I am a very stubborn person. One of the things I used to be very stubborn about was going to the doctor. To be honest, I’m still fairly stubborn about it. If I got stabbed in the gut and my spleen were hanging out, I would probably try to “walk it off.”
In the last couple of years, I’ve got much better at going to the doctor, though. I made this change because of two things:
- Hermione Granger;
- vomiting blood.
More on Hermione later. First, let me tell you about the time I vomited blood.
When I was a teen listening to rock music, I used to think, “Maybe some day I’ll be a rock singer and I’ll vomit blood from smoking too many heroin joints or something.”
I really didn’t understand drugs.
When I grew up and did actually vomit blood, I wasn’t in the middle of doing a punk rock show or high on cocaine pills.
I was eating Frosted Mini-Wheats and reading Harry Potter.
Specifically, I was in the middle of reading the fifth book, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. This was just days before the final book in the series, The Deathly Hallows, came out so I was determined to finish re-reading the whole series before some poor, suffering UPS delivery person heaved the mountain of a book on my doorstep.
That morning I woke up with a massive, thought-shattering headache. I had been getting a lot of headaches. They weren’t hangovers. I think they were just stress or tension — maybe from being really worried about Harry Potter.
But headache be damned! I was determined to keep reading Order of the Phoenix. I decided to take some ibuprofen. I wanted to take enough to cut through the headache. I normally took two, so I decided to take three.
I knew I also needed to eat something with the pills and the only thing I had in the house was a box of Frosted Mini-Wheats.
Frosted Mini-Wheats, ibuprofen, and Harry Potter. It seemed like a good plan.
I shoveled the cereal in my face, pounded the pills, and started power reading Order of the Phoenix. Reading should be a pleasurable leisure activity but I was reading like it was a blood sport. If I could have just smashed the book against my head to get the words in faster, I would have done that.
As I read away, two things happened:
- I got really mad at Dolores Umbridge;
- My body suddenly said, “You need to vomit right now.”
I ran to the bathroom and vomited. I strongly recommend you never vomit with the name “Umbridge” running through your head since it’s basically an onomatopoeia for sickness.
After I finished umbridging, I noticed the blood.
I was, of course, horrified and disgusted. I knew I should do something, but I wasn’t sure what. I actually thought, “What would Harry Potter do?”
I didn’t really want to go to the hospital because for me in real life going to see a doctor had been always been like Harry Potter going to see Dumbledore. A condescending old white man would just wink at me and give me some dumb, overly mysterious advice.
If you asked Dumbledore how to make a sandwich he would tell you to go to the kitchen, get a knife, and try not to die. That’s exactly the quality of wisdom I had come to expect from doctors.
Still, this was blood, so I decided it wouldn’t hurt to call the nurse hotline. I mean, that wasn’t like going to Dumbledore, this was just like checking in with Madame Pomfrey. I told the nurse what had happened and he immediately said, “Yeah, vomiting blood is incredibly serious so you have to call 911 and get them to send an ambulance right now.”
I dutifully called 911 and they said the ambulance would be there in 10 minutes.
I had some time to kill.
I immediately went back to power reading Order of the Phoenix. I got so involved with the book, when I heard the sirens outside my apartment, I got annoyed at the interruption. Then I remembered, “Oh, that’s for me.”
I walked out to the ambulance and actually said, “I believe you’re here for me.” Like it was a taxi. Like it was the loudest, most expensive Uber car ever.
Eventually, I made it to the hospital and a doctor examined me. He was not like Dumbeldore at all. He didn’t look much older than me.
I told him that I’d been having a lot of headaches and taking a lot of ibuprofen and he came to the sensible conclusion that my stomach had been irritated by the ibuprofen.
But he didn’t say it that way.
He said, “You know what, man? I think your body was just like, ‘Dude. Too much ibuprofen.’ And then your stomach was all like, ‘Whaaaaaaaaaaat? You’re putting more ibuprofen in me? And with Frosted Mini-Wheats? No way, guy. I gotta put a stop to this,’ so then your tummy just like blasted you with this acid and the acid is called—” and he rattled off some impressively long technical term that sound like a Harry Potter spell to me.
The doctor’s medical conclusion was extremely reassuring, but the way he said it was incredibly disturbing. This was the first time my doctor wasn’t significantly older than me. This was the first time I heard a professional speak the language of my generation. Suddenly, my doctor wasn’t Dumbledore. He was Ron Weasley and that scared the shit out of me.
It also helped me accept my perception of doctors was stupid and outdated. Obviously, they’re not all the same. Sometimes you get a Dumbledore — someone who just refuses to tell you what’s going on. Sometimes you get a Ron Weasley, who means well, but is kind of clueless. But every time I go to the doctor, I pray I’ll get Hermione. A doctor who might not have all the answers, but goddammit she will find them.
Since that fateful day, I have never again taken any ibuprofen. I’ve never even looked at a box of Frosted Mini-Wheats. I’ve read the entire Harry Potter series two more times. Most importantly, when I go to the doctor, I try to be brave, I try not to die, and I really hope Hermione is there.