Archive for December 2007

Rock ‘n Roll Bluegrasser

December 29, 2007

         Just so you’ll know, ole Dr. Bibey can be a versatile guy on occasion.  I am a Doc, I play bluegrass mandolin, and after that I’m glad I have a very smart wife, ’cause she knows most everything.  Every once in a while, though, I’ll take on a different gig.

         Such was the case last night.  Rock ‘n roll mandolin.  Now I know the English Professor musta done a double take there, but it did happen.  I’ll have to say I did a double take myself, especially when we did one called “Double Shot of My Baby’s Love,” and all these young women came up on the stage and started gyrating around.  We’ve having a mild winter; I’m concerned about this global warming thing, but it was still way too cold for those girls to be dressed so skimpy.  Most of ’em were patients of mine, and I felt like they might wind up with pneumonia, but Jimmy Martin, the drummer (his real name!) said they always dressed that way and not to make an issue of it.

         The gig was the Harnett County Rock ‘n Roll All Star Jam, and it is held at Iggy Rock Pub, our only rock venue in the County, every year the week between Christmas and New Year’s.  They have taken to being more inclusive, and this year I was invited as the token bluegrasser and mandolinist.  I don’t know too much rock ‘n roll, but I like to be accommodating, so when Jimmy called to see if I’d do the gig, I agreed to it.  I went to the closet, got out my solid body Tele-MandoCaster that I play on some sacred numbers at Harnett Methodist, found my only guitar cord, so I could plug in, and went to take in the adventure.

         There is only one rule for the All Star Jam- no practice.  Given my background in bluegrass music, Jimmy knew I’d fit right in, and I’ll say that as far as the music, I think I did.   Now the rest of the gig, that was a different story.

        For one thing, everyone there was blessed with youth and good looks, and I do not possess either.  Jack Martino, the little hip heartthrob kid leader, all of twenty years young, was dressed in a black silk shirt that was open about half way down his chest, and had a gold chain dangling around his neck.  He wore some of those new blue jeans you paint on rather than wear.  He sported a soul patch, (I’d never heard of one of those) and spiked jet black hair.  His dark eyes locked in with every young lady in the audience, half of whom wound up on the stage before it was all over.

         I have to tell you, I stood out in stark contrast.  Gray hair, bifocals, and I forgot to take out my pocket protector and pens, and left my omnipresent cell phone on my belt, but I wasn’t on call and it didn’t go off.  

        All the young ladies wanted Jack’s autograph, but he didn’t have nothing on me.  A bunch of women wanted me to meet them after the show.  They all wondered if if I took new Medicare patients or if I could help them get a lift chair.  (I think it was senior discount night- now I know why they hired me- marketing.)  

         I’m sure young Jack must have wondered what in the world Jimmy Martin, who was a little closer to middle aged- about thirty- was thinking when he put such a old guy like me in the mix, and I reckon I wondered a bit myself.  But it wasn’t long before the International Language of Music kicked in.  Jack sang “Ain’t no Sunshine When You’re Gone” wailed away on the sax, then glanced my way, gave a nervous nod, and cued old Doc to take a break.  Well, I was more hip than those boys thought, and got to bending those strangs like the ex-rock ‘n roller I somewhat am.  (I didn’t tell ’em I’d played in a beach music band in high school- I didn’t want my bluegrass buddies to know.)  Randolph, the electric guitar man, was so taken by it he walked over and stomped on a box on the floor they had me running through, and it made for some kinda wild distortion- my MandoCaster is a fine ax, but I never heard it sound quite like that.  After the show I inspected my gear, and that little box was called a “Bad Monkey Tube Compression Overdrive.”  I’d be willing to bet not many old docs have played a mandolin gig through a Bad Monkey Pedal before.  

         I did so good, even a few of the young ladies asked for my autograph.  I hope they aren’t gonna try to pass it for a prescription at the Reveco by the River.  The State Board has some pretty strict rules about these things, and somehow I didn’t think they would dig the fact I’d played a rock and roll gig even if I did overdrive a Bad Monkey. 

