The problem with paying to procure plasma

Arm outstretched of someone who has just donated blood with quote: If you really want to lend a hand, lend an arm.

Until recently, I didn’t realize that we had a shortage of plasma in Canada. You may not have either, unless you too are obsessed with the health news. Someone’s gotta be.

Last year, a private plasma donation clinic opened in Saskatoon. The clinic pays every donor with a $25 gift card. By allowing this clinic to open, the Saskatchewan government has reduced donations to the non-paying Canadian Blood Services clinic in the region. If you could be paid for your plasma donation or do it out of the goodness of your heart, what would you do? Turns out a lot of people like to be paid for their efforts.

Although in the U.S., blood donors are paid, in Canada they are not. We Canadians have historically relied on the good will of donors, and, according to Canadian Blood Services, we will continue to do so.

Maybe this wouldn’t be a problem if the donations procured at the paying clinic were adding to Canada’s plasma supply, but there’s no assurance they are. This company is selling the plasma to the highest bidder, wherever that bidder is. The clinic is a for-profit venture; its first concern isn’t Canada’s plasma supply.

As it stands, Canada doesn’t have enough plasma to meet patients’ needs, so we buy plasma from the U.S. to make up the shortfall. But what if we continue to rely on foreign blood products and that supply dries up? I can envision American plasma being stopped at the border in the near future, under the new America First policies. That crazy new president south of the border rules with an iron fist, as he has proven too many times over the past few weeks.

Plasma donations are needed both for infusions–I’ve needed a few over the course of my illness–but also to make drugs for very sick people with rare diseases. We need to ensure we have enough of these drugs to keep these people alive, or at least to improve their quality of life.

So, Canadians, consider donating your plasma for free. It’s one needle prick*, except it takes a little longer than donating whole blood. The special machine will take your plasma only and kindly return all your other blood products to you. Easy peasy. And you’ll get all the benefits that whole-blood donors get and more.

What benefits, you ask? First off, after you donate, you can pop by the donor cafe, where a bevy of volunteers will eagerly meet your every need. Remember the soup and cookies? We also stock fruit cups and sesame snaps for the gluten free among you. There’s coffee and tea and pop and juice (go for the mango). Who says there’s no such thing as a free lunch?

And don’t forget the coveted pins. When you reach certain donor milestones, you receive a commemorative pin. You plasma donors will reach those milestones all the faster because you can donate plasma much more frequently than whole blood if you choose.

And what about the good feeling that goes along with knowing you’re helping someone? That’s worth a lot more than a $25 gift card, I think.

 

*If a needle phobia is holding you back, come see me. I can help you with that.

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Let’s talk

Two cartoon drawn people sitting at a table facing one another

Wednesday, while I was writing about silly things like extended health benefits, Responsible Psychologist Annie should have been drawing your attention to the national mental health day initiated by a Canadian telecommunications company. The goal was to get people talking about their emotional struggles, thereby lessening the stigma of mental illness. Great idea, don’t you think?

That day, the company generously threw in 5 cents for every text, call, and tweet (and a bunch of other stuff that only younger people know how to do). That’s all it took to raise $6.5 million, which will be distributed across the country to a variety of underfunded mental health programs. Unfortunately, since I don’t pay for this company’s service, my many vacuous texts on Wednesday didn’t count toward this total. I hope that highlighting the issue here instead will count for something.

A lot of people shared a lot about themselves on Twitter, Facebook, and other venues over the course of the day. The initiative did indeed get people talking about signifiant mental health challenges, such as anxiety and depression, as well as eating disorders, postpartum depression, relationship challenges, and the aftermath of sexual abuse and physical violence. So many people, even famous people, talked openly and publicly. People feel much too much shame around mental illness. It’s time for that to end.

Why do people struggle to speak openly about their mental health challenges? They often feel like they are the only ones with those feelings because no one talks about them. And often those listening have trouble knowing how to respond; they forget that just being there to listen is often enough. If the person you’re talking to can’t offer the type of support you need, find someone else to listen.

Are you one of those people who doesn’t talk about such things at all? Well, give that up already and start talking. Let me be your role model. I’ve written about my anxiety and, less often, my depression (remember my Sadness doll?). I don’t share everything with you because I don’t think that would be appropriate in this forum, but I’ve shared a lot. Hopefully from my openness you’ve learned that feelings, even bad ones, are normal. (Either that or you’ve determined that I’m a deeply disturbed clinician.) If my disclosures have helped even one person to feel less alone, I’m happy.

