The things we do for $25 are sometimes painful. Perhaps I should begin at the beginning. Some weeks ago, my company sent out an announcement that there would be health checks in the middle of August, and along with it came a lot of information for self-disclosure about help, including sleeping and eating habits, one’s weight and one’s pre-existing conditions and the medication one was taking and so on and so forth. Being a person of a complicated health history , it took me near half an hour to fill out the various online forms, some of which required some explanation. After it was done, I received a reminder that I had an appointment this morning at 11:15AM for my health screening. During the most of the time since then I had no occasion to think about it, except there were people who came to our office in the break room while I was at lunch encouraging people to sign up, which was mostly irrelevant to me because I already had, and a few calls within our department to save that $25 a paycheck that was promised for our taking the health screening. The only other note that drew my attention was that I had to fast for twelve hours before the check-in.
So it was that after finding myself unable to spot all of the signs leading to the conference room (one of only about three conference rooms on the same floor of the office) I eventually made it to the check-in room a couple of minutes before my appointment was scheduled. I checked over the form and made some corrections and initialed and signed that it was okay for the nurse there to draw blood. Then the fun began. My blood pressure was taken and the numbers were a bit high–something around 167 over 135 or so, and so the nurse then moved to the drawing of the blood. I first put up my sleeve so that she could try to draw blood from the inside of my left arm at the elbow joint, but no vein was prominent enough for her to draw. So she tried my right arm and daubed and poked and drew, wondering out loud why it was so hard to draw blood from my vein. All the while I chattered on idiotically about nosebleeds and white coat hypertension and having anemic relatives and not really giving blood at all. Eventually the nurse was able to draw enough blood for two vials with my last name on them for some kind of blood test, and then she tested my blood pressure again and it was a more reasonable 135 over 87 or something like that, not great blood pressure mind you, but at least good enough not to trigger some kind of dire health intervention.
So, it is now several hours after the check-up, time for dinner in fact. My right arm still hurts from where the blood was drawn and the bandage is still over the wound. Who knows what will be found from a look at my blood. Perhaps my uric acid levels will be at their usual high level. Perhaps they will find something else of interest. I will have to wait and see. It is curious, though, that the draw for the check-in was a substantial savings on health care. What sort of savings do companies have for taking substantial amounts of blood that they can then pass these savings on to employees? What is it that they are looking for? Given the detail of the assessment and the promise that personal health information will not be shared with the company–not that I am shy about discussing such matters myself–it is a bit unclear what the incentive is for the company I work for to offer this service for free. People do not tend to do something without a reason, after all, and one wonders what that reason is.
And why is it that I struggle with white coat hypertension? There are at least a few reasons, and it is likely that as is the case often my response is somewhat overdetermined. For starters, it is sufficient to note that as an extremely anxious person dealing with medical professionals is automatically going to be a situation fraught with a great deal of concern. This is increased even more given the fact that my interactions with medical professionals have seldom been good–like Ahab dealing with the prophets of God, my conversations with medical professionals has invariably involved bad news of one kind or another. A few examples will suffice. The day I went to the doctor’s office for my first gout attack I got a random and uncomfortable check for testicular cancer, got my first case of white coat hypertension, and ended up being diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Major Depression. It was a bad day, shortly after my twenty-fifth birthday. A few years later I had a few concerns and went to my ENT, who commented on the need to cauterize my nose, was surprised that my tinnitis was related to high-frequency hearing loss in my left ear likely due to the viola, and found out that I had a bactroban-resistant fungus residing in my nose that still causes trouble there all these years later. Is it any wonder that even with the lure of more money in my pocket every paycheck–no small lure–that I would be less than enthusiastic about a health screening?
 See, for example: