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Routine maintenance? Medical mechanics check under hood

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“Here,” said the nice lady in the scrubs. “Drink this.”

She handed me a cup of what looked like thin spackle. Tasted like it, too.

Mmm. Barium for breakfast.

The occasion was a full workup at a local hospital, a chance to look at all of my systems and see which ones were OK, which ones were underperforming and which were, well, I was going to say operating beyond expectations, but that doesn’t seem likely at my age. Let’s just call this what it was: A trip to the garage with orders for the mechanic to check under the hood and then get back to us with the estimate.

The day began way too early and way too hungry. You have to be fasting for this sort of thing, you know — the old “nothing to eat or drink after midnight” routine. They mean it, too. Bite a fingernail and they’ll tell you to come back when you can follow the rules.

The fasting thing is tough for me. For as long as I can remember, I have been a person who wakes up hungry. When I was a kid, I was known for jumping out of bed and going straight for my cereal bowl, getting the Quisp dished and the milk poured, and only then remembering that it might have been wise to visit the bathroom first. I ate a lot of soggy cereal until I learned to do things in the right order.

So I was not in the best of moods to begin with when the large array of medical mechanics began enacting their voodoo rituals on me.

It started with giving blood. Lots of it. As in enough to give another human a complete refill. Then, because medical voodoo has a tradition of adding insult to injury, I got to stand up and woozily make my way to the bathroom for a sample of another kind of fluid, which struck me as an awful lot to ask of someone who hadn’t had anything to drink for about 10 hours.

After that came the electrocardiothingie, where they stick rheostats onto your body and wire you up like a Silvertone console radio. I could have made it a lot easier on everyone by trimming my chest hair. No need, said the lady putting on the stickers. Yes need, I said when she pulled them off and took large clumps of fur with them.

Then came the crowning achievement of the day, the upper GI X-rays with the aforementioned barium breakfast. If you’d like to try this at home, simply blend 12 pieces of blackboard chalk with a quarter-cup of water. Gulp it down and you can spend the rest of the day feeling like you have a big hunk of modeling clay trying to move through your system.

(Note: Do not eat a large Chinese dinner on top of this stuff. Trust me on this one. I was up all night muttering various imprecations in Mandarin, a language I didn’t know I spoke.)

Boy, the things I do in the name of health. But that’s the point of a workup, isn’t it? To find ways to make ourselves as healthy as possible. Or at least healthy enough to see the bill without having a heart attack. That voodoo mechanic medicine is expensive.

Mike Redmond is an author, journalist, humorist and speaker. Send comments to letters@dailyjournal.net.

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