The unseasonably warm weather encouraged me to ride my bike to the VA this morning. When I left home at around 6:30 it was about 45°F (7C) and felt even warmer. The only thing I did differently was add a small headlight I keep just for that purpose. The taillight has long been mounted, so it was just a matter of turning it on. I arrived in about 45 minutes. The tough part is that I can’t eat anything until after the initial blood draw in the lab. I opted to eat in the cafeteria and it was just like old times with typical military food — tolerable but not memorable. Still, it was slightly better than schlepping food up there with me on the bike.
So my primary care doctor basically said the lab report looked good, better than most he sees. He understands my distaste for medication and works with me. For all the testing the cardiology clinic did, there was nothing in their records to indicate any particular cause the tachycardia. It’s just something I have to live with. For some inscrutable reason, the trauma to my body in the bike crash gave me a new sensitivity to caffeine. So the best the doctor could tell me was to be ready with the Valsalva Maneuver whenever the pulse racing starts.
He believes I’m well ahead of the curve on the knee healing up. When I mentioned riding 50 miles yesterday, he looked a me with envy, saying, “I wish I had time for that sort of thing.” He’s a very conscientious physician, always taking it upon himself to carry the background load of paperwork and coordination to ensure patient records are complete and up-to-date. Otherwise, it’s unlikely to happen. You should never doubt the power of large bureaucracy to screw things up; the more people involved, the worse it gets. Everyone feels the urge to justify their job by meddling and complicating simple processes.
The one part of my visit that went quite well was the bicycle parking. It’s an enclosed courtyard off the main entrance and few of the bikes there were even locked, yet nothing ever happens to them. It was quite entertaining to see the variety of chain-driven machinery people can find. I got back home about mid-morning and for some crazy reason felt exhausted, falling asleep as soon as I sat down. I never seem to notice how much work it is spending time at a big government-run hospital. Of course, it’s the only time I see any significant amount of stair-climbing — I don’t like using elevators with that much pedestrian traffic. The stairwells are generally quiet and empty. It’s not that I don’t like people; I love them. What drags me down is having to hang around that much human misery when so much of it is self-inflicted.
It’s bad enough when things happen to harm us; that’s just the way it goes. But I see hundreds on every visit who don’t take the minimum of self-care. I realize I don’t know much of what goes on in their lives, but when I do sit and listen to them talk, it’s highly consistent in revealing how silly people can be. And then, on top of that, some of these folks are just desperately lonely, even as they commit themselves to choices that isolate them. My experience has taught me that it’s quite rare when something I can say might actually do them any good. They are too busy telling their woes to listen. They aren’t bad people, just horribly lost and misguided.
It’s a visit to Hell, in a sense, but without the chance to free anyone. It doesn’t harm me, but it wears me out.