Being One’s Own Doctor

A flower along the trail at Watson Lake’s Riparian Preserve. It is without judgment. It loves. This flower is my rabbi, even as I see my nation descend into madness and ignorance … a blight from which we might be ready to awaken.


A good friend of mine, a guy I used to teach with, was worried after my last blog post, the one about maddening dog gates, that my lifestyle threatened my blood pressure. Said I should trade my dog in for a hamster, something low stress. He was half joking. If you’re reading, Dan, this one’s for you.

You’re right to be concerned, and I appreciate it. Know, then, first of all, I have a primary care physician. I need an actual doctor. I’ve had fainting episodes. And some crazy nose operation once left me unable to pee. The urologist said I’d better get a doctor to orchestrate the big mess I’d become.

“Just try finding one in this town.”

“I know,” he said. “But you’d better.” I’d been seen by nurse practitioners, physicians’ aides who seem to be taking over direct general health care. “Look harder,” said the urologist.

I did, and I finally found a new doctor.

Actually, an old one. This kind, elderly gentleman is with a little practice named, with disarming simplicity, The Doctor’s Office. They’re off of Willow Creek Road here in Prescott.

He listened with interest to my history.

Six years ago, I fainted in my bedroom and spent the night in the hospital. Barb told me Rosa had, upon the dog gate’s removal, run in ahead of the EMTs and licked me before they could slap my face or brandish smelling salts or whatever they did before piling my ass onto a stretcher for the ride to Yavapai Regional Medical Center — where no doctor had a clue. I was running on the treadmill next morning (un-caffeinated!) like Drago in Rocky IV. The staff shrugged, perplexed, at the paragon of fitness. No murmur. No nothing. A male nurse who hung out with me before my discharge said I must have been holding my breath. Huh.

I know now it was a panic attack, purely psychosomatic. “Teaching” had become a horror show. I lived in fear of what I thought I had to go do to make a living.

And yet I kept at it, after a fashion.

After a hiatus I got another, final teaching job, at Mayer High School, where I fainted just outside the Music Room while giving blood, half a year ago, during my last semester there. I knew upon waking I’d drifted off, but didn’t know till later I’d jackknifed and spasmed in the chair. Dan’s wife, who’d come in to give blood, had seen and she told me when I visited her and Dan for coffee. I was beyond embarrassed. I was quietly shocked. I mean that’s weird.

I even fainted outside the auspices of anxiety-plagued pedagogy. A senescent, preternaturally vigorous stock boy at Walmart now, I mashed my hand in a metal cart on the dock, felt faint and nauseous … and woke up to two guys calling my name like some loony movie.

I’ve been obsessed with this unmanly fainting business. It didn’t help that a friend, who grew up to be a doctor, decreed I had a condition in which pain caused fainting. He said it’s nothing to be embarrassed about. But it bothered me. Made me sound like a sissy, some nerd who goes into a swoon after he stubs his toe.

I left the editorializing out of my report to the new doctor. Reviewing my history, and the latest lab tests, he said my blood sugar could be a problem. He began seeing me every three months to examine results of blood draws, trying to get me out of the prediabetic range.

But then I got on the case my own self.

Two months ago, I got to wondering if the second pill prescribed by my last doctor for hypertension might be causing the fainting. Worried at my continual showings along the 155 over 85 blood pressure range, this guy’d put me on 20 milligrams a day of Benazepril, then added 20 mg of hydrochlorothiazide. I had a hunch the HCL, a blood thinner, was the culprit. I quit the little white pill, just on my own.

Last week, when I prepared to see my doctor for the inevitable discussion about blood sugar, I feared I’d score high on blood pressure.

And I worried about what he was worried about. I still ate bacon, nitrate-choked deli meats, desserts, white bread. He’d given me a Weight Watchers diet with the caveat I add calories, working as I did at a warehouse job. But I’m here to tell you, half a banana and an unbuttered slice of scratchy wheat bread never became my habit.

But hallelujah, come the day, not only had my blood sugar dropped from 6.0 to 5.7 — a tenth of a degree lower and I’m not even prediabetic anymore — but my blood pressure read 117 over 76. Last time it was that low was 40 years ago, I ran 25 miles a week, weighed 138 pounds, and was 110 over 70.

Grinning ear to ear, the doc said I could come see him the next time in six months, not three. He congratulated me on my pill hunch.

“I guess the blood thinner, by lowering your blood pressure, caused the dizziness. Just take your blood pressure every day. Let’s keep our eye on it.”

Hmm, wonder where I put that blood pressure meter …

Today, a day off, I walked the dog at dawn, a little better than a mile and a half through country lanes full of cool, waking autumn smells. It was gratifying seeing her snuffle and zigzag along the roadside, intoxicated with smells beyond my human ken, as the world awoke.

When we got back, I threw bacon on the pan. Her tail wagged, standing nearby, anticipating her favorite breakfast, kibble with bacon.

I’m healthy.

I’m happy.

The big challenge is whether being happy provides fodder for this silly blog.

And you know what? I don’t care.

One thought on “Being One’s Own Doctor

  1. I read part of this blog and called you in alarm, but then I finished it and thank God you figured out it was that stupid pill that was causing you to pass out. People need to be cautious about blood pressure meds because they can have serious side effects. I think it was cool that you shared this. You are a courageous writer. You write from your deepest place, which is what all serious writers aim to do but they don’t always succeed because they can’t always find their “deepest place.” You always find it. It’s part of what makes you an eloquent writer. (The other part is a gift with language, obviously.)


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