Today is Mary Leakey’s birthday, my google doodle tells me.  I figured it out before I moused over it…I didn’t know what the dogs were doing in the picture, but I saw a woman kneeling in sand, human footprints, a trowel in hand, a toolbox by her side and I thought “oh, archeology”.

I used to want to be an archeologist, we’re talking when I was a little kid. I think it was influence and glamorized by Indiana Jones movies, but the desire was there earlier than that.  Was it the “In Search Of…” episodes we used to watch?  I was always drawn to antiquity, to early human societies and their remnants.  Also to poking around and wondering about the stories behind various “finds”.  A very young me digging in the dirt under a neighbor’s shrubs for god only knows what reason, I found a broken Snoopy necklace.  Why?  How did it get there?  Was it buried intentionally or did it drop from someone’s neck, broken and loose and into dirt that was soon to be disturbed?  I feel the same way about graffiti.  I don’t mean the stylized tags that have grown increasingly popular since the mid 80s.   I prefer the legible ones.  The stalls in the women’s room at my first college were full of this ledger of dramatic human behavior, stratified, cataloged, left in place for someone to try to follow the story…at least until the janitorial staff were summoned to slap up a fresh coat of paint.  One of my favorite books when I was studying anthropology was a book on ancient Roman culture that included excerpts from graffiti in various Roman cities.

I gave up on anthropology and archeology a long time ago.  I don’t miss pursuing the formal study of it.  It turned out that standing in a lab cleaning dirt off tiny little pieces of nail with a soft bristle toothbrush and a bucket of COLD water, then painting little tiny ID labels on said bits of metal is not a hell of a lot of fun.  But I am still drawn to antiquity, and to graffiti.  I still am fascinated by the notion of a record that is left and can be read and interpreted later, of a history that can be reconstructed and understood from the remains.  I very intentionally did not say “like” in those last few sentences.  Sometimes, fascination and like are not the same.  Doctors who study cancer can be fascinated by cellular pathology but don’t “like” it.  Just like I can find the development of civilizations and human society interesting without loving all elements of those civilizations and societies ( human sacrifice; institutionalized slavery, misogyny, and child exploitation – to name a few less likable human social trends which have been more widespread at various points in history).

Today I went through my medical records box because new GI doc needs records.  And I need new GI doc.  Yesterday, the EBS came back with a vengeance.   And so I started my dig.  A while ago, I put everything in order.  Medical records post lyme, post 3 laparoscopic surgery for endometriosis, post perplexing and disabling hip pain, post onset of chronic diarrhea with massive weight loss, post migraines going into overdrive.  There was a lot to put together and it sucked to read through the notes.  Oh the notes do you in.  I do not recommend reading them over.  Just shove them in a file and leave them there – a sealed tomb with hieroglyphs warning about dire consequences for those who dare disturb it.  This dig was complicated by the fact that I have had to raid my lovely, ordered record several times over the last few years.  A radiology report here that someone wants to see.  A set of labs there.  And although I always meant to, I didn’t always put things back well. I did at first, but as life got busy and we moved….three times since I wrote that post about sorting my medical record in June 2010…I just started raiding the binder then shoving things back on top of it.  And I accumulated new stuff that was never hole punched and filed under the right tab. Eventually, I think on the second to last move, I took the binders and what was not in the binders but on top of them and placed it all in a box.  The Box has been sitting upstairs at the place where we currently live, slowly but surely accumulating more stuff.  The Box is my site, and it is a mess.

Why put myself through this unearthing of things?  Well, if you were about to become my GI doctor, you might want to know that I have had several upper scopings since 2001 and 3 or 4 lower scopes since 2004 and I have records of all but the most recent, which are forthcoming.  All show “mild” inflammation in my stomach. Starting in 2004, all showed gastric polyps, which were determined to be benign.  All showed nothing special in the colon department, although the last two involved “inadequate prep”.  There are also several abdominal imaging reports, some of them ridiculously interpreted (worst ER visit ever, where they read me as having a normal uterus on the CT…except my uterus was removed 15 months prior to the CT) but at least establishing a baseline.  Oh and I got the CDs with the actual scans too.  Those are in there.  Labs, labs, and more labs.  OR reports from laps in 2002, 2007, 2012, and hysterectomy in 2011.  Nearly none of these things were done at or ordered through the BATH where new GI doc is, so that means nearly none of this is accessible to her.  It is up to me to get and bring in what is needed.  To sort, to sift, to get down on my knees and carefully peel apart the layers.  Gently lay aside my finds, grouped by type.  Into one pile go artifacts what may be relevant.  Everything tells a story, but what tells the story she needs?  Does she need the bone scan for my hip back in 2005?  Probably not.  Does she need the abdominal CT scan from 2007?  Yeah, maybe.  Will the growing pile of “relevant” overwhelm her?  Possibly.  Probably.

