Life Insurance

“Nah, nothing wrong with you except a chest cold. Here’s a prescription for some antibiotics.” Dr. Glimp tore off the worthless script from his prescription pad and handed it to Max, hoping it would appease him.

“Are you sure?” Max intently studied the doctor’s eyes. “I mean, doc, I’ve never had a chest cold this bad before.” He coughed. “Can you look that X-ray over again?”

Dr. Glimp sighed and turned his head so that he faced the X-ray display at a 45-degree angle. He glanced at it asquint for about five seconds. “There’s nothing there!” he declared, turning back.

“Look, I understand your concern. Ever since the Surgeon General announced two years ago that cigarette smoking causes cancer, I’ve been flooded with patients who get worried every time they develop a cough. But if you had something wrong it would be in the X-rays. Your X-rays are clear!” He thumped Max on the back. “Congratulations! You should be happy!” The thump sent Max into an uncontrollable coughing spell for about 30 seconds.

Max paused for a moment after stepping out of the doctor’s office, to catch his breath. He rubbed an achy spot about an inch below his neck. He suppressed a cough, then struggled for a deep breath of fresh air. Was that a wheezing he heard?

He lit up. Smoking always helped him think better. Was the doctor right? Was he just being a little paranoid after that Surgeon General’s report made headlines all over the country? He fiddled with the pack of cigarettes in his hand, and read the new message he’d been seeing recently, printed on the sides of this product: “Caution: Cigarette Smoking May Be Hazardous To Your Health.”

He mused that he would have never taken up the habit if he had only known. Back in his youth it seemed that every man smoked. In fact many doctors hailed cigarettes as good for your health. That had always seemed counterintuitive to him, but who was he to question doctors? And now he was hooked. A chain smoker.

A tussive urge struck from below and an involuntary cough erupted. When Max regained control he tucked the pack back into his shirt pocket. Too late to give it up now, he theorized.

The coughing kept recurring over the next several days, as Max struggled with his fear of cancer. He knew something was wrong. He felt it in his gut. And it occurred to him that he was going to die soon. He was going to leave behind his wife and his children. His very successful business would not last without his guidance. It would fail, and his family would go broke.

He contemplated what to do. How to prepare for the worst. How to ensure that his wife and kids would be okay. And he came up with a plan.

He justified that if these bastard doctors were wrong in the first place, by recommending cigarette smoking, and then wrong again in the second place, by missing a diagnosis of lung cancer, he’d show the sons of bitches a thing or two. He’d show these damned so-called experts.

Max put the word out that his machine shop was up for sale.

Then he made an appointment with a life insurance company.

The fine folks at Graystone Life Insurance welcomed him into their office. The agent talked Max into a $100,000 policy. And all he had to do was pass the physical. Which involved a chest X-ray.

It came out negative.

It was all Max could do to suppress the coughing while Graystone’s physician examined him. The physician mentioned that his breathing sounded a little raspy. Max told him that his own doctor had diagnosed it as a chest cold. After a quick phone call to his doctor, the physician seemed satisfied and quickly signed off.

And then it was off to visit Huffburg’s Life Insurance, and then Sandsound Life Inc. Then Whistler’s Life. Then Hacker Life, Limited. Then Sputummer’s Life. Hedgeworth’s Life. Kakouphany Life. Emyprean Life. And so on and so forth.

By the time Max finished with his life insurance binge, he was paying premiums on more than a million dollars’ worth of policies. And his wife and children were the named beneficiaries.

He sold the machine shop to my father-in-law. This is how I became aware of this story, many years later.

Max’s wife worried about his mental health. And she felt positively stressed about him selling the business. She knew they couldn’t go on forever, living off the proceeds of the sale. Especially with all those life insurance premiums they were now paying. She nagged at Max to visit a psychiatrist.

But Max ignored her, in his monomania to find ways to provide for her after his upcoming demise that he just knew was going to occur.

Several months passed. His cough had deepened, and his wheezing was sounding more like a whistling now. Max was feeling increasingly worried for his family, and carking more about their long-term future. He walked into the office of Protective Life and breathlessly asked to speak with an agent. He said he wanted to take out the biggest policy they offered.

The agent asked the same routine questions Max was accustomed to, and Max had all the right answers at the ready. He filled out the forms and signed them. Now all that was left was the requisite physical.

