Friday, June 10, 2011

Getting right with the numbers

I had my first follow-up blood work done earlier this week since I was originally diagnosed with atrial fibrillation (or, essentially, unbridled unrhythmic heart flutter in one of my heart's atrium chambers) back in March.

I wasn't that concerned because up until my doctor's visit on Tuesday, everything seemed to be going well.

But when the doctor came into the examination room with his laptop, I found myself catching a quick breath. He could be showing me anything. Please, Lord, not another stay in the hospital. I promise I'll be good... (That's a promise, unfortunately, that I seem to break daily. I'll try again tomorrow. Sigh)

Well, my blood sugar, as it turned out, was 91. Not sure what that number actually means, but if it's hanging somewhere around 100, I'm told it's pretty good.

My blood pressure was something like 120 over 67, which is excellent. Then came a bunch of stuff about my liver and kidneys that needed a doctor's translation skills, but essentially he told me all those numbers were well within the acceptable parameters and I was looking good.

Then he turned the page. Up came the cholesterol numbers.

He looked at the page for a moment, shook his head slightly, and looked at the page again.

"Your cholesterol..," he said, and let the rest of the sentence hang unborn in the air, like a pregnant pause, shaking his head again.

Oh crap. Three months of Lipitor down the drain. "Not good, huh?" I said.

"When we did your blood work three months ago, your cholesterol was 266," said the doc. "Now it's 130. That's excellent. Your good cholesterol, which has never been an issue, was 57, but the bad cholesterol has dropped something like 63 percent. That's wonderful."

"Wow," I said to myself, trying not to to jump out of my chair and start tap dancing. I hope I smiled, but I was probably wearing my goofy face, the one where my right eye looks at my nose and saliva dribbles down the left side of my chin. My tongue may or may not be in my mouth at this point.

"Does this mean I can go off the Lipitor?" I asked.

Whoa, Bucky. Not so fast. My big issue with the statin is that it costs about $5 per tablet, so a month's supply runs about $150 without co-pays or health insurance. "That's pretty tough for me when it's hard enough to fill up my gas tank," I told him.

Well, he explained that Lipitor is probably the most studied and researched of all the statins, that it not only helps control cholesterol but apparently offers benefits for the liver as well. "Plus, we know you tolerate it well without any side effects. On top of that, Lipitor is supposed to go generic this month, which means competition will eventually drive down the cost. So until the price goes down, here's three months of Liptor that should bridge the gap," he said, handing me a bag of office samples. "Will that help?"

The heck with tap dancing, I almost started to do the Lambada. "I guess so," I said. Free Lipitor. $450 worth. Imagine that.

The blood work numbers, of course, are nice to know, although I suppose I could still keel over at any moment. Who, after all, has a guarantee? But if I do, it's nice to know that I died relatively healthy.

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