I had to see my physician, Dr. Macleod, the other day. He is a good doctor, a bit younger than me, but not by much. At least he’s not straight out of medical school. He has the experience necessary to give a proper diagnosis.
Dr. Macleod is a Scotsman through and through — crew-cut red hair and a red beard as if his head was on fire. The spirit of his ancestors spat from his mouth in thick, rolled r’s like an engine revving too hard. Any more Scottish, he’d be tossing cabers in the parking lot while wearing a feileadh-mor, or kilt.
He tapped on his keyboard without paying attention to me sitting on the examination table. After each clack, he took a sharp breath as if the information shocked him.
“I’m reviewing your blood work,” he said, still without looking at me. “Have you heard of a vegetable, Paul?”
“Heard of it, yes. Do I want to eat one? Not really.”
“You might want to reconsider that. Your LDL is one sixty-two. And you’re already on atorvastatin. Not to mention that both the fasting blood sugar and glucose tolerance tests show you’re prediabetic.”
“You sound the alarm every time I see you.”
Finally, Dr. Macleod turned to face me.
“Yes, because your health is worse every year. Seriously, Paul, you’re only fifty-four. If you keep declining like this, ah dinnae ken.”
“Okay.” Maybe I did need to be more concerned. “What should I do differently?”
“A few things. First, you need to exercise. Even light activity, like walking, for thirty to sixty minutes a day will help. Second, eat heart-healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains. Avoid fatty foods, especially anything processed. Third, lose about thirty pounds.”
I nearly laughed at him. All I had to do was change everything about my day, and maybe I would be fine. “Is that all?”
“No. I’m also going to prescribe Metformin for your prediabetes. It’s safe, but if you notice any sickness, diarrhea, or stomach aches, let me know. We might have to change things up.” He paused for a moment, giving me time to ask questions. I didn’t, so he continued, “I’m also going to order a heart scan. We need to see if there are any hazardous blockages in your arteries.”
The doctor turned to look at his computer screen again. After a couple more clicks of the keyboard, he began explaining what Metformin does. As much as I wanted to listen, my mind created a movie of a book flipping through pages with such clarity that it startled me. When the pages stopped flipping, I could see the cover page of an old tome called Pharmacopoeia Londinensis.
If this were the seventeen twenties, I’d probably have died when I was about forty-five. Even if I had lived into the sunset age of fifty-four, doctors would never have figured out what was happening in my arteries and veins. Instead, doctors believed all ailments resulted from an imbalance of blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm. To help remedy a sickness, doctors would consult their most current copy of the Pharmacopoeia. After finding an appropriate cure, the local apothecary prepared healing concoctions from a list of ingredients that sounded more like a witch’s brew than medicine. Every apothecary would have carried additives like animal saliva, blood, urine, and feces. What did those shops smell like with that sitting on the shelves? Only a good shop would also include stag and bull penises, frogs’ lungs, ants, and millipedes. But then the best shops, those that were tailored to a wealthier clientele, offered Egyptian mummy wrappings to heal asthma, tuberculosis, and other lung-related ailments.
The most common cure, though, was bloodletting. Have smallpox? Bloodletting. Epilepsy? Bloodletting. Got gout? Bloodletting? A cough or sneeze? Bloodletting. Bored on a Friday night? You guessed it, bloodletting.
But if your gut hurt and bloodletting didn’t work, you could always opt for a procedure called Dutch fumigation. A doctor would stick a pipe up your butt and blow tobacco smoke up there. It’s where the phrase blow smoke up your ass originates. I don’t know anything about Dutch proclivities in the boudoir, but thankfully my doctor was a Scotsman. I knew that he would not order such a procedure.
“The administrative staff will call you with details for your heart scan. I already sent the prescription for Metformin to your pharmacy. You can pick it up later today. Any questions?”
I hadn’t heard much of what he said, but I still didn’t have questions. Take more pills and get more tests done. It sounded like aging to me. “No.”
“That’s it, then. But Paul, seriously, take care of yourself. You’re too young for this shite.”
“Lang may yer lum reek.”