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The Long Way Home

My annual physical is next month.

Coincidentally, I’m attempting a smoking cessation program. You could say I’m “quit­ting smoking,” but that doesn’t sound as sensi­tive or current.

There is a history with me and smoking ces­sation. Estimates are that I’ve quit somewhere between eight and twelve times since those first prepubescent puffs in the 1960s. Each quitting was successful, just not permanent.

Frankly, I’d come to a point where I’ve had enough of tobacco and decided to quit. Some­times for a week or two and sometimes for a few years or more. I’ve reached that point now and I’m running out of tobacco, so by the time you read this I’ll be in withdrawal, ready to spew bile over anyone who asks me if I’m hav­ing any fun.

Back to my physical.

Other than intermittent cases of strep throat I rarely went doctoring and only had a phys­ical when some life insurance company was looking to take a large bet on my continued existence and well-being.

Then I started getting older.

When I was 50’ish, I started having regular headaches that were becoming a nuisance. I called a clinic listed in the Las Vegas Yellow Pages and made an appointment to be seen and to have them tell me the pain was all in my head.

One sunny day, before that appointment, I checked my blood pressure on a machine at the Albertsons (grocery) store. My numbers were something like 185/110, which meant nothing to me.

So at the car, I called a friend, Doctor Ed, who is a retired physician who knew I was seeing a real doc about headaches. I asked him what the numbers meant.

“They let you out of there with those num­bers?” He screamed.

I explained that I’d received the numbers on the Albertson self-serve BP kiosk and no one there cared if I lived or died. He calmed down a bit. “Go to that clinic right now and don’t leave there until they’ve checked your blood pressure,” he ordered. I don’t like taking orders much, but Doc Ed seemed so concerned that I went straight to the clinic. After several minutes explaining to the receptionist that I needed a BP check ASAP, even telling her Doc Ed said so, a nurse brought me into an exam room and cuffed me up. Then the action started. I guess 185/110 isn’t good.

It might be my imagination, but I think sirens went off in the clinic right then. Since then, I’ve been taking daily medication to keep my blood pressure and my cholesterol at or near the threshold of terror. To keep getting those little pills, there is my “annual physical” odyssey, now paid for by Medicare. I pay for the drugs though. With private insurance, I paid for physical and drugs, 100% out of my pocket.

They called it a deductible. Next month my blood will be drawn and analyzed by the lab. A nurse will check my height, weight and blood pressure, and dutifully ask me what drugs I’m taking. She gets cranky when I point out that the drugs I take are in my record on the computer there. Then the doctor gets a crack, lecturing me about smoking, diet, and colonoscopies. I listen dutifully. We part amicably.

I promise to try and stay off tobacco and promise to do other things I’m not going to do. I walk to the pharmacy with a 90-day prescription, renewable three times, which should carry me to next year. Anybody got a light?

Steve Fernlund
Steve Fernlund
Typically these “about me” pages include a list of academic achievements (I have none) and positions held (I have had many, but who really cares about those?) So, in the words of the late Admiral James Stockwell, “Who am I? Why am I here?” I’m well into my seventh decade on this blue planet we call home. I’m a pretty successful husband, father, and grandfather, at least in my humble opinion. My progeny may disagree. We have four children and five grandchildren. I spent most of my professional life in the freight business. At the tender age of 40, early retirement beckoned and we moved to Grand Marais. A year after we got here, we bought and operated the Cook County News Herald, a weekly newspaper in Grand Marais. A sharp learning curve for a dumb freight broker to become a newspaper editor and publisher. By 1999 the News Herald was an acquisition target for a rapidly consolidating media market. We sold our businesses and “retired” again, buying a winter retreat in Nevada. In the fall of 2016, we returned to Grand Marais and bought a house from old friends of ours on the ridge overlooking Lake Superior. They were able to move closer to family and their Mexico winter home. And we came home to what we say is our last house. I’m a strong believer in the value of local newspapers--both online and those you can wrap a fish in. I write a weekly column and a couple of feature stories for the Northshore Journal. I’m most interested in writing about the everyday lives of local people and reporting on issues of importance to them.
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