        But, unless they object, I’ll be back next year.  Jimmy re-signed me, and I’d better be there, ’cause sure enough they’ll have it on Senior Citizen’s night, and I don’t want to let my fans down.

        Well I came home, and all that cigarette smoke made me smell like I’d been to a bar (I guess maybe I had) so Ms. Marfar sent me straight to the showers and fixed me some hot tea, ’cause my throat was all raspy from having to talk over all those folks- that place was loud.  Good thing she did, too.  I didn’t need to wind up with laryngitis- it is hard as the devil to dictate charts when that happens. 

         It was a good gig, and very exciting, but for the most part, I’d better stick with bluegrass.  I don’t know if my heart could take all that on any regular basis.

Dr. B



More on Ms. Claus

December 27, 2007

        I kinda hated to see Christmas pass on by this time.  All the kids were in, and everybody was well. (No broken fibulas this year.)  Ms. Claus found me a couple of old books I had been looking for and it was more special than any material item she coulda ever bought.

       A number of readers expressed interest in Ms. Claus, so I thought I’d take a minute to tell you of her.  She is a doctor, too, but her field is in education.  She is retired from it now, but for years she was a Middle School counselor.  Believe me, that is a tough crowd to work, but she did well with ’em.  

        We respected the privacy of the kids we were involved with, and did not talk over their cases at home, but I could get a pretty good idea which ones had dealings with her.  Whenever I’d have a kid at the office who was up for his Eagle, I’d ask if they knew Ms. Bibey.  They would have a puzzled look, and you could see them mentally perusing the cerbral storage files.  “No sir, I don’t believe I do,” was the usual response.

        On the other hand, I’d get some street tough kid with a tattoo and a nose ring, and ask the same question.  They’d just light up.  “You Miss Bibey’s old man?!”  I understood their enthusiasm.  I kinda liked her too, and it got me in good with ’em every time.

        One time she found an abandoned cat at school, and against all rules and regulations snuck it into her office to nurse it back to health.  The kids called the stray “Buttermilk Biscuit,” after its nutmeg/dirt brown color and a predilection for the Harnett Middle School milk and biscuits they raised it on.  Some of those youn’uns were tough as pine knots, but they all wanted a chance to be a part of raising ole Buttermilk, and would sneak down to Ms. Bibey’s office to feed that alley cat.  I guess they identified with the cat’s circumstances, but I was amazed how the experience brought those kids out.  And too, I think all that experience working with troubled youth gave my wife just the right background to raise me. 

        Of course, it was against all regulations.  When the cat got a little bigger and the principal discovered it, we brought it home.  It lived a long, fat and sassy life.  Those kids talked about saving that cat for years- sometimes I wonder about too many regulations.

        Better sign off and read some doctor books and head out for work.  

        Miss Bibey’s old man has a big gig coming up Friday.  I’ll  try to tell you about it this weekend. 

                                                     -Dr. B

Agents and Drill Sergeants

December 26, 2007

        Whew, I had no idea I was gonna create such a stir about agents.  Lord have mercy.  (L.H.M.)  Now, before I go getting everyone all tore down about my agent, I figure I’d better explain.

        You see, agents are a lot like drill sergeants, ’cause they have to be.  And before I stir up another hornet’s nest let me also clarify- if I were King of the World, there would be no wars.  I’d lasso planet Earth and turn it around going backwards if it took it, but somehow everyone who had their differences would have to sit down at the negotiation table and figure out where the middle ground was. 

        Of course, if I was to run up on a bear in the woods, I’m the kind of fellow who  wouldn’t try to outrun him, ’cause I know I can’t.  Instead, I’d show him the way down to the river where all the good fishing was, and hope he left me alone.  Remind me to tell you more on that story some day. 

        And by the way, I ain’t gotten a single vote for King of The World yet, and doubt I will except from my mom. 

