Okay I’m one of them… a black man that doesn’t like going to the doctor. I think I came by it honest. When I grew up in Minneapolis, and like all the other black kids there, I went to Dr. William Brown, Jr. He shared a downtown office with his father, Dr. Brown, Sr. And the wait time was never less than three hours. Whether my continued objection to seeing doctors is merited or not is arguable, but I am in the category of those that don’t like going.
I should stipulate I have employer provided health insurance from a major provider. I get one free visit annually which I take advantage of, mostly because they won’t renew my high blood pressure medications without me seeing an actual doctor from time to time. It was a physician that discovered the initial blood pressure problem but that was during a physical required to play basketball so that doesn’t count as a voluntary visit.
I went to my doctor after returning from a long road trip, because I was experiencing shortness of breath when lying flat which was affecting my sleep and compounding into always being tired. Because it was January and I had my free visit to use, I went to the doctor. There was a crowded waiting room (isn’t that always the case) which was almost all women except for a couple men who were obviously with their wives who had dragged them there. One elderly woman commented to her friend, “Look at this waiting room, that’s why men are always dying, they never go to the hospital.”
After seeing the doctor, (the wait was only about a half-hour), he decided I might be suffering from sleep apnea and referred me to a sleep study, and for blood work (they always do that on the free visit so you have to come back for a paid visit to get the results). Before I got a chance to get the sleep study done, I noticed an unusual pain in my left pectoral muscle that all my intuition and Internet research couldn’t explain away and I was certain wasn’t sleep apnea. It so happened I talked to one of my brother’s in Ohio and I mentioned my symptoms and that I was going to the ER to get checked out. That was my way of speaking it into existence because the clock would only be ticking until we talked again and he asked how things went. I was now committed!
The next morning, I didn’t eat breakfast in case any tests required fasting, around 10am I gathered myself up and went to the hospital ER. I even packed a small bag of toiletries and extra clothes in case I ended up staying and wouldn’t have to send someone to gather up the things I already had with me. Walking into the ER waiting room was a reminder of Dr. Brown, Jr’s office but they (unlike Dr. Brown) had a triage process and I guess my symptoms (and possibly the fact I had insurance) got me moved up to the front of the line. Within a few minutes they put me into a wheelchair and rolled me into a nearby room.
I was first met by Aidan, who introduced himself saying, “Your wife called ahead and made sure you got a male nurse today.” After talking for a few minutes nonstop, he asked, “are you married?”
“So, you knew I was lying”
“It’s your lie, I was just letting you run with it.”
“How long have you been divorced?”
“About four years.”
“I’m newly single myself.”
Aidan then took the next ten minutes to tell me about his ex, how much happier he was without her, and that he missed her. Fortunately, we were interrupted by a doctor which temporarily brought his tale of woe to an end. I was ultimately given an IV drip, EKG’s, a CAT scan, Echocardiogram, and chest x-ray before someone finally said. “We’ve discovered blood clots in both of your lungs.” That got my attention.
During the day, as they’d long ago told me I’d be spending a few nights, I had texted my two local children who indicated they would come by. I told them I was fine and there was no need to rush but was unsurprised when my youngest daughter arrived an hour before she was supposed to get off work. Then to my dismay, she started talking to Aidan who proceeded to tell her most of the people with what I have are discovered after they drop dead. My son and his family arrived, his girls confiscated the remote control and turned to the Disney Channel. Aidan commented on how wonderful my son’s family looked noting, “I’m recently single.”
Eventually I was given a room, on a different floor and away from Aidan. I was given dinner eventually, my first meal of the day (although my daughter brought me some Chick-Fil-A despite my being a Pescatarian). I saw more doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals and was told I should only be staying two nights instead of three although there will be a lot of follow-up (more doctor visits). If I do the right thing, I can expect a full recovery and live a full and productive life. Maybe dance at Aidan’s next wedding.
The bottom line is, had I not gone to the doctor(s), the next medical incident might have well been death. No new complaints, no gradual worsening of symptoms… death. No matter the inconvenience, wait time, even cost, black men need to go to the doctor more often because there is no better investment than in your health. If you won’t do it for yourself, do it for someone you love, just do it!
Share this with a man you know that might need the hint!