November-December 2014 … The Global Online Magazine of Arts, Information & Entertainment … Volume 10, Number 6
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Mark Levy / Casual Observer

Nadja Asghar Illustration  Sept-Oct 2012 V8N5 Casual Observer

Another Medical Breakthrough

by Mark Levy

I visited one of my many doctors a few weeks ago. He is my main doctor; what those in the health industry call my primary care physician. At this point, all of my doctors are younger than I am. In fact, I graduated from law school at about the time my primary was learning the complexities of “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.”

But I don’t call these medical youngsters by their first names. I call them, “Doctor.”  They seem to appreciate that and it really doesn’t take much to keep them happy. All I have to do is stay sick but, of course, not too sick. The game is over if I die. This is my responsibility: to linger as long as possible, helping them in a small way to put their kids through college and make their car payments.

My primary physician has an office that curves around a bend on the fourth floor of the hospital I visit. Inside the curve are nurses’ stations. (You don’t need to know that, but one of my listeners wanted more detail in my stories. Hope you’re happy now, Marge.)

“Your tests are back, Mark,” he said.

I could tell he was pleased. “I’ve been taking my meds faithfully, Doc,” I said. “How am I doing?”

“Actually, quite well. Indicators show your stress level is much lower. Your blood pressure is down. How are you sleeping?”

“Great,” said I.

“Digestive issues?”

“Not anymore.”

“Headaches? Memory loss?”

“Not that I can remember,” I said. “Everything’s improved. That prescription you gave me must be working, huh?”

“I have to confess something to you,” he said.

I learned forward in my seat. It’s not every day that a doctor confesses something. This was going to be good. I was so excited, I might have rubbed my hands together.

“The medication I prescribed was a placebo.”

Well, whatever it is, I think I should take a higher dosage. It’s really working.”

“No problem at all,” Doc said. “It has no medical viability. It’s an inert sugar pill to fake you out into believing it causes a reduced stress level.”

I was astonished. What a revelation. My primary was playing with my head, manipulating me to believe something that wasn’t true. And I bought it. Was I that weak-minded?

Now that I’ve thought about it, I guess I am. I’m very susceptible to TV ads, for example. That tells you something. If one of those luscious pizza ads appears on TV — you know the ones that show such a crusty crust, creamy tomato sauce and melted, stringy cheese, you can almost smell it in the room – I cannot go to sleep without ordering a pizza.

So I went home and Googled “placebo.” Here’s what the online dictionary said: “a usually pharmacologically inert preparation prescribed more for the mental relief of the patient than for its actual effect on a disorder; any dummy medication containing no medication and prescribed to reinforce a patient’s expectation to get well.”

The placebo worked so well on my health, I decided to try it out on my car.

When  I ran out of windshield wiper fluid recently, I opened the hood of my car and found the reservoir and I went through the motions of adding fluid to it. But the container I used was empty. Then I slammed the hood down with a flourish, so my car would think all was well.

Need air in my tires? Not so fast. A quick trip to the gas station, removing the air fill cap, and a fake pump of the compressor and hose and I was on my way, my car no wiser for the experience.

Back left blinker light bulb out? You got it. Just a removal of the lens and a tweak of the same old, burned out bulb would do the trick.

And so it goes.

Yesterday, my car limped into my car dealer’s service center for its 20,000 mile checkup. The manager came out half an hour later and for a minute I honestly thought he would give my precious automobile a clean bill of health. But no, he had an impressive list of things he had found and an estimate of $540 to fix them all.

Now you might think I would have been upset, but remember, my stress level is down. I toyed with the idea of unleashing another set of placebos but I think my car has begun to catch on.

I figure the repair bill is still cheaper than a trip to my primary. Now if only I can get my health insurance carrier to cover it.

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About the author:

Mark Levy, Ragazine.CC’s “Casual Observer,”  also occasionally contributes “Feeding the Starving Artist,” pro bono legal advice for working artists. You can read more about him in “About Us.”