Archive for November 2007

Publication Schedule

November 29, 2007


         First of all, I want to thank all you folks for checking in on my new blog.  I’ve heard from people all over the country, and I’m learning all sorts of new things.  Only six weeks on board, and I’ve already got a bunch of new friends.

        Given just last month I didn’t know a blog roll from an egg roll,  I didn’t know what to expect, and everyone has been most gracious.  Folks like Ms. Ruby and the English professor took me by the hand, and waltzed me right on into cyberspace, and I appreciate it.

        Several folks have asked me how to predict when new posts will be published.  Well, up till now, I’d just been typing as fast as my two fingers would go and hadn’t thought much about it, so I asked my agent what I ought to do.  He wasn’t surprised, ’cause he knew when  I took typing at Harnett High I used to sneak out a ground level window at the back of the class and go to Popeye Clay’s store to eat nabs and play music, and only got a C+ in typing ’cause of it.  He said he wanted me to type up two stories a week, to post mostly on  Monday and Friday, so readers could have some idea of a schedule and a chance to respond. 

        I’d better do what he says.  Do y’all know how hard it is to keep an agent?  My last one let me go because she wanted  romantic fiction with a chick-litty voice.  I wasn’t sure what that was, but as we say in bluegrass, I was pretty sure I wasn’t cutting the gig. 

        The English Professor caught up with me too.  He sent a colleague from Tobacco Triangle U. to interview my senior English teacher over at Harnett Nursing home.  When she told ’em about how I purposely mispronounced that word in the “Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner” as sweet “Likker” to win twenty-five bucks off Strober K. (the bass player at the time) I thought he was gonna fire me before we even got going good.  I think the only thing that saved the day was when he found out I ended up with an “A” in senior English anyway after I was able to finagle an interview with Carl Sandburg.

        On top of all that, the blog was moving so fast that the president of the Mississippi chapter of the Neuse River fan club was afraid I wasn’t gonna make my gig there, and he thought I ought to take my Marfar to dinner and follow the advice of my agent.

       Well, as Jerry Clower says, it must be scripture, so me and Ms. Marfar took the night off to go the Burnette’s Bee Hive and take in a Queen Bee basket- “A Queen Bee for a Queen,” I said.

         So, the next post should be off the press come Monday morning.  I plan on it being an in-depth study of bluegrass speak, so as all our non bluegrass folks on the web can interpret our language.  Talk to you then. 

Dr. B



Christmas at The Doctor’s Office

November 28, 2007

        If it were up to men alone to take care of things, life in general would be a dull affair.  Same way in bluegrass music.  I like a female voice in the mix, and our world wouldn’t sound or look as good without the likes of Alison Krauss and Rhonda Vincent.  And without my Mafar it wouldn’t be worth the trip across town to go home at night.

        If most men are like me, a self-described testosterone poisoned dumb animal pack mule/work horse, when the 25th of December rolls around everybody would just say, “Hey guys, is it Christmas?  We’d better send somebody out to the store!”  As it is, though, our office, like the house, is always ready for the season. 

        Of course, a doctor’s office is mostly about taking care of sick people, so it ain’t like home.  Still, when you work with twelve women, you can see their influence.  Some of my folks, like Lynn O’Carroll, Myrd, and Paig have been around for a couple decades.  (We signed Myrd in the newborn nursery- and she was a patient!)  Others, like Marcie Presto, are brand new.  They’re all easy to work with, though, at least as long as you let them take care the office decor.

        First of all, I want to tell you I have all respect for these ladies, and when they speak, I listen.  It’s not only that I have learned about new colors such as taupe, fuchsia or chartreuse (no tans and greens in that place) but also I’ve discovered all sorts of new reading material.  You know you are working around a group of women when the lead article in the purple room (their term for the staff bathroom – don’t know where it came from) at Easter reads “Ten Lovable Bunny Crafts.”  I can’t make too much fun though, ’cause I never did understand why the bathroom at the barber shop has a lady on the wall in a skimpy swim suit showing off wrenches and working on a car to sell tools- looks like she’d get hurt not wearing any more than that.   And while I’m thinking of it, I should add a serious note- there are very few women’s health care issues on which my co-workers can not offer some valuable insight.  Between what I learned in books, and consultation with them and Dr. Lucas, I can almost always make a good decision in this area of medicine. 