The physician furrowed his brow and pointed at the X-ray display. “Sir, I see something like a shadow around your clavicle. And a few other shadows, here . . . and here.” he pointed. “I can’t approve this policy until you have your lungs checked out by your doctor.”

Max returned to his doctor and got yet another chest X-ray. This time Dr. Glimp’s insouciant demeanor disappeared. With a gray face, he told Max that a biopsy would be necessary.

A few days after the biopsy, Dr. Glimp delivered the message Max was expecting.

“Max, I’m sorry to say, but it’s advanced stage lung cancer. I’m really, really sorry I didn’t catch this earlier. It was hidden behind your clavicle. You know, your collar bone. We can try to operate, but this appears to have spread to your bones. Radiation might work, but I don’t know.” He shook his head grimly.

“How much longer, doc, if you continue doing nothing?”

Dr. Glimp winced. He appeared stung by that question. He stammered. “W-w-well, uh, I doubt you have more than, uh, s-s-six months. D-do you have life insurance?”

Max’s face brightened, even as he coughed.

“Yep, oh yes!” Max cheerily proclaimed with a hoarse voice. “Yes, I have life insurance. Yes indeed I do!”

Max died two months later.

His wife retired, and his kids all got good college educations.

Doctors, with all their fine degrees, are not omniscient. There’s much they don’t know and can’t know, and there are many things they’re unwilling to figure out. So we have to trust what our bodies are telling us until clear medical evidence proves otherwise. I believe that’s the lesson we can learn from people like Max.

Marathon Heart

My father-in-law, Jake, has worked and played hard all his life. He was a machinist, and his job involved heavy lifting, hard sweating, and complex mental absorption. Back in his day, he was a man of brawn and brain.

He married his sister-in-law when he was 24, enduring all the internecine slings and arrows this relationship with his brother-in-law’s ex-wife generated. He accepted his two nieces as his own daughters, and had several more children with his sister-in-law.

Then his wife’s parents died, leaving three children of nonage. He happily took these three underage orphans into his already crowded home, and raised them into adulthood.

In those early days of the Cold War, the aerospace industry was booming, keeping machinists like Jake very busy. His average work week was about 80 hours. And the overtime pay allowed him to support and raise his large extended family, which he did cheerfully and without complaint.

Then he went into business for himself and prospered even more. His machine shop earned a nationwide reputation amongst those who needed the kind of specialty work his shop performed.

He kept very busy within those metal walls of his shop, toiling away long hours, doing the heavy lifts, sweating, straining, and responding daily to all the challenges before him.

And then abruptly at the age of 60, he retired. This man with a busy mind and active body suddenly found himself with nothing to do. But he didn’t twiddle his thumbs for very long.

Jake turned to athletics. He began competing in marathons and triathlons. He put all his mettle into this sport for the fleet of foot, and set world records for his age group.

Not only did he win many trophies and accolades, but his cardiovascular health benefited from this new hobby of his. He was in tip-top aerobic shape.

He was also an avid hiker in his retirement years. He took me with him on several hikes, and I always struggled to keep up with his fast, enduring pace. Sometimes I even had to persuade him to stop and take a break, lest I collapse.

But in his early 70’s Jake had to slow down, and then finally stop. All the heavy lifting from his machinist career, and all that post-retirement marathon running was catching up to him. His joints grew spurs and the discs in his back compressed.

He began using a cane. And now, at age 89, he’s traded the cane for a walker. Yet even with a walker, he is barely able to stay upright. He’s fallen several times and hurt himself, and has had to be helped back up to his feet. He dreads the future. He fears that soon he may be confined to a wheelchair.

Yet his heart, his heart! Oh that marathon heart of Jake’s is as strong as ever! He takes no heart medication, yet his systolic blood pressure reading is often in the 90’s, and his diastolic ranges between 45 and 70.

Poor Jake. He wants to die. He hates living like a cripple. But his heart won’t allow him to die. He’s in chronic kidney failure, and his body is bloated with water. But that marathon heart pumps strong as ever.

The doctor says that cancer may have invaded his body. He coughs a lot, and lives in constant pain. He’s incontinent also, due to stenosis in his spine. And even when he can make it to the toilet, he requires help with his hygiene. It’s very embarrassing for this man who prides himself on being independent. This man with the marathon heart.

