Archive for May 2008

Why I Write

May 17, 2008

        Lately a number of people have asked me why I write.

        We ran into Cory and Lorene at a festival, and Lorene told my wife, “When a man is compelled to write like that there is often a reason.”  I find Lorene, like my wife and daughter, to be astute.  (Woman are often quite intuitive)  She is right.  There is a reason.

        For one, it is creative, and I want to leave some creative work behind before I am outta here.   I created a medical practice for similar reasons.  In my own house I am gonna be second fiddle, though.  My wife gave me two children.  No matter how good I write, I ain’t that creative.

        Music is creative too, but when you perform folks often want the same tunes every time out.  They ain’t that way with books.  Every page better be fresh or it’ll never see print, and if it did no one would read it.  I feel sorry for comedians.  They go from town to town, and whether you see them in Nashville or L.A. the act, with very minor variations, is the same. Once they find the formula for a laugh, they don’t stray far.  They can’t if they want to stay in business. 

        Of course they come up with new material, but as for a musician, there is serious time in the woodshed before it is ever unveiled.  Then it is the same thing over and over.  It is even worse with golf.  The path to the top is a repetitive pounding of eight million practice balls.  I was way too ADHD for that routine. 

        With a book, every page is new, and every book better be different.  As soon as a post goes up on the blog, in a day it is history.  I like that.  You have to keep on the move.  For the same reasons, I enjoyed life as a general Doc.  There was a new experience behind every door.

         As a doctor, I saw some injustice in my time.  Part of my compulsion to write is from the desire to show the story.  Because of the nature of our work it has to be fiction though.  We are sworn to secrecy, and I view my patient’s right to privacy as inalienable.  I can never use real names of patients, and when referring to medical events I am obligated by ethics to change minor clinical details to make the situations non-identifiable.  But as we have said before, “for it to be good fiction, it need not necessarily have happened, but it must be true.”

        Still, the main reason is to try and be anywhere on the planet with my wife as to creativity. She can weave and sew, and does pottery, beads and all sorts of cool things, but most of all she gave me those two kids.  I can’t compete with that, so I’ll have to write and do the best I can.

        Gotta study some doctor stuff today, and I’m gonna work on my book.  It is coming along.  See you early next week.

Dr. B


Gentle on My Mind

May 16, 2008

        John Hartford wrote a song called “Gentle on My Mind.”  If there was ever a tune where the title and the author’s personality matched better, I don’t remember it.  I met John Hartford a few times along the way, and he was truly a gentle spirit.

        The relationship with Hartford started with Blinky and Indie.  One time Blinky was hospitalized with DTs.  Indie was his Doc and I covered one weekend when he was gone.  (I was the only Doc besides Indie Blinky would see)  It was a rocky stay for Blink, and he was so appreciative he got us tickets to see Hartford at the old Roxy Theatre at Sandhills.  The two were like a couple of children who were gonna see Santa at the mall, and I have to admit I was enthusiastic too.  

        You might remember Hartford.  He played banjo and fiddle and clogged on a plywood board he’d strap on top of his 57 Chevy and lug around to his gigs.  He had the thing rigged up with a mic and would tap on it with his fiddle bow as he “tuned it up.”  It was quite a show. 

        John was the slender fellow in the derby cap who played on the old Glen Campbell Hour.  He made some remarks on T.V. the executive folks didn’t dig, and the network canned him.  Indie loved his fiddle work, but on that night John Hartford became Indie’s hero.  Blink knew it, and not only got tickets to the show, but wrangled some backstage passes out of Hartford’s roadies.  The road trip was on.  I agreed to go as long as I could drive.

        We got there hours ahead of time, and the boys brought Hartford’s crew some of their finest white corn liquor.  We all played some music backstage and Hartford sat in with us.  He fiddled two hours before show time and coulda gone on a lot longer.  Man, did that guy love to play.  He autographed a copy of his LP, “Gum Tree Canoe” for me, and it is still a favorite album.

        Me and Blinky got along with Hartford, but I think Indie was his favorite.  The two gee and hawed right from the get go.  

        Come December, I got a call from Indie.  “Bibey, ole boy, now who is your best fiddle buddy?”  (Some folks only call when they want something.  When Indie called he couldn’t wait to tell you about what he was gonna do for you.)

        “Why that would be you, Indie.  There ain’t another one like you.”

