Friday, November 28, 2008

Betting With Doctors

Tommy Lasorda is supposed to have said, 'Never argue with people who buy ink by the gallon.'

To this aphorism, I would like to add my own version: 'Never bet with doctors who control your medications.'

This will be a trivial blog to you, but at the time it was very funny to me. Also it was a lesson in humility to me that doctors are right more often than they are wrong. (Ted Turner, who is about 3 days difference from my age and hence a default hero, allegedly uttered one of my favorite sayings, 'if I had some humility I would be perfect.')

Anyway, on his second day visit (Wednesday) my surgeon suggested two things: remove Freddie Foli and take the pint of blood I had previously donated which had not been used in surgery. I wasn't excited about doing either, and I explained my reasons--the first due to past urinary problems following surgery and the second due to emotional issues. I really doubted either would have much effect, and I more or less bet him they wouldn't help. But, after reminding myself which of us had the medical degree, I agreed to both.

Let's say they were both wildly successful. Instead of bladder blockage I had a good flow and no infection. The blood transfusion was like a shot of adrenalin--I got up and walked the halls, moved my bowels and in general I was ready for release the next day.

Now here is the funny part, at least to me. That evening, after my bladder was working like a Swiss watch, the nurse came in with my pills. Only the bladder pills had been doubled. Always vigilant for possible drug errors, I told her I only get one bladder pill in the evening. She said the doctor ordered the change. My immediate reaction, as I took the double dose, was that the doctor was hedging his bet to guarantee I didn't have any bladder problems!

As for the blood reintroduction, I learned he always keeps this pint in reserve to give back to his patients because past history has shown him that it does have remarkable recuperative powers. (As a student of athletics, I always knew 'blood doping' was a legitimate and undetectable way for athletes to get an edge, and now I know it really works.)

Finally, I have two quick blood donation stories. While I have often donated blood, I have never received any before this surgery. When I asked the nurse how long it would take she said four hours. I was surprised, and I told her it only took 6 minutes to donate it. Now nurses are great, but this one, bless her heart, said 6 minutes was impossible: I would have passed out in that short of time. The reason I knew it was 6 minutes was I asked the technician who took the blood what the record time was for donation. He said he had seen all the way from 4 to 15 minutes for a pint. Being competitive I joked I would try to break the record--which I missed.

The other story came 20 years ago when I had to donate 2 pints prior to hip surgery. When I asked the normal inquiry about the effect of donating 2 pints of blood so close to surgery, the technician gave the response that, quite to the contrary, the body works extra hard to make up for the lost blood, and that one actually gets a 'boost' over the next couple days. That sounded OK to me, but what came next has forever been my second favorite golf joke. Now I was giving this blood, known as an autologus draw when it is for personal use, at the Ernie Wallace Blood Bank in Midland, MI, where I live. Everything is free, no payment for your blood, and presumable no cost if you ever need blood in the future. This has been going on for a long time. I know this because about once a month the local paper publishes the names of the top donors. Lots of names and lots of blood--5, 10 even 15 gallons. Now I will help you with the math. A sign on the wall says you can donate every 56 days, so that works out to a little over 6 times or 6 pints every year. That is equivalent to 3 quarts. So a 10 gallon donor has given 40 quarts. That requires 13+ years of clockwork-like structure to your life--always in town, never sick, good veins, etc. Here's where the joke comes in. It's only natural that a number of these blood donors are golfers. With our short golf season, one tends to play in leagues to have a regularly scheduled golf time. And some golfers are very competitive. Throw in the analytical nature of our engineer-heavy population in this company town, and you have an overlapping Venn diagram just waiting to happen. Sure enough, the blood drawee said that some donors actually schedule their regular blood donation a couple days before a big golf match in their league, hoping to get that little extra 'boost' to win.


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