Archive for January 2009

Professor Bibey Returns to Country Doctor Life

January 11, 2009

        My med student got an ‘A+’ on his rotation and went back to Sandhills.   When he left, I had to revert back to just Dr. Bibey, country doctor.  No more Professor Bibey, at least for now. 

         This kid was extra special.  Not only did he treat all my people with dignity and respect, but the young man had the good sense to treat me like I had enough wisdom to be worth his time to hang out with me.

        I explained at the onset I couldn’t teach him the finer points of rhabdomyolysis as well as his Professors, or what he could read in Harrison’s Text Of Medicine.  I hoped I could show him how to live in a small town and stay out of trouble; to to be kind to people, how to accept criticism but not tolerate abuse, and how to work and study but still enjoy life full throttle.

        I have a saying I like- “I’ll do all my crying ahead of time.”  It means I’m gonna do all I can for my patient while they are here.  I think about them all the time.  If I can’t figure out what to do, I call on one of my consultants to give me a fresh perspective.  I have built up a lot of social capital over the years, and one of them will help me out.  The funeral is not where I want to think of something else I might have done.

        I hope I taught him about redemption, too.  The only Perfect One died on the cross, and all of us are gonna fall short.  The trick is to do our best, but also accept we are only human.  It is the best we can do.  In the end we are going to lose every patient we have, and it hurts every time.  You have to find some way to carry that burden.  For me it was playing music and writing.  It beats drinking whiskey, although I can see how a Doc could turn to it easy enough.

        We had a time of it.  We saw sick people and heard out the troubles of both young and old.  We ate good and drank a bunch of coffee, picked music with the great Mike Marshall, and talked of books and plans.  He’s just getting started and I’m on the home stretch, but a man’s gotta have his dreams and we both do.  He said he was even gonna consider coming to Harvey County to practice.

        If he does I want for him to look after me when I’m in the Nursing Home or over at Harvey Hospital.  He’ll know when my time has come.  If he has ’em play Bill Monroe in my ear, and then put coffee down my NG tube; well if I don’t come around it’s over sure enough.  I don’t want him to worry; it won’t be his fault, but just a thing- my time to go.

        “But,”  I said.  “Don’t worry about that, we gotta a lot more time to keep on rocking, and not in the chair yet.”  We couldn’t say good-bye.  Instead I’ll say, “See you on the next rotation.  Keep at it pal, you’re one of the good ones.”

Dr. B


Mike Marshall/PsychoGrass

January 9, 2009

        Remember how I told you I had a med student this month?  If you recall, I said he could get an ‘A’ in my rotation if he treated my patients with respect and dignity, and honored their privacy and confidentiality.  He could only get an ‘A+’ by the demonstration of interest in bluegrass or acoustic music.

        Last night he earned his ‘A+.’  Mike Marshall and PsychoGrass were in Winston-Salem.  My Marfar and Marie thought it too far for the old man to drive alone, so he served as my chauffeur and we took a road trip.  I could get used to having this kid around.

        It was quite a show.  Any time an alt-acoustic band can play to a full house in a large but acoustically perfect room such as the Stevens Center, they have my vote for a Grammy.  They drew a diverse crowd that ranged from hip kids to grandmothers.  

        If you have any interest in music, regardless of genre, PsychoGrass is one to check out.  If you are a musician, consider it an imperative part of your education.  Anytime you can see Tony Trischka (he taught Bela Fleck) bow the banjo (yes, bow) on Jimi Hendrick’s ‘Third Stone From the Sun,’ you have run into an innovative outfit.

        There was bluegrass and swing, Brazillian choro mandolin and violin duets mixed with Django/Grapelli kinda jazz.  The tunes ranged from ‘Doggy Salt,’ an upside-down ‘Salty Dog’ canine hypernatremia statement reminiscent of a musical version of Frank Wakefield’s ‘talking backwards’ to ‘Stroll of the Mud Bug,’ a bluegrass tribute to ‘Flight of the Bumblebee.’  And you thought it was just old Dr. B who was convoluted.  See, all us bluegrass folks are this way!

        It was, as Mike said, Thelonius Monk and Bill Monroe with corn dogs and Kool Aide.  As before you get the wrong idea, these guys fuel their imagination with music.  The show is one fitting for anyone from spiked-haired kids with nose rings to your mama’s Sunday School class. 

        The fiddler, Darol Anger said they follow the Hippocratic Oath and ‘Do no harm,” but they do more than that.  They stretch the boundaries of musical imagination but no one gets hurt; the kind of cats who inspire me to carry on another day in a crazy world.

