Archive for August 2008

Blooper Against the World

August 12, 2008

        One night on vacation I was taking a snooze as the cable news droned on.  Ms. Marfar nudged me.  “Hey Tommy, see that guy on T.V.?  He’s from the County.  His aunt is in the quilt guild with me.”

        “Yeah, Yeah, what’s his name, hon….”  I glanced at the screen.  “Wait a minute.  Dangnation, THAT’S BLOOPER!”

        “Blooper?  Who’s Blooper?  His name is Jim.”

        I jumped up and ran across the room to take a closer look.  It might be forty five years down the road, but the face was unmistakable.  It was Blooper.  “Honey, you ain’t gonna believe this, but that is 100% for a fact Blooper.”

        As it turned out, Blooper is now a high ranking government official in the thick of chasing down some very bad people.  I ain’t even gonna tell you what part of the world he is in for fear of compromising his safety.  Nowadays he is big and tough, and wore a bunch of medals on his chest.  Not the kind of human being a mild mannered doctor want to get in a scrap with, I assure you.

        Marfar looked up from her knitting, and peered at me over her glasses.  “Blooper?  Dear, I’m afraid you have to translate.”

        “Oh, when we were kids we all played sandlot ball down at old Washington School.  Bloop was four or five years younger than the rest of us, and was a bit pudgy back then.  One day he let a ball get between his legs and Larry nicknamed him Blooper.  He was quiet and never complained, but I am sure the kid tolerated terminal harassment.” 

        I watched the interview with great fascination.  Blooper was now no kid, but a very serious man whose daily routine involved missions to disrupt terrorist activity.  The newsman was timid, and seemed scared of him.  Heck, he looked bad to the bone- I would be too.  Blooper had done good. 

        I’m gonna tell you, I’ll bet the terrorists are scared of him too.  Any cat who grew up as Blooper and seethed about it near a half century is not to be taken lightly.

        Marfar watched a bit longer, and said, “Honey, he seems like a nice man.  Y’all shouldn’t have called him Blooper.”

        I thought about that for a minute.  “Tell you what, hon.  When you run into his aunt at the quilt guild, you make sure she knows it wasn’t my idea to call him Blooper.  I called him Jim.”

        Bloop looks like the kind of fellow you want to keep on your good side.  Somehow, I have a notion he hasn’t forgotten much.  I sure hope I didn’t call him that; I can’t remember.  One better be real careful how they treat people, time has a way of settling up old scores.

        Enough on vacation.  I’m gonna visit Indie at the Nursing Home this weekend, and I’ll report back to you.

Dr. B

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What I Did on Summer Vacation

August 10, 2008

        We were off all week on summer vacation, and it was an overdue break.  I guess you might think this is gonna be like one of those dang newsletter Christmas Cards where I tell you all about how I snorkeled in the Caribbean and mingled amongst the dolphins and the rich and famous.  I ain’t making fun and there’s not a thing wrong with that, but I guess y’all know me well enough by now to know that’s not my ticket.  By the way, I missed all my patients and my blog pals too, so it’s good to be back, but we did have fun.

        I guess our vacations would bore you as much as those cookie cutter Christmas cards, but we thought it was special.  My watch battery went dead Tuesday and I didn’t bother to replace it.  Ain’t no point to time how long to float around in a mountain lake on an old inner tube or see how often the bass break the water’s surface.  And I sure warn’t gonna set an alarm clock to tell me when to get up, but I have been an early riser so long you can’t break the habit in just a week.

        I got in one round of golf in with my boy, and my reign as family champion is about over.  When some kid hits a ball 330, and knocks it by you fifty yards your inclination would be to break his ankles, but when he’s your own, you can’t help but bust with pride.  I turned to the man who we were paired with after his first drive and said, “That’s my boy.”  I will brag and tell you I barely squeaked by him for the round, but my day in the sun is about over.  Don’t matter, I’m gonna play golf with the boy as long as he’ll have me.

        I was on assignment for part of the week, but I wouldn’t call it work.  The Laurel Magazine Editor Paul Howey wanted me to to check out Helm’s Barber Shop in Hendersonville, N.C.  This is a bluegrass barber shop where they jam every Thursday morning.  Everyone sits in a big circle for a jam session while folks get their haircut.  As you can imagine, I was a pig in mud.  The write-up will be in the September issue of the Laurel Magazine.  (They are on my blogroll)  Mr. Howey took pictures and everything, so y’all check it out.  By the way, is you read the Laurel tell Mr. Howey you visited them ’cause of Tommy Bibey.  He’ll be making staff decisions at the end of the year and I don’t want to be a line item in the budget if I can help it.

        On Saturday night, we got lucky.  David Grisman was at the Orange Peel in Asheville.  For those of y’all who don’t know, Gris is a master mandolinist who has been around a year or two now.  His style is more of an acoustic bluegrass jazz fusion nowadays, but last night was his bluegrass experience.  His group is well worth the listen and at times is a bluegrass history lesson.  Here is a bluegrass trivia question for you.  My guess is the English Professor will get this right, but y’all let me know if you got the correct answer.  Remember, we are on the honor system, but if you get the question right I’ll give you a Tom Bibey mandolin pick next time I run into you.

