What My High Potassium Count Taught Me About What My Clients Go Through Every Day


This post was written by Partner, Jason P. Howie.


Don’t you love a cryptic title? Doesn’t it make you want to read more?

Anyhow, my doctor retired. Too bad. I really liked him. When he took my blood pressure, we talked about the world’s problems (and solved them). Nothing was off-limits. Our collective wisdom led to a road of worldwide peace and prosperity. But all good things have to come to an end.

I was able to get a new doctor.

So far, so good.

I met her at my scheduled first appointment. We had a talk.

My annual physical was about due anyway. So she ordered the usual slew of blood tests.

That meant I had to go to the local lab. Ugh. Show up at whatever time and wait however long, surrounded by sick people.

But then my partner, Amy Johnson, told me that her local lab allowed patients to book online. Hip hip, hooray. Painless booking process.

Yes, the world was looking up.  I couldn’t wait for the staff to tell me, “Gee, Mr. Howie. We got your results here, and they are better than any 35-year-old we have seen.”   I mean, at this point, I’m feeling pretty fantastic.

I completed my 12-hour fast before the lab appointment. Word to the wise: coffee is not water. And you can only have water.

Which means that by 10:45 AM, it had been over 12 hours since my last coffee.

Torpedoes be damned. Somehow, someway, I stayed awake. Even showed up 10 minutes early. Had my blood drawn. Didn’t cry. Got a red sucker for being so good.

Remember. This was on a mid-Wednesday. I had booked my first regular appointment with my doctor a month out. I was sure that I would not hear anything until my appointment.

Now I am no supply-chain expert. But it seems to me that the earliest that somebody could possibly analyze my blood sample would be on Thursday. And then the report would have to go to my doctor at the earliest, Thursday and the earliest it would be read would be Friday.

But it didn’t make any difference. I was sure that I was fine. The doctor and I would wait to pop the metaphoric champagne bottle at my appointment.

And that’s where things went bad

I gave the doctor’s office my cell number. I don’t have a landline [he said,  smugly]. My phone rang on Friday from an “unknown caller.”

Robocall, I was sure.

The same thing happened 15 minutes later.

I read a long time ago that the worst thing you can do with the Robocall is actually answering the phone. If you don’t pick up, you have half a chance of being struck off the Robocall list.

I didn’t pick up.

Fast forward to 4:30 PM Friday. I looked at my phone. Hmmm.  A voicemail message. That’s a little odd.

As innocently as a babe in the woods, I retrieved my voicemail message.  Did I say message? There were two of them.

“Mr. Howie, this is Dr. [name withheld]. We got your blood tests back. Can you call my office please?”


Second message. “Mr. Howie this is your doctor going back. Can you please call my office to discuss your blood tests?”

The messages were 20 minutes apart.

Gulp. Gulp.

I immediately called back. Closed for the day. It’s Friday.

Cue the cold sweat. That’s it. My doctor called. Not the receptionist. Not the nurse. The doctor. Twice.  Obviously, I am dying.

I mean, exactly how high does my blood sugar have to be in order to get two calls. Or maybe it’s cholesterol. I no longer have blood; just sludge.

So I did what all good spouses do. I went home and chewed my wife’s head off. How could I reasonably be expected to pick up the pizza when I am about to die any minute from now.

But I remember in my first meeting with the doctor something about a Saturday morning walk-in clinic to deal with acute issues.

Well, dammit, this is acute. I mean, if I didn’t test for a heart attack, I might be giving myself one anyway. I swear, my chest is tightening. Is that normal? How about my eyes? I am sure that my pupils are diluted.

According to the doctor’s website, the office opened Saturday at 9 AM. So I got there at 7:55 AM, just in case some other patient thought they were sicker than me. I mean, no chance anyway. I am sure they will strap me to a gurney the minute they see me. But just in case, I was going to be first in line.

The results

I sat outside the office door. If I could have, I would have blocked the entrance. But I did maintain some dignity.

The door opened promptly at 9 AM, just before I was ready to kick it in.

I summoned my courage and walked up to the receptionist to receive my death warrant.

“Oh, hi, Mr. Howie. We got your test results, and your potassium levels are elevated. That’s usually due to a ruptured blood cell when they draw your blood. We will send in a new requisition and ask them not to clench your fist when they take your blood. Do you think you can go this week? Thank you, and have a great weekend.”

What? That’s it?

Of course, I immediately looked up “elevated potassium levels” on the Mayo Clinic website. She was right.

16- hours of worry for nothing.

I mean, intuitively, I didn’t think anything was wrong because I never felt any other symptoms for anything. But that didn’t stop my mind from racing. It didn’t stop the sleepless night. It didn’t stop the,…., fear.

In other words, all of the reasonable explanations in the world could not cure the pit in my stomach.

The funny thing was that I felt completely relieved, even though I didn’t know what the end result would be.

But that wasn’t the point.

I am good to go with a kind word, a little patience, and a little reassurance.

Even if I was testing for something negative, the point is that I was being looked after.

And that’s all my clients look for. And that’s what we always strive to do. Look after you. 

I will remember this lesson.

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