And he can’t sleep well. But that strong heart of his won’t allow him to die in his sleep.

Jake is a hero to me. But a hero of the Greco-tragic ilk. Be careful, you marathon runners, or you may end up just like Jake. Your strong heart will force you to endure the humility and helplessness of a crippled body. It will keep you alive through the torture of all kinds of chronic illnesses. And the mercy of the grim reaper will be held at bay, while you cry out in pain and plead for the end, every day and every night.

Relax on the couch and watch TV. Eat potato chips. Allow your cholesterol level and blood pressure to rise through the roof. And persuade that coronary to overtake you now, before it’s too late.

You don’t want to end up like Jake.

Man Gives Birth

I had this same look of relief when my kidney stone passed.
I had this same look of relief when my kidney stone passed.
I know what it feels like to give birth. I passed a kidney stone. It’s said that the pain from passing a kidney stone can be as horrible as the pain of childbirth.

Women with children, I feel your pain.

My labor pains began while I was taking a nap. What a cruel trick mother nature played, interrupting my slumber this way. My right side suddenly began to burn like a gasoline fire. Damn last night’s chili! was my first thought.

But it got worse. Worse than any of the napalm bombs I’ve ever spooned out of my wife’s cast-iron dutch oven. Within forty-five minutes my wife was rushing me to the Emergency Room.

By the time we got there I couldn’t walk. I was assisted into a wheelchair, then trundled directly to intake. The lady running the joint began the paperwork.

“What is your name?” she asked.

“OOOOOOOHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!! OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!” I replied.

“Sir, don’t yell at me!”

I heaved up my lunch into a blue plastic vomit bag an orderly gave me, and then tried to explain to her that I wasn’t yelling. This was how I normally talk when my guts are exploding. But all that came out was, “OOOOHHHHHHH! NOOOOOOOOOOOT YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEELLLL! OOOOOOOOHHHHHHHH!”

She became curt with me. “Sir, I have to know your name, and I don’t appreciate being yelled at!”

Thank goodness my wife was there. She interjected and provided all the necessary info. Otherwise I may never have gotten past this officious gatekeeper.

This little interaction left me worried that the fine folks at ER had no interest in my well-being, but instead were completely focused upon rules of etiquette and record-keeping. And that just made the pain all the more worse.

Finally this bureaucrat wheeled me into the area where all the patients were ensconced. Meanwhile, the fire inside my guts burned higher and higher, and my OOOOOHHHH’s changed to “OOOOOHHHHHHH SHIIIIIITTTTT! FUUUUUCKKKKKINNNG SHHHHIIIIIT! OOOHHHH GOOOOOODAAAAAMNIT!”

“Sir, stop swearing. There are children around here.” the lady instructed me.

“FUUUUCKKK!” I replied. “GOOOODAMMMMNN MUUTHHHERRRFUCCCCCKKKKER!”

Another office lady joined her. “Sir, if you don’t stop swearing, I’m going to have to call security,” she sternly warned me.

I wondered what the hell the security guard was going to do, toss me out of the hospital? Handcuff me?

“OOOOOHHHHHH FUUUUCKKKK, ARREST ME!” I yelled.

The niminy piminy ladies gave up and handed me over to the custody of a male nurse. In between my groans and whimpers I managed to ask if I had been brought to a church or a hospital.

He was very sympathetic and understanding. He carefully helped me into the bed, and gave me the reassurance that my health and well-being was truly a concern in this facility.

After this I was able to relax into a delirium of loud screaming, groaning, and an occasional curse word, fueled by the fiery pain in my side.

At this point, I thought that I either had a bowel obstruction or a ruptured appendix.

An IV was started, and after what seemed like 15 lifetimes, but was actually more like 15 minutes, pain medication began to take effect. My screams decreased slightly in volume. The analgesic really wasn’t that effective. But it did help a little.

Then the very nice, kind, compassionate male nurse, injected a much more powerful painkiller into the IV. It must have been a horse tranquilizer. Within minutes my screams softened, to a more intelligible huffing and puffing and light whimpering. And I was actually able to lie still. That’s when Scott came along.

Scott was another nice, kind, compassionate healthcare worker. He wheeled me into a dark room with a monstrous-sized machine and gently CT scanned my abdomen.

