".

It's not like I don't know how old I am. But just like when I first saw the word "bipolar" in my record, there was a finality to the number "67".

It's one thing to know how old you are. It's one thing to answer "67" when asked how old I am. But for some reason, it is an entirely different matter when I see the number "67" in my record.

I know this is nonsense ... my birthdate has always been there, my 8-year-old grandson knows enough math to calculate my age if given the year of my birth. But apparently none of that matters. Before I looked at that summary, I was a guy who was older than he used to be. Now, I'm a 67-Y-male.

Damn, I'm old.


Robin Smith

The first time for me was in the Antioch Ledger where I was described as being 16 years old. It was freaky.

Steven Rubio

I knew you when you were 16!


I'm feeling these kinds of things lately, too, related to some remarkably similar experiences. Must be stages to the age thing, maybe because at 48 I'm staring down 50 and you, 70. I don't know. But it's making me feel older than I thought I felt.

Steven Rubio

Could be something to that. I've been feeling old in a generic sense forever, it seems, although when I was 48, and just about to finish teaching at Cal, I may have just been looking forward to time off. There's also that "old by connection" thing, where I say to myself, hey, if Tomás is 48, how old does that make me?

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