A month or two ago, I went in and had my cholesterol checked. This was my first time - but I figured, I'm getting to that age, so I'd better start doing routine oil checks on the body.
I was actually nervous as hell, and not only because the doctor is not always my friend. Let's face it, my dietary habits are pretty atrocious. (Though I do try a bit harder these days to consume something approaching the recommended daily allowance of 3 hectoliters of water. I'm not sure if it's healthier. I am sure that I can never venture too far from a toilet anymore.)
Anyway, the doctor signed me up for a blood test, and I donated some of my personal blood supply to a nice phlebotomist who had discovered on the cruise she just returned from that Americans eat pancakes for breakfast, and isn't that just weird? (What the hell do you Brits do with pancakes? I see them in the store, so I know you're eating them).
A week later, I called in for my results.
Me: Hello, can you give me the results of my test?
Doctor's Office Lady: Oh sure. The doctor told me to tell you everything's ok.
Me: Well that's a relief. But I was hoping for something a little more specific. Could you give me the actual results?
DOL: Eh? People don't normally want those...
Me: Call me idiosyncratic. But I'll be happier to know the actual numbers.
DOL proceeded to read off my white blood cell count, my platelets count, my sodium levels, my potassium levels, even my urea levels (what the heck is that doing in there, anyway? OK, so I provided my father no end of disappointment by not going to medical school, but I thought that was generally supposed to be part of another bodily fluid). She read out some other levels which I have no idea how to translate. But guess what she did NOT read out?
Me: Um. Thanks. But I came in for a cholesterol test. Can you tell me what those results are?
DOL: Sir, I don't have any cholesterol readings for you. Are you sure that's the test the doctor ordered?
Me: Yeah. Pretty sure. Not hard to mix up "cholesterol" is it?
She was flustered, but promised she'd check into it and call me back. Within the hour, my phone rang, and DOL was tripping over herself to explain that she hadn't read the other sheet in my results or handed it to the doctor before. No biggie, but I was worried again about what the results might be.
DOL: Oh! Sorry. 4.7
Hmm. That's not what I expected. If you've had one of these, you know that the results are normally in the hundreds (but hopefully less than 200). 4.7 either meant I was in incredibly good shape, or there was something wrong.
Me: Um. Can you break that down for me? 4.7 you say?
She proceeded to provide my LDL reading, HDL reading, and triglycerides. Sure enough it adds up to 4.7.
Turns out, the UK uses a a totally different scale. Instead of measuring mg/deciliter (which is an odd system anyway), they measure it in millimoles per liter. Millimoles. I haven't heard the term "mole" in this context since college univerisy. (But I still remember Avagadro's number. And Dawn Fraser, my Chemistry 101 TA.) DOL told me it wasn't the same as the American scale, but I still didn't know what to make of these numbers.
DOL: The doctor says that's "ideal"
Turns out, less than 5.0 is the target. The doctor even said I could stand to raise my HDLs a bit.
I came home and told my bride (who has had borderline high blood pressure and other issues since she was like 8 years old).
Me: The doctor said my cholesterol is "ideal."
Me: That's his word. Not mine. "Ideal."
Bride: You make me physically ill.
Me: You know what this means, don't you?
Bride: That you're never going to shutup about this?
Bride: What then?
Me: More bacon!