It’s not often I find a portion of someone’s 48-year-old medical records lying in the yard, but as legendary singer Sister Rosetta told us, there are strange things happening every day.
I was mowing the grass, finding the noise and walking a nice distraction. I don’t have much else to do but yard-work when my essential duties are complete, and it justifies a cold beer when the chores are done.
I was trying to keep a straight line, daydreaming, pondering the odd notion that people can now go in the liquor store with a mask on and no one thinks they are robbing the place, when I noticed what appeared to be a small piece of paper lying in the grass.
Normally, I would just run over something like that rather than go to the trouble of stopping the mower, just like I don’t slow down for cans, medium-sized rocks or slow cats. (That’s a joke, cat lovers. Feral Gerald keeps our neighborhood varmints in check.)
I stopped and picked it up. It was a weathered, 3-by-5 card, notched at the bottom for an old-school Rolodex. At the top was a man’s name and what followed was a summary of his personal and medical information.
This fellow’s name was Ted, and in 1972 — that’s when this card was dated — he was 68 years old.
I’m not going to give his full name here because I don’t know how retroactive those HIPAA medical privacy regulations are, and I certainly don’t want to be in federal prison until we get a vaccine. Wait, I mean I don’t ever want to be in federal prison.
The card has Ted’s Social Security number on it. Now if I were a criminal instead of a grass-mowing, column-writing, fairly nice guy, I could have used that Social Security number in an attempt to steal Ted’s identity.
“Hello, Social Security Administration? This is Ted. Here’s my number. I haven’t received a check in 40 years and I want a bunch right now.”
“Sir, our records show you are 116 years old. Is this correct?”
“That’s ageist! Send me my checks!”
Ted’s medical condition was listed as chronic brain syndrome, which The Free Dictionary online (I just used the first source that popped up in a search) describes thusly: “Post-concussion syndrome (PCS) is a common but controversial disorder that presents with a variety of symptoms including — but not limited to — headache, dizziness, fatigue, and personality changes.”
So, Ted and I shared a history of concussions. A couple of mine have stemmed from running full speed into a goalpost on a junior-high football field and falling 15 feet into an unfinished basement during a party with migrant farmworkers.
The card gave no indication of the source of Ted’s concussion, but it did show his place of birth, his address at the time (a nice single-story house in Asheville when I Google Street Viewed it) and the name of his wife, listed as his “responsible person.”
One of the most intriguing questions this card filled with information about Ted and his bruised brain did not answer is, how in the Sam Hill did it wind up in my yard 48 years later?
There are no hospitals or doctors’ offices nearby. If Ted’s doctor was making a house call in Asheville in 1972 and he dropped his black bag and his paperwork scattered in the yard, it took that particular card filled with Ted’s personal information 48 years to blow 35 miles down the mountain.
Internet searches turned up no more information about Ted. It appears Ted’s medical-card discovery will remain a mystery.
I’m looking forward to mowing the yard again. Who knows what may turn up? Sister Rosetta assured us there are strange things happening every day. I believe her.