     But, as far as office decoration, I just ain’t in their league.  They put up a big poster years ago with Polaroids of all the kids in the practice, and we never have taken a single one down.  My boy is now married, but smiles at me every day with that same toothy grin like time has stood still just for us.

         Thanksgiving will always see cardboard turkeys from the middle school kids, and all the employees get a cake on their birthday. (I opt out for pintos and cornbread.) In general, it is a home-like atmosphere.

        They do it up right this time of year, though.  After all these years around all these women, I have learned.  Christmas is a biggy.  

        The first sign of the impending holiday is a cloth snowman who shows up as a cover on the toilet lid in the purple room. (You can’t miss him- the seat is always down.)  His reemergence is so reliable I have never forgotten to do my shopping.  As much as I hate to shop, his appearance is my annual reminder of my duty.  The old boy is looking a bit ragged- he at least twenty- about 140 in people years, and his middle section is tinged a tad brown around the edges.  Sort of a dingy look like one of those big snow balls piled up at the edge of the Walmarks parking lot a few days after the plow comes through.  I dubbed him the “abdominal snowman” for a while, but they got irritated with me, so I quit. 

        Our tree is a droopy Charlie Brown thing, but Lord help you if you make fun of it.  They explained to me it wouldn’t be fitting to try to outdo anybody, and not proper to spend too much time or effort- might send the wrong message.  It was fine by me.  I wasn’t exactly sure what the message was, but I have learned  just ’cause I can’t decode all their encrypted language doesn’t mean I should ignore it’s existence.

        Our most enduring tradition has to be our Christmas ceramics, though.  By any artistic standard they are… well, let’s just say they come from the heart.  In one sense, I have to agree.  The poor fellow who made them meant well, but honestly, those angels with their halos on crooked and the glue dripping down their cheeks- they look like they are crying- what kinda Christmas cheer is that?

       I’d protest to Paig every year.  “Gee, Paig.  I know Billy Bee made ’em, but for heavens’ sake.  Do we have to put them out?  That glue- they really are rough style, you know.”

        Paig would wipe them off with a dust rag, and place them in their appointed position, just the same as the year before.  “Now Dr. Bibey, we can’t go hurt Billy Bee’s feelings- he worked hard on these.”  She kept busy, and never looked me in the eye, but I knew from her stern tone not to protest any further.

        Of course, I always gave in.

        Now we are coming up on Christmas again.  Poor Billy Bee died of pneumonia last winter.  He put up a good fight.  We fought the battle not only with his country docs, but pulmonologisits and intensivists- it just wasn’t to be.  Sometimes you grow weary of losing patients, and it sure can set you to thinking about what’s really important around Christmas.

        I went to the purple room just the other day, and there was the abdominal snowman- that time of year again.  Paig set out the Charlie Brown tree, and I told Lynn O’Carroll and Myrd to go find Billy’s ceramics and dust ’em off.  You’d have to work at a doctor’s office, or perhaps most women would understand intuitively, but it just wouldn’t be Christmas without those  crooked halo glue dripping angels around.  Ole Billy worked hard on them. 

        When I left Tuesday, Paig was setting ’em all out in their appointed places to see us through another year.

 Dr. B

The Real Dr. Bibey

November 28, 2007

        This web thing is a true learning experience.  I heard today from a fellow who was an anthropositor.  I’m not exactly sure what all that is, but I think it is a sub-specialty of ethnomusicology, and involves archaeological digs to study ancient music traditions.  (Lord, I wonder what they’ll think when they dig up the County some day.)  He made a very astute edit, and I promptly corrected my error. 

        In his note, he had some question, as others have in the past, about whether Tommy Bibey was real, and wasn’t sure they would print up my driver’s licence that way.  I went back and looked, and sure enough it says Tommy Bibey.  Course, around here we have some folks that just go by their initials- one fellow has been B.G.P., or B.G. for short, for as long as I can remember.  One time I saw his driver’s licence, and that’s what it said, B.G.P.  He is a heck of a player, too. 

        Now not believing in Tommy Bibey- I don’t know what to think of that ’cause except for adding Doctor to the name that’s what it always has been.  (Even back then they all said I would be a doctor.) 