        “You’re a good young’un.  Wanna go on a road trip?”

        “Where ya headed?”  I had learned not to give an unqualified yes till I got some info.

        “John Hartford’s house.  He invited me and any three pickers I want to his Christmas party.  It’s me and you and Blink.  Reckon the Moose would want to go?”

        “You think?  Heck yeah, we’ll go.  Indie you’re a genius.”

        “Good.  Me and Blink need a driver.”

         “Between me and the Moose we’ll get there.”  I was thankful Indie didn’t want to drive.

        It was some kinda trip.  Indie and Blink sat in the back seat and played old time tunes the entire drive to Nashville. By the time we got there, I’d learned a dozen new fiddle numbers.  When we walked in Hartford’s house, there sat Benny Martin fiddling away.  Indie had died and gone to heaven.  Hartford had invited folks from all over the country.  Some were pickers like us he’d met at a gig somewhere, and other were famous.

        I got to pick mandolin and sing harmony with Marty Stuart, and after a while Bill Monroe arrived and we played “Rawhide.”  I did good till the third time through when Monroe went to warp speed to show who was boss. 

        There were guys there like Elmer Bird, the banjo man from Turkey Creek- Blinky dug him, and a number of musicians from the Grand Ole Opry House band.  Hartford’s road crew cooked chili all night.  As we say in bluegrass, it was a large time.

        The highlight of the night for me was the fiddle jam.  Hartford, Benny Martin, and a real estate man named Fletcher Bright out of Chattanooga joined Indie in the Lee Highway Blues, and they tore it down.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen Indie so happy.  He told me was afraid to drink too much ’cause he wanted to remember it all.   Indie brought his camera and got a picture with the group.  Other than that night I don’t recall him ever with a camera at a jam session.

        By three am, the music was still going strong.  I needed to lie down, and since I was the designated driver, Indie had no choice but to leave with me.  He didn’t want to go.

       “D@^#, Bibey.  You’re a young’un.  I ain’t tired.  We don’t gotta go, do we?”  Indie was a big kid.

        “Come on Indie, I worked all week, and drove you out here.  I’m whipped.”

        “Well you don’t love music as much as I do, and don’t you forget it.  We coulda stayed.  You just don’t love it enough, man.”

        I loved to play, but I have to admit Indie was right.  I loved it, but not like Indie.  He would say. “Fiddle ain’t life or death, it’s more important than that.”  Indie was a serious musician.

        Bless his heart, I think he woulda stayed up three days straight and dropped over dead before he’d gone back to the Super 8 to lay down if I hadn’t made him.   Someone had to look after him, and I was the guy. 

        We went to Hartford’s Christmas party twice.  He shut it down when it got too big- John would invite everyone he took a liking to all over the country, and that was a lot of folks.  I’m glad Blinky got the invite for Indie, and that I could drive him out there.  He still goes on about it to this day.

        I thought Indie had a lot of hard luck in his time, but he never complained.  If fact he thought he’d been quite fortunate. If anyone tried to tell him otherwise, he tell ’em about that trip and the fiddle jam session at John Hartford’s house.  For all his rowdy ways, Indie was like Hartford- a gentle spirit.  I’m glad he got to go; it was a lifetime highlight for him.

Dr. B


Essential Zink and the Country Doctor Compilation

May 13, 2008

        First of all, let me reassure you.  My spell check is not down, and I ain’t gonna bore you with a treatise on the relative risk/benefit ratio of the trace element Zinc.  And no, this is not about a hot new bluegrass band, though it would be a good name.

        Nope, I spelled it right- it is Zink with a “K”, and it ain’t boring, or music related, but it is cool.  It turn out this is a Doctor Zink and I want you to know about her.

        As I cruised through my April 23-30 edition of JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association)  a prominent caption on page 1879 caught my eye.  “Thank Goodness for My Ass” was the title.  Now it ain’t every day you see a headline like that in JAMA, so I was intrigued.    

        It was a story about a doctor whose patient who was about to die.  The family was taking it hard.  Dr. Zink found communication difficult, but a breakthrough came when a family member realized Doc Zink was the lady who brought a minature donkey from her farm to the Christmas Pageant a few years back.  Once the family made the connection, the floodgates opened.  Dr. Zink was able to communicate more effectively and thus was “saved by her ass” because of this shared history. 

