Visceral Reaction

Now that I am on the downslope of life, the gates I must clear on this particular slalom run are doctor’s offices. The orthopedist, the gastroenterologist, the dermatologist, the dentist, the otolaryngologist. More horrible gates undoubtedly lie ahead – the cardiologist, the oncologist, the neurologist, the palliative thanatologist.

I am all for my care givers giving care and like it when they try to speak English to help me understand what ails me and why they can’t do anything about it, though they will keep seeing me often and charging me during my decline. However, there is such a thing as TMI – too much information. Or perhaps information too graphically presented.

I have mentioned this phobia before, and maybe it’s just me, but as soon as one of my phalanx of doctors start showing me diagrams of my internal organs, my colon say, my eyes slide to the side or roll back up into my head. I do not want to actually see close up depictions of the inside of a bowel, particularly my own.

Even worse may be those little skeletal models with moving parts – of bones and ligaments and tendons and nerves denuded of the fig leaf of their fleshly covering. Yet doctors seem to feel compelled to set them before me and lecture me about their articulation with the sort of glee they probable once reserved for their Lego set or jenga game.

My knees and back already hurt, but after being shown the nerves emerging from the lumbar vertebrae and how they can get paralyzingly pinched, I want to put my head in the office waste receptacle and vomit. But that would probably just lead to another show-and-tell, possibly a color video, depicting regurgitation from the inside

Having some cheerful chap yanking on a model of a kneecap and turning it inside out just makes mine ache all the more. And when they show me how an operation would remove this part and replace that part and sand down another part and hammer a new piece here and solder a new piece there, using very sharp knives and power tools, I feel like I’ve stumbled into the inner sanctum of Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Far from wanting to hear more, I just want a giant shot of morphine – in my eyeballs, so I don’t have to look at this horror show any longer.

Surgeons love to show you step by step how they can take you apart and possibly put you back together. Thanks to MRIs and CAT scans and ultrasounds and tiny cameras up your fundament and down your gullet there’s no end to the ways doctors can give you an unwelcome in-depth understanding of the many ways your insides aren’t all they should be. But they shouldn’t do it.

I don’t want to see. I don’t want anyone else seeing. My body may be betraying me, but I’m not sure I want anyone treating it like an extra in “The Walking Dead.” Far from making me more comfortable with whatever medical treatment is being recommended, this sort of thing makes me feel I’ve stumbled into a remake of “Marathon Man” or “The Island of Dr. Moreau.” I’m no longer a human being or a patient but a science experiment.

Instead of saying, “I see, doctor. I feel so much better now that I understand,” I long to put my fingers in my ears and cover my eyes until the nightmare is over while whimpering, “The horror! The horror!” I hope never to let anyone with a cut-away anatomical diagram or model near me again. If I don’t want friends and strangers looking at my face or learning facts about me on Facebook or YouTube, I really don’t want to be able to access a video of my viscera by phone or to share it with passers-by.

In strict Islamic countries, women patients arrive for their doctor’s visits completely covered from head to foot and describe their symptoms and are treated without touching, at arm’s length so to speak. That sounds about right to me. Perhaps for my next appointment I’ll arrive in a burqa and draw the veil over my eyes if any graphic presentations loom. I may doom myself to a worse medical outcome, but it will surely be a more aesthetically pleasing experience.

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