        Why, not believing in myself, Dr.Tommy Bibey, would be to give up on dreams and hope.  It’d be like my heart not believing I can help every one of my patients, even when reality is smacking me in the face to say it ain’t true.  Shoot, my soul would have to quit believing that if I practice hard I can eventually play the mandolin like Darrell, even though my brain knows it to be impossible.

        I remember that fellow who wrote in to the New York Times and dissed Santa Clause, and well…..    O.K., I agree it ain’t that big an issue, but I just gotta believe in Tommy Bibey, and so do my patients.  Heck, the next miracle might be just around the corner, for all we know.

            I heard from my agent, and he has already corrected my dangling participles on the print copy.  Somehow he stays one step ahead of me, but I think he is still exasperated.

Dr. B

County Star Theatre

November 27, 2007

        It was a big night in the County.  We’re gonna renovate the old County Star theatre, and bring live shows to Harnett County for the first time in many years.  We ain’t had anybody perform live there since Cowboy singing star Fred Kirkly rode his little paint pony out on the stage, and Moose went and hit her in the hindquarters with a pea shooter.  Well, Calico she rared back and threw Fred off into the orchestra pit and he dislocated his shoulder, and ole Doc Robin and my Dad had to yank it back in the socket.  Now that was a show. 

        Most of the folks there tonight were too young to remember all that, and me and Moose didn’t tell.  The McCurry brothers put on a spontaneous acappella singing, and did it without their guitars.  It was extra good.

        Yep, there gonna be some good bands brought into town when it’s done.  I looked at all the drawings and plans, and they are first rate.  Our guitar man at church, Stan “Guitar Man” Antonio is heading up the architecture.  Not only did he go to school and study all about Art Deco and things like that, but he is a first rate guitar picker to boot, so I can guarantee it will be a 100% authentic old time music hall by the time he’s done with it. When we get finished with the renovation, I’ll post a heads up and invite you to a show.

Dr. B


Sperling W. Alter, M.D.

November 27, 2007

         I got a an e-mail today from a fellow who wants to study medicine and bluegrass music.  His name was Sperling Alter, M.D. and he is from Cambridge England, specifically some little hamlet called Grinton.

        Can you imagine that?  As it turns out, he was already scheduled for a year long physician exchange program at Sandhills University, and since I went to school there, they referred him over to me.  Now this ain’t too surprising, ’cause the school always calls us when they cater BBQ and need a bluegrass band.  I’m sure they didn’t even have another solid lead other than Dr. Bibey so we always get the gigs. 

        When Alter called, it was apparent he had done his homework on me, as he had already read the blog.  He said over in England there was some question as to exactly who Dr. Bibey was, or if he was even real.

         I remembered my English teacher in the 11th grade.  On the very first day of class, she asked, “Tommy, who are you?”

        As far as I was concerned, it was still summer, so I wasn’t ready to crank up on thinking yet.  I still had baseball on my mind.  

        I was confused.  Why would a woman ask me that?  She knew who I was.  “Well, Ms. Rogers, I’m Tommy Bibey.  You know that.  How come would you ask me such as that?”

        “No, Tommy, I mean who are you really?”

        “Why, I’m Tommy Bibey.  I live over on Peach Street.”  Now I was really mixed up.  I looked around the class to gather support.  “All y’all know me- I’m Tommy Bibey.  What the heck is she asking me that for?”  They seemed to agree.

        The old English teacher smiled.  “This year, Tommy, I want you to learn one thing- I want you to learn who you are.

        So when Sperling Alter asked me if I was real or not, this time I was ready.  I looked in my wallet and read my driver’s license to him.  “Tommy Bibey, Peach Street.  Live two doors down from where I grew up.  Ain’t changed a bit, ‘cept now I’m a Doctor.”

        As it turns out, though, this may prove to be a very fortuitous circumstance.  Turns out Alter is a writer, and wants to learn all about bluegrass music in the Carolinas.  I believe me and Sperl might form us a partnership.  I know ’bout bluegrass music, and have always liked books, and he is a professional writer. 

        Alter told me if I kept dangling all my participles out in the wind like what I was doing, and running on like all that, I’d never get anything published.  I’ve heard that before, both from English teacher friends and my exasperated agent, so I’d better listen.  It’s like Jerry Clower used to say- if you hear it twice it’s scripture.  

        And Tommy Bibey is for real- I just checked my driver’s license.  It’s me, alright.