        As a country Doc, this kind of thing happens to me often.  Someone will say, “Ain’t you the Doc who wuz on T.V. playing the mandolin?”  Other times the bond is because our kids were in Scouts together, or maybe we took our animals to the vet the same day or have the same barber.  It can be one of those bridges where folks realize we are all just human beings on the same team.  As Docs, sometimes we don’t have much control over the situation either, and it worries us too. 

        There is more to the story.  As it turns out, me and Dr. Zink had some ties in this small world of medicine.  Some time back I sent her a Country Doc essay for a University Press Anthology she is editing, and she decided to use it.  (I’m gonna tell you about the Anthology below.)  I was thrilled, ’cause it meant a big University Professor had interest in what a country doc had to say.  Sometimes we feel like no one hears out our problems.

        When I read her JAMA article I realized she has the same set of pressures I do.  And for my money, any lady University Professor who has the courage to send an article with that title to JAMA (a fine organization, but a bit stuffy) and the skill to write it so well they can’t resist publication is extra good in my book. 

        I believe my readers, in particular the ladies, are gonna dig Dr. Zink.  My wife and daughter are successful women.  I like to see them get to follow their dreams, and Dr. Zink sure did it.  An article published in JAMA is no easy gig.  I’m sure her compilation will be excellent, and very insightful into the lives of health care folks.  

         So, I have passed on the info Dr. Zink forwarded to me.  Her collection comes out in 2009, and good old Dr. Bibey is one of the contributors.  I can’t wait to see what other docs and health care professionals around the country have to say.

Dr. B

        Here is her info: 

Beyond the Country Doctor: Anthology of Rural Medicine in the 21st Century.
Published by Kent State University Press and Hiram College Center for Literature, Medicine and Biomedical Humanities.
It is no longer the country doctor taking care of the farmers and ranchers.  Today a diverse group of clinicians have added cell phones and PDAs to their black bags and minister to a multi-colored patchwork quilt of patients. 
The book will show the breadth of rural medicine in the United States today with poems, essays, and short stories (fiction and creative nonfiction, max 5000 words) written by health professionals (doctors, nurses, midwives,
nurse practitioners, physician assistants, social workers, mental health providers, paramedics and students of all of the above) that address the following:
–Who we are (exploring diverse providers)
–Who we serve (exploring the variety of patients)
–Where we are (sense of place)
–The resources we have and the challenges we face (i.e. tele-medicine, electronic health record, part of larger health systems, limited services, insurance, etc.)                           

Take care–

Roses for Mother’s Day

May 11, 2008

        We used to have an old southern tradition I don’t see as much anymore.  On Mother’s Day, everyone wore a rose to church.  You wore red if your mom was living, and white if she was deceased.  Even as dumb little country boys, we understood enough to feel sad for the folks who wore the white roses.

        I had two brothers, and we got our roses the same place every year.  We had a rose bush in the back yard.  We thought it was a magic rose bush, ’cause as far as we knew no one ever watered it or tended to it.  At times we’d look at the roses as we played, but thought little of it till Mother’s Day.  Then we’d go out back, and sure enough there were roses a plenty.

        For me, those roses sorta represent the magic of motherhood.  Like grits for breakfast, you didn’t order ’em, they just show up.  I don’t know how they got there, but somehow they did.  It had to be magic.

        Me and tens of thousands of other Southern boys called their mama  today.  I call her at precisely 8:15, and she knows it is me before she picks up the phone.  I think moms know everything.

        I’m glad my rose was red today.  I wish I’d never have to wear a white one, but of course that day will come.  Until then, though, I’ll call every Mother’s Day at 8:15 sharp, and check on her on the other days too.  Moms are world class nurturers.  Even though moms are magic, we need to tend to them too, just like someone musta looked after those roses years ago.  There are few opportunities for magic in the mean adult world, and magic should never be taken for granted. 

Dr. B

Indie and Blinky

May 9, 2008

       If there were ever two peas in a Harnett County pod, it was Henry Indian Jenkins and Blinky Wallendorf.  Henry sawed a fine old time fiddle and Blink was the best drop thumb banjo man in the County.  They were more old-time than bluegrass guys, but I’d sit in with them at times, and they were excellent musicians.  Even after a night of corn liquor by the campfire, they never missed a beat- perfect timing. 

