Bad News For Indie

        The pneumonia that showed up on Indie’s chest x-ray is about to clear up.  That’s the good news.  However, he has a mass behind it all, and it doesn’t look so good. 

        I knew what it was.  Still, I couldn’t bear not to get a second opinion.  I took it over to my pal Grinzler Zelnorm, a pulmonologist friend of mine.

        “Hey, Griz.  Look at Indie’s chest x-ray.  I got him over the pneumonia, but I don’t like this.”

        Griz flipped the film on the light box.  “Cancer, Bibey.  Wish I could tell you something better.”

        “Jeez, that’s what I thought too, but can’t we do something?  I mean, maybe a bronch would tell us a little more.”  I was clutching at straws.

        “Damn Bibey.  You’re like a family member.”  Griz was sympathetic.  “I hate it man, but as bad as Indie’s lungs are, it isn’t gonna change anything if we make a more precise diagnosis.”

        “Yeah, well maybe he has Wegener’s Granulomatosis.” 

        “You’ve been reading too many books, Bibey.  I am sorry, man.  You and Indie played a bunch of music together, huh?”

        “Yeah boy.”

        “Tell you what Bibey.  Run it by Indie.  I’ll be glad to look at him, or do whatever he wants.  I’m sorry, man,” Griz said.

        “Yeah, me too.”

        It was a long ride to the nursing home.  After all these years you’d think I’d get used to it, but I never like to give bad news.  I think it is why I play music.  You never stopped mid-set to tell someone their mom had died or that had some God awful cancer no one could fix.

        When I came Indie was on top of the world.  “Bibey, you ain’t gonna believe who was in today.”

        “Who’s that Indie?” I asked.

        “The Cherokee Maiden.  Well, she’s the Cherokee mama now, toting two young’uns with her, but I tell you that girl still can saw a fiddle.”

        “That’s good Indie.  I’d love to see her.”

        “Where’s your mandolin?  Hey, what’s eating you anyway?  You’re mighty glum.”

        “Indie, about your x-ray.”

        “Hell, Bibey. I already saw it.  Big ole goon-ball there.  I never was counting on living forever, you know.  Don’t worry brother.”  Just like Indie.  He was more worried about me.

        “Shoot fire, Indie.”  I tried to soften the blow.  I wasn’t sure if I was treating him or me.  “Maybe we could get a CAT scan or something.”  I hated not to do anything.

        “What the hell.  All a CT would do for a man in my condition is help me figure when to plan the funeral.  I’d rather not wreck anyone’s holiday, and you’ve got Fall Festival coming up- that should be a great show.”

        “Indie you know I’d do anything for you.”

        “Why the hell you think I picked you for my doctor, Bibey?  I ain’t stupid.”

         And so it was.  I had notion it wouldn’t come up much.  I started to talk to him more the next day, and Indie said “Bibey, I hate it when old people talk about their aliments all the time.  What a drag.  I want  talk about living.  Y’all playing much music?”  

        He only mentioned it one more time that day.  I was getting ready to leave, and Indie said, “Bibey, you know when they invented Morphine that was a good day’s work for someone.”

        “Yeah Indie, I agree.”

         “Bibey, I only want to hold you to one thing.  Just don’t let me suffer.”

        “You know I won’t, Indie.”

        “Good.  And don’t forget, I was a world class drinker.  It’s gonna take more than a pansy dose for me.”

        “Got it Indie.  I won’t forget.”

         I went home and cried.

Dr. B

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6 Comments on “Bad News For Indie”

  1. mrschili Says:

    I would have gone home and cried, too, but I also see a lot of light in this story.

    Understanding that we have to live around what we can’t change is an important lesson that I wish more of us could see our ways clear to, and it seems to me as though Indy got there. I appreciate pragmatism in people; if we can’t fix it outright, let’s at least figure a way to get through it (or, in some cases, to the end of it) with as little fuss (and pain) as possible.

    You could (can?) do something about that, and you should have (should? Did?) do it joyfully. Helping someone OUT of the life can be just as meaningful as helping someone IN, and I like to think that there are folks on the other side waiting to welcome our loved ones home – while we mourn their loss here, they celebrate their return there.

    Hugs and love to you, Bibey.

  2. drtombibey Says:

    mrschili,

    Indie and me are lucky to have a very fine Hospice Program in these parts. With the ones you get that close to sometimes I have a hard time getting thru it without them.

    Everyone deserves an exit of as much grace and dignity as we can muster, and I pray we can give him that much.

    One time someone said at a conference they thought people should have a “natural” death. My response was I appreciated what they were saying, but I viewed that much like natural childbirth- it was romantic until you got in the middle of it.

    I think we human beings need to surround ourselves with others who try to provide some dignity in both life and death. Hospice does it well.

    Dr. B


  3. Hospice is an amazing organization. They help make death as graceful as it can be for the patient and family.

  4. drtombibey Says:

    Ms. Rachel,

    No question. I never forgot one time I had a patient who was very close and his decline was so difficult for me. I came by a lot, but we mostly talked about old times, and Hospice did most of the hard work of doctoring.

    I could barely handle the situation. One of the Hospice folks realized how bad I was hurting and said, “Dr. Bibey, we want you to know we are here for you too.”

    To me it is all about the patient, and not about me, but it was one of the few times someone acknowleged an old doc’s feelings. I never forgot that kindness.

    Dr. B

  5. Cindy Carter Says:

    I think that it takes special people to help “soften” of “assuage” the fear of death. Everyone knows that they will eventually die. Those who can help them face the next phase of their existence are to be praised.

    Then there is the person themselves. They feel often that they have to prepare the people around them for their upcomin absence. They put their fear aside to comfort those who will be left behind.

    You and Indie have had a good run Dr. B. You and he are a team.

  6. drtombibey Says:

    Ms. Cindy,

    Indie never even pretended to be perfect, and neither was I (I think there was only one perfect human) but we did make a good team.

    Whenever I decided a few years back to do my book, I wanted to explore the two central themes of loyalty and honesty in medicine. Indie had his faults but he personified those traits, and I wanted to immortalize him.

    Someday if cold and calculating computers do all the doctoring, I wanted future generations to know how we humans tried to do it the best we could.

    Dr. B


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