Dr. B 




Fiction and Truth

November 27, 2007

          As far as I know, my blog is the only physician bluegrass fiction writer’s weblog on the net.  If there is another, I hope folks will let me know. 

        I recently learned there is a English Professor bluegrass blog out there, and I reckon it might be the only one of those too.  Only difference is instead of tall tales, he is writing about the facts.

        I haven’t known anybody from above the Mason Dixon Line to have as much interest in the South since Sherman cruised through Atlanta a few years back.  Lord have mercy, an English Professor of all people, in an extensive study of the Sandhills indigenous population, has stumbled upon the bluegrass circle of Dr. Bibey, Moose Dooley, Darrell, and the rest of the gang.  I think he found us through my cousin from Pecan Grove, N.C. (Mama’s side of the family six times removed.)

         I don’t know exactly what sparked all this- maybe he is doing a research paper or something, but I checked out his blog, and it is for real.  As a matter of fact, I don’t think any college English professor has ever figured out as much about our music as this man.  His blog can be accessed at Ted Lehmann’s Bluegrass, Books, and Brainstorms, and I found it very authentic. 

        I believe he is a Professor too.  I diagrammed out some of his sentences and as opposed to country doctor fractured syntax and garbled grammar, they are spot on, as best I can tell.

        Chech him out on my blogroll.  His is the finest English Professor Bluegrass Blog in the history of the free world.

Dr. B

Moose goes to Merle Fest

November 26, 2007

        One day the Moose called, and said Neuse River needed to take a road trip.  He had heard through the bluegrass grapevine (this was before the days of the Internet) of a new festival way up in the mountains.  He thought it had potential, and the band needed to go.  It was in Wilkesboro, and was called the Watson Festival.  Moose was right- it was to be a big one, as it morphed into the now famous Merle Fest.

       Me and Moose, Rossie Douglas, and Jimmy Coltrane all loaded up the Neuse River converted school bus and headed west.

        We didn’t even have reservations.  We landed in the lobby of the only hotel in town at the time, instruments in tow.  Merle Fest was still a small affair in those days.  The lady checking us in spotted our instruments.

        “Welcome to Wilkesboro.  Are you boys artists?”

        “Howdy, ma’am.  My name is Dr. Tommy Bibey.  Yes ma’am, we are artists- we heard about the festival and….”

        Moose elbowed me, and motioned for me to move aside.  He saw an opportunity not to be overlooked.  “Yes, Ma’am.  We are.”  He produced a business card and flipped it on the counter.  “Neuse River- Harnett County.  We need to pick up our artist’s badges, if we could.  Also, if you would please show us to our rooms.  We’re opening for Peter Rowan at seven, and need to warm up.  I apologize for our tardiness- Dr. Bibey there ain’t much of a driver.”

        The woman went back into the adjacent office, and began to sift through some papers.  She looked flustered, and made a few calls.

        “GG, (Good Grief) Moose.  When she asked if we were artists, I think she meant like performers on the stage.  You’re gonna get us in trouble.”

        “NTW, (Not to worry) Doc.”  Moose was confident.  “You worry too much- it’s bad for your health.”

        In wasn’t but a minute, and the woman retrieved some documents indicating we were on the bill.   “I’m sorry for the delay, Mr. Dooley.  Your room will be available shortly.  Let’s see, that is four artist badges, is that correct?”

        “Yes ma’am, and thank you.”

        I couldn’t believe it.  When we got to the room, I inspected the contract.  All of us could read it, so the boys were certain I had nothing to do with it.  This was the work of the Moose. 

        “Hey Moose.  Where did that come from?  Is it forged?”

        “I dunno.  You worry too much.”

        And so it went.  Thanks to the Moose, and those passes, we had the run of the place.  We ate breakfast with Mac Wiseman and Earl Scruggs, and rode to the festival every day in the courtesy van, one day with Doc himself, the Moose chatting away with him like a long lost friend.  We picked in an onstage jam with Jack Lawrence- I thought we pushed our luck there- Moose was a fine banjo man, but I think Jack had some doubts about the qualifications of the mandolin player- and hung out backstage all weekend.  All in all it was large time, as we say in bluegrass.

        Even then, with no advertising other than word of mouth, it was clear Merle Fest was special.  It was slated for indoors at the Community College, but the venue was quickly overrun, and a second stage was set up outside on a flat-bed trailer.  It was just the kind of setup we were accustomed to, so the Moose was again right at home. 