        One thing I didn’t understand, though.  Both of ’em had prostate trouble and couldn’t sit all the way through church service without a break to go pee, yet they could jam old time music for hours on end and never budge.  One time I asked Indie how that could be.  He gave me a blank stare and said “I dunno.”  Indie used to say not to preach at him, ’cause a sane man couldn’t stand more than an hour a week, and Indie warn’t up to that much.  I knew better than to ask about it in front of Ms. Jenkins- it wouldn’t be proper as Indie would say.

        Blinky has been gone a decade now.  Indie says he got over it, but when it comes up, he’ll ask me to check the skelton skull in the corner to be sure he has been supplied with his Jim Beam.  After that, he likes for me to wheel him out into the courtyard.  Most of all, he loves his garden.  They let him have a small patch of ground there and he put out a flower garden.  He said all them residents hadn’t been as lucky as him, and he wants them to enjoy the flowers at the end. 

        Back when Indie lived at home, he had a garden.  He was extra proud of his roses.  When you went to see Indie, you didn’t go in the house first, but walked around to the garden so he could show off his latest prizes.  Indie was not a golfer, but he forever quoted the great Walter Hagen.  “Son,” he’d say.  “Always take time to stop and smell the roses.”  Boy did Indie do that.  He worked hard, and he cared.  Yeah, he made some mistakes, and he was never a political animal, but cut a wide swath of rose smelling, and that’s a fact.

        Indie loves this time of year.  When the attendants cut the grass, he wants to sit outside.  The smell of that fresh cut grass reminds of when he was able to mow his lawn in the summer.  He was real particular about his yard, and I don’t tell him the folks who bought his house don’t keep it up the yard like he did.  I sure ain’t gonna tell him they let the rose garden go to weeds.  

        Indie took it all in as he went along, and I don’t think he has many regrets.  Still, when the subject of Blinky come up, his mood darkens.  Everyone says you never hear Indie talk of it, but when I visit him at the nursing home, he still confides in me about it pretty regular.  I guess it’s ’cause I’m his Doctor.  If your Doc is any good, you can tell ’em your secrets, and Indie is comfortable telling his to me.

        Indie says he wants me to tell the whole story about Blinky, but I still ask to be sure.  I don’t want to breach his privacy, and I have been reluctant, but he always reaffirms his desire to share it.  He also insists on it being after his death though.  As I said before Indie attracted lawyers like a pretty girl would if she walked into Harnett Billiard and Bowl, and he is way too old and tired to put up another fight.  Maybe even more important Ms. Wallendorf lives right down the hall from him at the Home, and somehow Indian made his peace with her.  I don’t think he wants to disrupt that truce- it was too hard to come by.  One thing about Indie, he never wanted to end up on the outs with anyone.

        When I visited him Wednesday, Indie cracked open the skeleton skull cap and poured a drink.  At first he started to talk about Blinky’s death, then reversed field.  “Ah hell, Bibey. Blink wouldn’t want us to moan about it.  We had too many good times for that.”

        “That’s right Indie.  Blink was a good ‘un.”

        “Hey you remember when that rascal got us invited to John Hartford’s Christmas party?

        “Shoot, yeah Indie.  I’ll never forget that one.”

        “Ole Hartford was a player, huh?”

        “Yeah buddy, and I think he liked Blinky’s banjer picking, too.”

        “And man, when Bill Monroe hisself walked in, I thought……”

         Me and Indie went on about that trip till suppertime.  I wheeled him down to the dining room and bid him good night.  I went back by his room to be sure we had closed the skull on the skeleton, and went home to catch up with Ms. Marfar.  After supper, I was gonna have to get out the Hartford shoe box, and refresh my memory.

 Dr. B

A Bad Day at Golf

May 8, 2008

        Just so y’all know, I’m gonna tell all- both the good and the bad.  And yesterday was a bad day at golf.  Some days I don’t know why I play.  Like medicine, you don’t have much control over it.

        It started on the first hole.  I did the rational thing and hit three-wood to keep the creek outta play.  I hit it good, but it hooked a little and somehow wound up behind a tree on the left side of the fairway.  I don’t know how it did that.  Everyone knows the ball will drift back to the right there even if you hook it, but it didn’t listen.  (Lee Trevino says you can talk to a fade but a hook won’t listen.)  I almost got a par, but the four footer lipped out.  I putted it the way I meant to, and it should break left from above the hole.  This time it didn’t take the break and went straight.