Within a few minutes after the CT scan, the breech baby in my belly must have turned. I suddenly felt a wave of relief, and within minutes the raging inferno inside subsided to low-glowing embers.

It was over. Thank God it was over.

I had to wait around a while for a diagnosis. My wife said she thought it was a kidney stone. I told her she was crazy. No, I advised her that this was a bowel obstruction. That’s exactly what it felt like. Like a bowel obstruction that suddenly came loose, allowing relief. But she stood her ground. And I stood my ground.

Then the doctor came by and told us it was a kidney stone. Well hell.

But at least that mutherfucker had passed. I was happy. Now I could go home, relax, and get some sleep. My pain was a fast-fading memory. A story to recount to bored house guests. An aberration. A small bump in my history of relative good health.

Until the next morning, when my baby from hell returned.

Another trip to the ER. More agony, wailing, and screaming. But at least this time we knew the cause of the pain. It was yet another kidney stone, for crying out loud. And maybe now that the cause was known, they could go inside there right away, with some sort of pickax, and mine the offending boulder out of my belly.

That’s when I received the sad news. The doctor told me it was NOT another kidney stone. She identified it as the same culprit from the previous night. She said that this rock was on a long journey that had only just begun. A journey that begins at the kidney, goes down a very long, narrow tube, and ends in the bladder. A journey of a thousand miles, that begins with the first scream. She calmly advised me that I could expect intermittent periods of agony and relief for many more hours or even days, while this peregrination was taking place, and that there was nothing she nor anyone else on the ER staff could do about it. Except prescribe pain killers.

I was discharged from the ER and left to fend for myself.

And that’s the terrible truth about kidney stones.

I’ve done some internet research and discovered a few more truths. I’ve read that the pain from passing one of these can be more intense than medical conditions such as childbirth, gunshot wounds, and heart attacks. And if a stone is greater than 5mm it can obstruct urine flow and destroy a kidney. But I say, with pain that intense, who the hell needs kidneys anyway? Let those bean-shaped organs die!

Mine was only 2mm. That’s the thickness of a nickel. A very small stone. I guess you can say I gave birth to a preemie.

So mothers, I feel your pain. I know what you’ve gone through. I’m a man whose given birth. And I hope I’ll never have to go through this experience again.

Now if there was just some way I could have my tubes tied.

How to Get Your Ass Reamed

Not this ass, your ass.
Not this ass, your ass.
Physicians recommend that most people over age 50 get their asses reamed. It’s officially called a colonoscopy.

Do not fear the colonoscopy. All they do is ram a long, flexible, roto-rooter snake all the way up your hindquarters and take lots of pictures. They then threaten to post those pictures on the internet if you don’t pay a certain amount of money.

Okay, maybe not. But here’s what many sadistic doctors will require of you:

For about a week before the ass-reaming, you’re not allowed to eat certain foods, such as nuts, seeds, corn, and beans. You’re also not allowed to take certain OTC medications, such as aspirin, Motrin, or anything else that thins the blood. Also, you can’t take vitamins or OTC supplements, such as fish oil.

The day before the sadistic procedure you can’t eat food. You may only drink clear liquids (liquids you can see through), such as chicken broth and apple juice. You can drink tea or coffee, but without milk or creamers. You can also eat jell-o and popsicles, as long as they aren’t red or purple.

Around noon you have to take a laxative, then start drinking an aquarium’s amount of salty, nasty-tasting electrolytes.

The day of the ass-reaming, you continue your fast, and hope for an early appointment time, so you can eat as soon as possible. Meanwhile, you must drink even more of the saline electrolytes. You’ll drink so much of this crap, you’ll feel like you’re floating down a sewer.

By this time your toilet and bowels will have gotten a good workout, and you will be clean as a wet-wipe, inside. But your feelings of pride at this accomplishment will be eclipsed by much stronger sensations of lassitude, hunger, and crabbiness from not having food for the past two days.

Congratulations! The worst is over! Now it’s time for the actual ass-reaming. This will seem anti-climactic after all the difficult prep work you’ve put yourself through.

So they make you strip, and give you a flimsy, worthless gown to wear. Then they wheel you into the room where you get the treatment. This room will be packed with many doctors, nurses, and patients. Yep, you’re just one asshole among many at this point.

