Would You Like a Drink With That?

May 23, 2006 at 12:15 pm (Uncategorized)

It’s Tuesday and I’m 2 for 2. Sometimes I get a kick out of tracking my various medical appointments and keeping score. I’ve had a couple grand slam weeks, which means I’ve spent every day of the business week at a different medical appointment. But this week looks pretty average–two days, two appointments.

Today was a bone density scan. Long-term prednisone can cause osteoporosis even in younger women like me. My doctor started me on Fosamax, but wanted to obtain baseline data for future comparisons. The scan was easy, painless, and fast. It only took about ten minutes and didn’t require IVs, electrodes, or radioactive substances in my circulatory system. And they call this a test.

I won’t get the results for a few days, but I’m looking forward to reaping the rewards of this test right away. You see, Jay and I have a weekly ritual we’ve dubbed our House drinking game. If you don’t watch House, M.D., you should, not because it’s particularly good or even realistic, but because it will make you realize how shoddy your own medical care is. Every week, one of the misanthropic Dr. House’s team is dispatched to search a patient’s house for clues into the causes of a patient’s mysterious–and always imminently life-threatening– illness. I’ve been to top notch medical facilities across the country, and I’ve never caught one of my physicians snooping in my kitchen cabinets to unearth the roots of my sarcoidosis. It’s a good day when my doctors return a phone call.

Like other medical shows, House uses plenty of medical jargon to give the program a patina of realism. As the doctors toss around ideas to make a differential diagnosis, they name esoteric diseases and order hundreds of thousands of dollars of tests, none of which is ever questioned by a tightwad HMO. Jay and I began to notice–and then to take a sort of perverse pleasure in–that I had undergone an awful lot of the tests House and his team use. We also realized that a few of the bizarre diseases and their associated conditions are ones related to what I have. There was even an episode that dealt with sarcoidosis, even though the afflicted kid ended up not having it.

After a few days of perusing my blog, you’ve probably figured out that Jay and I don’t get out nearly enough. Perhaps this is why we began our game. Think of it as a medical variant of that old college standby, quarters. If House orders a test I’ve had, we drink once. Sometimes we assign an extra sip for a more rigorous test. For instance, at least one person per episode is given a lumbar puncture (spinal tap). In my book, “an LP,” as they in the know call it on TV, is worth at least two sips of beer. An MRI administered on the show means we drink once, but if they specify a cardiac MRI, which is far more uncommon and specific to me, we drink twice. I’ll be watching this week to see if Dr. House orders a bone density scan for a patient. If a condition I’ve been suspected of having but ultimately did not, like a pulmonary embolism, pops up on the program, it’s one sip time. A condition I actually have earns two sips. The diagnosis of some type of autoimmune disease requires one sip; the dispensing of prednisone to a patient for said autoimmune condition immediately makes for another sip. And if they even mention sarcoidosis, it’s a three sip minimum. As you can see, the rules are open to a fair amount of interpretation, depending on the desired sobriety level. Play the game with your own medical condition and see where you end up.

Unfortunately, the delightful cocktail of drugs I swallow every morning rules out over-consumption of the real thing. My limit is one beer a day, so Jay and I are forced to resort to a symbolic version of the drinking game. It’s still fun, but it lacks the urgency of the real deal.

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