        I went along good a few holes, then three putted an easy hole for a bogey, then flew one down the hill on the right side at number eight and made double.  I know better than to go there- I hadn’t been in that spot in ten years.

       After a par on nine and a burger at the turn, I got my confidence back, but hit one in the trees on the right then three putted again and started out with a double.  Still I fought my my back, made some pars and thought we had a chance when we got to eighteen.  By then I was confident again.  The tees were up, and the wind was at our back.  If you hit a big drive you can blow it right over the tree on the right and cut the dog leg.  It was my routine play as a kid.  I hit it solid, and the ball was still rising when it clipped the top branch and fell dead.  I think that tree has grown a bunch since I was a kid.

        I tried to cut it around and get on the green, hit another tree, landed behind it and was stymied one last time for the day.  Another double bogey.  84- yuck.  There was no mad money for Marfar in the County yesterday.

     It was a bad day of golf, but then no one died, I didn’t have to tell anyone they had cancer, and I didn’t even get cussed out.  My Marfar sensed my disappointment, but I didn’t say anything.  I’d feel guilty for complaining over trivia.  I told her I was gonna go over to the Nursing Home and visit Indie and she said she’d pull out a couple of steaks to put on the grill for when I got back.

        As Cary Middlecoff said, “I don’t worry over four foot putts.  If I miss, my wife still loves me, and we’re eating steak tonight.”  My Marfar knows me well, and she is a smart woman.  And she is right- it is only a game, not brain surgery.  Besides, I’m gonna play better next week.

        I’ll tell you about my visit with Indie in the next few days.

Dr. B


The Check is in the Mail

May 6, 2008

        After the initial shock of being served with the papers, Indie got his back up on the Sissy case.  Indie was smarter than what people knew, and he ran a med-line search and built a good case that the six month delay was immaterial to Sissy’s outcome. 

        I thought he had the science right, but there were other factors to consider.  For one, Sissy suffered mild mental retardation from birth.  At deposition, the Taylor team established the point she was unable to care for herself, and that as captain of the ship, Indie had an extra responsibility to protect her best interest.  The breach of privacy didn’t help his cause any, either.

        Still, when old lady Hamlett got up there and went on and on about how much she cared about Sissy, I thought Indie was gonna jump up and object.  Everyone in town knew she was far more interested in her bridge club than Sissy, but Indie’s attorneys knew better than to beat up some old woman and her little sister with MR and breast cancer.

        I was Indie’s friend.  Even though I thought he had done wrong when he lost the report, I wanted to see him dodge this one.  In spite of that, I felt very sorry for Sissy.  After surgery, though no fault of Indie’s, Sissy had a stroke and wound up in the nursing home.  I’d known her for years, and you couldn’t help but like the kid and have empathy for her plight.  I was on Indie’s team, though a peripheral role.  If I felt that way, I didn’t want to know how a jury might see it.  The thought of her on the stand as she struggled to speak was more than the insurance carrier could stand, and they decided to settle.

        In those days, Physician’s Liability could decide to settle without the consent of the Doctor.  I guess they figured the cost of a defense of Indie was steep, and the odds of a runway jury award were risky.  I don’t think I’d ever seen Indie as mad as as when the carrier sent word of the news.

        One Thursday I was just ready to go out the door to church band practice when Indie called.  “Bibey, you ain’t gonna believe it, but the d@^# check is in the mail.”

        “What you talking Indie?”

        “The check is in the mail.  They settled up with Sissy, and didn’t even tell me.  You know what is bad?  Old lady Hamlett’s gonna get all the money.  Sissy is still stuck in the nursing home, and Medicaid is paying her bills anyway. ”

        “I’m sorry Indie.  I really am.  How much did they hit you for?”

        “I don’t know man.”  I knew he knew, but figured he was embarrassed to tell.  I didn’t press it.  One thing was certain.  The stakes for Indie were now to the next level.  First the heart attack case, and now this.  He about had to avoid another one.  P.L. was a loyal crowd of folks, but after three strikes, you were usually outta luck.

        “Tell you what Indie, let me help you with your filing system.  Maybe you can improve on your odds.  They dig risk management at P.L.  It’ll show good faith.  Can’t hurt, might help.”

