The New Personalization of Depersonalization

As a young healthcare professional of a couple of decades ago, one of the earliest lessons given to me in the clinical setting was to never depersonalize my patient. Rather than “the possible ankle fracture in Waiting area 2,” I was to reference “Mr. Jones, who will be receiving an x-ray of his ankle.” Someone would’ve escorted Mr. Jones (likely by wheelchair) to my department’s waiting area, where he would be – you guessed it – waiting for me to come out, call him by full name for identification purposes, introduce myself as I addressed Mr. Jones by his formal name (which would likely make him uncomfortable because he wasn’t used to being addressed as Mr. Jones), and then I would wheel him back to the room as we chit-chatted about anything from pets to pet-peeves (his, not mine, mind you).

Fast forward to today.

I took my son for a CT scan this afternoon. (CT is short for ‘x-ray on steroids’). He was called by his name only once – at registration in the confines of a corner-concealed cubicle – and it was by last name first (apparently to confuse anyone else in the vicinity who was in excruciating pain but might otherwise wish to eavesdrop and be in need of an additional x-ray for a broken HIPAA regulation). As we were directed from the open, airy, sun-filled waiting room toward the dank, dark recesses of radiology, I began to wonder if my son had been transformed into “he who must not be named.” (By ‘directed,’ I mean we were told to go to radiology, followed by some vague instructions that didn’t work the first time – probably because the director wasn’t sure if he could speak the name of the floor or department aloud, lest a HIPAA dementor be floating by to suck the life out of him. Wait. Too late.)


Arriving at the Radiology desk, my son’s papers were quickly snatched from his hand, where he was instructed that he would no longer be referred to by his name there. Rather, he was handed a number, as apparently had been every other person in the bat cave.

Forgive the blurriness - but I took this with my secret i-sphy-phone when I thought no one was looking.

Forgive the blurriness – but I took this with my secret i-spy-phone when I thought no one was looking.

I wasn’t sure if I was even allowed to glance around the room. I mean, were I to recognize someone, how appropriate would it be to say, “Well, hello there, Double-Oh-Seven. Why, I haven’t seen you around since you stole a kiss from me in that coat closet while we were still in single digits. You know, back when we all still called you Jimmy. Me? You want my number? Oh, you mean that number. No, I don’t have one of those little slips like….” I figured secret service agents might rush in and pull me out about then. So I kept my eyes to the floor – or to my iPhone. Close enough. Doesn’t HIPAA realize that’s why no one would’ve noticed anyone in there anyway? Unless someone was bold enough to check in on Facebook, I guess.

I digress.

My point to this story, you ask? Take a look at the nomenclature assigned to this number:  “Your Personal Number.” Good thing it was personal, meaning, I guess, that my son didn’t have to share it with anyone else. Can you imagine another 233 standing when his personal number was called? How embarrassing to be the wrong Number 233 – especially if you replied for the Barium Enema when you were there for the CT of your ribs. Even Mr. Jones might not have gotten that kind of guarantee.

Woe be it to the patient who loses that slip of paper and forgets the secret code number though. If you thought SOB was an offensive diagnosis, see how you feel about being SOL.

HIPAA-crits.

So why can’t you choose your number to help your memory along? Couldn’t a trucker be 10-4? A smart cop would insist on 10-43. Of course, Usain Bolt would always insist on being number 1. Marilyn Manson would probably ask for 666 every single time he came for his annual colonoscopy. (I guess his day would really be ruined if the anti-Christ showed up first.) And what about the prima donna who wants to be seen before everyone else, so she opts for a high-pitched 911? OK, I see the problem with my twist on this idea now. Best to keep us all as generic as Mr. Jones.

A century of nonsensical reflections later…

I’m wondering if my son is going to return to me with some secret identity. Didn’t Spidey have some radiation-related incident? If he comes out, powers up his Droid (that I’m sure he’ll be Jones-ing for), and wastes no time jumping on the Web, I’ll know to be logarithmically suspicious.

Freed Christmas Tree: My Traditional Heart-Warming Christmas Story

I first posted this story last Christmas season . Like all good stories (or not), I decided to make it an annual tradition – at least this year (mostly because I’ve been too busy lazy caught up in the awe of the season). This is one that deserves a hot cup of cocoa while reading it by the fire.


 

I need to begin this story with a very important disclaimer. By the time you get to the end, I can’t imagine that there could possibly be a dry eye among you. Consider yourself fairly warned.