In gathering my artifacts for the new GI doc, I glance for a moment in the other binder, the often undisturbed one.  The cursed tomb.  On the first page is a note from a GI doctor who did not work out in Ye Olde New England Outback.  This is the one I was seeing during the massive weight loss that heralded the onset of chronic diarrhea.  My weight is recorded as 114 pounds on that page.  I am 5’5″ and apparently I “look anxious” and complain of diarrhea that the doctor describes as “intermittent” but then later says “occurs after eating”.  I remember how it was back then, this little artifact is enough to call it all to mind.  I ate, I was hungry. But everything I ate kicked off pain and intense bowel sounds/motion within 15 minutes and then a massive flushing out of my gut.  I couldn’t escape the toilet.  I went from 147 pounds to 114 in a few months.  Do I bring that?  The notes?  No.  I decide I don’t.  I want to present her with the facts, the tests and the numbers.  Not the interpretation of the facts.  I don’t trust that she will view them without a bias towards assuming the other doc was correct.  He was not, that was the doctor who intimated that I had an eating disorder and whose “treatment” consisted of threatening to give me an appetite stimulant although in his notes he indicates that I report no problems with my appetite, and an addictive pain med which he told me was not addictive (but which I recalled from my ex-husband as otherwise and looked up and yep, addictive – and it also turns out that it is contraindicated for patients who are emotionally unstable, which is what Ye Olde GI doc had clearly wanted to classify me as).

And so now I have a pile of what is relevant. I’m going to take it to work with me and scan it.  I had started doing that before but didn’t get very far but my god, I’m sick of maintaining this growing pile of reminders of the history of this illness.  I know it is useful but I am not impartial enough to want to take the time to care for this stuff.  I believe I could manage it better if it were digital, if I could zoom straight to what I want or what is needed without having to whistle my way past the scary sealed tombs, which I sealed for good reason, each time.  Eventually.  I promise.  For now, I’ll just work on putting together this particular exhibit and be done with it again for a while.

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  1. Oh, this sounds like my life. I have a fold-out file folder due to the transient life. Curious if you ever just did the following–I did it w/my last GI doc the last time I had “issues.” Since I’ve had GI issues since the mid-’80s and I’ve lived in 3 states and had massive intestinal diseases living several times in Mexico and I need to translate the results, I simply wrote a “history” and divided it by years (’87-’92: Presumed “spastic pyloric valve” which left me curled in the fetal position for 14 hrs. Clinically diagnosed by Dr. X @ Y Hospital. All diagnostic tests negative. Resolved with Z medication.). I think mine was 2 pgs./12 font.

    Seriously, doctors’ records or “their version” of your symptoms (like you mentioned) are so messed up, I think it’s best to write your own record, exclude docs who were BAD so they disappear, and provide the basics for where the new doc can get records they want via a records release. The office staff gets something to do and much easier on you! My doc actually appreciated my “history” and wasn’t concerned w/anything from the past or getting records of tests (guess he believed me). He had his own agenda, anyway. It tells a concise story and must be easier than trying to read through records full of errors, right?

    I like the back story to your post. I have a story on that but will call it a night…

    Good luck w/the new doc!

  2. Wow… are you sure that report “showing” a uterus was YOUR scan? Geez… lol Sorry, it’s not funny but F…K.

    And about the file with irrelevant stuff… I so can relate. A medical file can be a terrible thing. Since when did it get that way?

    • It was funny, it was one of those cherry on the cake things. It was also a nice invalidation of everything the horrible ER doc wrote in my chart (e.g., that I was ambulating normally and without assistance). They went back and changed the report…they didn’t add an addendum, they just re-wrote it and signed it with the same original date. As far as my training went at hospitals, that’s a big no-no.


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