Monday, February 24, 2014

Filled Under:

Snoring, High Cholesterol, and Green Smoothies



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It took me almost a month to get into the doctor for a physical, something I hadn’t had in almost seven years.  Mel insisted that I visit the doctor, and while there I was supposed to ask if anything could be done to keep me from sounding like a suffering whale in the night.
Our insurance is through an HMO, which is really affordable, but it definitely has its drawbacks. For example, I’d had this same insurance for almost two years, but I’d never met with the same doctor. Mostly because I’m not a preventative maintenance kind of guy. I only went to the doctor when I was really ill and needed to see someone that day, so I always seemed to get stuck with whomever was available. Most of the time that ended up being a nurse practitioner. Which from my understanding is like meeting with the doctor’s kid brother. Although I must say that they always seemed competent. 

I’d never been assigned a doctor until I made an appointment for the physical. And then, in order to meet with my new doctor, I had to wait a month for an opening.
His name was Doctor Kummel. All I knew about him was a short bio that listed his accreditations and a glossy photo.
He looked older, knowledgeable, nice.
After waiting so long to meet with my doctor (a real doctor) I felt really invested. I was worried that I might not like this doctor, but after it took so long to get an appointment with him, I would feel committed. I would feel like I’d made a decision and needed to stick with it. Even if I didn’t like Doctor Kummel, I would most likely stick with him for a considerable amount of time.
Perhaps this is all part of a devious plan by HMO’s to push crappy doctors on patients.
I had other anxieties at the doctor’s office too. I gained some weight while in graduate school, about twenty pounds, and I was afraid the doctor was going to say that the reason I snored was because I needed to lose weight. I’d never had a medical professional tell me to lose weight, and I really didn’t know how I would take it, but I had to assume that I wouldn’t take it well.  I used to consider myself fit. I used to race mountain bikes and bench 350 pounds. I used to look at a body mass index and not wish I were six feet tall. I used to eat a balanced diet. People used to ask me for fitness advice.
That is not the case anymore.

Doctor Kummel looked a lot like Colonel Sanders, right down to the goofy goatee and mustache; only he had grey hair, not white. He was about my height, 5 foot 7 in, with a large round stout tummy and stumpy little legs and hands. He waddled, mostly because he was a little splayfooted, and the front of his blue button up shirt was sprinkled with dandruff from his goatee. I kept staring at the dandruff. I wanted to brush it off, or tell him to brush it off. It didn’t seem right for a doctor to have chin dandruff on his shirt. It didn’t seem clean. But we didn’t know each other that well, so I just stared at it and said nothing.
He didn’t smile much, more of a straight-faced doctor, but he was pleasant enough. He asked me why I needed a physical, and I told him I hadn’t had one in awhile.
“Anything else going on?” He asked. 
“Well...” I said, “My wife wants to know if anything can be done about my snoring.”
The doctor scoffed like he’d heard this a million times. Like my snoring was beyond the reach of medical experts. Clearly I had a problem that couldn’t be fixed, which to him meant that the problem was not me, but my wife.
“There isn’t much that can be done about that,” he said. “Except tell your wife to learn how to sleep through it. Or you can sleep in another room. Some couples do that.”
“I don’t like either of those ideas,” I said.
I noticed that Doctor Kummel wasn’t wearing a wedding ring. I wondered if he snored in the night and that’s why he wasn’t currently married. Perhaps he refused to sleep in another room and the tension built due to too many sleepless nights until one day she left, and with her took all the conditioner, and that’s why his chin was so dry and flaky and spackling his nice blue shirt with dandruff.
Was this my future?
I need to stop thinking about crap like this.
He asked me some questions about my snoring. He wanted to know if Mel ever noticed me not breathing in the night. He asked if I had any family members with sleep apnea, and I told him that my brother did.
“We probably should get you sleep tested.”
 “I’d rather not,” I said. “If I have this sleep apnea thing, I’d really rather not know about it. I have a hard enough time getting to sleep. I don’t know if I’ve ever actually slept through the night. The last thing I need is a Darth Vader mask chafing my face and keeping me up. Plus, I think it might freak out my kids.”
I put my hand over my mouth and started breathing like Darth Vader.
“Wouldn’t that sound freak you out as a child?”
I thought I was being funny.
The doctor didn’t laugh.
I was sitting above the doctor when I did this. He was sitting on a stool with short legs and wheels. He looked up, lips slightly puckered, his face one that seemed to say, you have no idea what you are talking about.
“Would you rather wear a mask? Or take ten years off your life?” He went on, telling me the dangers of sleep apnea, how my organs might be shutting down in the night, which is causing them damage, and suddenly I saw my body like a factory with lazy unmotivated workers who were sneaking in extra breaks when the boss was away. This sounded more like a managerial problem. A top down problem. A problem that could be better fixed with a company team building session in some exotic location. In my mind, what my body (my organs) needed was a company retreat. Not a sleep study.
 The doctor told me the story of a patent he once had that died at 27-years-old because he refused to wear his mask.
“Now keep in mind that this man was what we call chronically obese, close to five hundred pounds,” he said.
“Hold the phone, dude, “ I said. “Are you comparing me to an obese man?”
“No,” he said. “I’m using him as an example. Although,” he paused for a moment. Looked at my record, at my weight and height. Then looked me up and down. Then it happened. He said the statement I was dreading. “Losing weight might help your snoring. And your over all health.”
When a doctor says that your health could benefit from losing some weight, he’s just doing his job in helping you promote good health. This, I understand. However, I found it difficult to not get offended. Not to blame the messenger. I had a hard time not looking at this dude and saying, I need to loose weight? Me? If anyone needs to lay off the KFC it’s you, Colonel Sanders. We are the same height and you must have 70 pounds on me.
The doctor looked me in the eyes. Then he said, “We probably should check your cholesterol.”
I went silent, tilted my head back, and looked at the ceiling.
 
