Friday, April 8, 2011

Living My Best Life

Got some strange mail today.

Every few months, our health insurance company sends a newsletter to our son John called "Living Your Best Life with Asthma." He has some fairly mild asthma, and the newsletter gives him helpful tips like "Leave the windows closed if the pollen is bad," and usually includes a nice recipe, like this month's for Pumpkin Pancakes. He gets the newsletter because, of course, he has asthma.

His newsletter came yesterday. In today's mail, I got a newsletter of my own. It's called "Living Your Best Life with COPD."

Now, I have no idea what COPD is, and the newsletter never identified what COPD is. It did give me a hint: in the article called "Make Each Day Full of Play," I am encouraged to exercise ("Play with your kids. Build a snowman...Join a bowling league...") Apparently, regular exercise will help my body use oxygen better.

I asked my wife if she knew what COPD was. She looked at my newsletter. "No idea," she said. "Do you have any symptoms?"

"Is cancer a symptom?" I asked.

"I don't think so," she said.

Now we were getting a little concerned. Do I have some disease that my health insurance company knows about, that no one bothered to tell me about?

Isabel saw that there was a toll-free number on the newsletter. "Nurses are available 24 hours a day to answer your questions," it said. Though it would have been easier to just Google COPD, I decided to call the nurse. She was probably bored and lonely, getting stuck with the Friday night shift. She's probably new to the job.

So I called the number, and I made my way through a series of menus. They made this whole toll-free number sound really serious, like I shouldn't be wasting someone's time with a stupid question like "What is COPD?" I finally got an option to put in a 4 digit code that would tell me what COPD is. But then it said I needed to speak to a nurse to get the code. So now I was stuck with asking someone a stupid question.
The nurse answered by saying, "Hello, my name is XXX, and I'm speaking, I lost the screen I was looking at...."

"That's OK," I said. "I just had a quick question. What exactly is COPD?" I tried to sound a little worried so the whole thing didn't seem so stupid.

" lost my screen again..."

This was getting silly. I really wanted to hang up, but now I felt even worse for the new nurse with the sucky Friday night shift who had a bad crappy computer, and I thought hanging up would just make her feel worse about her situation than she probably already did.

"OK...COPD is...Chronic...Obstructive....Pulminary....I'm guessing 'Disease'....."

"That's great. Thanks--"

"And can I get your name, please?"

So now I need to spell my name for her, and she's trying to get my birthdate, and she keeps losing her screen because she's new and they gave her a lousy shift and a crappy computer and I tell her that my son is calling on the other line and I really need to go and pick him up and I'm so sorry and she says that's OK and she sounds just a little sad and WAIT A MINUTE -- PULMINARY DISEASE?

So I hang up and do what I should have done, which is to Google COPD, and I find out that it's something really bad having to do with chronic bronchitis and emphysema, and it usually shows up in people who have been smoking unfiltered Camels for 40 years.

So I guess there's still the possibility that I have COPD and my doctor just forgot to tell me. Either that, or I just got put on the wrong mailing list by mistake. I decide that I'm going to talk to my doctor Tuesday. I'll run the 3 miles to her office, since I usually run 3 miles on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, and I'll ask her if I have horrible lungs and breathing problems that restrict me to things like bowling and building snowmen and not running three miles three days a week.

I'll let you know how it turns out. If I bother.

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