February was a big month for health care.

I had my eyes checked. My colon scoped and my skin screened. Oh, and I got the vaccine everybody’s been clamoring for. They say age is just a number. But a big number will get you in the queue.

Sixty-five and up. I made it by five years.

The first stop on my health parade was the eye doctor. I had to find a new one. The ophthalmologist I used to go to had retired. She was a favorite. She had a small practice. It was one-on-one service. You might wait an hour to see her. But once you entered the exam room, she gave you her full attention.

She was the only female in her class at medical school. It wasn’t easy for her. But she helped open a door for others. She was one. Soon there were two and now women make up a majority of students in medical school. I read that in the Washington Post.

In any case, I needed a new prescription for eyeglasses. I go for graduated lenses. From a slight adjustment on distance to a big fix for closeup. Age will get you a vaccine, but it makes reading almost impossible — without glasses.

I shopped around and settled on an eye clinic near downtown Phoenix. It was part of the vision-industrial complex. Lots of eye doctors. Lots of people in the waiting room. At least everybody was masked.

I was handed a clipboard. I had to fill out a page of medical history. Did I ever have cancer, diabetes, bad breath and lasting emotional scars from my big brother threatening to pound me if I ever tattled on him? He never pounded me. But then, I never tattled.

Every doctor’s office and clinic now makes you complete a medical history. You’re asked personal questions, like how much do you drink? You never get to choose: “Just the right amount.”

Instead, you’re asked for a number. I usually add up what I had for the week and multiply by two-thirds. My sixth-grade math is finally paying off.

Here’s another fraction. The eye doctor, an optometrist, was about one-third my age. I had a 10-minute session. No chitchat. All business. I got what I needed anyway. An eyeglass prescription. I probably struck him as an old codger living on the street. What with my hair nearly down around my shoulders. And my white chin stubble.

Being old did put me in line for a vaccine. But I couldn’t just walk in and roll up my sleeve. I had to make an appointment. Not as easy as pie, as it turned out. I went on the website hosted by the Arizona Department of Health Services. In early February, they opened up dozens of new slots for shots at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.

I used to go there to watch the old Phoenix Giants play. They were a Triple A farm team. I remember seeing Bobby Bonds, Barry’s father. And Rocky Bridges, the Giants’ colorful manager.

I went online and managed to get Cindy, my wife, signed up. Then I logged on for my shot. But it was a mad rush. People everywhere were signing on and grabbing up slots. It was like Black Friday at Walmart. In minutes, the site had been picked clean. I had missed out.

There was, however, something known as plus-one. President Biden gave Gov. Ducey a thumbs-up for it. It was the state’s version of buy-one, get-one-free. You go with somebody who signed up, and you get a shot, too.

So I drove, Cindy rode. I wore short sleeves, ready for my jab.

Lines of cars followed a maze of cones. We finally reached the starting line. No shot for me, though. Just Cindy. The plus-one deal had a flaw. They were all out of plus-one shots. They promoted something they didn’t have. Better luck next time.

And next time came. I managed to sign up for the Banner Health vaccine-apolosa at the Arizona State Fairgrounds. I got my jab in the same building where, every October, farm animals strut their stuff for the State Fair. Cows and pigs get blue ribbons. I got a band-aid and hope for a virus-free future.

When immunity kicks in, I’m off to the barber.

I wrote about my colonoscopy prep five years ago, the last time I got scoped. Nothing new to report.

Now it’s off to the dermatologist. I get a screening every year. He usually attacks something suspicious looking with a spritz of frozen nitrogen. It works better than an ice cube.

Last summer, I made an appointment after noticing a rough patch on my back. What else could it be but cancer? The doctor checked it out. Not cancer. Just something old people get.

Like they say, age is just a number. In my case, a pretty big one.


Reach contributing writer Bill Coates at bccoates@cox.net.


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