Look how skinny I was...
It’s not that I didn’t work out. I hit the gym five hours a week. Last summer I trained and completed a 105-mile bike ride. And yet, I couldn’t seem to lose the weight I put on in graduate school. It’s just stuck there. I was already frustrated with myself, and the way I looked. Not too long ago I checked my MySpace account for the first time in years (I just wanted to see if it was still active) and it was like opening a time capsule filled with photos of a slender attractive me. Just before the visit one of my students said she saw me as a nerdy, fatherly, academic type, and that lifting weights might help me look younger. A few moments later another student came in, and she confirmed the first student’s assessment.
Clearly whatever sex appeal I had had in my twenties was gone.
 I wanted to take those frustrations out on this doctor. I wanted to get pissed off at him, tell him that he needed to lose weight, not me. But my weight gain was not his problem, it was mine, and I needed to accept that.  

Yes. Yes I have.

The real problem was not exercise. It was my diet. It was my love for deep fried chicken. It was my passion for Tyson’s frozen foods. It was the fact that I drink five or six cans of soda a day. It was my addiction to cookies and other sweets. It was the fact that one of my secret goals in life is to have a Coke Freestyle Machine in my home. My poor diet, combined with turning 30 and gaining a sedentary office job, had come down to this moment. It had come down to a medical professional looking me in the eyes and saying that I should lose weight.  
I didn’t yell at this man. I didn’t punch him in the face. I just nodded, and he sent me down the hall to have my blood drawn. 

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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, and a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His essays on parenting and marriage have been featured in Huffington Post Parents, Huffington Post Weddings, and The Good Men Project. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
Photo by Lucinda Higley


2 comments:

Courtney Garcia said...

Love these lines!: "and suddenly I saw my body like a factory with lazy unmotivated workers who were sneaking in extra breaks when the boss was away. This sounded more like a managerial problem. A top down problem. A problem that could be better fixed with a company team building session in some exotic location. In my mind, what my body (my organs) needed was a company retreat. Not a sleep study"

Clint said...

Thanks, Courtney! I'm glad you enjoyed them!