I may be a psychologist by training, but, first and foremost, I’m a person with feelings, and those feelings occasionally aren’t happy. I am lucky to have some tools at my disposal to help me through my rough patches, but knowing what to do and doing it are two different things. Sometimes all the tools in my arsenal aren’t enough. I’ve openly shared that I visit a therapist because I want to encourage you to seek help if you’re feeling like you can’t move through your funk on your own. There is no stigma in that. If anyone derides you for needing help (including you, Tom Cruise), give that person my number and I’ll gladly tell him off educate him.

Wednesday is over, but please don’t stop talking. For all you know, you may inspire someone else to open up. Trust me, it feels great knowing you’ve helped someone share the hard stuff.

 

 

The real cost of extended health care benefits

It’s been over two months since J. left her real job. This job provided J. with a regular paycheque and benefits, including those for extended health care. We probably got our money’s worth from those benefits, and not only because of my expensive medications. J. appreciates the occasional massage, and we both go to the dentist regularly.

I figured once J. lost her benefits, we’d immediately purchase a private health plan. We’ve even budgeted for the cost. As it stands, my drugs are mostly covered regardless by my private drug-specific plan, which I’ve had for years. Otherwise, we remain uncovered. We’re trying to assess whether private health benefits, however affordable, are worth the cost. Feel free to weigh in.

If I go to the dentist for a cleaning every six months, the cleaning would cost less than the fees for six months of benefits. On the other hand, if I knock out a tooth during one of my klutzy falls, or I need another root canal, I’ll be paying a hefty bill out of pocket. Is this risk worth taking?

Ambulance on roadA plan would also cover the cost of an ambulance. I did call 9-1-1 once when I was doubled over in escalating pain. Within a few minutes, the paramedics were inserting an IV and I was mainlining morphine. Then we set off on the most circuitous route possible, and it wasn’t my place to redirect the driver to the hospital. Every minute felt like forever. Had J. driven me to the hospital, as she has all other times I’ve gone, and I’d waited for triage writhing in pain, I would likely have been seen faster, assuming I passed the whiner test. I’ve decided that if I were to need an ambulance in the future, I’d gladly pay the going rate of $385.

Then there’s limited coverage for the allied health professionals. If I have an ache or pain, I’m worried about cancer, not scheduling physiotherapy. By the time I rule out cancer, I trust my pain will have dissipated.

Sadly, massage is out too. J.’s massage therapist sounds like a miracle worker, but I’d be bruised all over if I let her use her deep-tissue technique on me. Even J. comes home black and blue yet oddly grateful sometimes.

Don’t forget the paltry coverage for a psychologist. The therapist I now rarely see is a skilled Ph.D.-level clinician, but because she is not a psychologist, she’s not covered. That benefit does not benefit me.

J., of course, is fit as a forty year old and is banking on not needing health coverage ever. She’ll pay for the rare drug the doctor prescribes, she’ll get her perfect teeth cleaned once a year, and, knowing her, she’ll drive herself to the ER if ever she needs emergent care. Also, her next few massages are free thanks to a thoughtful gift certificate for The Bruiser from yours truly.

I may have cornucopia of expensive drugs, but beyond that, my medical expenditures are surprisingly low. (Our generous government may beg to differ.) For now, we will monitor our health-related expenses. When I slip on an icy sidewalk and knock out my front teeth, I imagine I’ll change my tune. Or maybe not. Who needs front teeth?

boy smiling without front tooth

The unanticipated responsibilities of the cancer patient

 

Quote: If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to see it, do the other trees make fun of it?You may think that having cancer is no big deal for me now. I’m stable, I’m active, and yes, I’m tired, but that’s the life of the leukemic. There are, however, some added responsibilities (burdens?) with this disease that no one warned me about.

Let’s take Sunday yoga, for example. I have been going to the same Sunday class for years, since long before I had cancer. This class was also the first I returned to after my leukemia diagnosis, when I was weak and frail and could barely stand let alone hold tree pose. (In case you were wondering, if a tree falls in yoga class, it takes other trees down with it.) J. attended my first few classes post leukemia to stop my tipping over.

Every single Sunday, I ignore the voice telling me I should stay in bed, however loud it is, and I head to yoga. The class starts and I often wonder how I’m possibly going to stay awake. But I’m there and I do my best and I usually feel better by the end.