        Q:  Who was the banjo picker David Grisman became friends with in California as a teenager?

        A:  Jerry Garcia, who went on to play guitar with the Grateful Dead.  Before Garcia ever invented Dead-heads and neckties, he was a very fine five string banjo picker.  After he was famous, he collaborated with Grisman on the classic bluegrass project, “Old and in the Way.”

        Well, into a phone booth and jump out as a doctor.  Gotta go to work in the morning.  I hope everyone got thru the week O.K.  Like one of professors said, “Son, don’t take too much time away- they’ll figure out they didn’t need you.”  I can’t have that, ’cause I need all of them them too bad, so I better hustle back to the office and try to look important.

Dr. B

Why I Became a Doc

August 4, 2008

        I’ve been on a doctor kick lately, and not the fiction writer one.  Y’all bear with me.  I’m gonna return to fiction with my next post.  (I know my agent will be happy- I get on these doctor tears and drive him crazy.

        Before I do that, I hope you will indulge me one last doctor post.  After this one, I’ll turn my writing efforts to fiction, both on the blog and to finish up the five times edited rough draft of my book.  But, before I get out of doctor mode, I’ve gotta tell you how I got into it to start with.

        When I was twelve I wanted to be a baseball player.  That career came to an end when I ran into  a guy named Don.  He had a great fastball I couldn’t hit.  Don mowed all the little leaguers down- he’d pitch no-hitter every other week or so.  I was lucky- he was on my team.  One day in practice I hit a double off the wall on him.  I retired from baseball soon after.  Don went on to pitch AAA ball for the Rangers, and even got in the big show as a reliever once or twice.  We are still friends to this day.

        Mama knew I was no ball player.  One summer she put me in a speed reading course.  Boy was I mad.  I still remember being cooped up in the basement of the Jr. High.  We didn’t have central air then, so we’d open the windows.  Outside you could hear the crickets chirp and the crack of a bat in the distance.  What kinda mama was that!?  Of course, she was right.  I had no idea at the time how much it would mean to be a good reader.

       Mama played the piano.  I guess that is where my music came from.  She put me in piano lessons, but I thought I was gonna be a ball player or a guitar picker, and wasn’t diligent with my study.  Mama was right again.  I ended up a fair mandolin player, but the piano is fundamental in music- I shoulda paid attention.  Mom also saw I was a bad homebody, and she was right about that too.  As I got into music, every professional I knew was on the road.  I wouldn’t a lasted.

        And there was golf.  My Dad got stated ’cause he thought it would be a good thing for us to do together, and it was.  When I’d hit one right, he’d say, “Son, you hit it like Arnie.”  Of course, I never hit one like Arnie in my life, but if your Dad says it you believe it, so I thought I could play.  One day, though, I realized when Jack Nicklaus was my age he had whupped every man in the state of Ohio.  It was all I could do to break 80.  The final blow came in the quarter finals of a local tournament.  I went up against a kid named Paul Stanley (the drummer for my first band, the Mystics) and he had me closed out by the 13th hole.  As I walked home it seemed Dad was right- maybe I’d better be a doctor.   Paul went on to become a staff pro for Titleist, and then made a fortune in gas futures.  He’s still a better golfer than me.

        Mom took me to the library every week, and I checked out all of the books they’d let me have, but I was not a serious student for a long time.  In fact until chemistry in high school, I would say I was not a student but a dreamer.  (Some of that persists today.)  My chemistry teacher was a sharp young fellow right out of college.  He told us if we didn’t study we’d fail.  Up till then I’d survived on my wits, but this man seemed serious.  I figured I’d better study until I found out what he was made of.  As it turned out, I made “A’s.”  It was the first time I knew it could be cool to be smart.  (The homecoming queen asked me to tutor her in chemistry- she was pretty darn good student and made a “B.”)

        My English teacher was not mean enough to deal with a bunch of rowdy boys, and I regret I didn’t study as hard in her class as I should have.  When you’re a kid no one can tell you a thing.  I wish I’d had a tougher character like mrschili, but the material was there for learning, and I have no one to blame but myself.  I’m still catching up.

        It was even worse in typing.  Our teacher was old.  We sat in the back of the class, and there was a window at ground level we’d sneak out of and go to Popeye’s store to drink Co-Colas and pick the country blues.  Popeye was a pal right up till his death.  When I came back to town he was one of my first patients.  To this day, I can’t type.  When you see those typos, it ain’t dyslexia- it was Popeye’s fault.  (No, it was mine.)

        In college I found my old chemistry skills came in handy, and made “A’s” in Organic.  Given I was a no talent bum in my other areas of expertise, medical school seemed like the right thing to do.  When I’d come home and go out to the fairgrounds with my Dad, all the little kids would come up and hug his pants legs.  It seemed he knew everyone, and everyone knew him.  I thought that was a good way to live, so I signed up for the gig with no more thought than that. 