        But going back to agents and drill sergeants, it’s like this.  When folks are in boot camp, nobody likes the drill sergeant.  He has to be mean.  In reality, it ain’t mean, he’s just tough.  The reason he pushes everyone so hard is he knows if he’s gonna send ’em off somewhere where people are gonna shoot at ’em, they better be prepared.  I never was in boot camp; as a matter of fact, I was probably too contrary at that age to survive it, but I’ve been told that drill sergeants often worry about the ones that don’t make it back home.  They try not to think about it too much, or they might start to wonder if they had been a little tougher, maybe the kid woulda somehow made it.  Ain’t true, but you can’t help but think that way sometimes. 

        Sort of like in my doctor work.  Every time you lose a patient to anything other than just plain old age, you lay awake at night and toss and turn, and try to think of anything else you might have done.         

        I knew a doc who wrote a song one time called “I’ll Do All My Crying Ahead of Time.”  Ostensibly, it was a “boy loses girl” song, but really it was about losing patients.  Like that Doc, when it comes to funeral time, I go when I can, and try not to cry too much.  I want to believe I’ve done all my crying, and thinking, ahead of time.

        Well, agents are like that too, except the stakes aren’t as high.  They know if they throw you to the print wolves before your work is ready, that crowd probably won’t negotiate with you like I would with that bear, but just eat you alive.  So, like sergeants, the agent has to prepare you the best they can, and this means being tough.  When I meet with mine I check my ego at the door, hand him a bunch of red pens, and smile.  The process ain’t for the faint of heart, but it’s for my own good.

          And too, my agent needs to take heart.  I not only respect him, I like the guy.  Besides, I have found everyone of those cats who comes home from a combat zone likes their drill sergeant, without fail. 

        So, again, the stakes ain’t as high, but if I ever get to say what I aim too say in print, to a large degree it will be because my agent, like those drill sergeants, is tough.  And for a laissez-faire bluegrass boy like me, it is a necessity.  I’m bad not to take marching orders without a kick in the you know what.  He ain’t afraid to do it, and his aim is pretty good, too, so me and my agent get along O.K.

Dr. B

Ms. Claus

December 25, 2007

        Christmas morning.  We are waiting on my boy to get here, and everyone is conked out.  Our traditional Christmas breakfast casserole simmers, and turkey, persimmon pudding and more await.  Honestly, my wife knows how to do everything.  If it weren’t for her, the kids would get a bologna sandwich, some money, and a perfect immunization record.

        In the candlelight service last night, the preacher got to talking about whether or not you had touched anyone in life and made a difference.  Well, in my case that sure happened.  I married my wife for a lot of reasons, but one was I was an average looking sort of guy, and I figured she would give me beautiful children.  The plan worked. She gave me two beautiful children, a nice mandolin, a guitar, and saw to it that I didn’t work myself to death or starve, so I guess I was either smart, lucky or both. 

        One bad thing about being a doc is you probably do more good for others than your own people, but at least when our family is sick this old boy has the inside track on “Who you gonna call?”  I’ve nursed many a family member back to health, and even made some decent holiday pick-ups, like the one Christmas Eve when my niece was limping, and had already been to the ER in another state on the way to the family gathering.  Somehow someone overlooked the little piece of history that a car had tapped her in the Walmarks parking lot, and the broken fibula wasn’t too hard to diagnose.  We spent Christmas Eve with our favorite Orthopedist, but she can walk straight now, so it was worth it.

        Some of your patients become about like family, too.  Every year I get a card from a nice lady who has retired and moved to the beach.  Twenty five years ago, she came to see me and thought she had bursitis, and I got in my head it was angina.  She thought I was too young to know what I was talking about, but was too scared to not comply, and wound up with a triple bypass two days later.  Every year she sends a card thanking me for another year.  I’m here to tell you, if you want to make an impression on your doc, that is a good way to start.  After all the times I’ve put off my own people, and not done as well by them at times as I should have, that kind of recognition from your patients, who become your second family, is priceless.  Believe me, I’ve saved all those cards.  I hope the preacher is right and I’ve touched a few along the way.  I did my best.

        I hear Ms. Claus a stirring.  I am off this year, and I’m gonna be the best Santa you ever saw.  She deserves it, ’cause the doctor’s life is an odd one for sure.

