A lot of people might not know this, but it’s important to go to the doctor once in a while. Even when you’re healthy. Seriously. He won’t be upset that you wasted his time. And if the doctor doesn’t see you when you’re healthy, how will he know when you’re sick? He has to have something to measure it against. Maybe you’re always like that. You can go to the doctor and he’ll be like, “OMG, what’s that?”
And you’ll go, “That’s just my face!”
But if you’re nervous about the experience anyway, here are some tips you can use to make things easier (or, in the case of some of these tips, more difficult). You can also hand these tips directly to your doctor if you think he doesn’t know what to do. But he might know, from his other patients.
(Author’s qualification to write this column: Author has gone for an annual physical over three times in the last 14 years alone. Or with his wife.)
Making an appointment: Experts recommend that when choosing a doctor, you first call their office and ask vital health questions, such as, “Is he currently accepting new patients?” You don’t want to see a doctor who’s not accepting new patients. This is supposed to be a two-way relationship that will not at all be helped by a restraining order.
Take a shower. And no, it’s not like furiously brushing your teeth before you go to the dentist, where the dentist will be able to tell that you haven’t really brushed since the last time he saw you. It’s not. But do it furiously, just in case.
Bring a breath mint for the same reason you’re taking a shower, and pop it in right before the doctor tells you to breathe normally.
Arriving at the doctor’s office: If this is your first appointment with this doctor, make sure to show up early, because they’re going to want to scan your insurance card while you take a test that asks you to write things such as your insurance provider and account number, which you don’t know because they have your insurance card. Don’t copy answers from the person next to you, even if he looks smart and has his insurance number memorized. Also, the test has you sign a disclaimer at the bottom that says you didn’t cheat. I assume. I’ve never read it.
One great thing to do in the waiting room is say Tehillim. They say that if you make it through the entire Sefer Tehillim before being called, you get to give the doctor a shot. I don’t know who says this, but it isn’t the Rambam.
In the exam room: There’s no reason to get undressed. They make you do that so they can buy time while they finish up with the previous patient and get a new stethoscope out of the freezer. If, once you get undressed, they make you go into another room, put your wallet in your shoe. Doctors with an eight-year degree are never going to think to look in a shoe.
Talking to your doctor: Your doctor will ask you about your family history, so it’s important to answer honestly, because he’s not just trying to make conversation with extremely awkward topics. It’s also important to know your family medical history, which is why your mother wants you to call a few times a week so you can hear about her medical issues. Because, for example, if your great grandfather died of old age, chas v’shalom, it’s important to mention this, so the doctor knows to look out for it.
Note that when the doctor is asking you questions, he’s actually testing things such as your memory. He’s thinking, “I can memorize the entire human body, but he can’t remember if his back hurts in the mornings?” So make sure to study.
If you have any questions for your doctor, you might have to think them up on the spot. If you write them down beforehand, he might make assumptions about your memory. And don’t think you can just write them down on your arm or something, because he looks everywhere. He’ll be examining you and suddenly answer a question and you’ll be like “What?” and he’ll say, “I’m answering a question. It’s on your back. Oh, your wife must have written it.”
The exam: In general, the doctor will check your “vitals,” such as your blood pressure, your heartbeat and your temperature. All of these things are vital, so don’t even bother showing up for an exam unless you have them. There’s no way to be calm and keep your blood pressure low while they’re checking it. You’re stressing about keeping it low. The best you can do is picture yourself relaxing on the beach with your arm caught in the grasp of some sea creature that keeps squeezing it. “No, I’m checking your blood pressure!” When the doctor tells you, “I’m going to listen to your lungs, so breathe normally,” there’s no way you’re going to breathe normally. The doctor knows this will happen, but he has to say it anyway, because most people stop breathing when he touches them with the stethoscope. That thing is cold. The doctor will also shine a light into your ears. If he sees the light coming through your other ear, he knows there’s a problem. At some point, the doctor might tell you to eat less junk food. This from a guy with 500 empty popsicle sticks in a cup in his office.
By Mordechai Schmutter