         “Yeah, O.K., thanks Bibey.”  I was pretty sure he paid no attention.  “The worst of it all Tommy, is they won’t let me look after Sissy anymore, and I’m the only one who ever would.  Can I turn her over to you?”

          “Sure Indie, you know I’d be honored.  I’ll take care of her.”

         “Well, it’s only temporary, this’ll all blow over someday.”

         “Indie, man, you can’t go back and be Sissy’s Doc now.  Physician’s Liability won’t allow that brother.”  Poor Indie.  He was too good for his own good.

        “Ah hell, they’ll forget after a while.”

        Somehow I doubted that.  “I don’t know Indie, I think they keep records.”  P.L. was well known for a long memory.  I was certain they’d never forget Indie.  If nothing else, he was unique.

        Bless Indie’s heart, he promised me he wouldn’t go back to doctor Sissy, but I know for a fact he’d sneak over to the nursing home on Sunday afternoons and take her some of her favorite candy.  Some folks said he did it to make the dietitian mad and others thought it was to get under old lady Hamlett’s skin, but I knew better.  He couldn’t help it.  He was just being Indie, and didn’t know how to be anything else.

        I’ll be back over to the nursing home in a few days to ask Indie how much more of his saga he’s gonna let me tell.  I know for sure he wants me to let you know some about his friend Blinky Wallendorf, so I’m tell you about him in my next post.

        I’ll talk to Indie about it, but as far as what happened to Blinky I suspect he’s gonna say he don’t want it all told just yet.  If so, I will respect Indie’s wishes.  At the same time, he has already told me his final wish will be for me to tell the whole story, so after he is gone I’m gonna do just that.

Dr. B


Martin Taylor/East Virginia Blues

May 5, 2008

        Martin Taylor.  Now, that is a name what strikes fear in a doctor’s heart.  And it is with good reason too.  

        Some of the lawyers are pretty easy to whup.  The ones just in the business for a crap shoot often see a case as winning lottery ticket and swing for the fences only to strike out.  Not so for Martin.  Like an ace golf hustler, when he steps on the first tee he’s done his calculations, knows the odds, and has figured within a narrow margin of error how the thing is gonna come down.  And, he ain’t gonna take a case just for the fun of it and know he’s gonna lose before he gets started. 

        Mr. Taylor is the senior partner in his firm, Taylor, Taylor, Graham and Haley out of Norfolk Virginia.  I often wondered how he wound up in Norfolk, but I found out it was ’cause his daddy was deceased, his mama still lived there, and he wanted to look after her.  I figured a big plaintiff attorney would live in Chicago or New York, but they say he loved the coast and deep sea fishing, and needed to stay close to check on his mom.  Besides, Martin had cases all over the country.  His pilot carted him around in a private Lear jet, so I guess home base was sorta immaterial. 

        I once heard of a Texan who flew all over the world for his company.  One time he stepped off the plane, and realized he’d taken the wrong flight when he landed in the wrong country.  He was undeterred.  It didn’t matter- he had business everywhere.  Martin was a bit like that.  He had cases in Vegas and LA, but also in little towns like ours.  

        Early on in the case, I had Moose send him a memo to warn him the landing strip at Harnett “International” was too short to put that Lear down here.  Taylor send back a note:  Thanks for the warning but NTW, (bluegrass for not to worry) he’d drive on down.  The message was of considerable concern in Indie’s camp- where did Taylor pick up on the bluegrass terminology?  We figured we had a leak somewhere, but where was it? 

        About the time Indie got his certified letter, some strange men showed up at Johnny’s Jewelry and Loan, our local music store and bluegrass habitual Harnett county hangout.  I wasn’t there, but Johnny called me right after they left.

        “Doc, is Indie in some kinda trouble?”

        “I dunno, how come do you ask?”

        “Some strangers showed up today and said they wanted to know what kinda Doc Indie was.  Said they was wanting to pick some bluegrass music.  I didn’t believe ’em.”

        “How come?”

         “Well, for one thing they wondered if Indie was a good fiddle man.  Everyone knows the answer to that.  And too, they was driving a Mercedes car.” 

       Hm. Unlikely they were pickers, sure enough.  “Didja catch the plates?”

        “Yep, Virginia.  The tag on the front was Norfolk.” 

        Uh oh.  Martin Taylor scouts sure as the world.  “So, what happened?”