Dr. B

Christmas Recital

December 22, 2007

        The obvious most important thing about Christmas is Jesus, no doubt about that, and I am thankful His grace was injected into this old world.  The Christmas Pageant is my favorite part of the holiday, ’cause it is all about His birth, and I have to admit I have fond memories of my Marie as a donkey, too.

        Next to the Pageant, though, my second favorite event in the county is the Recital.  Every year Darrell gathers up all his students and coaxes them onto the stage where he backs them up on a tune.  They are beyond cute.

        My job is backstage manager.  My most important role is to be sure their instruments are in tune, and I sometimes wonder what they might have sounded like over the years without the assistance.  And too, many of the little ones are scared half to death, and I’m proud to say old Dr. Bibey can always calm ’em down, and no, I don’t use any medicine on ’em.  I never was too big on nerve pills, and believe it best to play music to calm ones anxieties.  (I realize it doesn’t work for everyone, I wish it could.)

        I’d give the same last minute admonition I’d told my own young’uns when they were coming along, “It’s like doing neurosurgery, if you mess up just don’t say oops,” or at least I did until Lee Stewart’s (the famous neurosurgeon) nephew got a hold of the phrase, and began to use it in the school yard.  Dr. Stewart was a little upset that people might think he did his work that way (I assure you he does not) so I stopped telling them that.

        About the only bump in last night’s show was when little Amy fell and bruised her elbow, and came running across the stage hollering for Dr. Tommy right in the middle of “Mary Did You Know?”  (She was O.K.)

        It was all good, but I especially enjoyed this one little guy who about wore out his D18 on “Christmas Times a Coming.”  He was chomping away on a big wad a gum and had a “tabula rosa” stare with a spooky reminiscence of the Warbler, our lead singer.  That nonchalant look as one rips through a near impossible passage is imperative to reach the upper echelons of our music, and is present in almost every bluegrass virtuoso I have ever known.  Here is the secret that is so hard for the non-bluegrass world to understand, and I’m gonna quote it ’cause I said it.  “If they wuz worried all the time they couldn’t pick like that.” So, NTW.

        Of course, Darrell has had the look ever since I’ve known him, but he held back to let the kids shine tonight.  Still, there was no mistaking his wonderful back-up on “Silver Bells,” and that little single aught Martin he played worked the mic like a champ.

        There were mandolin duets and trios, and even one old mandolin orchestra number, “Carol the Bells,” like what you might have heard around the turn of the last century.

        Preacher Vincent did a fine recitation of Grandpa Jones’ “Christmas Guest” and Summer the girl singer sang a bluegrass version of “Oh Come, Y’all Be Faithful.”            

        Then the whole gang came back to the stage to close it out with “Silent Night,” and we all went home in the Christmas spirit.

        This is my last post before the big holiday.  All the young’uns are in, and we’re gonna enjoy seeing them.  I’ll be back right after Christmas.  To all you folks who have taken the time to read my crazy weblog, and be a part of the County, I wish you the best- Peace on Earth.

                                           -Dr. Tommy Bibey

How to Get (and keep) a Literary Agent

December 19, 2007

        I’ve been involved in a lot of tough gigs in my time.  Medicine is full of twists and turns, and bluegrass music is even more unpredictable.  There are fellows who wash dishes in Nashville and can play circles around me on the mandolin, so as far as music, I know I’d best hold onto my day job.

        But of all the ventures I’ve ever been involved in, the writer journey is the least predictable of all.

        Take finding a literary agent.  I tell ya, these guys are hard to come by.  Last year, in the whole state of N.C. there were only three lit agents in my chosen sub-genre of Modern Medical Bluegrass Grit Lit, and now we are down to two.  The other one left for Arkansas, and did not leave a forwarding address.

        In a way, you can’t blame him.  The song says there are thirteen hundred and fifty two guitar pickers in Nashville, and with writers there’s even more folks than that with a dream and a prayer. 

        At least in the music thing, most parents try to convince their kid to come home and get a job.  In the lit biz the situation is even worse ’cause every one of the writer’s mamas (just like mine) love them, so the agents are inundated with upwards of tens of thousands of applicants, and have to deal with a whole bunch of mad friends and relatives when they turn someone away.  

