Friday, July 10, 2015

Sheer Heart Attack

I was in the back of an ambulance as a Florida State fan/paramedic tried to convince me that Bobby Bowden was the greatest college football coach ever.

My theories, that Bowden was a secret Klan member* and played in a wussy conference went unspoken, mostly because I didn't want the guy to put an air bubble in my IV. This is not how I thought my first official work physical would end up.

Things had started promisingly. I had a brand new library degree, I was freshly married, and I was living in Gainesville applying for jobs all over the country. Applying for real jobs was a new experience. With the exception of my job writing press releases for UF (which was really more of a starter real job), my previous job interviews went like this:
"Can you lift at least 30 pounds?"
"Can you work weekends?"
"Welcome aboard."

These interviews were a bit more intensive (although strangely they still asked those two questions). Most of them never made it past the phone interview, but I had my spiel down by now. This might have helped me land a job in the magical seaport town of Jacksonville.

Sure, I had to pass a physical, but that would be easy. I guess. When I thought about it, I realized I hadn't really had a physical since high school for track, which was pretty lackadaisical. What if they missed something back then? Or what if I had developed some sort of cancer in the years since? Not only will they not hire me, but I'll have to deal with the cancer. And I'm sure all these libraries talk - they'll tell everyone else I'm interviewing with and I'll end up homeless and cancer-ridden.
With these fears running through my head, I got up early and drove the hour or so to Jacksonville to get my health measured.

I had to have a hearing test first. That was pretty easy, mostly because I totally cheated. They lock you in this little closet and you hit a button each time you hear a beep come through a pair of headphones. What they didn't realize, however, was that if a patient were to crane his neck a bit, he could see a light flash each time a beep went off, no matter how faint the beep actually sounded.

After I convinced the doctors that I had super hearing, the real physical began. I had to pee in a cup and give some of my precious blood and was still doing OK. Then I had to take my pants off. The doc gave me that hernia check thing, which I think is probably just made up so they can play around down there and I started feeling funny.

Doc takes my heartbeat a couple of times, looks sort of puzzled and takes my pulse again. It was sort of like in Return of the Living Dead when the paramedics didn't want to tell the workers that they were technically dead.

"Call the ER."

Wait, what?

"Mr. Adams, you have an erratic heartbeat and your pulse is extremely slow. You might be having a heart attack."

"There's no way I'm having a heart attack. My pulse is slow because I'm all lightheaded. I pass out at doctors all the time. Then I wake up and everything's fine.Trust me, I've been through this before."

Doc was having none of it, and the next thing I know, I'm in the back of the ambulance while Cletus yaks about the genius of St. Bobby. I guess I probably could have just walked out of the office, but I was all dizzy and didn't think of that.

So I hang out in the hospital most of the day, even though my chart said "chest pains," which I always thought was like the golden ticket to hospital service. Possibly my chart that said "no insurance" cancelled that out.

It was pointed out that my heart was skipping beats and this could lead to serious problems down the road. This scared me enough that I didn't want to eat the wings that my father-in-law bought when he picked me up from the hospital.

It took a month or so for me to get an appointment with a doctor that insurance would pay for. In that time I quit drinking caffeine, which fixed my heart's beat so that it was as steady as ... I dunno, Buddy Rich. I was still a little nervous about the whole thing, so I asked him, "Hey, is there anything I should do or eat to help my heart?"

"Eh, don't worry about it," he said. "You'll be fine."

Of course, my doctor at the time had the physique of a beach ball, so I didn't really trust his dietary advice, but it made for nice justification when I would eat half a pizza for dinner.

Later I got a bill for $2,000, including $500 for an ambulance ride that I have since determined was about two miles long.

Upon reading the bill, I had a real heart attack and promptly died.

* I have no idea why I used to think that. I didn't really believe it or anything, but I would mutter it occasionally at the TV when I saw his stupid face on the sidelines. I'm sure Mr. Bowden is a wonderful, honorable man, and has friends from a wide variety of races and creeds.

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