        “We talked a while, and finally I had to ask ’em.  I said, “Where are you boys from and who do y’all work for?”  They said they’s just bluegrass guys in town for the week.  Cookie was there.”

        Oh Lordy.  “What did Cookie say?”  I was concerned.

        “Well Cookie said he didn’t know who they was or about what wuz their business, but if they wuz here to cause Indie trouble he’s gonna kick their a^^.”

       I groaned.  “GG, Johnny.  Why the heck didn’t you stop him?  You can’t talk to these kinda cats that way.”

       “You know who they was Doc?  We figured they’s Mafia types.”

        “I don’t know, Johnny, but ya’ll be careful what you say.  I know Indie appreciates the support, but in our line of work you can’t go around talking like that.”

        “Well that’s what Indie woulda said.”

         “I know, Johnny.  I know.”  Indie friends were loyal but they were the wrong kind of folks for this sort of battle.

        Back in those days, I was a consultant for the malpractice insurance carrier, Physician’s Liability, so it is natural that me and Mr. Taylor woulda crossed paths on occasion.  We were on opposite sides of the aisle, so direct contact was forbidden, but I have often wondered if our team decoded the intercepted chatter with any degree of accuracy.  

        I know some of it was on the money.  One time we played the eastern Virginia Folk Music Society festival.  I remember it well ’cause we played the slot right before “The New Dixie Pharaohs.”  We were on stage, and lo and behold I spotted Martin Taylor in the crowd.  He was incognito in a wild Hawaiian shirt and straw hat, but I am sure it was him. 

        We opened with the East Virgina Blues and I dedicated the song to my Mafia friends in the audience.  No one but the Moose knew what the heck I was talking about, and we changed the words to the tune.

        It goes:  “I’ll go back to East Virgina, North Carolina ain’t my home

                       “I’ll go back to East Virgina, leave them North Carolinians alone.

        We changed it to:

                      “You go back to East Virginia, North Carolina ain’t your home.

                      “You go back to East Virgina, leave us North Carolinians alone.”

        Of course we played it so fast no one noticed the difference, but I am sure Martin Taylor did.  He turned to the guy next to him, some dude in a dark suit and sunglasses, and the two of them began to laugh. I’m sure we didn’t scare them one bit. 

        I was gonna go out in the crowd after our set and to check and see for sure it was him, but before we finished our last song, he and the guy in the dark suit split.  I hung around to take in the Pharaoh’s set- they rocked.

        Someday I’m gonna look up Martin Taylor and see what all he thought about it all.  For now we we could only communicate in code.  I needed my insurance, and any mingling with the enemy was off limits.  I’m certain Martin couldn’t afford to be caught hanging out with the likes of me, either.

        One thing is a fact though- Martin Taylor is one more tough character.  Indie was outmatched on this one.

         I don’t want you to worry, so I’m gonna go ahead and let you know Sissy is O.K.  That is the most important thing.  Next time we’ll see how her case played out, and what happened to Indie.

Dr. B

Indie’s Filing System

May 2, 2008

       There were a lot of reasons Indie stayed in trouble.  Of course it didn’t help Jim Beam was such a good friend to him, but most of that was on the weekends.  (Mrs. Jenkins wouldn’t let him drink before church, though, and Indie complied.)

        His filing system led to some of his misery.  Now, Indie never did see much need for all that paper work.  Indeed, sometimes he ’bout had me convinced.  This guy knew all his people on a first name basis, as well as where they lived and most of their phone numbers.  He could make a pretty good run at naming their meds, but he admitted the patient needed to bring in their bottles to jog his memory.

        You ain’t gonna believe this, but Indie wore this tattered tweed jacket with two big ole pockets, and he kept all his patient’s important papers right there on his person till he caught up with ’em to take care of the problem.

         I’d see Indie in the lounge at the hospital.  “Hey Indie, I saw Mrs. Ingle for you this weekend.  I think she might have pneumonia.  Did you get her x-ray?”

        “Hell, Bibey.  What kinda doctor are you?  It’s just atelectasis.  (In between bronchitis and pneumonia)  Got it right here.”  Then he’d fish around in his pocket (x-rays were in the right, lab on the left) and sure enough produce a report of confirmation.

        I can not overemphasize this is not the system of choice for the American Academy, and with good reason.  Sooner or later, a report about has to get lost.  When one did, it was important.