        If you’ll notice, nowadays every one of these secret agent folks will only take on new clients who are already published.  Now, how are you gonna do that when no one will publish you unless you have an agent?

        The way I saw it, I had two choices.  I could lie, but I didn’t want to do that ’cause I figured that would be bad for my rep as a doc, so I chose the less onerous route of paying someone to put a few of my articles in things like the Southern Ladies Azalea Quarterly (my wife got me that gig- I didn’t know a thing about it, but she was a good coach) and then moved up to coverage of the local music beat, which I was somewhat of an authority on.  I caught a break at a bluegrass festival when I heard the rumor a touring band had fired their publicist.  I went backstage right away, handed them a card, told them I was a writer, and got the job for their ad copy and CD liner notes.  All of a sudden I was in- an official author.  (Definition:  Writer whose work is published three different places.)

        My first agent fired me when I could not develop a more romantic voice.  (My Miss Marfar laughed and said that was impossible.)  I persevered on, though, and then managed to get published in the local paper and a couple small music mags, patched together a resume, and voila, after a couple more fits and starts, found me an agent.

        As it turns out though, acquisition of an agent is only the start of this business.  To keep one, you better turn out some good original stuff, and commit “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers” and “The Elements of Style” to memory.  And brother, if you take to using a bunch of ing-lys as you are thinking and wondering, you are toast.

        All in all, it is imperative that your  correspondence with your agent be of the utmost of accuracy, and your grammar and sentence construction must meet the highest professional standards.  Your re-writes of your re-writes should exude enthusiasm and originality, and even more important I think……

        Oops, gotta go.  My wife called.  My agent was supposed to be gone, but she heard he was down at the Piggly-Wiggly buying groceries, and I better go help him unload his car.   The more I think about it, I don’t reckon I ought to tell all the secrets, ’cause my agent might fire me and get a better client.  So far, his proceeds from my work are neck and neck with my songwriting royalties, and I think he has a young-un in college.

        I’d better not give up my day job just yet.  But, a man has to have his dreams, and I figure I’m only a story away from pay-dirt for me and my agent- at least that’s what I’ve told him.  Should ya’ll run into him, I hope you’ll tell him if you like my stuff.  I’m gonna need all the help I can get.

Dr. B


Christmas Pageant

December 14, 2007


        Today was our annual Christmas Pageant at Harnett Methodist.  It is a time honored tradition, much like yours I’m sure, where all the kids are shepherds and camels and such.  I debated on whether to write this up or not ’cause my agent said it was like asking folks to watch my home movies, but then I found out he was out of the country in Scotland and the only guy I know over there is Dr. Bob so I’m gonna take a chance he won’t see this one.

        The reason the tradition it is so important is the kids.  My young’uns were in it from the get-go, and started out as donkeys, but worked their way up through the ranks.  By the time they finished Confirmation Class their last year of Middle School, they made Mary and Joseph.

        I remember it well, ’cause I was out in the driveway getting them to the car, and someone came up in a pickup truck and wanted me to look at his wife’s emergency rash, and Tommy, Jr. dang near got hit ’cause that head gear drooped down around his eyes and he couldn’t see too good.  My Marie was dressed as a perfect Mary, but she got lost in the moment and hollered out, “Great Gawd-A’Mighty Tommy- Watch Out!”  It wasn’t very becoming of her role, but I got over it quick ’cause at least Tommy didn’t get run over.  Besides, it was my fault she’d say such a thing, ’cause she heard it at the Bomb Shelter the week before, and it wasn’t fitting to take such a young lady down there when Wild Bill was in town. 

        So, I asked the lady and her husband a few questions and once I was certain she didn’t have Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (right locale- wrong time of year) or toxic epidermal necrolysis (the rash was localized, and her skin wasn’t sloughing off) or sepsis, (no fever, chills or vomiking as they say around here) I gave her a script for some FEP cream (that means For Every Purpose) and told her to come in first of the week.  After the curb service consult (we still do curb service even though there is not an ICD9 code for it- that is another story) we went on to the Church House.  I know you think I am making this up, but this is how is to be a doc in a small town. 

