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Your Health (Part 4 of 4)

It has been proven by years of scientific research that your heart is a major contributor to your health. Many studies reported in The New England Journal of Biology and Medicine, The AMA Journal, and The Huntsville Item column written by Hal Conwell, M.D.; suggest that a really rotten heart can cause serious health problems, such as death. In a review of our continuing personal observations of "The Heart: Its Idiosyncracies, Peculiarities, and Other Stuff," we have thus far covered "Chest Pains and Their Relationship to the Heart," "The EKG and Its Relationship to Chest Pains," "The Stress Test and its Relationship to Nothing," and "Catheterization, Angioplasty, and Stent Insertion and Their Relationship to Very Large Medical Bills." We are now ready to move to the next exciting phase, "The Six Month Check-up and Its Relationship to Radioactive Waste Disposal."

The six- month check-up should take place on February 7, 2001. Why? you might ask. Because that's the only time the doctor can see you before July 17, 2023. Hang the inconvenience and just do it.

You should arrive at the doctor's office at precisely 12:00 noon, the time scheduled for your appointment. Why 12:00 noon, you might ask. Because that's the time that all medical personnel leave for lunch. This gives you the opportunity to read the investment advice in the November 1987 issue of Money Magazine, one of two magazines to be found in the waiting room. Unfortunately, there are no specific articles offering suggestions on how to invest the 83 cents remaining in your life savings after paying your medical bills.

Some time later (It's hard to say how much later, because you are weak and somewhat addled from hunger because you, on orders from your doctor, have had nothing to eat since sometime yesterday.) a friendly and well-fed nurse named Ethel calls you to the inner-sanctum of the very large office complex and informs you that your doctor is out of town. "Not to worry," she says, “another doctor will see you. In the meantime, let's get you ready”. First, Ethel puts a needle the size of a large screw driver into your left forearm. You get the standard line: "You may feel some discomfort". She then opens a lead-encased container with words like "Danger--Radioactive Material" and that funny symbol that you used to see on nuclear fallout shelters. Inside this container is a Glad Bag of stuff with a long garden hose attached. Ethel then attaches the other end of the hose to the needle stuck in your arm. All the stuff from the bag runs through the hose into your body. This does not hurt. Ethel then sends you back to the waiting room, with the big needle still stuck in your arm, to read the June 1984 issue of Reader's Digest for the two hours it takes for the radioactive stuff to disperse itself throughout your vascular system.

At the end of the two hours, Ethel returns and fetches you back to the nuclear-medicine section of the office complex. "You might want to empty your bladder before we proceed," Ethel says. You should definitely do this. In an effort to be light-hearted (so to speak) you should ask Ethel if she could see you glowing. "Yes," she says. "With this machine I could see you glowing right through the men's room wall." Not a comforting thought.

Now comes the serious part of the test. Ethel lays you down on a very skinny table and tells you lie very still while a robotic device shaped like a satellite dish slowly revolves around your chest and takes pictures of all the radioactive waste flowing through your system. "This will take 18 minutes," Ethel says. She is right.

At the end of the 18 minutes, Ethel gets you off the table and takes you to the next room, which contains a treadmill, a polygraph, and a male nurse with a clipboard. On the clipboard is a form several pages long which you're supposed to read and sign. Most of the stuff on the form is pretty innocuous. There is one sobering line, however. "As a result of this procedure you may die." The thought occurs--death is what this procedure is supposed to prevent or at least postpone. Oh well, just do it. Sign the damn thing and get on with it.

"On with it" consists of being hooked up to another polygraph and blood pressure cuff and running on the treadmill elevated to an incline approximately equal to the final few feet of the Mount Everest summit. The doctor says, "Run as hard as you can and tell us when you can run for only one more minute." This is not an easy decision. How do you know when you can run for only more minute? Too soon and you are wimp. Wait too long and, as the form says, A"You may die." Try to nail the time just right. When you gasp, "one more minute" the nurse attaches another baggie of radioactive waste to the needle still protruding from your arm and warns you, "This is a lot more powerful than the first bag." By this time you don't care. Just do it. (Nike has provided no promotional consideration for the frequently mentioned "just do it.")

After one more minute you are removed gasping from the treadmill, unhooked from the polygraph and blood pressure cuff, rushed back into the satellite dish room, laid down on the skinny table which seems much colder when you are hot and sweaty. Ethel says, "This will take 15 minutes." Why is the dish faster this time? Maybe because of the more powerful radiation the dish doesn"t have to linger over the interesting parts of your chest. Maybe it's because it is now 4:45 and the dish gets off work at 5:00. Who knows? Who cares? It's done. Now you can go home and wait for the results.

In two days the nurse calls to tell you, “everything is normal." What a disappointment. You really want everything to be abnormally fine. You really want to hear, "You have the heart of an 18 year old." But no. Be satisfied with what you have and rejoice that you have helped the state of Texas dispose of two big bags of toxic nuclear waste.