Hey Doc, It Hoits When I Go Like ‘Dat!


Learning your family health history can be a valuable medical resource. And the best way to discover that history is to talk with your tipsy Uncle Max at Thanksgiving.

No one quite knows who Uncle Max is or just how he’s related to the family. He says he’s 92, but has claimed that for the last decade. He’s kind of sullen and frightens the children. But he knows every life-threatening illness of every family member dating back to the 1400s. And he’s thrilled to recount every hideous detail.

Family gathered around the TV watching football.

UNCLE MAX: “Oooo! That’s a helluva tackle! (Sipping another beer.) Ya’ know, yer’ Great Great Grandpa Morris died like that!”

FAMILY MEMBER 1: “He was tackled?”

UNCLE MAX: “Nah! He was hit by a beer wagon. Pay attention, will ya’!”

FAMILY MEMBER 2: “Tell us about that, Max.”

UNCLE MAX: “What’s to tell? (Long sip.) It must’a been ‘long around. . . Oh, 1910s. Morris was a merchant marine, ya’ know. Worked a bucket dredger outta the Great Lakes. Dangerous work. Lost his left foot from the hip down. (Looong, long sip.)

FAMILY MEMBER 1: “What happened?”

MAX: “I tol’ ya’! He was hit by a beer wagon.”

Family chatter flickers out.

FAMILY MEMBER 2: “Soooo. . . that’s how Morris died?”

MAX: (Exasperated.) “No! That’s how he met Maggie.”

FAMILY CHILD: “Daddy, I’m scared!”

FAMILY MEMBER 1: (Determined) “Max, who the Hell is Maggie?”

FAMILY MEMBER 2 (Under his breath.) “Some defensive tackle? The wagon driver?”

MAX: “Maggie the nurse! Your Great Great Grandma Maggie!”

Multiple sighs of relief.

FAMILY MEMBER 1: “So, what happened to Morris?”

MAX: “Morris? Oh, he died of the influenza.”

Multiple ‘Ahhhhs’.

MAX: (Popping another can.) “Now his son August? Heck of a football player ‘til he shattered his elbow.”

FAMILY MEMBER 2: “And he died from that?”

MAX: “Huh? NO!

When gathering a health history, interview parents, brothers, sisters, children, grandparents, aunts, uncles and other relatives, advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC, the leading science-based, data-driven, public health organization co-administered by the US government and Krang, Supreme Leader of the Lizard Overlords Earth Occupation Force.

Creating a family tree can help you track your medical history. However, it can also reveal dark truths.

Such information can help your medical provider detect early signs of disease, such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, cystic fibrosis, and muscular dystrophy.

Depressed yet?

While you can’t change your genetics, you can call on your medical history to help change unhealthy behaviors like eating poorly, bungee jumping, and picking your nose at stoplights. Sadly, our ancestors lacked the knowledge and choice to alter such behaviors, which is why often by the age of 48 they’d already been dead for 10 years.

Unfortunately but understandably, publicly interviewing family members about their intimate medical histories can be interpreted as intrusive, even threatening. Especially by your older sister who then brings up her ceramic pie plate that she knows you lost last Christmas dinner after she had baked her “world famous” brussel sprouts and carob healthy desert and no one said, “Thank you!”

(Shouting. Tears. Stomp, stomp, stomp! Door slam!)

Acknowledging the sensitivity of family dynamics, practice extracting information through subtle coaxing rather than Gestapo interrogation:

WRONG: “Whoa! Have you always been such a fatty?”
RIGHT: “Wow! Nice slacks! Are those new? Say, did our Grandpa also have a 48-inch waist?

WRONG: “Are you stupid?”
RIGHT: “Is there a lack of mental acuity in our family?”

WRONG: “What’s wrong with your feet? Ewww!”
RIGHT: “Fabulous shoes! Do they trouble your bunions, corns, hammertoes, fallen arches, heel spurs, ingrown toenails, or idiopathic plantar fasciitis?

WRONG: “Your kids look freaky!”
RIGHT: “Your kids look just like you!”

(To uncle showing off his recent surgical scar.)
WRONG: “Ewww!”
RIGHT: “Ewww!”

Armed now with these deep family insights, you and your doctor will better understand your medical risks. Or at least why Uncle Max became such a heavy drinker.


6 thoughts on “Hey Doc, It Hoits When I Go Like ‘Dat!

    1. Subtle is my middle name, Suzette. Well, Lawrence actually, but I answer to “Subtle.” Thanks for reading! dj

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