      Well anyway, Marie and Tommy made a wonderful Mary and Joseph, and I’ve still got the home movies if you ever want to see ’em. 

      The kids today did good too, and I think I enjoyed it so much because it reminded me of the old days with mine, especially the  little girl that played the Donkey. 

      The only adult in the whole pageant today was Miss Marilyn on the piano accompaniment, who plays the keys in our Praise Band.  When she missed her cue nine year old Dorothy, little cherub that she is, turned around and directed her to “Hit it Marilyn,” and then those children nailed “Little Town of Bethlehem” like seasoned stage pros.  Before too long, I’m gonna be recruiting some of them to sing with Neuse River- they sing with such attitude.

      My all time favorite pageant was not when my Marie was Mary, though.  That pick-up truck that about hit Tommy Jr. soured me on that one a bit.  The year Marie was the humble donkey still ranks as my favorite.  She sang “I am the Donkey, Shaggy and Brown,” and had on a suit with ears that kept flopping down in her face.  She kept having to brush those donkey ears out of the way, but in the bluegrass way, never missed a note, and stayed on pitch the whole tune.  

      Of course, we had it on VCR and watched it until Marie was so sick of it she couldn’t take it anymore, and made us put it up.  

      Now that she’s gone off to school, I get it out and watch it every year.  In fact, last  December Marfar had gone to do some shopping and I was off, but there wasn’t any picking going on and it was way too cold for golf. 

      Well, me and Miss Violet, the lady who helps us on Wednesdays, got to watching that tape, and when my Marfar came home we were were sitting on the couch watching little Marie sing “I am the Donkey.”  Poor Violet was just a squalling, but I held up pretty good- my contact solution musta gone bad, but I got through it.

      When it comes to your kids, docs are just like everyone else, so I appreciate your indulgence for today’s post- just don’t tell my agent you watched one of my home movies.  I’ll get back to doctor and music stories in short order. 

      And, I tell you what.  I’m gonna do just like every year and watch “A Wonderful Life” and that tape of my Marie as a donkey again just as soon as I get some better contact lens solution- right about this time of year that stuff goes against my eyes and makes ’em water.  I’m sure that’s what it is- I am a man of science, you know.

                                               -Dr. B



When Doc gets sick

December 14, 2007

        I have the best patients in the world.  Today I have laryngitis so bad I’m down to a whisper, and Myrd is having to interpret for me.  I can’t talk, so I gotta write.

        If I were the patient, I would be aggravated that Doc can’t give ’em his best.  Instead, all my patients are worried about me, but I really ain’t that sick- almost all of them are far worse off than me.  One of ’em took to praying for me.

        Dr. Dee said the office is reduced to a dull bore, but come Monday I’ll be back up to speed.

        Enough of all that, in the morning I’m gonna talk about Christmas, at least in print.

What’s For Supper, Grandpa?

December 12, 2007

        I used to love the old Grandpa Jones routine on T.V. about what’s for supper.  I guess it’s because it is just like that here in the County.

        When I first came home, the first meal I had other than going by mama’s for some beef stew was down at the County Line Cafe.  Didn’t even look at the menu, and ordered a quarter fried chicken with hominy and apple sauce, a bowl of crowder peas, and a small side salad with French dressing.

        Greek stuck his head out from the kitchen and said, “Son of a gun, Tommy Bibey’s back in town.  Send that boy some extra biscuits.”

        Sure enough he knew it was me, and had it been Sunday after church, it would have been the Delmonico steak with fries, and Greek woulda still been right, ’cause he knew that was my Sunday regular.

          He came out to visit.  “Pap’s over in the Nursing Home, Tommy, and Dr. Robin is fixing to retire.  Can you study under him for a while and take over?”

        “Sure nuff, Greek.  You know I’d be honored to.”  I was off and running.  I was doing good- I’d only been home four days and I already had five patients- two new ones at the County Line that very day.  All of ’em but one are still living to this day.

        One of them told me, “I hope you last a while boy, my last two doctors died on me.”

        “Me, too, George.  I’ll do my best.”  So far me and George are still kicking along, and I hope it stays that way a while.  I’d hate to disappoint him.

