Friday, January 11, 2008

Lessons On Medical Check-Up

With an air of cockiness, I went out of our apartment door 10 minutes to 9 today. It was a Friday morning, my day off, and I was out and about early enough to run errands and conquer the world! Ok, maybe the "conquer the world" part was a bit too much. The point is, I was gonna be productive today and it got me all excited. And cocky.

By 10:45, quarter of an hour ahead of schedule, my first major task for the day had been accomplished. To reward myself, I went down to Jollibee in Central and treated myself to a Champ. Deh-lee-cious!

Later on, I took the train to Tsing Yi for my pinaka-major task for the day, a obligation I had put off for more than a month but which I needed to accomplish today lest I wanted to be deported: the mandatory employment medical check-up. See, I am very, very conscious of the food I eat, but I smoke a hell lot and I party way too much, that I needed ample time to prepare for this major event.

After submitting the medical questionnaire, Ling (the chinese nurse who attended on me) handed to me a cup which was to contain my urine sample and showed me the way to the john. I complied. As, out of curiosity, I examined my urine sample, I remembered the cartons of cranberry juice that I had picked up from the grocery store days ago. I was supposed to consume all of them before today, in order to "naturally" cleanse my liver of the toxins and free radicals that pollute it. I didn't finish even one carton. And yesterday, the most crucial day of my crash detox, I failed to reach my quota of 15 glasses of water. How irresponsible of me! I shook my head in disappoinment and went back to Ling.

Chest x-ray followed. Their xray procedure here is less scary than in Manila. It somehow felt safe, unlike those back home that feel like allusions to pre-death hospital scenes in melodramatic movies, where whenever one went into the xray room, he felt that he had brain cancer or something.

She later took my height and weight. I found out that I finally gained those elusive 5 lbs. I've been trying to put on over the past 13 months. FINALLY. After tubs and tubs of protein shake. 13, approximately. She checked my eyesight. No mistakes. Then my color vision. Perfect! Then she took my blood sample. As soon as my blood started to slowly fill the tube, she asked whether I've already had water since I got up this morning. I said no, which was the truth. She said I should have. I knew that. But I was in a hurry to conquer the world that I forgot. Afterwards, she instructed me to sit in the reception area and wait for my name to be called.

As I sat in the middle of kids who seemed cockier than I was, I saw a printed word document posted on the wall that said something like:

"Reminder to patients undergoing medical check-up: Please remove your shirt,
pants/skirt and accessories and wear the provided robe. Do not take off your
It was then that I realized I left the house without any underwear on. I don't usually wear anything under the wear that wearing a pair of briefs or boxers, for me, needed some planning and reminding myself. And I did plan to. I just forgot. Hell, I was in a rush to conquer the world!

I remembered how humiliating it was when I last did a physical check-up, just before I left Manila in 2005 for this same job. The doctor examining me instructed me to pull down my pants so that he could check me for hernia. Little did I know that in this day and age, some doctors do not ask their patients to pull down their undies anymore. They could feel it even with the patient's undergarments on. That doctor was one of them. I pulled down my pants and exposed my soul to him. Then he told me to pull my undies back up. With a little bit of sarcasm, he said he didn't need to see my package. I embarassingly told him I didn't have any. Today at the reception area, I was sure I would be humiliated again!

In no longer than 10 minutes, I was called to room 4 by the doctor. He asked about the history of diabetes and hypertension that I have indicated in the medical questionnaire and I answered him turthfully. He asked whether I was being scrupulous about my health, given my genetic conditions. I said yes. He said. "Apparently not enough. You smoke more than a pack a day." I gave no retort. I dared not. Then he checked my blood pressure and said that I was a little bit on the hypertensive side. I found it quite alarming. This was the first time I was ever told that. After telling him how I felt, he told me not to worry. He said it could be just the effect of some external factors. "Like what?", I asked.

He said, "Like... Are you nervous now?"

"I am now, but not while you were taking my bp."

"Did you sleep well last night?"


"How many hours?"


"That's not enough. Did you have breakfast?"

"No. But I had a burger half an hour ago."

"And you drank last night, didn't you?"

"Do I smell of alcohol still?"


I smiled.

"See, that could be the reason. Next time you go on a medical check-up, try not to drink the night before, have at least 6 hours of sleep, have breakfast and drink some water with your breakfast. That way, you're sure your medical check-up results won't be confusing. And alarming." Then he followed his quick lecture with a smirk.

"just like the seasons
there are reasons
for the path we take
there are no mistakes
just lessons
lessons to be learned"

--Barbra Streisand, "Lessons To Be Learned"

And the lesson for today is:
"Don't schedule a medical check up at 11 fucking 30 in the morning. It's depressing."