Tuesday, August 23, 2005


Until yesterday I hadn’t been to the doctor in two years. My previous visit was a meaningless one, and it just served to get me set up with a doctor shortly after we returned to Murfreesboro and had some health insurance. The doctor made small talk, discussed diet and exercise, and then sent me on my way. I hadn’t seen him since.

I am sort of a lazy hypochondriac, I think. Maybe it would be better to say that there is an irrational Rex that sits on my shoulder and tells me every headache is a brain tumor, and that there is a logical Rex on the other side to counteract him and drive him to spew obscenities, throw down his microphone, and dramatically storm off the set in frustration. They also go through this every time I get on an airplane. Illogical Rex will convince me that the plane will not return to the earth on its own terms, and that each little noise or pocket of turbulence is nothing more than him finally getting one right. He even does a little victory dance while I wave frantically at the stewardess for another drink. Logical Rex will eventually show up and quote transportation safety statistics that he had been looking up while illogical Rex was being mean to me. He has won again, yet he has no victory dance to celebrate his victories. That would be illogical.

It was an uninsured Rex who suffered from a month long-lung infection before finally visiting the cheapest doctor in Knoxville a few years back. I was working a temp job then, and I was spending all of my time hiding in the company’s warehouse reading Cormac McCarthy novels until my lungs started trying to liberate themselves from my chest. It is hard to hide in a warehouse when you have a very loud hacking cough that not even codeine can dissuade in the slightest. That part made the rest of me quite happy, and all that coughing was great abdominal exercise that may have eventually given me a nice set of abs, but it was also making sleep quite difficult for Mrs. Camino and myself.

So it was that I found myself in the office of the cheapest doctor in Knoxville.

The first thing I saw when I walked in was a small and empty waiting room comprised of six folding chairs in a narrow wood-paneled corridor, dingy curtains that were once striped an assortment of Easter egg pastels, and a basket of magazines spanning the last couple of decades. At then end of the room was a receptionist desk without a receptionist. There was only the engrained smell of cigarette smoke and a small AM radio playing bluegrass music. I had to turn the corner to see her. She was propping the emergency exit door open with her foot and holding her cigarette close enough to the opening to comply with a recent no smoking edict.

“We can’t smoke in here anymore,” she said with a big smile.

I nodded. All the coughing left me unable to deliver a sarcastic remark in sufficient time.

“You can just sign in and have a seat”, she said.

So I sat and read about the fall of the Berlin wall and then about the Packers winning the Superbowl, and eventually a nurse came to fetch me.

My “nurse” looked long past the retirement age. He reminded me of my grandfather in that he was friendly but bad to forget things—which didn’t really bother me until he took me in the x-ray room. Then I figured that I was already living close to Oak Ridge, and that a little more radiation might actually do me some good.

The doctor himself was a very nervous man. He was sweaty and humorless and had recently emigrated from Poland. He asked questions rapidly and did not wait for the full answer before moving on to the next one. He moved around nervously and had the look of a man who had been captured one too many times on hidden news cameras. He pointed at the x-rayed infection on my lung with his ballpoint pen while explaining the situation through an accent I could only half-understand. Then he wrote me a prescription for an inhaler and some penicillin, shook my hand awkwardly, looked around the room for a moment, looked back at me and said “okay”, and then lunged out the door.

The prescriptions ended up working, much to my surprise, and I was soon able to go back to my hiding place in the warehouse and finish my books without the fear of being discovered.

Having health insurance means going to real doctors now, though I’m not sure that it also translates to more effectiveness.

My visit yesterday was for a rash of dizzy spells that have been showing up about every other day. I quite enjoy them, truth be told, but I suppose it is the sort of thing that one should tell their doctor about. So I did. I even tried to do his job for him by self-diagnosing it as a sinus related problem, but he disagreed.

There are two things that I have always noticed about doctors:

1. They think they know more about the medical arts than I do.
2. They are generally well groomed.

There are always exceptions, I suppose. One of my dad’s drinking buddies is a doctor, and he is not well groomed. He always has a gin and tonic and the appearance of one who believes in other instances of self-medication. But, according to my dad, he is also a good doctor. They are always drinking and making proctology jokes, and then his friend—known in their circle simply as “Doc”—will get a serious expression and throw out some actual medical terminology when anyone brings up news of a sick relative. He seems genuine enough, I suppose, but I always remember when I first met him and he put me in a headlock and kissed me on the forehead because he had, in his drunken stupor, mistaken me for his own son.

My doctor, on the other hand, is well groomed and sober, and he humors me. He complimented my worn out flip flops yesterday as if footwear was simply on his list of fill in the blank small talk and then nodded while I went through my theory on the dizzy spells. Then he disagreed.

He told me that I was having a form of chronic headaches, and that I should first keep a journal of these occurrences for the next month and see if it is related to some other easily explainable factor. If this doesn’t work he has some other ideas. I dared not ask him if it could be alcohol related, and both logical and illogical Rex agreed with me on this point.

I still think it has something to do with my sinuses, but I will humor him.

Anyway, I figured I should pass this info along to you in case I pass out in the middle of a post.


Blogger red molly said...

I'm glad you made it through your post. I agree with the log/illog Rex and believe it could be alcohol/sinus related. I've been down that road before. Hope you feel better soon!

7:08 PM  
Blogger red molly said...

I forgot to mention that I noticed you added O.C.M.S. to your sidebar. They are great and coming to a town near me soon.

7:10 PM  
Anonymous tha b said...

now I see.. you weren't really rockin out at the show, you were just dizzy... well, you're a cool dizzy then... i bet a stiff martini will cure that bad stuff... if not, then surely one more will...

2:16 AM  
Blogger Rex L. Camino said...

Gracias, Red Molly.

I haven't had a chance to catch OCMS live before. Something always seems to come up, but I have heard that they put on a great show.

Indeed, tha b. I am already trying the martini cure.

8:15 AM  
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