Over time, I see many of the same people, and we gravitate toward our spots in the room. If a regular doesn’t show up, her (or occasionally his) spot often remains empty, assuming some unsuspecting newbie doesn’t fill it. Yesterday I was tardy to yoga. I arrived as class started, but not early enough to lay out my mat and settle in. Yes, I was one of those annoying yoga disrupters.

Lately I’ve been walking to the gym with my friend, C., who’s graciously assumed the task of ensuring I do not stray in front of moving vehicles. But C. did not have time to walk yesterday so I headed out late, walking solo. Let’s just say that when I arrive early to yoga, it’s because I’m with C; without her, I fall apart. By the time I arrived yesterday, I was so harried that I needed the calming class, thereby defeating my own purpose. Despite the full class, my spot was empty.

Before I had time to unroll my mat, I learned I had caused an uproar amongst my yogi peers. Despite our texts the day prior, C. feared I was still waiting for her to pick me up. Other friends chimed in. “We were worried about you!” “Thank God you made it!” “Here’s your equipment!” A friend who’s usually tardier than me (but never an annoying latecomer) had even texted to ask where I was. No matter that I was disrupting the whole class of fellow yogis, who were sitting calmly on their mats, ready to go.

Woman on yoga mat in half-moon poseThroughout the class, I thought about the upheaval I’d caused–no wonder I kept falling out of half-moon pose. (I often fall out of half-moon pose. It’s hard.) Talk about the kindness of friends. At the end of class, I again reassured everyone. “I’d never miss Sunday yoga.” I assume my buddies were actually worried I had mysteriously dropped dead. All the more motivation to arrive early to yoga in the future.

I live and breathe anxiety; the last thing I want to do is to add to others’ stress. Or lose my prime spot in class.

Things my dog has taught me this week

Senior woman smiling at yellow lab sitting at her feet

I hope this post will be the perfect anti-dote to the U.S. presidential inauguration. You’re welcome.

First, in case you’d forgotten, Canada’s national radio still has a sense of humour. I’m referring to a recent story on #DoesItFart, the database of animals that pass gas recently developed by biologists. (The whole rip-roaring interview is here.) Turns out chimpanzees’ farts help biologists locate them in the forest, birds have the anatomy necessary for farting but don’t, snakes fart, and millipedes let out noxious gas but whether they’re considered farts remains unclear. Oh, yes, and dogs are on the list too, as I can attest. Lucky visitors may hear my dog’s humanoid toots while she’s sleeping. I could tell you more about this topic, but I try to focus on more serious matters in my blog, as you know.

So I thought I might share some recent insights from my seniors’ visits with Jelly. My initial worries that Jelly wasn’t connecting well with the seniors because she was too busy cleaning the floor gave way to this week’s observation that every dog is a food-on-the-floor opportunist. Consider it instinct, right up there with chasing squirrels and begging for dinner. Who can fight instinct?

I was also worried that when she’d finished cleaning the floor, Jelly wasn’t properly attending to the seniors wanting to visit with her. Maybe she’s not always looking up adoringly but Jelly stands patiently while she’s being petted and wags her tail in response. Even those who can’t reach her enjoy looking at her and learning about her. This week, Jelly brought joy to a woman in the hospice wing, a former dog owner, who was too high up to pet the animals from her hospital bed.

Some of these residents may not get many, or any, visitors. They look forward to the dogs, who break up their long and sometimes lonely days. Also, the dogs bring joy to those who do visit and to the staff too. A woman planned a special visit the week after her husband died, planning it around the PALS visit. She needed the connection, and I’m glad we were there to greet her.

We visited a man who had had a stroke and did not have full use of the right side of his body. His eyes lit up as Jelly stood under his right hand, which he could barely move. He petted her as best he could, touching her soft little head. For the few minutes we stayed with him, he seemed content to maintain contact.

Then my colleague and I visited the rehabilitation unit with our pooches, where we spied two women in wheelchairs at opposite ends of parallel bars. The dogs visited with the women briefly, following which the frailer of the two, likely in her 80s, arose from her wheelchair and, with the physiotherapist following her for reassurance, walked the full length of those bars. When she arrived at the other end, she stood for a few minutes while I clapped and Jelly, sensing the excitement, gave a whole-body wag. Maybe we’re both getting the hang of this assignment.