        “Hey, Greek, how ’bout some of that blackberry cobbler and …..”

 Dr. B

        Hey, with the holiday just around the corner, I can’t wait to tell you about Christmas in the County; maybe I can by this weekend.

Lesson From a Patient

December 12, 2007

        I had a patient in residency with a most unusual name.  My standard practice is to obscure folk’s identity, but since this was decades ago, and he was 75 then, I guess it is not too bad a HIPAA violation to tell you his full name- Delano I. Dentifiey.  He went by D.

        Back in those days the homeless could come see us interns for free (it may have been the origin of the cliche you get what you pay for) and D was was a regular patient of mine.  

        D was beyond humble.  He was poor, and schizophrenic, but he was appreciative, and we got along.  One time he came in with a rapidly growing mole on his face, and wanted me to take it off.

        I tried to explain.  “Come on, D.  That thing looks bad- I think you ought to see the Derm boys or maybe even the plastic guys.”

        D gave me his usual blank stare, and would only grunt, and say, “You my doctor.”

        I brought in the George Mooney, the Chief Resident, for a second opinion, but D went catatonic on him, and wouldn’t say a word.  

        We talked it over, and George wanted me to press on.  “D’s right, Doc” he said.  “You’re his doc.  He isn’t going to let anyone else do it.”

        Well, we got D to scrawl an “X” on the sign here line, perhaps the worst excuse for informed consent ever, except I did tell him I didn’t have the proper training for the job.  I draped him the best I could (D was scared of being covered up) to keep a sterile field, then proceeded with a piece of minor surgery that was well intended, but inept nonetheless.   

        Sure enough, the pathology was squamous cell carcinoma, but the margins were clear.  I was ecstatic.  I’d cured him!

        The joy was short lived, though.  My nice surgical work quickly became as mess, and my best efforts to patch him up failed.  He was rid of his cancer, but try as I might, he was going to have a big scar. 

        One day a big plastic man was in to give us a lecture, and someone told him D was on the schedule, and everyone had to go look at my disaster.  Well, in front of the whole residency program, that Professor proceeded to tell everyone how many different ways the procedure could have done better.  He said there was no choice now but to let it granulate in by secondary intention.  (Ie, the way nature would heal it up if you didn’t have nothing to do with it.)

        I was a good resident, and made Chief my last year, but on that day, and in the weeks that followed, I was a regular medical Charlie Brown.  I heard it in the hallways- “Did you see that case Bibey did?  What a wreck!”

        D was unfazed.  He came to the clinic every week, brought his knitting, and patiently waited. (D was the ultimate “patient” I tell you.)

        “I’m sorry D.  I didn’t know it would take this long to heal.” I apologized.

        “You my doc.”

        I thought D’s wound would never heal, but by the start of my second year it did, and the scar didn’t look too bad, either.  D never complained about my doctoring and stuck with me to the end of the program.  When I left to go back home to N.C., we exchanged gifts.  D gave me some of his knitting, and I gave him some pants and a sweater, and told him to make sure to check in at the shelter come winter.

        To this day, I remember the lessons D taught me.  I only take off the most minor facial lesions, and then only when the patient fully understands.  After explaining I could leave a scar, and they might lose a point in their next beauty contest, one old farmer said, “That’s O.K. Doc, I gave those up years ago.”

        The bigger lesson was D’s faith, not so much in his Doc, but the simple faith in the healing relationship we all should have in the doctor business, was rewarded.  There is a lot more to healing than pills and doctors, and D, with his humble educational background, taught me that.  The most important lesson for me was that the patient is everything- our reason for being, and without them we might as well go to the house.  I never forgot D’s faith in me, undeserving as it may be.

         If D is still alive, he is very old.  Should you ever be in a big town in Tennessee with a famous Medical Center, and run into a homeless guy with a worn out pair of white doctor intern pants, and the inside label reads “Dr. Tommy Bibey” in perma-marker, you’ll know it’s D.  Whether anyone notices that little scar on his face or not, I am proud for them to know he was my patient.

Dr. B