02 July 2009

"The ideal tyranny is that which is ignorantly 
self-administered by its victims. The most perfect 
slaves are, therefore, those which blissfully and 
unawaredly enslave themselves."
   - Dresden James

I recently had occasion to send an email that described some recent contacts I'd had with the medical community--primary care physician, specialists, surgeons, test technicians, and hospitals--an altogether harrowing series of exchanges that left me both anxious and exhausted. It occurred to me that I've had past experiences that generated those feelings in me. I recalled one in particular, however, that for a long time fueled my neurosis and paranoia. Everyone was out to get me. Lined up, in fact, for the chance to have a shot at me.


Did you ever play this game as a youngster?

It used to be very popular among physical education teachers when I was in grammar school. The teacher would gather everyone in the gym, pick two students (usually the best two, who were strong, athletically gifted, and possessed of an icy determination to win and a mean streak a mile wide), and then have them choose teams, one at a time. After, the teacher flipped a coin. The winners got to be the throwers in the center of the gym, the losers, the dodgers up against the wall.

There were dozens of heavy rubberized balls about the size of soccer balls, and when they struck you, they would sting on your bare flesh, bloody your nose, break your eyeglasses, jam your fingers, and generally mess you up. One at a time, each member of the throwers took aim and launched a ball at the wall. If it hit a dodger before bouncing, the dodger was out, and the thrower got to have another turn. If the thrower missed, the next thrower took a turn until missing, and so on, until one of two things happened: either all the dodgers were hit, which meant the throwers won, or if there was a dodger still standing against the wall unhit after all the throwers had a turn, then the dodgers won, and the teams reversed positions.

The teachers took a kind of sadistic glee in cheering on the throwers--"Harder! Put your shoulder into it! Aim for the mid-section! Aim for the head!"

We'd gone to the hospital at the appointed hour. After blood work, we took the elevator to the day surgery area. There was the usual fumble of paperwork, forms and questions that we've been asked dozens of times before. We endured the transformation from ordinary person to patient, via the relinquishing of rights to privacy and the open-backed johnny. Sea-change complete, we were ushered to a small, dimly lit room where we were asked to wait for the anesthesiologist, who would deliver us into the hands of the operating team. However, it was the surgeon who appeared. He informed us that all the operating rooms were still in use, everything behind schedule, and it looked as if there wouldn't be a free one until nearly 9:00 that night.

After some back and forth, we decided the operation wasn't going to happen. For one brief, crystal-clear moment, we forgot about being victims of the system, and took command of our situation. The surgeon didn't disagree with our conclusions, so we reversed our process, and left. Both of us were smiling by the time we reached the parking lot.

We're now investigating non-surgical, non-invasive remedies for the problem. There are a few, and we're going to explore them before entering that arena again.

Our backs were planted against the wall, the balls were hurled hard, and we are still standing.

Excuse me. I need to add my voice to Obama's cry for healthcare reform.


No comments: