I think I might have mentioned that when I saw my rheumatologist the last time (several Saturdays back, now), for some reason, my blood pressure was dangerously high. So much so he had me check myself into the ER right after my appointment with him. And there I sat for the next several hours, having my blood pressure monitored and watching the live Emergency show going on around me, the only calm bed in the storm.
I was just fine. My blood pressure was back to normal from the time they started monitoring until they let me go with instructions to follow up with my primary care doc. So I made an appointment, and went to it today.
I think I’ve mentioned before, too, that I like my doctor. She’s direct, doesn’t pull punches, and has a beautiful smile when forgets herself and uses it. And the contrasts she represents tickle me: she’s a gray-haired hippie, lives the vegetarian, natural lifestyle, is as apt to prescribe vitamins and supplements as conventional pharmaceuticals and decorates her office walls with faded travel and flower posters — yet spends her waking hours taking excellent care of military veterans of all ages, races and genders, many of them crusty, rude and non-compliant. I think she’s pretty cool.
She was wearing a denim jacket with an appliqued giraffe in bright, primary colors when she came to the clinic doors and called my name today. I’ve come to look forward to seeing what she’ll be wearing each time I see her, and today her jacket made me smile. I complimented her on it as she led me down the long white hallway to her office, “the Yellow Brick Road,” as she calls it. She looked back over her shoulder at me. “Gotta wear something to keep ’em laughing,” she said, and asked me to take a seat.
“This isn’t your routine visit,” she said. “I see a note here about blood pressure.”
I explained what had happened, and she called the records up on the computer. “That was pretty high,” she agreed. “Do you take it yourself at home?”
I told her my Mom had dug up my late Dad’s little blood pressure unit for me, and told her what the readings had been when I’d taken it, off and on, since that day in the ER.
“Those are pretty normal readings,” she said. “Slightly on the high side, but nothing to get excited over. This high reading was during the same week you were bitten by your dog, right?”
She grinned. “I think that’s what was going on. You were pretty stressed that week. You were still fighting off the infection and taking high-dose antibiotics. No wonder your BP was high, even if it was short-lived. I think you’re just fine.”
I breathed a sigh of relief. This was what I’d been thinking myself, so it was nice to hear I’d gotten it right. I’d worried a bit that I’d end up with a new slew of cardic appointments to go to during the next several weeks: stress tests, heart monitors, etc., and I hadn’t much been looking forward to that.
“Says here your rheumatologist diagnosed bursitis in your hips, too. Did he refer you to PT?”
“No, because they don’t hurt me all the time. He said if they did, he’d send me to a physiatrist for injections.”
She asked some more questions, and then, to my surprise, had me get up on the exam table, where she made me yelp and jerk by pressing those incredibly tender bursitis trigger points on my hips. “Classic,” she said. “Have any trouble at night with it?”
“You know, I do. I’m a side-sleeper, and after a while, my hip on whichever side I’m laying on wakes me up, aching. So I turn over. I guess I do that pretty much all night, every night, turning from side to side. It never occurred to me it could be bursitis. I thought it was my mattress.”
“Nope. Laying on those tender spots gets the bursa inflamed. But there are some things you can do about that,” she said, and proceeded to show me some exercises specifically for hip bursitis and, I’m guessing, to strengthen the muscles surrounding the bursa. Then she told me to take a tennis ball, get down on the floor, place it right at the trigger point on my hip — and lay on it, rolling it around a little, until the pain stops and the area is numb. Then do the same with the other hip.
That sounded downright unpleasant. I swallowed. “All right …”
“Yeah, it’s gonna hurt like hell. But if you’ll do that every day, on both sides, and do those exercises, too, twice a day, after a while that bursitis isn’t going to bother you any more. Beats getting corticosteroid shots and taking pain meds.”
“Sure does,” I said, and smiled.
“Show me the dog bite hand.”
I stuck it out for examination. I’m pretty proud at how well everything healed up. Today, there are still reddened scars, but that’s all. My only concern has been that that hand has remained a bit swollen all over, and the skin is still a couple of shades darker than on my left hand. I asked if that was normal.
“Very normal. You had some pretty deep soft-tissue trauma there, along with the infection. You’re healing up great, but that swelling and redness will stick around for a while longer. Don’t worry about it.”
She whisked off to make a copy of a handout for me that explains and shows the bursitis exercises she wants me to do. I sat there, looking around her office at the posters, some small, colorful stuffed animals jammed into the corners of one of the shelves over the sink, the notes taped to the old-fashioned exam table that state, in large cursive letters: “Dr. H’s exam table! Do not remove!” I was tickled all over again.
And then she was back, telling me she better not see me again until October, when my routine visit is scheduled. I thanked her and got one of those big, beautiful smiles. “Be careful,” she said. “No more dog-bites. And …”
“Great job on the weight loss! You’re down seven more pounds since you were last here!”
As I said, I’d been sort of dreading this appointment, afraid that it would turn into several more, mostly unpleasant ones. (It’s happened before.) I was in a pretty blue mood. Instead, I was given several unexpected and very nice gifts by my good doctor. I ended up walking out of the medical center on pink clouds of joy — and a little bit of pride, too.
Funny how things work out, isn’t it?