They’re gonna jab you with a needle to make you go night-night. But before you drift off, they’ll rip the flimsy gown off your ass like the unveiling of a sculpture. Now you are exposed to everyone in the room: doctors, nurses, other patients (who are probably sleeping, but you never know)–I mean everyone. As the blast of vulnerable feelings, shame, and embarrassment hits you, the anesthesia also hits you, and you conk out.

Next thing you know, you’re waking up and the nurse is telling you to get dressed. Your designated driver whisks you to the nearest restaurant. As you devour food, you do your best to steer the table-talk away from what you just went through.

Because this shit is nobody’s damn business.

Dr. Tippy’s Tips for Treating a Cold

I’ve been battling a cold lately. I think I caught it from Blair, over at Shameful Sheep. She’s just getting over a cold. I believe the cold virus is so pernicious, you can catch it just by reading a post written by someone with a cold. So thanks Blair.

And that means anyone reading this post is going to be next.

So now that you know you’re going to catch my cold, here are some tips from Dr. Tippy, for treating it. But first, please note that I haven’t yet qualified for my doctor’s license in the U.S.A. My medical degree was conferred on me by the nation of Cyberia, which is my native land. I attended Diplomamill University, and graduated Magna Quack Laude.

I take no responsibility for anything, so follow these tips at your own risk:

My tool of choice for treating a sinus infection.
My tool of choice for treating a sinus infection.

If you are feeling painful pressure on any area of your forehead or face, find a hammer and a nail. Drive the nail, using the hammer, deep into that painful spot. This will hopefully relieve the pressure, and eliminate your worries about any sinus infection.

If your body is burning hot from head to toe, clean out your refrigerator, crawl inside, and shut the door. Stay there for at least four hours. This is guaranteed to cool your body down for good.

Treat a drippy nose by stuffing large sponges up your nostrils. Then wrap a big towel beneath your nose and tie it behind your head. Then wear a Fit-Flex Depends upon your head. Then scatter sawdust shavings a foot deep on your floor. Because no matter what you do for a drippy nose, you’re still going to get snot all over the place, and you’ll need all that sawdust to absorb it.

Treat a sore throat by carrying a megaphone with you everywhere you go. Turn the megaphone up full blast, then whisper into it, “I have a sore throat and can’t talk much,” to anyone who tries to engage you in conversation. If they insist on conversing with you anyway, beat them over the head with the megaphone.

A severe cold, left untreated, will typically last 14 days. But if you employ these treatments I guarantee you’ll rid yourself of your cold in just two weeks.

If you want to thank me for all this great advice, simply write “Thank You” on the memo line of the check, after I send you my bill.

Bipolar Bipeds

Comedy-TragedyMasks

I think mental illness is the most expensive disease a person can suffer from. And it’s not because psychiatrists charge so much. Although if you ask me, anyone who pays the kind of hourly rate they charge has to be crazy. But mental illness can also cost people their careers, their freedom, their families, and even their lives.

It cost my daughter everything but her family. We stood by her, but she was bipolar and there was nothing we could do to cure that problem.

She could not hold down a paying job for very long. She made bad choices in men. She spent a year in jail. And then she began taking Seroquel, a powerful psych medicine. A potential side effect reported for Seroquel is blood clots. A few months after taking this drug, she was hospitalized with blood clots in her legs. And then some of them broke free and traveled to her lungs, killing her at the age of 32.

About ten million Americans have bipolar disorder. That’s a lot of bipolar bipeds. And about one in five adults suffer from some sort of diagnosable mental disorder. There’s a plague of mental illness in our world, exacting immeasurable costs on many people.

If you often have a difficult time making healthy decisions for yourself, you could very well be mentally ill. Don’t live in denial. Admit your problem and seek help.

Also, if you’re mentally ill, learn to take advice from those who care about you, and are better than you at making good decisions. When our daughter started taking Seroquel she was warned to get regular checkups for blood clots. She blew that advise off. The mentally ill must accept that they need help making decisions. People with good vision read for the blind. People with good hearing listen for the deaf. And those with stable minds can help the mentally ill with their decisions.

Many people manage their mental illness successfully. If you’re mentally ill, seek the help you need. It doesn’t have to exact a high toll on your life. You can turn your life around, and stop paying such high prices.