I was driving down the road the other day with a couple of family members in tow. I’d give you their names, but it’s not easy to recall who always does or does not decide to go along with me on excursions I can’t clearly remember. Besides, you’d probably want to corroborate the details of this story with them – if you knew who they were – and, er, they probably wouldn’t want to be bothered with such disturbing distractions. Just take my word that this is how it all went down…

Early on in this outing, I realized that swerving to miss a large object in the upcoming lane was going to be called for. It was a green, bushy, triangular-shaped something or other that we managed to just barely miss while traveling 65 miles per hour down the Interstate. I couldn’t help but frown as my mind registered what sort of bundled-branched package would meet these specifications at this time of year. Sadly, it appeared as though someone had lost a Christmas tree. (No, I do not have a picture of this particular event, as I was driving 65 miles per hour up – I mean down – the Interstate and had to quickly swerve to avoid impact with this misplaced seasonal symbol. I’m going to have to ask you to help me out here, even if you weren’t prepared to be participative this early in the story.You’ll have to use your imagination on this one. Tis the season for that, you know. Ho ho ho.)

But I personally wasn’t feeling ‘ho, ho, ho’ over this incident. I was feeling ‘no, no, no’…this can’t be. What a terrible thing for some family (couple, crazy cat lady, whoever) to have traveled up the Interstate to have so lovingly picked out the perfect holiday tree (so they could curse stepping on old, hidden, sap-stuck pine needles that would painfully sink into the base of their toes by Easter) and to be on the way to take that new puppy home and unwrap it – so they could proudly re-wrap it in hazardous lights and decorations to the point that any Fire Marshall would blatantly and openly cringe – only to find it had escaped from the top of their vehicle somewhere between stopping to engorge their bodies with a dozen snow-capped Krispy Kreme donuts and home. I tried to imagine how I could help.

Perhaps I could…

turn around at the next exit, backtrack north on the Interstate, turn around again at the exit coming back in this southward direction,

stop my car in the middle of the Interstate with no worries of trucks that looked like they could turn into Decepticons barreling down the muffler of my little car that sips gas through a coffee straw,

strap that cumbersome tree onto the hood of my cargo-challenged car without the benefit of any twine (perhaps my un-remembered family members would hold it across their laps in the back seat and out both sides of the windows?),

and get it home so I could post it on a Lost and Found site until someone filed a Missing Christmas Tree report.

The site of the reunion would be tear-jerking. (Okay, my imagination gets a little outside of its own limits sometimes.)

About the time I was ready to convince myself that I could have this story all wrong – that maybe these people were driving through with their Christmas tree from the east coast and heading back to Colorado, where they’d be too tickled and too hungry with themselves to notice they were even missing the tree, I had to swerve to miss clipping another one…then another one. The next three were dotted, back and forth, on the opposite shoulders of the road. It was beginning to appear more like the driver of a Christmas tree delivery truck who was from Colorado – happily buzzing down the Interstate without a care in the world about flying Christmas trees in his rear view mirror.

This led me to a string of other theories (not to be mistaken with THE String Theory, of course, though that, too, could have been a possibility).

Some of my more plausible theories included:

  1. Santa had gotten into the eggnog and rum cake early this year while thinking of the needs of the poverty-stricken who might otherwise be treeless. Of course, Santa doesn’t prescribe to the notion of welfare without work, as evidenced by his Northern elven sweat factory. Rather than allow these poor families to feel as if they were recipients of charity, in which they might feel looked down upon, Santa decided he’d create a challenge for them to claim these free Christmas trees. If they could dodge the oncoming traffic, heck, that was proof enough that they’d earned ’em – fair and square.
  2. This was the work of a disgruntled member of the Elf Manufacturing Union (EMU – not to be mistaken with those freakishly frighteningly large birds, who are much more freakish than gigantic 20-point reindeer who fly and stomp across roofs; or with Eastern Michigan University, which is very close to the North Pole, from my southern state perspective). I’m guessing this elf was clearly upset because he was expected to labor during the holiday season. He was making his way south to apply for a job at Walmart. He’d laid out a trail of Christmas trees, so that he might find his rebellious little way back home if things didn’t work out any better for him at Walmart.
  3. Colorado driver buzzing down the road with his package of holiday brownies – oh yeah, I forgot. We’ve already covered that one.
  4. Perhaps a boyscout, who had been working on his Christmas Tree Ranch Handling merit badge, suddenly felt convicted over holding all those poor Christmas trees for ransom. Fed by the holiday spirit (and the 2 dozen cookies one of the moms had dropped off that he’d scarfed down in the last 5 minutes), he might have experienced a rush of compassion (okay, maybe it was just sugar) that caused him to throw open the corral gate and yell, “Run for your lives!” while barely escaping with his own before the stampede began. Some of the strays had apparently made their way out onto the freeway. It’s possible that this incident will lead to the discontinuation of the Christmas Tree Ranch Handling merit badge.