Thanks to Jelly, I’ve come to realize that sometimes it’s enough just to be there. That we certainly can do.

My salty little secret

Every Monday from 3 to 6 p.m., I volunteer at Canadian Blood Services. As I’ve already mentioned, this volunteer position is so complex I can’t believe they hired me. I am expected to serve soup, cookies, and drinks to blood donors, thank them for their donation, and watch that they don’t fall ill. Sure, there’s some juice and cookie restocking and occasional dish washing, but it’s a pretty lame position that I have mastered handily, except for my soup ladling, which could use work. I’m always dripping everywhere, despite my best efforts.

I chose my shift to keep myself awake once weekly during my usual rest hour. If I’m not napping at that time, I’m eating to keep myself awake. (Bad habit, I know.) It takes all my energy to get to the clinic some days, but once I’m there, I stay awake through my shift. I’m in trouble if I forget to take a snack along with me, though, since the generous pickings are slim for my liver-compromised body.

Donors need to replenish their fluids and one of the best ways to do so, other than taking in liquid, is to eat foods that are sweet or salty. That’s why the clinic stocks canned soup and salty crackers, as well as an endless variety of cookies. Because I am still trying to reduce my sugar consumption, I do not fall down the slippery cookie-laden slope. I’m focussed on the end goal here, so steering clear of sugar is no biggie.

That leaves the salty options, including the soup sodium bomb. As a child who walked home for lunch every day, I often ate canned soup to warm up in the winter. Since I’ve had to monitor my sodium, I’ve scorned anyone who indulges in canned soup, mostly out of envy. I miss canned soup and wish they made it for sodium restricters like me. Ah, the nostalgia I feel at the thought of eating soup from a can.

The past few weeks, I’ve become so hungry (or is it tired?) during my bloody shift that I’ve ladled a very small amount of soup, maybe a few tablespoons’ worth, into a cup and eaten it, relishing every drop. I feel like I’m committing a sin before God every time I do it. The guilt is overwhelming. I can’t help but hear His disapproving voice, “Hey there, pufferfish, yeah I’m talking to you, what’s the point of reducing your sugar consumption if you’re going to increase your salt intake?” Is it rude to tell God to mind His own business?

So far my favourite indulgence has been the vegetable soup, with the mushy vegetables and the tiny letter-shaped noodles. Today I caught myself searching for copycat recipes on the internet. I may have to make one or two or seven to try to replicate this little can of mushy sustenance, but I’m sure whatever I make won’t will taste nearly as good as the real thing since I’ll be leaving out the salt. At least God won’t chide me when I eat it.

Bowl of Campbell's vegetable soup

One of these gays is not like the other

Picture of female mechanic working on carI thought this blog was supposed to be about my travails with illness, but I’ve learned that other topics may drive up my readership. This past week, I have two new unsuspecting readers, which brings me to 250 followers. And I recently realized that people could follow the blog anonymously, so I’ll assume there are some of those, not to mention the occasional visitors. Thankfully, I have no idea how many people actually read my posts, so I’ll assume it’s every single one of you.

I know these past few posts have been so gay, but they’ve garnered a surge of interest, thankfully all supportive. No homophobes have weighed in, perhaps realizing that their comments will go directly into the trash. In the interest of my still being gay, I have one more post on this topic. Then I’ll move on.

Being gay is such a teensy part of my identity that I don’t think about it much anymore. Rather, every morning I wake up and, without fail, I remember that I have leukemia. I wake up and remember that I’m a psychologist, and I feel sad that I’m barely working. Then I trip as I get out of bed and remember that I’m still clumsy. Upon awakening, I rarely think, “I’m still gay!” Who cares?

I can count my close gay friends on one hand. Most of my, and our, friends are of the heterosexual persuasion. Sometimes I get sick of their pushing their straightness on us by, you know, holding hands as they walk down the street or smooching in public. “Get a room,” I say, or “That’s heterosexual privilege for you.” But mostly I’m okay with their straightness. I know they were born that way and even if they wanted to be gay, even if they really really tried, they wouldn’t make the team. We gays are a highly exclusive group.

I’ve also learned that, although I share a sexual orientation with other gays, that’s doesn’t make us buddies. Turns out gay people come in all shapes and sizes and colours. Not all gay gals are mechanics nor all gay men ballet dancers (except for Billy Elliott, of course). We’re everywhere doing everything that you straighties do.

