As the two most unpopular general election candidates in recent history face off, hard questions encircle both. Which candidate is beholden to the wrong type of Ukrainian oligarchs? Whose charitable foundation is murkier? But most importantly, is either actually healthy enough to serve as President?
After Hillary Clinton collapsed last week, Donald Trump blew any opportunity to portray himself as healthy by presenting unverified medical records through the TV personality Dr. Oz. Clinton has claimed a totally normal bout of pneumonia, with her surrogates purposefully collapsing at public events to show how normal it is, while Trump is, as ever, surrounded by an aura of chintziness and impropriety.
The candidates’ refusal to come clean about their medical records is a disgrace to democracy. But how can I tell either candidate to do something I haven’t done myself?
In the interest of setting the best example for our politicians, I am hereby releasing the journals of the physician who took care of me during a recent Hellenic Inner Ear Syndrome flareup. I went through a great deal of trouble procuring these records, as they had been mistakenly locked in the damp basement of a mental health facility and concealed by a flimsy layer of drywall, but I consider myself a leader to my readers, and I owe this openness to you. Reading this, you will see I am of perfect health to analyze the winners and losers of the week. Where’s your excuse, Donald and Hill?
From the notes of Dr. Walter Corbitt, Internist, Bellevue Hospital
March 7, 2016
New patient admitted today: Diggler, Carl A.
My first observation, which I made from outside the examination room, was that Patient Diggler exudes foul odor from all orifices, a stench I had somehow never encountered in my 27 years of practice. Despite this obvious sign of necrosis or worse, Patient Diggler was somehow in high spirits, chatting constantly and rather incoherently about “NatSec Moms” and “Beltway deficit doves.”
On his questionnaire, patient claimed to consume “less than one” alcoholic beverage per month, but a physical turned up multiple Michelob bottle caps stuck to his thighs and buttocks.
Patient is nonsmoker, but insists he is sexually active. This is dubious at best.
He is, if he is to be believed, a father to “one round son” Colby.
Patient provided a list of preexisting conditions and prescription medication that was, simply, too verbose to review during our brief appointment. Skimming Mr. Diggler’s multipage testimony, several of his stated afflictions seemed either implausible for a middle aged caucasian male living in this century or altogether fictitious.
I read to Patient an excerpt from his stated list of disorders: “Hellenic Inner Ear, Rubik’s Vertebrae, Crohn’s Barfing, Siamese Appendix, Osmotic Bladder, Habsburg Diarrhea, Slush Blood, Anatolian Carpal Bone Stew Syndrome,” &c. To my surprise, at each item he clucked his tongue or shook his head with a slight smile, saying “oh yeah” or “thanks dad.” More disturbing, Patient seemed proud of suffering from these debilitating, Godawful conditions.
“Sometimes disabilities can be superpowers,” Patient Diggler stated, then described a recent drug overdose involving his attorney a Mr. Barbaro, my erstwhile colleague Dr. Ben Carson, and canine dramamine. I would have suspected Baron Munchausen syndrome had my examination not turned up unambiguous signs of serious ailments such as early onset dementia, hyperhidrosis, and Father’s Cancer.
I administered dilaudid — not for pain, but to upend ceaseless palaver — then returned to my office to review certain medical texts I had not touched since taking an elective class on obscure Medieval afflictions in medical school. Canceling the rest of my appointments that afternoon, I consulted the dusty tomes well into the night, cross-checking each of Patient Diggler’s afflictions against the antiquated texts. To my genuine surprise, every single one of Patient Diggler’s conditions turned out to be real, even the ones that medical science had thought perished when certain branches of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy went extinct.
Too tired to return home, I slept in my office that night and in my slumber was troubled by nightmares of which I have little recollection.
March 8, 2016
Patient Diggler grabbed my collar during a routine vital signs check. His breath gave every indication of fecal reflux. The patient screamed maniacally about “family court tyrants” and asked if I had a son. Two orderlies were required to restrain the patient before a shot of lorazepam could be administered.
Later in the day, both orderlies who assisted in subduing Patient Diggler complained of a peculiar black rash that had abruptly appeared on their hands and necks. Within an hour their arms, chest, and back were covered with the rash, and almond-sized yellow boils emerged wherever the skin was black. Both orderlies were sent to a containment ward at NewYork-Presbytarian so as not to infect the patients here.
March 10, 2016
Patient Diggler has not been in the hospital for even a week, but I already feel as though this is a purgatory from which I will never escape. We have never before witnessed the symptoms he displays; his spine is rounded at the bottom like that of a whale’s. He constantly secretes revolting oils and calcium deposits. He is flammable. He should not be alive.
Yet against all reason Patient Diggler is perfectly chipper. All throughout the day, as our team carefully takes his fluids and chips off his crusts for laboratory analysis, he merrily clacks away on his Blackberry. He claims to be communicating with “highly-placed Beltway insiders,” but it appears he spends 95% of his time on Twitter and Tinder. X-rays prove his spine is no better structured than a bundle of sticks. By all reason, he should be stricken with total paralysis and constant pain. Yet he is upbeat. He shows the staff Tweets of his “trolls,” asking him to laugh along at the apparent hundreds of strangers who harass him. He flirts with the female staffers, a tendency that has caused some of my best nurses to suffer something resembling a panic attack. Most unusual.