        It might be hard to believe now, but back then the bluegrass business was new to Wilkesboro, and local law, as well as the public, were unfamiliar with the music world.  For most of them, their background in event security had been crowd control at the local NASCAR race.

        New Grass Revival was up next,  and the Moose was slouched over a fence waiting to take in the show.  About that time Bela Fleck came running up.  He was late and had left his I.D. badge at the hotel.  He was spotted by a burly security guard who was determined to deny him access.

        “I’m sorry son, if you don’t have a badge, you can’t come backstage. College President orders.  No tickee, no washee.”

        “But I’m Bela Fleck.  I play with Newgrass- we’re on in twenty minutes.”

        Moose noted the commotion, and moved to intervene.  He waved at the officer and flashed his artist pass.  “It’s O.K., officer, he’s one of us.” 

       The officer inspected Moose’s badge, called in on his two-way, motioned Bela on in, and turned to the Moose to apologize.  “Sorry, Mr. Dooley.  This music thing is new to us here.”

        “NAP, (Not a problem) Boss.”

        As so it continues to this day.  I learned early on it was best to have the Moose run interference for you, and filed away the experience for future reference.

        Merle Fest has since become the biggest acoustic music festival on the East Coast- check out their web site- it is sure enough one Dr. B recommends, and that ain’t fiction.

Dr. B

The County Fair

November 25, 2007

        Neuse River plays the County Fair every year.  There is a little cabin near the front gate, and we sit on the porch and pick for hours at a time.  It think we are what you call atmosphere.

        It’s a good gig- you get paid for something you enjoy, and also get all the vinegar fries and ham biscuits you can eat.  I never check my cholesterol for a month afterwards.

        All of us have been on the bluegrass scene for a long time, and know a wide variety of tunes, but you have to play some standards.  In fact, one year the manager put a clause in our contract to play “That Good Old Mountain Dew” at the top of every hour.  The Warbler grew weary of the tune, so he started calling for it in wild  keys to see if he could stump the band.  You ain’t played bluegrass mandolin until you have improvised “Mountain Dew” in E flat, I tell you.

        For the most part it is an attentive crowd, but beware of the competition.  Several times a day, a loud bugle call that sounds like the start of the Kentucky Derby is the signal that the pig races are going to start.

        The great Jethro Burns said your act should never follow small children or dancing animals- they are just too hard to compete with.  He should have included pig races, too.  Last year, when they blew that bugle, every single human being at our show left to go watch the pig races, right down to my own mama.

           She was the last one to leave, but she, like everyone else, split.  I’m sure she hated to go, and she did apologize.  As she said, “But Tommy, it’s the Pig Races.”  So much for my career as a bluegrass musician- I better hold onto my day job.

 Dr. B

Sandhills University School of Medicine

November 25, 2007

        I am a graduate of Sandhills University School of Medicine.  We are very proud of her.  She started out as a sleepy little place, but is now ranked sixth in the country in the proper education of primary care docs.  We did well when we were there too- I guess when they published our Board scores on the front page of the local paper it was a good indication we had outstripped some of our more well-established rivals that year. 

        Sandhills didn’t just turn out country docs like me, though.  We produced some first class specialists, too.  Take a guy like Tony Smitt.  He showed up the first day of med school in a Mercedes car.   His daddy owned a number of furniture factories in western N.C.  Smitty was independently wealthy, and our only classmate to go to school on a trust fund.  We asked him why in the world he would put himself through the grind, and he said he needed a hobby.  Gotta hand it to old Tony, the boy didn’t have to do it, but dedicated himself to his craft, and is now the chief radiologist at a famous institution in the Tobacco Triangle.  Joe DiMaggio said a rich kid never made it to the majors, but Tony proved the Yankee Clipper wrong on that one.

        We had John Quietner, a country boy who made it all the way through med school without uttering a full sentence,  (finished near the top of the class, too)  Tom Bailey, the smartest human being I ever met, Lee Stewart, who went from the farm to being a famous neurosurgeon, and Renaldo Peysoir, the Latin heartthrob dermatologist.  I have to give Renaldo the award for the most integrity- every woman in the Med Center wanted to go out with him, and he remained 100% faithful to his lovely wife.  Others were equally loyal, but some will never know if it was integrity or lack of opportunity!  