So when friends approach me and say, “Hey, Annie, I have this really nice gay friend and I’d like to introduce you two,” I’m unsure how to respond. I consider asking, “Do we have anything else in common other than our gayitude?” I wonder, “Could I introduce you to my straight friend Breeder, since I’m sure you’d have a lot in common, being straight and all?” But my inside voice says, “I know you mean well, but do I have to?”

Many years ago, friends kindly invited J. and me over to meet a gay couple they knew. Our friends decided the four lesbos would get along famously, but J. and I determined within the first few minutes that we had absolutely nothing in common. I imagine the other lesbos felt similarly. Unsurprisingly, we four did not fall in homosexual friendship.

So if you don’t mind, I’ll keep hanging out with my straight friends. We have more in common; that’s why we’re friends after all. And you can hang around with your friends, gay or straight. I won’t judge.

Straight or gay, we’re more similar than different.

In my last post, I told you that our household is in most respects like yours, except for the two women at its helm. Upon review, I’m wondering whether I clearly addressed how typical our household really is.

There’s J. the breadwinner, now working just one job rather than two, while I sit around in my leisurewear watching Border Security and eating bonbons. (Occasionally I get off the couch to do volunteer work or go to yoga or make dinner, and the bonbons have become vegetables since my Great Sugar Revolution, but the leisurewear part is accurate.)

Now that J. is solely self-employed, and she does much of her work from home, she has officially made the basement into her office. All her Basset paraphernalia (pads and stapler and magnets and more) are occupying the desk. When she has inquiries to address or marriage ceremonies to write, she commutes downstairs, allowing us space from one another.

Even the most loving couples need space sometimes, don’t they? How much space depends on the couple. I’d say we’ve always been fairly independent.

Then J. decided to create a woman cave in the basement as well. That way, when I want to watch something boring like Food Network, she can go downstairs to watch her favourite hockey team, the Edmonton Oilers, lose. With the sound system on, J. feels like she’s in the stands with the fans.

J. tromps downstairs in the morning to work on her newly thriving business, poking her head up every so often when she’s hungry. She descends again in the afternoon to work some more. We eat dinner together, and then, if the Oilers are playing, J. heads back downstairs with a bowl of chips for the evening. Between her work and my own activities, we hardly see one another. Even Jelly, who is not allowed to shed on the basement rug, sulks and paces endlessly because she misses her favourite mother. Somehow, as J. has become firmly ensconced in the basement, I’ve become the nagging, neglected wife.

Imagine my surprise when J. resurfaced 20 minutes into last night’s hockey game, but only because her boys were already losing. (She’s fickle that way.) After watching one show together, I’d turned to the season finale of the Great American Baking Show, which unfortunately is not nearly as engaging as the Great British Baking Show. Nevertheless, we’ve been watching this competition since the start to ensure it remained a poor facsimile, so I expected J. might join me for the finale.

No such luck. Rather than watching with me, J. confessed she’d rather see her boys play, even if they’re losing. So downstairs she went again, and good thing she did because her boys came back from behind and won.

Are we really that different from any straight couple you know? Does it really matter? All I know is that I can look forward to J.’s company in the evenings when the Oilers aren’t playing. If I’m lucky, her hockey season will end early when her boys fail to make the playoffs. But please don’t tell her I said that. It wouldn’t go over well.

drawing of hockey player with quote "If I go missing and you're looking for me, I'm probably watching hockey."

Me and my homosexual lifestyle

Poster entitled the Gay Agenda, two men on a couch, says: "They worked at their jobs, they shopped for groceries, they went to the movies, they lived The Gay Agenda

Let me tell you all about my homosexual lifestyle. I am married to a woman, with whom I live. Our differences from all you heterosexuals end right about there.

J. and I own a house together. Although we don’t have children, we have co-parented a series of wayward dogs. We go on vacations together and eat dinner together and watch television together (unless there’s hockey on, in which case J. kindly goes downstairs). We do all the things that you straight folks do.

I’m telling you this because there’s been quite a lot of talk about the homosexual lifestyle in the editorial pages of our local paper recently, in reaction to the recent retirement of Bishop Fred Henry. Bishop Henry has been presiding over the Catholics in our fair city since 1996. His support of the poor and the vulnerable has been hard to hear over his unrelenting venomous rhetoric, particularly toward LGTBQ people like me. Sometimes it is hard to see the good in someone whose views are so vile.

