3/18/2011

When I am King: Brochure Thing

When I am King...

Medical pamphlets will be more fun to read.

“It’s terminal.” These are the most horrible two words that your doctor might say to you, handily beating the runner-up, “rectal bleeding.”

My doctor didn’t actually say either of these winning phrases, but he did hand me a brochure last week that talked about how my shoulder problem was typically an issue with older, postmenopausal women. The brochure showed pictures of several such sufferers in beds. Obviously, either their shoulder pain or their advanced age made it impossible for them to get out of bed and change out of their nightgown. But I suppose that they’d retired thirty years ago and had nothing to do all morning but think about how their children never called and what kind of soup they’d like for lunch.

It’s not that I mind having injuries. I figure it’s part of being alive, especially in the high-risk, body-thrashing programming career that I’ve pursued for my entire adult life. And I don’t mind getting older because it’s better than the alternative.

But I do mind being mistaken for being even older and of the opposite sex. For one thing, I’d look awful in those nightgowns the old women were sporting.

The problem is the brochures. Handing you a pamphlet on your disease is the doctor’s way of telling you, “So many people have this problem that we mass-published thousands of these to hand out. So quit your whining, you baby.” It’s also a way for them to get out of actually speaking to you.

And these little booklets do help. Just looking at the pictures convinces me that I’m not doing that badly because I feel a whole lot better than the people in the pictures look. But they don’t make me feel very good about whatever I’ve contracted; the pictures of body parts and the clinical descriptions of maladies go a long way toward making me feel like I’m actually sick, instead of just suffering a temporary setback.

When I am King, medical brochures will be more upbeat. They will teach about the problems and possible cures, but with a whimsical and positive tone that helps patients feel better, even as their bodies are falling apart, piece by piece. Introductory phrases like, “Everybody has spleen disorder!”, “Osteoporosis: today’s hot disease for hipsters of all ages!”, “If you can read this, you must be okay!”, and “Everybody dies!” will help the inspire the readers to read on. Pictures of happy, young people playing Frisbee from their walker, acting as King Lear while wheeling an IV stand, or putting attractive makeup on gangrenous patches will help the patients feel young, healthy, and optimistic, even as the nurse is reaching over to unplug their life support.

Life is a journey to a distant destination. We should do what we can to enjoy the journey itself, because from the way the old women looked in that brochure, the destination sucks.
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