Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Healthcare: Not for the Squeamish

Notice to doctors: you are not helping your patients one tiny bit by decorating your exam rooms with those ghastly human anatomy posters.

When I go to see the doctor, it is with a reasonable expectation that I am going to feel better by doing so. If it’s the annual check-up, I convince myself that it is in my best interest to go if only to get the reassuring news that there is nothing whatever wrong.  Or even on the occasions when my primary care physician sends me along to specialists whose opinions are usually sought when there might just be something serious going on, I figure that these professionals will at least have some comforting words or a treatment plan or something that will ease my anxiety, such as words to the effect of, “here’s what wrong with you.” (Now I know, thank you!) So, unless the news is about to be catastrophic, I certainly don’t expect to be scared to death by d├ęcor. Doctors’ offices are no place for the squeamish.

Now, doctors study anatomy for years, so they probably have had a chance to get used to the sight of guts and such. The last anatomy I studied was a frog’s in grade 12 biology class. And that made me nauseous. So, you can understand why I don’t like to look at giant illustrations of the human interior, especially the poster  labeled, Diseases of the Human Digestive Tract, which shows all the lesions, polyps, ulcers, tumors and carbuncles the body is capable of producing. This is not the least bit helpful for someone like me who developed Reader’s Digest Syndrome at an early age (RDS, as it is known to sufferers, is a disease caused by reading gruesome, detailed accounts of human suffering in your parents’ monthly issues of Reader’s Digest imagining that you have every ailment going, even though you are only 9 and don’t even have a prostate.)

I was in such an exam room this past week. It was tiny. All four walls were plastered with grisly posters. I had forgotten to take a magazine in with me and still don’t own an iPhone, so I was stuck with no diversions. I could almost bring myself to glance at one illustration detailing the liver with all its lobes and ducts, but I only looked at it for a second. And there was nowhere else to look! Every which way I turned there was the entire body cavity staring at me – enlarged to such a degree that the parts looked like they came out of a giant Sasquatch. My eyes darted around the room. I started to sweat. It was like a horror movie. I finally landed on a small notice above the sink telling staff that they should wash their hands between patients. I was staring at it when the zombie… er, nurse came in. I think I might have shrieked. “Just need to take your blood pressure,” she chirped cheerily. “Oooh! 155 over 90! A bit high today!” No kidding.

O.K., I recognize the benefit doctors might find in having pictures handy to show patients who are a bit dyslexic on anatomy. But really, don’t we all know where the large intestine is located by this time? Remember the frog? (Do frogs have them? I think I remember a tiny amphibian bowel in that high school dissection class.)  But why not use flash cards to explain the fine points? Or a cute little plastic model? Something that can be tucked away in a cupboard, out of view, thank you very much. Anything but a poster!

By contrast, my kindly primary physician has beautiful photographs of nature scenes in his exam rooms. They are very soothing. My chiropractor’s office has lifestyle posters. His receptionist team sometimes decorates the waiting room in themes and dresses up in costumes to coordinate.  Every month they prop a plastic spine up on the counter with a talking bubble taped to it telling us what the “Disc of the Month” has to say.  This month it was C4’s turn.  Honestly, isn’t this so much cuter than scaring people half to death with a medical poster? My blood pressure is already high enough!




Tuesday, August 14, 2012

We Now Return to our Regular Programming

Now that the Olympics are over, I am glad to return to my regular topics, steeped as they are in the more absurd heroisms of everyday life, such as getting lunch.

I did find an ironic remnant of Olympian grandeur in a reference to ancient Greece during our visit this weekend to the Parthenon no, not the one in Athens; the one in Nashville, Tennessee, which I understand is an exact replica, except not quite so old.

If you follow my Facebook posts, you will know that Ken and I frequently take small Architecture Nerd Tours – i.e. weekend road trips in search of interesting architectural sites. This one might have eluded us had it not been for the fact that we were in Nashville for some sightseeing and a show when we came upon a barbecue take-out establishment called “Hog Heaven,” which caused me to brake the car suddenly and veer across two lanes of traffic. It was situated next to a large city park.  I glanced for a second, away from the admirable illustration of a rather unctuous-looking oinker on a sign above the restaurant entrance, toward the vast green expanse adjacent and said, “Ken! Look! There’s the Parthenon!”  One does not often put the words, “Hog Heaven” and “the Parthenon” in the same sentence, but there you go. Someone with extraordinary vision must have seen the need for a hefty sandwich of greasy pork when contemplating classical architecture. Bless them.

Anyway, there it was, glistening on a slight rise in the landscape, no more than a half mile away. We could almost hear the incantation of a Greek chorus as clouds parted sending a beam of sunshine down  to illuminate this sublime structure.

Replicas can be somewhat unsatisfying, though, can’t they?  You know you aren’t looking at the “real thing” so your emotional response is often lukewarm. But the city of Nashville built this thing, likely with a certain amount of enthusiasm . And preserved it. And repaired it when it might have fallen down, so that today it is protected by the National Register of Historic Places. It is the centerpiece of Nashville’s Centennial Park, beloved by citizens and a bona fide tourist attraction. This made me ponder: why is it here? And who is to say that this redoubtable Parthenon, built in 1897 as part of the Tennessee Centennial Exposition, is any less honest  than its classical cousin? Or the double-wide trailer that houses the pork purveyor next door, for that matter? What defines “authentic” anyway?  I would argue that both the faux Greek temple and the porcine pavilion are genuine American originals. Las Vegas might have a mini Eiffel Tower, but only Nashville has an exact, to-scale copy of the Parthenon.  It was built as a temporary exposition building by architects whose sensibilities in the late 19th century caused them to emulate classical forms as a communication about America  as a cultured society with bold ideas and muscular stance. It was built to acknowledge Nashville’s self-image as, “Athens of the South.”  And where’s the pretense in that, I ask you?

As for “Hog Heaven,” judging by the number of cars parked out front, it has a genuine, valued position in the community as well.  But that’s what’s great about America. A really divey-looking diner serving up authentic American barbecue can live alongside a giant ode to humankind’s loftiest endeavors. And both will elicit “Oh, wow!” reactions.

I’m only sorry we didn’t stop long enough at the Parthenon to photograph each other striking Olympian poses, you know, like those figures on Greek urns. Just to acknowledge the Games. And to say, “Thanks, Nashville! Nice Parthenon! And good pork barbecue!”
  Which is which?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Gold Medal Dog Mom

Have you been paying attention to the subtext surrounding the Olympic Games? Broadcasts here in the US are layered with messages borne out in advertising as well as in the rhetoric around the athletes’ stories. One theme emerging from the 2012 games caught my attention:  mothers play a huge role in their children’s Olympic dreams. Ads by Proctor and Gamble “the proud sponsor of Moms”—show an image of a mother holding her breath as she watches her 8 year old son on the high diving board with a caption that says something like, mothers will always think of their Olympians as their little kids. Now, as I am not a mother, my reaction to this message is rather more intellectual than emotional. Except when I look at Riley.

I think I would be the Mrs. Phelps of Olympic Dog Moms – if dogs competed in the Olympics, that is. And I think it is high time that they did! Horses do. Why not dogs?  Canines are way more talented than equines. Dogs worldwide already compete in sporting events, such as Agility and Obedience Trials, Fly Ball and Tracking. Those sports could easily be translated to the Olympic Games!  Free Style Dog Dancing (yes, it exists) is a lovely counterpart to gymnastics! Dock Dogs is an aquatic exercise equivalent to a long jump/diving combo! And for the winter games? Dog sled races of course! Is there anything more thrilling? I’d watch any of those events. Wouldn’t you?

If any of you know our Riley, you know that he is a natural-born, all-around athlete. And I’m not just saying that because I’m his mom. His running stride is a thing of beauty, for example. And he’s such a sporty little guy, I’m sure he’d take gold in any event he tried. He is a Golden Retriever, after all! I can see him now. Posing with his medal held in his teeth, you know, how the Olympians do. Being interviewed by Bob Kostas on NBC Sports:

Riley Neufeld is a three year old Golden competing in his first Olympics this year. He’s top dog in the Plush Toy De-Stuffing event and paws-down favorite to win in Jump-on-the-Bed-Have-a-Nap-wit- Dad against some pretty ruff competition! We’re about to watch him in the final of the Postal Carrier Chase and Ankle Chew. Riley, how do you feel about your chances in this growling….er, grueling event? What does it take to win Olympic gold?

“Arf, woof, wurf-wurf, roof, arf, arf*” (translation: “Dogged, determination, Bob. And a great MOM!”)

Oh, I would be so proud of him. Waiting with baited breath as my Fur Son mounts the podium for the medal ceremony. (Really hoping that he isn’t going to mount someone’s leg.)

You know what they say! Behind every great athlete is a great mom! Bow-WOW!

Riley uses a tree limb to practise his Postal Carrier ankle chew.

                                          Riley and his training partner, Dover, practising their wrestling moves