An Uplifting Tale of a Man and His Colon

A message from humorist Andy Borowitz:

Hello everyone,

May I be serious for a minute?

Thanksgiving is a weird time for some people. If you’re going through hard times, you might not feel that you have much to be thankful for.

Three years ago I had an experience I can only describe as nightmarish. But when it was over, I was thankful to be alive, and I still feel that way every day. I’m sharing my story with you this Thanksgiving week in the hopes that it might lift your spirits if they need lifting.

Warning: the story contains “strong language,” as they say on NPR.  But there are laughs, too, and an ending that I hope will make you feel good.  If you know of anyone out there who needs some cheering up, please share the story with them.

And have a Happy Thanksgiving.  As always, I’m thankful to have you as a reader.



Here’s Lookin’ at You, Kid

Variation on a theme:  the doctor’s office.

I always accompany my mother to her doctor visits because she doesn’t hear very well and I can act as an interpreter for her.

Sometimes, I would feel like I was at the U.N. and the doctor was speaking Lithuanian, which only I could understand.  When he was through talking, my mother would turn to me for the official translation.

That was okay though, because I needed to be present so I could know exactly what he was telling her and not get a second-hand, mis-heard version from her later.

Or none at all.

So after her last exam with him, we were instructed to go out to the area where they draw blood for lab-work.  They had two cubicles in the large hallway leading out to the front desk and my mother was shown to one of them where her blood was to be drawn by the technician.

Before the tech began though, she told me I may as well go see the receptionist and make my mother’s next appointment.  The desk was just far enough away from the lab stations so that I was out of earshot of any conversation that might go on there.

I had to wait at the desk for a bit while the gal finished up with something else she was working on and then we had to decide which day six months from that date would work best for me.  No easy feat, even though I’m not one to have a vibrant social calendar.

Appointment card in hand, I turned around and walked back to the lab station where I’d left my mother a few minutes before and found the technician working on another patient.  I asked her where my mother went and she said that they needed a urine sample, so she was in the bathroom directly across the hall.

By herself.

If I had known they were going to do that, I would have told them to wait until I got back so I could go in there with her.

Of course, she’d locked the door.

So I stood out in the hall and smiled wanly at the perky nurses who briskly went to and fro as I waited for my mother to emerge from the bathroom.

I swear, at least ten minutes crawled by and still no mother.  I tried knocking on the door, to no avail.  I didn’t want to pound on it, but I felt like it.

Finally, I told one of the nurses what was going on and asked her if they had a key to the bathroom.

“Well, I’m sure it’s around here somewhere,” she said, setting off a search by her and another person who worked in the records department.  They looked high and low and couldn’t come up with one.

You would think in a medical office with a large elderly clientele that they might anticipate someone falling or passing out in the locked bathroom at some point.  And just how would you get them out in that emergency?

Then the technician who worked in the lab adjacent to the bathroom asked me if I wanted to look through the tiny little door in the wall where patients would leave their urine sample cups when they were done.

It wasn’t much bigger than a post office box, but at that point it was my only option for finding out what the heck was going on in there.

I gratefully thanked him and went to the little door and opened it.

I felt like Alice in Wonderland, really not knowing quite what to expect.

I peered through into the bathroom and there directly in my line of sight was my mother, still perched atop the porcelain throne.  I called to her and fortunately got her attention.  I asked her what was the holdup.

She sheepishly said she just couldn’t seem to “go.”  She’d gone to the bathroom right before we left for the appointment and it seemed the well was dry, so to speak, which is funny because with all the blood pressure meds. she takes, she often complains about having to get up in the night at least a couple of times.

Maybe it was performance anxiety.

At any rate, I told her to forget about it and put herself back together again so she could unlock the door.  She did and we left the office shortly afterward, sans a completed urine sample.

I hope they eventually found their key to the bathroom.

Maybe the Mad Hatter has it.


Majorly Medical

More notes from the Eldercare Underground:

Back in May, my mother got a letter from her primary care physician stating that he was going to be retiring on June 24th and would be closing his practice. 

She’d been seeing him every 6 months or so for the twelve years that she’s been living in Texas.

The letter went on to say that no one in his medical group would be taking over his patients (all 2,000 of them!  The town has a population of approx. 11,000 people) and that everyone would need to find a new doctor.  He included a list of doctors in the area who are currently accepting new patients.


The first office that I called on the list, I got a recording that said the receptionist was unavailable at the moment and to leave a message and she would get back to me.  Yuh huh.

After not having heard from them by the next day, I called again—only to find the office was closed because it was a Wednesday. 

(She never did return my call—ever.)

Scratch that doctor off my list.

I called another office and got an actual person who told me to leave a voicemail message on another line that was set up for this new influx of desperate patients, but the person in charge of my mother’s fate probably wouldn’t get back to me for a few days since there had been such a demand.  She said that if I didn’t hear from them after a week, to try again. 

This made me a little nervous.  What if, in the meantime, all the other offices on the list had met their quota of refugees and we were out of luck?

When I left my voicemail message, I felt like I was applying for political asylum or something.  I tried to sweeten the deal for my mother by pleading that even though she was ninety-one, she didn’t have any major medical issues and really, really wouldn’t be much of a bother, I promise.  Then I left it up to God and the woman in charge of deciding who gets in—and I wasn’t sure who had the greater power here.

Sure enough, after a week I hadn’t heard from them so I called again.  This time they took pity on me and let me talk directly with the Great and Powerful Decision Maker who agreed that my mother wouldn’t be much of a burden on the system and set us up with an appointment.  Whew.

We went today to see the new doctor (a woman–which sometimes is good with my mother and sometimes not, depending on the situation) and I was pleased with the way the appointment went.  My mother didn’t complain too much, except after the really nice medical assistant had thoroughly gone over her history and there was a little wait for the doctor to come into the exam room. 

My mother let out a dramatic sigh and said,

“Well, where the hell is the doctor?” 

But at least nobody heard her except me.

While we were continuing our wait, my mother asked me just what it was when I was about four or five that the nurses at the pediatrician’s office used to prompt me to tell them every time we went in. 

It’s funny, because she can’t remember what day it is, but she can remember something that happened about 60 years ago.  Maybe that’s the beauty of being one of what they now call the “old-old.”  You can live in your memories of the past.

The anecdote she was remembering centered around the time my mother had been seen by her doctor (with me in tow) and then I saw my pediatrician right afterward.  The nurses had asked me what my mother had had done at her doctor’s appointment and I’d answered

“She got a shot in she butt.” 

Every visit thereafter, until I was practically a teen-ager, the nurses would gather around me and ask me to repeat what I had said, to the hilarity of all.

But for the grace of God and other Decision Makers, that could have been the start of a brilliant stand-up comedy career.



How Many Pigs Will You Take for a By-pass, Doc?

Chickens for Checkups

Last week, Nevada GOP Senate candidate Sue Lowden suggested that people who could not afford health insurance should “barter” with their doctors. Despite criticism and mockery about the ridiculousness of such an argument, Lowden recently doubled down on her approach (watch here):