        When I got to Medical School I found out I wasn’t so smart.  In the first two years I only a bit above average with the books.  As far as tests go, it was a fast crowd.  I was just a country boy, and the competition was far stiffer than any I’d ever been up against.  I was disappointed.  Not only did I not know anyone that smart as a kid, I never knew people that bright lived on planet Earth.  It was a wake up call.  I knew I would have to work hard.  I didn’t want to go through life and be average.  I’ll never forget my pal Tom Bailey.  Tom was so smart I asked the good Lord why I couldn’t be like that.  The reply:  “I wanted you to be smart enough to talk to Tom Bailey, but dumb enough to be a country doctor.”  I never questioned it again.

        In our third year we started the clinical rotations, and low and behold it all changed.  I found I could remember all the patients on the floor, and all about their problems.  What I read in the books jumped off the page as relevant to the patients on the service.  I forget very little of it.  

        Very soon, I became the patient’s confidant.  The attending would breeze through and make a few pronouncements.  After they’d leave I would sit at the bedside and watch T.V. with the patient and then answer their questions the best I could given my rudimentary stage of development at the time.  The faculty began to take notice.  I made my way to near the top of the class, and broke the 90th percentile on the clinical part of National Boards.  It was my first top shelf score in medicine, and I got most of the questions right because I knew my patients and read about them.  That pattern still persists today.  I have to give my patients credit for much of what I know- they taught me.  In my last year of residency the director asked me to look after his best friend who had become quite ill.  I figured I must be getting there.  He could have pick of anyone.

        To this day, medicine has been an easy business for me.  All I have to do is ask the patient- they tell me what was wrong almost every time.  (Sometimes I don’t listen as well as I should and I regret it every time.)  Yeah, insurance companies and government get in the way, but they are only a pesky nuisance.  With minimal effort they can be neutralized- they don’t know the patients and therefore are at a hopeless disadvantage when they try to interfere.  (More on that in some of my books)

        The rest of my life has been a walk in the park, and I feel like I never did go to work.  It is not hyperbole to say I love my patients- not like I love my wife and kids, but a lot.  It is a privilege to take care of them and I am still very serious about it. 

        Along the way there were two historic compliments in medicine I cling to.  One was an elderly black lady who had worked in our home some when I was a kid.  She called and asked if I would be her doctor.

         I said, “Why Georgia, after all you did for me as a kid, you know I’d be honored to look after you.”

        “You honored?  Why honey, in this town you’s standing right beside Dr. Boykins Douglas.”  (our local internist/cardiologist, a fine doc)  Douglas is a doctor’s doctor, and my personal physician, so I took that as quite a compliment.  

         The other was from my daughter who said I was better suited for my job than any adult human being she ever met, and that I was her hero.  On the days when I wonder if I got much done on earth, that one sustains me.

        After all these years as a doc, you might wonder why in the world I think I can become a writer, too.  (I get a lot of help from my agent and my blog buddies.)  There are times I wonder too, but it is one last thing I have to do while here.  When the book comes out, I believe the folks who started out on the blog with me will understand why.

        I just finished Core Content Review, a major Family Doc update, so I’m going to take a few months to write hard, and try to finish the novel I’ve been at work on for the last three or four years.  I’ll post my progress on the blog.  Y’all have stuck with me on the doctor and bluegrass picker travels, I hope you will hang in there for the writer journey as well.  I’m gonna try to both entertain you and offer a ring-side seat for the doctor business.  I promise to show you the medical world, at least the way I see it.

        So on to fiction.  One thing though, I’ll still be a doctor first.  If it weren’t for the guidance of my agent, I don’t think my books would ever see the light of day.  However, he once told me he could teach someone to write, but he couldn’t teach a good story.  “And you, Dr. Bibey,”  he said, “have a good story.”

        I hope he’s right, ’cause mine is all I’ve got.

Dr. B

Freckles/A Pet Therapy Hero

August 1, 2008

        In 2000 Paul Howey was hiking in the Arizona Desert and came across a small dog and her six puppies.  They had been abandoned, and were near death.  He adopted the dog and named it Freckles.

        Mr. Howey began to realize the dog had special qualities, and got Freckles involved in pet therapy.  She became a star.  The dog was good with all ages, but became a specialist in Pediatrics, and visited children in hospitals in N.C. and throughout the Southeast.  Mr. Howey wrote an award winning children’s book on Freckles.

        We country docs had long noticed our elderly patients who owned pets seemed to do better, but in recent years studies have begun to confirm the phenomenon.  If you don’t know much about pet therapy, Freckle’s story is a good place to start.  She was a pro.

        Recently Freckles passed away.  She had done so much good work in Asheville they wrote her up in the newspaper.  For some reason I was unable to get the link to work, but you can read about Freckles in the Asheville Citizen-Times, July 30, 2008 issue, or in Mr. Paul Howey’s book, “Freckles: The Mystery of the Little White Dog in the Desert.”

        Mr. Howey is the editor of the Laurel Magazine of Asheville, which can be accessed on my blogroll.  If you are in Western N.C., and want to know where to go and what to do, get a copy of the Laurel.  It’ll point you in the right direction.  (And some guy named Tom Bibey writes for his bluegrass beat, so I find it very authentic.)

Dr. B