Tonight, I left the hospital for the first time since inducting Patient Diggler. Walking down the street I found myself mumbling “fix the deficit” to no one in particular. I felt an urge not to go home and sleep but to go to Harlem, where, on 110th street, I entered an antique store out of impulses I cannot fully describe. There, I was attracted to a certain curiosity. A carved wooden mask, purportedly of Kenyan origin, perfectly hideous and mainly distinguished by a dangling red strip protruding from the forehead. I purchased the mask then returned to my office, where I propped it up on a table facing my desk. I spent the rest of the night searching the ancient medical texts, trying to uncover the secret to Patient Diggler’s diseases.
March 11, 2016
On a hunch I asked our senior psychologist to examine Patient Diggler. Perhaps his conditions — which I am still feverishly researching in the hospital’s collection of ancient medical texts — are somehow psychosomatic.
One hour after the commencement of their appointment our psychologist, Dr. Carl Stanford, emerged from his office with a severe case of logorrhea, babbling like a madman about “both sides” needing “radical moderates who will roll up their sleeves and tackle the deficit.” When asked about the deficit Dr. Stanford’s eyes grew wide as teas saucers, and he fell into a state of catatonia, in which we would not communicate except to hiss “Scoop Jackson Republican.” I sedated Dr. Stanford then locked his written notes of Patient Diggler’s examination in the hospital safe, to be burned later.
Later this afternoon, Patient Diggler’s son “Colby” visited. My God… I have never seen a perfectly spherical boy before. His shape… it practically defies my understanding of Euclidian space. I resisted the urge to examine this freakishly rotund child, though I observed him interact with his father. He appeared to be not only immune to any of Patient Diggler’s communicable diseases, but utterly unperturbed by them. “Colby” spent the entirety of his visit playing video games on his phone while Patient Diggler lectured him about “fixing the trade gap” and discussed plans for his quinceañera. All in all, there is nothing clinically strange about Patient Diggler’s relationship with his son. Yet gazing at this round boy I felt a weird urge to… to… put him in a catapult of some sort.
That night I returned home for the first time since Patient Diggler arrived hoping to get some actual rest. In my slumber I was troubled by a vivid dream. I awoke screaming at 4 AM but had the presence of mind to record my recollections of the nightmare. For the sake of completeness, here is that record:
I AM RUNNING THROUGH a thick forest. Branches snap beneath my feet. The moon is full and there but not there. I reach a perfectly circular lake in the center of the forest. I look up and there is some small celestial body crossing in front of the moon, like an asteroid in transit. The lakewater is black and oily. The reflection of the full moon appears in it, then the reflection of the asteroid in the center of the moon. Then… the reflection it… BLINKS?? A crescent appears beneath it–a mouth A smiling mouth! The crescent opens and I hear a deep voice that echoes throughout the forest: “SYRIA NEEDS ITS OWN SIMPSON-BOWLES.” I open my mouth and voiceless scream crawls out. There is a glint, as steel, that breaks the surface of the lake. A knife–or, more like, a scorpion’s tail– emerges and enters my forehead as I am
March 12, 2016
I overslept my alarm and awoke to a few dozen frenzied text messages from my staff.
I rushed to the hospital, unable to process that the two orderlies who had manhandled Patient Diggler had died of their rashes.
Although the rest of the facility was fine, our ward was in chaos. The lights, where they had not exploded, were flickering. Every cabinet and machine had been torn to shreds. The elevators had all gotten jammed on our floor, and from each stuck car emanated the same two awful voices moaning, “Help me” and “Save yourself.”
My head nurse had clawed her eyes out, and rivers of blood were streaming down her face when she greeted me in an perfectly affectless voice:
“N’yar gasha. N’yar Jim Webb.”
Those meaningless words, over and over again. The only sign of the rest of the nursing staff was their uniforms, crumpled on the floor along with their nametags and cell phones and keys.
All around the ward, the patients, even ones who had been comatose or invalids for months, were crawling like insects. I pushed my way through them to the office of my colleague, Dr. Robert Huston. I was about to open the door when I thought better of it and stood to the side, leaning in for a quick knock.
A shotgun blast splintered the door. I yelled “It’s Corbitt! Don’t shoot! Christ!” I peeked my head in and saw Dr. Huston barricaded behind his desk, his shotgun still aimed at the door. He was covered in what seemed to be a green ichor.
I crawled past his office then sprinted to the room where Patient Diggler was staying. The stench was overpowering, yet I opened the door, and there was Diggler, trapped somehow in the slats of his bed, one foot in stuck in a medical waste bucket, his dressing gown covered in vomitus and half ridden up into his buttocks.
“Ah, Doctor Corbitt, I presume,” he said in that unnerving voice. “It seems the real loser of this week is your skimpy dressing gowns that leave little to the imagination.”
No… no… this was too much for my terrestrial brain to handle. I am not proud of this, but I must confess that I remember yelling “save yourself!” to my colleagues and the other patients as I ran to my office and locked myself in. The chthonic texts I had studied day and night to unlock the key to Patient Diggler’s illnesses… they were gone, as were my cyanide capsules. My office had been totally denuded except… except for that mask… how it stares!
There you have it, Digheads. A 100% clean bill of health. That wasn’t so hard, was it, Madam Clinton and Mister Trump? If Ronald Reagan, John McCain, and Carl Diggler can release their medical records, you can too. The American people deserve nothing less.
Carl “The Dig” Diggler has covered national politics for 30 years and is the host of the Digcast, a weekly podcast on iTunes and Soundcloud. Got a question for the Dig? E-mail him at [email protected] or Tweet to @carl_diggler.