You may think I am anti-Catholic but that is not the case. Some of my best friends are Catholics! Were Bishop Henry Jewish, I’d still take issue with his narrow-mindedness. I think Pope Francis is the cat’s meow (said with tongue in dog’s cheek), and I admire him for pushing the boundaries of traditional Catholic doctrine. Sure, there is room for improvement within Catholicism–you’re telling me a woman impregnated through sexual assault must carry that baby to term?–but those Catholics have come a long way in my lifetime.

Bishop Henry is rabidly anti-abortion and he fought the legalization of gay marriage vociferously. He was against HPV vaccination for preteen girls in Catholic schools, despite this vaccine’s cancer-preventing effects. Since premarital sex is verboten, Catholic schoolgirls shouldn’t need the vaccine, he claimed. (Thankfully, the Catholic school board allowed the vaccines.) He recently forbid gay-straight alliances within Catholic schools, despite the provincial education ministry mandating safe spaces for LGTBQ students. Bishop Henry’s views on transgenderism are just as ill informed. Where are all those poor Catholic transgender kids going to pee, let alone seek support from their peers?

My worst memory of Bishop Henry is an email exchange between my dear gay friend and Bishop Henry. The bishop’s hateful comments to my friend included, among other things, his equating homosexuality with pedophilia. Did you know that homosexuality and pedophilia were one and the same? Neither did I, because they’re not. Pedophiles have a sexual disorder. They are breaking the law and may go to prison if they engage in sex with a minor. In contrast, in 1967, our prime minister asserted, “There is no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation,” thereby decriminalizing homosexuality.

Bishop Henry’s supporters describe him as an enigmatic character who is outspoken on tough issues. Outspoken or not, when his views become hurtful and mean spirited and degrading, no one should have to hear him spewing his nasty rhetoric anymore. I’m hopeful that the new bishop will be kinder to those of us living our sinful homosexual lifestyle. I’ve chosen this lifestyle, just as I’d choose to be denigrated by someone as narrow and ignorant as Bishop Henry. Wouldn’t you?

 

Coming soon to a province near you: the patient health portal

Computer with doctor on screen, his hand reaching out with stethoscope

If you were following the local health news last week, you may have read about Alberta’s patient health portal, which will be accessible from your home computer in the near future. For those who are unfamiliar with the lingo, a patient health portal allows electronic access to personal health information.

Doctors already have access to patient information through the province-wide eHealth network, but until now patients have been out of this loop. Using eHealth, my doctors have immediate access to test results and reports from other physicians involved in my care. For example, when I visited last week, Dr. Blood knew precisely why Dr. Family was concerned about my uric acid levels.

The patient portal will be a bit different than the physicians’ version, however. Each jurisdiction determines what health information it will allow patients access to. Our health portal will allow Albertans access to test results–I can track my cholesterol level or see how my blood test results have fared over time–and to on-line appointment booking. From what I’ve read, I won’t have access to doctors’ interpretations of my test findings, which I believe are the most valuable part of any health record.

Is a patient health portal a good or a bad thing? It depends on who you ask. Access to this health information is intended to empower patients, but will Albertans’ portal have this effect? Many patients feel online access to our health information is long overdue. But we have had access to this information for years, just not on line. I can already ask my physicians to see anything in my medical file. Physicians are required by law to provide patients with any document they request.

The value of Alberta’s health portal depends primarily on the information therein. Initially, the accessible information will be restricted, although I imagine more and more information will be available electronically to patients over time.

I worry, as an anxious person and as a psychologist, that not all patients are equipped to deal with this medical information, and that access to it may raise undue anxiety. I for one am glad I’ve had years of being sick before the introduction of the portal because I don’t anticipate becoming overwhelmed with what I see. Were I a newly diagnosed sickie, I might feel differently.

For example, I have a limited understanding of the findings of my blood test results. I’ve gleaned over time that wide variations in certain blood tests are sometimes of concern and sometimes not. Elevations in some tests are worrisome while very low counts in other tests are problematic. Because my knowledge is elementary, I fall back on my doctors to interpret the results for me.

One doctor talking to another: In its current form, the patient health portal will provide me a new way of frittering away time on the internet and not much else. I will become increasingly interested as the portal evolves and its accessible information broadens. But you won’t catch me asking Dr. Google what the numbers mean; I’ll continue to go to my physicians with my queries, as I always have. Call me old fashioned, but my docs have excelled at addressing my concerns thus far.