In any case, by the time I came back onto the scene from wrapping up my errands, I noticed that the southbound lane had been freed of all the Christmas trees. Just as I was about to wonder where they’d all gone…

When what to my wondering eyes should appear?
Why! An F150 truck, its bumper hanging off its rear!

I noticed one of the concerned Citizenry for the Over-Forestation of Freeways (OFF) promptly dealing with the issue. (Incidentally, I’ve heard rumor that this group actually wanted to be the Federation for the Over-Forestation of Freeways, but when their president made application, it was denied because – for some strange reason – the court clerk took it as a personal offense that he wanted her to sign approval to F-OFF. More unfortunately, there is an insect repellent company who is rumored to have filed a lawsuit for use of its registered trademark name.) Nevertheless, this particular concerned citizen was not going to let that pesky little aggravation stop him from performing his self-assigned civic duty.

Upon spotting the poor, frightened tree from over the tipped-up end of his nearly emptied quart of beer, this in-the-seasonal-spirited gentleman yanked up on his emergency brake and selflessly turned a 360 in the middle of the freeway. He had to thereafter signal with his most visible finger for the trucker – who was leaning out the window while jake-braking and laying on his horn, urging this upstanding citizen as to how he might best go about his business – to go on around him and responsibly get back to his own. As Mr. Civic Duty got around to the rear of his F-150 truck with its holiday-tinted primer/rust mix, he joyfully threw his arms around that lonely, abandoned Christmas tree and adopted it quicker than if it had been his long, lost cousin, Earl, who’d just won the Powerball. He then tossed that tree into the bed of his pick-up, trading it out for about a 12-pack of empty beer cans that bounced off the tail gate and down the freeway behind him. I couldn’t help but think what a considerate and generous person he must be to want to leave those cans for someone to pick up later and exchange for the high rate offered in aluminum trade.

As if he hadn’t already exhibited an over-abundance of holiday spirit and generosity, I truly came to understand the meaning of Christmas in my final glimpse of this remarkable citizen in his over-exuberant heroic act.

Found at: http://gallery.markheadrick.com/humorous/christmas-tree-with-beer-can-ornaments/“Yeehaw!” he belched, as he floored it out of sight.
“I got this durned Christmas tree for freed – without a bar fight!”

I ask you, where else could I have witnessed such a spectacularly heart-tugging story during this special holiday season?

So, now I must say…

Merry Christmas to y’all! And to all a good night!

Ah, crud. That was a copyright issue, wasn’t it?

(Nope, nope. It has ya’ll. I believe I’m good on this one.)

***

 

Just Relax…

“Just relax,” the nurse prodded, as I set the book aside, earmarking the chapter I’d been reading on anxiety.

Sure. Relax, I chided inside my head. That always works to tell yourself that, almost…um, never.

“I’ll let you sit here for a few minutes before I take your blood pressure again. I’m sure you’ve just been rushing around this morning.”

I dropped my head in shame, thinking of the irritable words I had mumbled at the line of cars that were keeping me from getting to my doctor’s appointment on time. You know, blaming others always reduces anxiety – just like reading books about it.

I drummed my toes on the step that I had used to get up on the table that reminded me I was the patient – meaning that something was wrong with me. Oh yeah? Not nearly as wrong as that stupid step that’s bent downward. I recognized that my legs were plenty long enough that I should have ordinarily been able to be flat-footed upon it. I was beginning to feel a little less anxious now. Transference always did the trick.

Just as I was feeling more relaxed, the nurse came back in and squeezed my arm again with the blood pressure cuff.

“Oh.”

Oh? That’s all I was going to get, huh? “So I take it that my forced meditation didn’t work?” I figured one of us needed to verbalize the obvious.

“It actually went up some more. We’ll have you lie down for awhile after your check-up and try again.”

All the issues stacked on my office desk began to send mind-texts to me. The post-it reminders on my brain were piling up. After my little office table nap, my blood pressure had sky-rocketed. Brilliant.

The next thing I know, my doctor is blah-blahing about medicine to reduce my blood pressure.

“Wait a minute, doc. I can’t do that. My blood pressure’s just high because I have a lot on my plate this week, and being here is just putting me further behind.” Seemed like a reasonable excuse to me. Yeah, I know. Emphasis on excuse.

“Well, I’ll tell you what,” she reasoned back. “Let’s just start you on it this week, then, and when things settle down – and we see that your blood pressure does too – we can talk about you coming off of it.”

And therein lies my new pet peeve. Reasonable people. Don’t they just get all over your nerves?


Talkin’ ’bout MY(?) Generation

My last post mentioned how my heritage sometimes confuses me.

If that’s the case, then my generation is even more confusing to me.

By birthright, I am the product of the Builders generation. They grew up during the Depression, went off to (or felt the effects of) WWII in their teen years, and brought remarkable recovery to our country through their work ethic and sacrifice. They knew how to work hard to conserve. And by that definition, they were quite conservative. They were also good rule makers. They knew they’d earned enough respect to be. I’m going to claim the right for them to be called the “Follow Me” generation.

If by birthright, I belonged to the Builders, my heart (or at least my curiosity) followed the Boomers. I was a late-life child, so I had three older siblings who were part of the Baby Boomer generation. They were born into that time of our country’s prosperity. Their generation had a little more time on their hands – time to shake their hips to Elvis while developing a liberal dose of attitude. If the Builders were rule makers, the Boomers tried to be rule breakers. They worked for the means to be heard. By their sheer numbers, alone, they demanded to have a voice and demanded to use resources that had previously been conserved – sometimes to good advantage, other times, not so much. They were both lovers & fighters, always in a struggle for something they were still working to define. I call them the “Hear Me” (or maybe “Feel Me, Free Me”) generation.

I came along as a Gen-X-er, or part of Generation X. That’s cool if you’re one of the X-Men, I suppose. Otherwise, you’re just classified as a rebel without a cause a large part of the time. We really weren’t about bucking authority. We just mostly liked to fight it in our songs. We were hard rock meets Madonna, which is probably why Botox seemed sensible. You get the picture (frightening as it may be). Our real problem was that we were confused about what the X actually was. It made us feel like some strange, unsolvable algebraic equation. Now, we’re just a bunch of cool cynics. Just call us the “Show Me” generation. 

Generation

Generation Y comes behind us, grabbing up my older sons in their wake. This bunch is often referred to as the “Me Now” generation. I’ve changed that to the “See Me” generation. It’s not really their fault they have a narcissistic tendency. Even before all their BFF’s showed up on reality TV, home videos were big when they were growing up. I’m pretty sure this generation figured out how to take selfies long before they had digital cameras built into their phones or a Facebook page to display them. They had to. They figured their parents, who worked all the time, wouldn’t see them grow up otherwise. Relax. I think Wall Street may have more to do with their me-attitudes than their parents or the iPhone. Otherwise, we’ll all have to admit that they’re protesting us.

(People have a little trouble agreeing about the separation between Ys & Zs. It always takes many years out for generational divisions to become more obvious. Y’s didn’t even last until Y2K. The Z’s were the cross-overs. So I’m calling for a re-vote on the Millenial name.)

In my humble opinion (okay, it’s not), Generation Z should be re-framed as Millenials (not Millenialists, mind you), since they showed up around the turn of the century (and, even upon their arrival, the world didn’t end). Communication certainly took a turn though (for better or worse? depends on who you talk to – and whether it’s through social media), with the overwhelming addition of personal technology for every BODY. Despite having their own phones at the age of…2-1/2, this group is supposedly part of an attitude shift back towards responsibility (since a long-lasting downturn in economy strangely corresponds to either a crime wave or an upturn in responsibility). My youngest son falls in there – except for the criminal part. If this group stays on track, I might rename them the “Be Me” generation.

The little Alphas are just coming onto the scene (leaders of the pack – ?? –  currently trailing behind the rest of us) – and there’s apparently going to be a large number of them. (I guess when there’s no money to go out on the town, couples find other ways to be entertained.) They’re the ones who are really going to Shake, Rattle, & Roll (or maybe that’s what they’re doing now). I think the Alphas are scheduled to begin primary school by 6 months of age and apparently will be working by age 9 to begin replenishing our Social Security deficit. So I’ll just call them the “Bite Me” generation. (You know, because they’re still teething. What were you thinking?)

Looking at generational profiles is like looking at a horoscope. Sure, you’ll find some generalizations that sound like you. Yet, despite a warped world trying to cause us to become unglued so it can then remold us…in the end, we’re responsible for our own choices of who we’re going to be.

As for me, I’m dumping the X-Generation & heading into the Next Generation. (Yeah, um, that was an enterprising Star Trek pun – or two.)

JLP