Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Why Do Men Never Go And See A Doctor?

Men just don´t go to see a doctor. Not, that is, unless they are forced to by either a partner dragging them off by force (needless to say, that only happens when they are in bad enough shape so that they are not able to put up any resistance at that time), or by an ambulance carting them off with sirens and flashing blue lights (at which point they´re not very likely to be in a position to argue, either). But why? Why this irresistable drive do defy reason, why this tendency to try fate? This will always remain one of life´s bigger mysteries to me!

Actually, perhaps it´s not just men, but in my experience, surroundings and (very likely biased) view it´s mostly men. Perhaps it´s something ingrained in their brain stem telling them to never make themselves dependent on anybody else, nor to ever admit on weakness (you know that old cliché of "boys don´t cry" ...), nor to ever throw themselves at the mercy of others (especially not other men ... or, come to think of it, women), and hence not to go see a doc under any circumstances, at least not as long as they can help it.

Unless, of course, they belong to that other extreme, the hypochondriac type, who will immediately diagnose an upset stomach (very likely caused by too much booze and/or greasy food the night before) as terminal cancer. But that´s another story and one I will not elaborate on. For now.

My boyfriend, his dad, and my dad belong to the first group, the I-don´t-need-a-doc because
a) there´s nothing wrong with me, really; and/or
b) I know what´s wrong, and there´s absolutely nothing a doc can do about it; and/or

My father tried to cure a heart-attack with a bottle of cold beer (ok, he´s Bavarian; but still ...). It happened while he and my mom where vacationing in the Mediterranean. My mom had gone for the morning to play tennis, my father was in the tent reading (and presumably smoking a cigarillo), when he suddenly felt like he was suffocating. At which point he decided to go - no, not to get help, but to get a bottle of beer instead. A camp ground neighbour, who knew my parents fairly well, dropped by by sheer coincidence. Seeing my father almost blue in the face, he asked if he could get any help. My father, apparently, reacted very unfriendly, in the end shouting at his neighbour, basically telling him to piss off. "Leave me alone, I don´t need a doctor!"

Of course, once my mom returned from the tennis ground and saw the state my dad was in, she immediately called an ambulance, they took him to hospital, and there he stayed for almost a week or so, until he could be transferred to a hospital back home. Apparently, my dad still didn´t realize that what had struck him was not something harmless like a cold or a flu. When back home he was asked upon admission to the local hospital wether he wanted treatment by a chief physician (which would have been covered by his health insurance), he flat out refused, explaining to me later "It´s just so expensive." Expensive? Hello? Dad? You just suffered a heart-attack. Plus, your insurance is going to pay for the treatment anyway. Ahem, surely you would be interested to get the best possible treatment, especially considering that you´re - excuse me - in your late 60s, and - excuse me again - not in the best possible shape. Well, in the end, he didn´t get the best possible treatment, was released too early and without anyone telling him what further to do about this whole thing (at least that was his story), and ended up in a mess that was a lot bigger and worse, and which he could - perhaps - have avoided by taking the whole thing a little more seriously.

Anyway, one and a half years later, he´s fine, complete with a new heart valve, a pace maker and a device which is something like an internal defibrillator.

My boyfriend´s father is a similar sweetheart. He ended up in hospital with everyone thinking it was a heart attack, because he suffered all the symptoms: Tightness in the chest, problems breathing, and an extremely high blood pressure. Much to everyone´s - including the doctors´- surprise, he has the heart of a healthily raging bull. All the tests he underwent were more than ok for a man his age (he´s also in his late 60s). The only possible culprit: His thyroid, which is way too large, causing it to not only at times raise his blood pressure, but also at times to push on his heart muscle, which in turn causes some of the symptoms strikingly resembling a heart attack.

There would be a fairly easy cure to it, he wouldn´t even have to undergo surgery. All he´d have to do is go to a hospital offering nuclear medicine (there happens to be one in the city where we live). He´d have to swallow a pill which in turn sets free raidiation (because of that, he´d have to be quarantined for 10 days, if I remember correctly), which causes the thyroid to shrink to a normal dimension. A friend´s father, who at that time was 80 year old, underwent that same treatement and was fitter than ever afterwards. (He´d been suffering the same symptoms as my boyfriend´s father.)

Unfortunately for everyone involved, the docs in my boyfriend´s father´s (ooof, what a chain of genitives!) hospital never suggested that he might have his enlarged thyroid treated, so he thinks it´s basically superfluous. Plus, he is convinced that there really isn´t anything he can do about it (we´ve tried to tell him until we were almost black and blue in the face, but he just doesn´t seem to hear what we´re saying.) And so, as long as he´s fine, he simply won´t do anything about it. Period.

And now my sweetheart. A couple of years ago, he had a herniated disc, which at first he self-diagnosed as lumbago after consulting the internet. His conclusion at that time: There´s nothing a doc can do about it, therefore there´s no need to go and see one. For three days he couldn´t move, he was hardly able to leave the bed, and he was in agony with back pain. Whenever I´d mention the "D"-word, he´d yell at me and become really irritable, eventually pissing me off, just a tiny little bit. When during the night from day three to day four he experienced the first signs of paralysis in his right lower leg, I asked again, "Listen, don´t you want to go see a doc now?" Between clenched teeth, he snapped back at me "That´s a little difficult for me to do right now - go and see a doc - since I can´t really walk at this point!" "Well, I´d be driving you, of course," I replied, but, as always, I left it at that.

The next day, he did call a specialist for treating all kinds of back ailments. First, they told him that he´d have to wait for about two weeks, because their schedule was so full. I told him to tell them that he didn´t feel his right lower leg and foot anymore, which he did, and - tata! - in an instant, he had a date with the doc. Driving there must have been pure torture for my poor sweetheart, since our car was parked in the middle of a cobblestone road.

So, it turned out it wasn´t a lumbago, but the more dramatic case of a herniated disc. Though in the end, the doctors really didn´t do that much, at least it was clear that my sweetheart didn´t have to undergo surgery. They offered him at least some pain killer (with an anti inflammatory component). He went to physiotherapy, learnt what to do to strengthen his back, and has been more or less fine ever since.

Like my dad and like his own dad, my boyfriend could have spared himself - and, as an aside, myself - some suffering, so you´d think next time around, even if it came with a different setting of suffering (i.e., severe pain in other parts of the body), they´d more readily accept some professional help. But, lo and behold - something seems to be stronger than reason. It defies logic, but as said, I suspect it must have something to do with some primary instinct.

Good thing we women are different! Or at least governed by less potentially fatal primary instincts.


Beebles said...

I must say -- I, although a woman, rarely go to the doctors. And it's because of the "I don't need to see a doc," kind of thing.

I hate doctors, I hate medicine... Which is probably why I'm in a constant state of ick.

Maybe I should learn from this blog, men, and my own actions and go to a doctor...

... Naw

Ragamuffin said...

*g* hmmm ... maybe it´s just because I´m a hypochondriac ... no, not really! (But, hey, this itch in my small right hand finger - d´you think it might be something serious? *worry*)