        Mrs. Hamlett was my English teacher, and a very proper woman.  So, when her little sister chose Indie as a Doc, old lady Hamlett was not the least bit happy.  Sissy had been a patient in the big practice in town.  When she fell on hard times and went on Medicaid, her doctor dropped her, ’cause the corporate folks said they had too many Medicaid folks on the rolls.  Indie was happy to see her.  He took all comers, no questions asked.  It was one of the things I liked about him.

        So, when Indie lost Sissy’s mammogram report at the Harnett Billiard and Bowl, Mrs. Hamlett was some kinda infuriated.

        She had every reason to be.  For one, it delayed the diagnosis six months, (the report later turned up under the sink when the Health Department came through for an inspection) and second of all, it was a major privacy violation.  (I was hip before HIPAA was cool.)

        When Indie told me, I was furious too.  “Dang it, Henry.  You’ve gotta get more modern, and you better quit keeping all those reports in your coat pockets.  I told you this was gonna happen.”

        “Well, hell, Bibey.  I’m sorry, but her nodes were negative.  I called and apologized.  It didn’t change nothing, you know, but I am sorry.”

          “That might be the science of it Indie, but somebody’s gonna come calling over this, and you’re in trouble.”  Dang him, he should be too.

        Other than the Blinky Wallendorf case, it turned out to be the worst trouble Indie saw as a Doc.  It wasn’t but a few months, and he got a certified letter from a law firm in Norfolk.

        He called me the day it came in.  Poor Indie.  He did foul up, but I felt sorry for him still.  I went to his office to see what had arrived.

        “Taylor, Taylor, Graham and Haley, Attorneys at Law.”  It looked official, and very poisonous.

        “Go ahead and open it, Bibey.  I can’t look.”  Indie covered his eyes like a child and awaited the news.

        I read the letter and offered a summary.  “Indie, this ain’t no false alarm.”  We all get letters on a regular basis, but most of it from the bottom feeders testing the water.  This was from Martin Taylor.  “I hate to tell you, Indie, but Martin Taylor is a bad a^^.  He’s gunned down bigger than you, brother.”

        “Thanks for the encouragement.” 

        “Better call your carrier, man.”

        Indie’s malpractice insurance carrier, like most of us in those days, was Physician’s Liability.  They were even less enthused than me.  They remembered Indie well ’cause of a heart attack case he had to settle on two years prior.  I thought he got done wrong on that one.  A patient called Indie’s house one night complaining of heartburn.  Indie says he told ’em to go to the ER, but of course he didn’t bother to make a note, and the patient said Indie said they could come to the office in the morning.  The man had a heart attack, and never regained his previous level of vigor. 

        A Doc like Indie is a duck in a shooting gallery, and the patient was the uncle of a prominent banker.  I knew Indie was gonna lose, but I was not sure he got a fair shake.  Another Doc might have gotten the benefit of the doubt, but Indie had too much baggage, and his carrier was afraid to go to trial.  They decided to cut their losses.  I can’t say I blame ’em, but I’m still not sure it was fair.  Indie is a lot of things, but dishonest ain’t one of his faults.  If we coulda dug up a few phone records or one more witness, maybe it’d a worked out, but he didn’t have enough support to take a chance at trial.   (If Indie had jotted down a note it wouldn’t have hurt either.)   

        That case went for a quarter mill, and he only carried a mill total, (it was all he could afford) so Sissy’s case could run the table for him.  I didn’t like his odds, especially against Martin Taylor.

        Mr. Taylor has a saying I have adopted.  “If you don’t know everything about a case, you don’t know anything.” (except we say don’t know nothing)  And, I promise you before Mr. Taylor takes on a case, he does his homework. 

        But then so do the Docs.  You have to to stay in business.  So next time I’m gonna give you the scouting report on Martin Taylor.  I know him well, and have all fear and respect of the man.  To understand Indie’s case, you have to understand Martin Taylor, so he’ll be the subject of our next visit.

Dr. B         

Wisdom of Age

May 1, 2008

        I’m gonna tell y’all more about Indie real soon, but thought you might like this one.  I ran across it in some of my reading.

        An elderly patient was asked what was the best thing about being 103 years old.

        Her answer?  “No peer pressure.”

        I like old people, they are so cool.

Dr. B