        The band members are Mike Marshall, perhaps the world’s most versatile mandolinist, along with Darol Anger, violinist, hot flat-picker David Grier, Tony Trischka, innovative New York banjo man, and Todd Phillips on the bass.  They have more awards than I can list and I don’t want to leave any out, so check out Mike’s website .  The world needs more PsychoGrass, not less, so go see them when they come to a theatre near you.  

The link is:

Dr. B

News Flash: Appalachian Monkey Types Out Novel

January 8, 2009

        There is one thing my agent drilled in me from day one.   “Son,” he said.  “When you write fiction you must show the truth.”   So, I want to say right up front this is a true story.

        I have always heard if you put a monkey in front of a typewriter and leave them there long enough, they’ll eventually type out a novel.  Well, right here in North Carolina that has happened.  One monkey of Appalachian Piedmont Sandhills heritage has done just that.

        Remember how I told you my manuscript had some format issues?  Well my computer guru just called.  They have those corrected and it is ready to forward back to my agent.

       They were mystified, though.  How could anyone write an entire novel and have not a clue in the world about their computer word processor program?

        “Not  a problem.  I just sat down and started typing.”

        “Well it shows.  This thing is great, but honest to goodness, it is formatted like you’ve been wrestling alligators.”

        “You aren’t mad are you?

         “No, but I gotta admit you are the only human being I know who has the tenacity to write a novel and have no idea what you are doing.”

         “Thanks.  I take that as a huge compliment.”      

        “Only you, Doc.  I’m putting the finishing touches on it right now.  You sure did this the hard way.” 

        See, my computer guru has known me a long time.  I just don’t have much give up in me.  When I got a mandolin, I played my first gig with it three weeks later.  (I wasn’t very good; my daughter once said I had no shame.  That must be true; other than my wife no female knows me better.)

       The only thing in life I ever prepared for was to be a Doc, and I did work hard at that.  For everything else I just lived.  One day I decided I wanted to write a novel to show all about the country doctor life.   From what my computer guru says, despite all odds that seems to be what happened.

        I think I’ll speed read it one more time before I send it on to my agent.  I’ve exasperated him enough for one lifetime, and I might catch a few typos. 

        So, pass the bananas.  It’ll be a year before it makes it to print, but I can’t wait for you to read it.

Dr. B

The Ranks of the Rinky Dink/Hoop Jumping 101

January 6, 2009

        Like all modern professions there is a certain amount of hoop jumping that goes with the territory.  Some of it is a bit silly, but I figure you gotta roll with life.  I take it for what it is.

        For example, we Docs have to periodically take some on-line kind of test to prove we know our business.  This is no problem for me.  I never forget a patient, and if you know them you can figure out the right answers to the questions every time.  

        I decided to have a little fun this last go-round.  I was done with the simulation in no time flat.  To tell you the truth, I am concerned for any Doc who can’t blaze through that no sweat.  Here ‘s where the fun came in.  After you got all the basics down, you could start to enter questions the computer had to answer.  I started out with the easy ones:

        “Does your head feel bigger than a peck bucket?”

        “I am sorry, I do not recognize.”

        “O.K.  Your  knee be swolle?”

        “Sorry- do not recognize.”

         “Let’s talk about your diet.”


        “Last time you were in you said you had three thirds of a biscuit for breakfast.  Any change?”


        Pretty soon the machine began to beg me to leave.   “You may exit the simulation.  You may exit now.”

       “Hell, no.  I have some more questions for you.”

       “Pardon?  You may  exit now.”   Then, “Congratulations, you have passed this clinical simulation.”

        “Wait a minute.”

         “Have a nice day.”

         Of course, this all has little to do with doctoring, but everything to do with life lessons.  I have learned to deal with people, and if you make enough of a pest out of yourself those kind of folks will go away.  And too, I have to give my kids a lot of credit.  They are computer geniuses.  As for me when I was a kid I used a slide rule, and as I have said before a bluetooth was something in need of a dentist, but this old man is adaptable.

        I can jump through hoops with the best of  em.  It’s like GOEMA, the government office for the elimination of medical abbreviations.  To stay in compliance, I have to join the ranks of the rinky dink to continue to play ball, but I do.  For my efforts I get to be a doctor.  Other than being a husband and father, it was my most sacred privilege on earth, so I do what I have to to keep being Dr. B.

Dr. B

Is That a Real Book?/The Fiction Tightrope

January 4, 2009

        I have a reader who goes by the title slightlyignorant.  Don’t you love self depreciation?  In truth, she is a college student who is not one bit ignorant, but writes a blog that is perceptive beyond her tender years.

        One day she wrote and asked the question.  How much of this book we’re gonna read is real?  And that folks, is the 64 thousand  (with inflation the half million) dollar question.

