I have a pretty crazy story to share.
This all started in our clinic almost 12 months ago, exactly. It was the Thursday before Elvis’ Birthday (January 8th), and we had Elvis posters with blacklights in all the rooms. The one in Room 3 was particularly special (below). Michael S. was ready to be seen. He was referred for palpitations/racing heart at night.
Mike was a 59 y/o who, self-admittedly, had not kept up with his health. 5’8 and 232 lbs. He was a non-smoker, but his HgA1C was now up to 6.2% (prediabetes 5.7-6.4%
), his BP was 142/91 (on recheck, 5 minutes later), and his right knee was hurting. He wondered if it was from the 80-ish extra pounds he was carrying. When I was listening to his lungs I saw a tattoo, in purple ink, on his left scapula (shoulder blade) that said 04-29-2032.
I’d seen many tattoos of dates that had passed, but never one in the future. I thought about it on the ride home that night, and honestly for many other times after.
Hopeful retirement date? A parent’s 100th birthday? No idea
Fast forward 6 months. Palpitations are only getting worse, along with his snoring – he wants to talk about beta blockers. BP on recheck was 164/93. HgA1c 7.4%.
This time, when I was listening to the lungs, the tattoo was gone, until I pulled out the black light (yes, I was very curious). Now, it was 10-13-2029! Same color purple. I could see ZERO evidence of the prior tattoo and, just between us, I focused in hard while I was auscultating. How did they turn the 4 into a 0?
Now, I was even more confused. I had asked many friends over the past 6 months if they would have any idea why a tattoo of a future date. People wondered if it was not a date?
Back to the visit.
I just lit into him. We talked about his declining health, his upcoming retirement, his desire to be active and travel. “I’m worried for you,” I shared. “Really concerned about your course.”
His wife, Paula, asked if he could come back in 3 months – to keep him accountable. Of course.
3 months was last Tuesday.
Well, turns out it’s amazing what someone can do in 13 weeks.
His wife, Paula, didn’t even give him a chance to talk.
“Will you check his HgA1c today?
He has really made a lot of changes. I think he was scared leaving here last time. He went whole hog. We walk 20 minutes every morning and when he gets back home from work. He stopped sweets. He had cake at our granddaughter’s birthday party last weekend but that’s pretty much been it. We stopped eating out as much and… and I just think he’s doing great.”
She takes a breath.
“What was his blood pressure?”
Mike’s sitting on the exam table with a half-smile, proud and shirtless; he’s down 14 pounds. He’s gently swinging his legs letting his counselor finish her opening statement.
“Yeah, his heart isn’t racing really at all and I think his snoring has stopped. I haven’t heard him recently.”
Nice work, my man.
At this point, I just remember that tattoo that freaks me out and I don’t want to look because what the heck is it going to say now? I pull out the black light.
Ok, I can’t take it anymore.
“Mike, I’ve got to ask you about this tattoo. Why, and how, do you keep changing the numbers?”
Paula said it in unison and hopped up to look over his left shoulder where I was holding the light.
She was a little upset with him at first, but she quickly realized he had no idea.
“You got me doc, I have no idea what you’re talkin’ about”. He asked for a mirror.
Well, after spending time on PUBMED, Up To Date, and a few other websites I found a case report from 1977 out of Guadalupe. A clinic there had lost power (Hurricane Dorothy) and resorted to using black lights for 18 days. They reported seeing the same purple dates but there was no mention of them changing (no follow-up).
I believe we’re just the first to report that they change.
We can move our Expiration Dates forward or we can move them back.
It’s almost entirely up to us, and no one can do it for us.
However, WWAD is going to do every single thing in our power to be with you in 2020 as you move your date back, way back.
Dr. Frank Stroebel, a man I deeply respected and admired, gave me the inspiration for today’s newsletter at his funeral. Story for another time. ds