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I Ain’t Dropping My Pants

John W. Pinkerton


I was recently ill---pneumonia with a tad of pleural problems.

It all began when I was hanging paintings in Temple at a new gallery.  It was on the second floor of an old building, and the stairs were steep and tall.  I suddenly ran out of air.  I'd sit and wait and act as though, “I'm just chllin'.”  Of course I didn't mention the air thing to Linda.  Men usually don't tell their wives---they don't tell anyone---stuff like this.  I guess it goes back to their caveman instincts which tells us to not show weakness---the tribe may leave us behind to die on the savannah…or worse.

I got through the day but still found I had problems breathing.  I had a couple of good weeks during the following months: produced a lot of paintings.  On bad days I did what I could.

I've always been a smoker…a heavy smoker---two to three packs a day.  Of course, although undiagnosed, I have to be emphysemic to some degree.

Finally the breathing got worse…a lot worse.

I went to my endocrinologist---thyroid specialist.  I visited his dad regularly for about ten years.  Good doctor.  His son recently took over the practice. Nice kid.

He examined a new blood test I had taken and declared me well in his world.  Remember, he's a specialist. However, he saw a number on a chart of my blood test which was off a smidging and referred me to a hepatologist---you know, a liver doctor---another specialist.  We, Linda and I---mostly Linda, chatted with the new specialist.  We tested my old blood and did an ultrasound.  My liver doctor declared my liver remarkably in good shape for an old fellow who was an expert drinker for many years.  Hell, I could have told him that but,…I ain't no expert.  However, the ultrasound revealed a left plural effusion (Whatever the heck that is?) and suggested a pulmonologist.  When I figured out that a pulmonologist was a lung doctor, I realized I had been seeing one for years.  We scheduled a meeting with my old friend.

Every time I go to a new doctor, the nurses ask who my primary care doctor is.  I don't have one, never have.  Heck, I went over thirty years not even speaking to a doctor.  Shortly after I retired, things went downhill: I lost 25 pounds, I was getting weaker everyday and was shaking like a virgin on her wedding night.  After I was damned near dead, I went to a local PA---physician’s assistant---not a doctor but authorized to chat and test and point you to a doctor if he or she suspects anything's seriously wrong---and she suspected a problem with my thyroid.

We scheduled an appointment with a fellow in Bryan who claimed to be a specialist in that area. 
He said I had big time hyperthyroidism.  What the Hell's the thyroid do?  Well, I know what it does when it ain't right.  He loaded me up with appropriate medication, and within a few days, the trembling was under control and the other symptoms subsided.  I'll always take medication for the thyroid, but I hardly notice taking it.

Good on him.

Okay---back to my old lung doctor friend.  I accidentally got into his clutches about ten years ago.  It was an unintended encounter caused by a really silly and funny mistake.

Well, after examining the x-ray I had taken a few minutes before, the doctor declared, “Pneumonia.”  I began to laugh.  I couldn't stop laughing.  The doc seemed “perturbed” and asked me why I was laughing.  “Doc, it could have been so much worse.”  Bless his heart: it could have been!

The more we talked the more he suspected I might also have a problem with my pleural cavity.  He wanted to examine my pleural fluid on the following day.  “Oh, Doc, let's do this crap today.”  He was nice enough to schedule it for that afternoon.  It was simple enough but way over produced.  He told me the procedure beforehand---lean over table, insert needle, withdraw fluid---simple enough.

That afternoon I found myself in a hospital room.  The nurse, a nice older woman, insisted that I take off my shirt, drop my pants, and put on one of those stupid gowns, and prepare to be hooked up to machines.  I drew the line at dropping my pants: the doc had described what he was going to do, and it didn't require pants dropping.  The elderly nurse was not happy, but I could live with that.

The doc came along; I leaned over a table; he put a harmless needle in my back and we chatted.  A few minutes later, he walked in front of me carrying a liter bottle of what appeared to be Mountain Dew. 

Inquiring minds want to know.


“What's that?” 

“Your pleural fluid.”


“Holy crap!”


He said he'd have the results in a couple of days.  I told him five.  I won that bet.

The bottom line is that no cancer appeared.  That's a good thing.


Of course, my pneumonia is improving---shotgun blasts of antibiotics and a basketful fool of steroids.  I'm weak but get a little better each day (I think but I ain't no expert...no specialist.), and I'm no longer having to sit perfectly still to breathe.

He wanted to see me in three weeks to see if the fluid had built up again and possibly discuss an operation.  I've never had one and don't want one.  Doc declared that an operation wasn't necessary.


Thank you very much, and I ain't dropping my pants just because an old lady tells me to.