That Old Hospital Magic

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It’s been about three months now since I’ve been in a health-care-provider environment. No doctor’s offices, no hospitals, no therapist’s office. Nothing. But as I said the other week, that’s all about to change with the next few months of medical appointments.

I’ve enjoyed my moratorium from the tether of institutionalized medicine, the freedom from having to go anywhere. Granted, I’m still chained to medications, blood glucose monitoring, a daily awareness of managing my illness. Yet for these past three months, it’s almost as if I could see myself living in an ideal world, one in which I go to the doctor only for the rare checkup. You know, every year, maybe every two or three years — how frequently do healthy people go for checkups, anyway?

I imagine during those visits my doctor saying how healthy I am, that he sees nothing wrong. I’d be given a clean bill of health and sent on my way.

Yet the truth is I have Type 1 diabetes. The truth is that last year I had thyroid cancer. These illnesses, combined with a few other ongoing health issues, mean I don’t fall into the Rare Doctor Visit category.

Yesterday was the unofficial inauguration for my return to the hallowed halls of health.

Next week I visit my endocrinologist for my quarterly checkup, and in preparation for that, I need to get my blood drawn so that he’ll have my thyroid hormone. Lab slip in tow, I stopped by one of the hospital’s blood laboratories on my way into work.

It’s funny, but as soon as I pulled into the parking lot, I experienced a sort of calm that, well, hmm… I admit it (I’ve admitted it before, actually): I love these places of medicine. Hospitals. Doctor’s offices. The dentist. The larger the medical complex, the better.

I can’t really explain why. Maybe it’s because when I was in high school I thought I’d become a doctor. Maybe because I was in the hospital repeatedly when I was very young, or that for several years in a row, my family took vacations (yes, vacations) out of state to shuttle me to the Oklahoma Allergy & Asthma Clinic, a building that has this fantastic façade that I just loved (the building is part of the clinic’s logo, and I haven’t thought of it in years, but I just found the logo online).

Maybe I imprinted on these types institutions, grew to love labyrinthine corridors and pleasing, calming colors. And the silence. And then the hustle and bustle. And then more silence.

Except I also think it triggers something existential and very human for me. The elderly woman in a wheelchair whose son is pushing her through the lobby; the family in surgical reception waiting on news of a loved one. Or when I walk past the sign that points you to the comprehensive cancer center, or to the cardiac wing.

These aren’t the sorts of things I encounter day in and day out. Thankfully. I mean, I don’t face mortality on a daily basis. And even though I do find myself in my head quite a bit, mulling over the what-ifs, those scenarios I imagine in the comfort of my own home are far-removed and a long way away from the reality right in front of me when I’m at a hospital or in a doctor’s office.

While there, it’s pretty much impossible for me to be anywhere else. I’m in my head again, contemplating how fragile life is. Despite my own litany of illness and/or disease, I am fortunate to be who I am, to have this wonderful life of mine. I’m not talking about Schadenfreude here. No. In fact, if I may be so bold, I think a large part of it is that I find myself understanding more deeply what it is to be human.

So bring on the doctor visits!

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