        In that one question, msslightly honed right in on the doctor dilemma as a fiction writer- confidentiality.

        You see, a Doc walks a tight rope.  It is a high wire act like those cats who walks out across a line strung between two skyscrapers with one of those long poles as a balance beam.  Lean too far either way, and you die. 

        That is why all my characters have to be fictional.  They had to be to protect the privacy of each one of my patients.  Heck, I even tended to the rights of the bad guy even though the case was a long time ago and he is now deceased. 

        At the same time, all the events are based on a true story.  The trick is let you guys deep inside the Doctor world but not violate anyone’s rights.  If it wasn’t true what good would it be to you?  If you are gonna take your time to read it, I want you understand my world in a way you would have never been able to otherwise.  (Just like I read chili when I want to figure out what it is like to be a teacher.)   At the same time, I have to write in a way that does not go against my my oath.  My patients have to have my loyalty, and their privacy.

        A very close friend and golf buddy told me he could see my mind bounce along the fiction writer tightrope as he read along.  Even though he is very close to the situation, he could not tell for sure when I leaned toward the fact or the fiction side of the balance beam, so I guess I am doing my job.  Even though the novel is fiction, I have to be committed to show the truth, otherwise there ain’t no reason you should read a word I write.

        I am reminded of John Hartford.  A fan asked him about a song at one of his shows.

        “Mr. Hartford,” they asked.  “Is that a real song or did you make that up?”

        John said he didn’t quite know how to answer that.  I’m not sure either.  So to ms. slightly who asked the question of the year to this fiction writer, I pay tribute to you today.  I guess I can say it is a real book, and even though I made up parts of it, it is true. 

        In med school, they used to tell us half of what they were gonna teach us was wrong, but they didn’t know which half.  As a writer, I’ll say half of what I tell you may turn out not to be right some day, but I didn’t do it on purpose.  Even though I’m old, I’m still searching for the truth, and I appreciate each of you on the journey with me.

Dr. B

Do or Die Deadline/Publish or Perish

January 2, 2009

        Writers live or die by deadlines.  A big bluegrass promoter, Milton Harkey, e-mailed me to ask me write an article for the Laurel of Asheville on his upcoming Bluegrass First Class event in February.  I was off, so it was no sweat to get them a rough draft before the Doctor gig cranked up again on Jan 2.

        My next big deadline is January 20.  I have a meeting with my agent to go over my manuscript .  He has a contest he wants me to enter and he also has started to consider publishers.  Jan 20th is do or die, but I am confident I am survivor.

       For one thing, I have a secret weapon- my readers.  Right here in Harvey County I have a creative writing teacher, a lawyer, and a computer guru looking it over for me as we write.

        I already know I have a format problem in the MS, but this computer cat is sharp.  She’ll straighten that out in a week or so. 

        My creative writing instructor friend is excellent, and will advise me on syntax and grammar.  She said she’d tell me if I had tense problems but I told I wasn’t the least bit uptight.  And she has mentioned voice and third person issues she wants to talk about .  I ain’t worried about that either.  A year ago voice was Alison Krauss and 3rd person was when you added a tenor singer to a brother duet, and I have learned much since then.  She teaches high school English, so I figure my competition is a bunch of testosterone poisoned boys who have little else on their mind other than when they are going to get laid.  I figure if I can’t out-write them I am doomed for sure.

        The lawyer said he remembered a little about the case.  He said since it was more than two decades ago, and many of the folks are deceased, it no longer has any legal exposure.  I told him it was a true story and he said it had been so long it didn’t matter.  Also he will check to see if my memory served me right about some courtroom scenes.  He went so far as to secure permission from the parties involved to talk to Gibson Taylor.  I figured if I am going to tell a tale, it better be the truth.

        But it is do or die time for sure, ’cause my agent said if I don’t straighten up and get that dang format problem fixed he is either gonna kill me or fire me one, so y’all wish me luck.

Dr. B

Rural Health Reform

January 1, 2009

        My friend and colleague, Dr. Therese Zink, is on the move.   She is the Med School Professor organized the Country Doc Compilation due out in 2010.  (I ain’t gonna let y’all forgot old Dr. B has an article in it!)

        Well, she’s done it again.  She’s now joined forces with the blog world, and has a new forum to address the problems faced by Docs like me.  Man, I heard Obama’s people will read this thing, so it is big.  

        I have a notion before it’s all over, Dr. Zink is gonna be like a female Moses and lead us all to the Promised Land.  One thing is certain- she has a very good handle on the problems faced by everyday Country Docs like me.

        Y’all check her out.  Here is her address: