(Note: Some of the medical terms and situational content contained in this article may be unsuitable for children under the age of 18 years old.)
What does a urinary track infection and an ear infection have to do with dyslexia? Paperwork!
A major contributor to urinary track infections (UTI) is caffeine. A major contributor to caffeine being in my body is a hectic travel schedule: a five-hour plane ride, followed by a same-day, four-hour drive up the California coast to San Luis Obispo, four days of work, three time zones from home, and then steps one and two repeated to get back home. For me, this is a pretty good formula for UTI and a trip to the doctor.
I am a fairly active forty-two-year-old, and, as such, I have my records on file at several local urgent care facilities. The office I headed to for my UTI was one of them. I had previously visited it with two broken ribs from a freak zip line accident in my backyard. My wife had done the necessary paperwork, and I was admitted.
I was not anticipating any paperwork for this UTI trip because I was a returning patient, but a full dyslexic paperwork meltdown was on the way. I did not read the notice taped to the check-in desk window, which was not uncommon for me, so when I was handed the new patient form, I was horrified and glanced over and read the notice I had previously ignored: "As of 8-1-09 we will be using a new practice management system which will require all patients to fill out new paperwork in full."
Welcome to my dyslexic nightmare.
1. "Where were you born?" "Bermingham [Birmingham], Alabama."
2. "Are you currently taking any medicines?" "Rananadean [Ranitidine]." Can anyone spell this without a medical dictionary?
3. "Are you allergic to any medicines?" "Omeniself [Omnicef]." I was not likely to get that one either.
4. "Have you been here before?" "Returning paeshint [patient]."
5. "Date of birth?" "11/28/67." I got this one, but my own birthday is the only one I know by heart.
6. "What are you here for?" "Urinaray track infecksion [urinary track infection]." I did not know I could have put UTI until I noticed it on the take-home information sheet.
7. "What is your occupation?" "Author." Nice! The irony.
The list went on, but I think you get the point. I have been in this situation many times before, and I am comfortable enough with my dyslexia that I either just turn in the paperwork with a quick "I'm dyslexic. If you can't read anything, just ask me," or I call someone and have that person spell everything for me. The "No Cell Phones" sign in the lobby prompted me to go with the first choice. My second bout with the medical profession was not as familiar or as comfortable.
Several weeks earlier, my son had an ear infection. I met my wife at the pediatrician's office. After the appointment, I took my son's prescription to the Kroger pharmacy to be filled. The first thing the pharmacist asked me was my son's birth date. As I said before, the only birth date I know by heart is my own. Not one other birthday has been successfully stored in my brain. On my last formal test for learning disabilities, during college, I tested out on a kindergarten level in number sequencing. Months, days, and years just don't stick with me, not even my own children's birthdays.
I had to endure the look on the pharmacist's face while I went through my whole process of "He was born on St. Patrick's Day, so that's in March. January, February, March, so that's the third month. What day is St. Patrick's Day on? The 17th (with a little help from the pharmacist). Okay, I was married in 2000, my daughter was born two years later, that was 2002, and my son was born two years after that, so that would be 2004." At that point, the pharmacist said, "Here it is, Mr. Langston, 3/17/05."
Okay, he was born two-and-a-half years later. I sheepishly replied, "Whatever you have in the computer is going to be right because my wife put it in." I am quick to put my dyslexia out there, which normally gives me a sense of control of the situation, but this incident stung a little because not only did it take me by surprise, it involved my child.
As painful as going through situations like these can feel, I always ask myself how they will affect me in the grand scheme of my life. The answer is almost always "not very much." What's the prognosis? I still got medical treatment, even with a whole page of misspelled words, and my children still love me, even if I cannot recall their birthdays on demand. A dose of perspective always helps me remember that dyslexia is a part of who I am but does not define who I am.
Two doctors' visits, two bouts with dyslexia, and one big dose of perspective allow me to happily live to fight another day.
My own helpful tips:
1. I keep my doctor's business card in my wallet, so I wrote the medicine I take and the medicine I am allergic to on the back of his card.
2. I asked my wife to write the children's birth dates with a Sharpie on their insurance cards.
3. I have also entered this information into my cell phone.