        We also had good ole Dr. Bibey.  I reckon he was a little above average, but had one exceptional talent.  He could always spot a special human being, and befriended them at every turn.  Many, many times through the years, that was the gift that saved him.

        I have run out of time tonight, but eventually I will tell you of our exploits at old Sandhills U.  I don’t see how we could have had more fun while getting a first class medical education.

Dr. B   

Thru The Eyes of a Country Doctor

November 25, 2007

        This is a fiction forum, and does not discuss any “real” events.  Specific discussion of a patient’s clinical circumstances is a violation of my personal ethical code, and was long before anyone dreamed up HIPAA, so anything I write regarding patient encounters, while based on my life experience, has been “doctored” significantly.
        However, this post deviates from that standard format.  While very close to the actual events, it isn’t a HIPAA violation, though, because it is my own case.  I write it so you can get inside Doc’s head, but also for educational purposes.  I like to think the story might stick, and one of my readers might benefit someday from the heads up on this particular diagnosis.  

   “Through the Eyes of a Country Doctor”

        Before I start, I’m gonna go ahead and tell you the moral of the story. If you don’t get anything else, please realize we docs are just as human as anyone else. Still, we have a perspective on things folks should not ignore, so you’ll just have to listen for a moment.  Now, that don’t make me one bit better than anyone else.  When I drive my car into my mechanic’s shop, he often figures out what is wrong in two minutes about an issue I have struggled for days to get a handle on it. But as far as Country Doctoring, well, you don’t have to listen, but I would advise you consider my story.
        I was at a music festival digging my favorite bluegrass band, and thought I had a smudge on the bottom of my sunglasses.  It didn’t want to clear up, but we were not around any soap and water and I couldn’t clean off my glasses.  It was getting on towards dark-thirty, and in the lower light of dusk, I thought it went away.  I didn’t think much of it.
        Sunday I woke up and at first thought some swelling of my lower eyelid was in the way, but when I would pull the lid aside the faint smudge in my lower visual field didn’t clear.  I had a feeling I knew where this was going.  There didn’t seem to be much change through the day, but I put in a call first thing Monday morning to my ophthalmologist, who had done my cataract surgery a few years back.
        “Hey, Em. Dr. Oracle in?” 
        “Yes sir, what’s up?”
        “See if he can check me today.  Tell him I’ve got a right inferior nasal field deficit- stable for forty-eight hours.”
        She wasn’t gone long.  “Can you be here at 2:00?”
        “Sure thing.” At least the timing was fortuitous.  My afternoon office schedule had already been cleared off, as it was the day of the once a year company picnic.  I didn’t want to alarm everyone, so I just said I had an eye appointment I’d forgotten.  I gathered up my office guitar, and told them I’d see them at the picnic and play a few tunes.  Deep down inside I suspected it would serve as my pacifier for the day.
        I was a work in, and these were busy guys, so I knew I’d have to wait a while.  I pulled my guitar out and got off to a corner, so as not to bother anyone, but an interesting thing happened.  As I played, tranquility set it, not only for me but the staff, and the patients who were waiting. 
        One little girl was especially entranced, and I ran through a number of tunes for her.  They called me back, and I bid her farewell.  I wondered about her diagnosis, hoped she was just a kid trying to talk her folks into contacts, and said a quick prayer she didn’t have anything bad; she seemed a nice kid.
        Once in the exam room, I pulled the guitar out of the case, and contemplated my diagnostic possibilities as I played.  I could think of dozens, and several I’d rather not have.  Hm.  I had seen a few patients like this who had an ocular melanoma- that didn’t sound so good.  I liked the idea of posterior capsule clouding, but I had already gone through a post surgery laser to clear that up.  I wasn’t an eye surgeon, but my experience was this generally wasn’t something that was recurrent.  Most likely this was a small retinal tear in the top of my eyeball, and given the other possibilities, I made up my mind that would not be a hard diagnosis to accept.
        Dr. Oracle came in and went through the drill.  Drops, the “blue light special” (checking for glaucoma) then the old eye chart.  Doc had rendered me 20/20 with cataract surgery, but prior to that I had a long history going back to a myopic childhood, so I was quick to rip through the memorized lines.  He pulled out the extra bright retina scope, and in short order, had the diagnosis.
        “Peripheral retinal tear, superior segment. You need to stay, the retina man is in the house.”
        “NAP, Doc.  (Not a problem.)  You think it’ll be O.K.?”
        He contemplated an answer.  I could tell he sure wanted it to be, but didn’t have enough data yet- it wasn’t a fair question.  I answered it for him. “Hey, you guys have pulled me through the fire twice- I ain’t worried.  All we can do is our best, and I have faith everything will be O.K.”  I could see him breathe a sigh of relief- docs hate to promise what they can’t guarantee, and yet want to offer hope- it is a fine line to walk at times.
        The retina man, Dr. Smith, came in. Was he ever young.  I remember a favorite patient thinking the new surgeon couldn’t be old enough to take out his appendix.  I had a devil of a time convincing him as his Family Doc I wasn’t the right man for the job.  Smith went through his routine, and a few more tests, and gave the good and bad news.
        “As far as retinal tears go, this one is pretty good.”  I know most patients hate to hear a hole in eye ball is good, but as a doc I followed, and agreed.  He went on.  “The superiors are easier to fix, but over time gravity will work on it.  Not much choice but to fix it.  Your prognosis is good right now, but if it works its way to the macula it is a different animal.  Much harder to fix then.” 
        He discussed his schedule with his tech, then outlined my options.  “It can probably wait a day, but the OR schedule is tight tomorrow. We would go on after a vascular case, and they can be unpredictable as to what time we might go. When did you last eat?”
        “Dang it, I had a hot dog at 1:00. ” What was I thinking?  Man, you’re a doc, you saw it coming, why didn’t you stay NPO? 
        “How do you feel about doing it under local?  I can get a slot a Grace (the surgery center in the next town over) tonight.”
        Sounded like saving Grace to me.  I had  my cataracts done under local, so it wasn’t an unknown.  Hm.  Here I’d known this guy fifteen minutes, and I was turning over the future of my right eye to him on the spot.  Dr. Oracle recommended him, and he had saved me twice.  I trusted him with all my personal and professional being.  I contemplated a minute.  The way I saw it, I could get a second and third opinion, but by the time I did that I’d have several good opinions and one blind eye. “Let’s go for it.”  I sounded resolute, and was. My vision was still clear, and I didn’t see any other reasonable options.
       Well, my wife drove me over to Grace, and everyone was very nice, and they didn’t even know I was a doc at first. Someone found out, and then they got kinda nervous, but I told ‘em my eyeballs warn’t no different than any other human being, and besides they had been kind before they figured out who I was, and that was more than enough for me.
        Being awake for your eye surgery has its advantages.  I could tell from the banter and the light mood Dr. Smith was satisfied about the progress.  I told a few jokes, and we discussed guitars, but I kept the conversation to small talk- I didn’t want to distract him.  When he asked for the Vicryl, I knew he was closing. After he got a stitch in, I told him I wasn’t scared of losing an eye- I could always cash in my disability and hit the road with a black patch and a new stage persona.  I could sense his relief through the surgical drapes.  The thought of a disabled colleague, and one with a microphone no less, was not very consoling. My recommendation to patients is not to say such things until the procedure is completed.
        After it was all over, my vision came all the way back to 20/20. Thanks to Drs. Oracle, Smith and company, I am an ocular cat with nine lives.  When I was growing up in a little  N.C. town, we did not even have an ophthalmologist, much less a retina specialist who could do such fancy things on short notice.  Nowadays, in little towns all across the country, people are able to resume their lives with minimal disruption over a diagnosis that would have disabled them just a few decades ago.  I am just a country doc, but got a state of the art procedure as good as anything the President could get.  I am lucky, in that I have good insurance, but for less out of pocket than the price of a new guitar, I got a new eye.  I don’t buy many guitars- my old Martin does fine, but generally speaking you can’t buy an eye for any price.  It seemed more than reasonable to me. 
        By the way, I hope that little girl was O.K. She was a sweetie.

 Dr. B

        Post Script:  Not long after all this happened, I saw a patient who lost most of the sight in her left eye years ago.  She began to have similar symptoms, but just thought she needed new glasses and put off an appointment.  She got some vision back, but it was far from a perfect outcome.  There are no guarantees in medicine, but I hope by posting this story, one of my readers is able to recognize the symptoms earlier, and have a chance at a better result.