Archive for September 2009

International ‘Play it Again Sam’ Day

September 9, 2009

        One of our fellow writers, Ms. Karen Collum, has a son who is having open heart surgery today.  The boy is named Sam, and goes by the nickname ‘Possum.’  In the bluegrass world, I have dubbed him ‘Australia Sam.’

        He has an ASD, or atrial septal defect.  To break that down into real doctor talk he has a small hole in his heart they gotta patch, but he should be okay, ’cause as far as those things go, it sounds bad but most of the time they can fix it and the patient will do well.

         His surgery is today, so in the world of bluegrass we have declared this ‘International Play it Again Sam Day.’  We want him to get back to play and kid stuff pronto, and to leave all the fear and pain behind.  The good news is kids are very resilant and all odds are he will do just that.

        One time one of my children had surgery, though not this serious.  I had been a Doc a long time but I was not prepared for the helpless feeling.  Post-op all I could do was sit up all night and wait for the storm to pass.  She did fine, though.  Ms. Karen might feel like she’s leaving Casablanca in the fog and rain on a prop plane this evening,  but tommorrow the sun is gonna shine, and Sam is gonna play it again.  

        For that matter there are a bunch of kids out who face something similar today.  So I’m gonna send up a prayer that they have a minimum of suffering and life returns to normal very soon.

        I believe prayer and music have power to heal.  I’m sure someone has done a study and played music to post-op mice and realized they healed up faster than the ones without any social support.  So from the bluegrass community around the world, all the best Sam.  Play it again.

        My song of the day on FaceBook is Sam Bush’s ‘Brilliancy.’  At one time I had this one under my fingers, though no one can play it like Sam.  I’m gonna get out my mandolin and play it for Australia Sam as soon as I finish this post.  I hope my fellow musicans will do the same.  The writer world is much like the bluegrass one.  We all try to make sense of a crazy world through art.  I find both genres are often misunderstood so all us artists gotta stick together.

        All prayers to Australia Sam.  Play it again soon, kid.

Dr. B


Bones and Bogey

September 8, 2009

        My editor Jenny Lynn got a lot done for ‘The Mandolin Case’ while she was in Harvey County.  As I have mentioned, one of the most important things she did was to convince Bones to tell his part of the story.  When you read the book you are gonna understand.  He was a key player, and if had not consented it just wouldn’t have been the same.

        Perhaps the best benefit of all is it rekindled a relationship between me and Bones.  After ‘The Mandolin Case’ he left Harvey County.  He still won’t give up his whereabouts but at least now he’ll come through every so often to visit.

        I got to play golf with him last time he was here.  He is retired now.  His handicap is two.  I think it might be better than that.  When your traveling handicap is two you are a player.  

        Bones is a tall skinny fellow with bright gray/steel blue eyes and wavy gray hair to match.  He wears a visor and sunglasses, ’cause he’s afraid of cataracts.  The back of his neck looks like shoe leather from the sun.  He says he can’t play like he used to ’cause his back bothers him. 

        Nowadays Bones travels with a little short stout fellow named Bogey.  Bogey is swarthy and might be Mexican.  He wears a tank top, Bermuda shorts, and blue tennis shoes with black socks.  There is a tattoo of a heart and a naked woman on his right shoulder.  

        These guys have read too much about Titanic Thompson, the great golf hustler.  Bogey only carries four clubs, a driver, a putter, and also a shovel and rake.  (He says he keeps up Bones’ garden)  He wears a cast on his left arm but says it is half-way healed.  They’ll bet fifty dollars he can play three holes with what he has in his bag and not make more than a bogey.  

        Bones changed after the Mandolin Case.  Before that I always thought he was just a nice Southern boy.  Now he has the heart of a gambler.  He plays fair and he is 100% ethical, but I wouldn’t bet against him.  It’s like Martin Taylor said, “Always fear the nice guys.”  (I still fear and respect Martin too.)  

        I have to go to work.  I promise I’ll tell you more about the exploits of Bones and Bogey later.  You will enjoy getting to know them.

Dr. B

I’ll Just Say So Long

September 6, 2009

        Julius finished his rotation Friday.  My song of the day after he left was Tim O’Brien’s ‘Look Down That Lonesome Road.’  The tag line at the end is quite apropos.  It goes, ‘I hate to say good bye, so I’ll just say so long.’  Julius was the best med student we’ve had come through Harvey County in a long time.  I couldn’t say good bye, so I just said so long. 

        Besides, he’ll be back.  Believe it or not, Harvey County has gone plum modern.  We used to do all the I.C.U. work ourselves but now we have a couple of intensivists.  I knew Julius wanted to get into that kind of work, so I sent him over to see them to see if he could do a rotation with them late this fall.

        Our intensivists are two sharp guys we somehow lured here from the Mayo Clinic.  When they first showed up in town I realized my days as the local king of the bubble tests had come and gone.  (For those that don’t know the term, my son coined it.  In grade school when they had a standardized test I asked him if he was scared, and he said, “No sweat Daddy.  All you gotta do is fill in the right bubbles.”) 

        When I ran into this duo, I remembered my father’s counsel.  “Son, in this business, you’re gonna run into people smarter than you.  When you do, don’t be jealous;  go make friends with them.” I did just that.

        They are an odd duo with odd names.  Zellington and Grinzler.  Sounds like a World Wide Wrestling team, huh?  They are like an Abbott and Costello comedy routine except they got their punch lines out of ‘Harrison’s Text of Medicine.’  One, Zell,  is short and uh… stocky.  The other, Grinz, is tall and does his best to be austere in spite of Zell’s antics.

        When I sent Julius to ask them about doing a rotation with them he was concerned.  “I don’t know, Doc.  They’re from the Mayo Clinic.  Sounds pretty high powered to me.  Will they take me on?”

         “No problem, son.  When they ask you what your objective is for this rotation, just say, “I hear there is a lot of debate in Harvey County as to which one of you guys is smarter.  Dr. Bibey asked me to find out and report back to him.”

        Julius did as I said. Grinz took one look at him then said, “Smart ass,” and signed.  Zell grabbed the paper out of his hands and signed it above the line where Grinz did.   

         I also had Julius negotiate for Friday at lunch off so he could eat with me on the ‘Starving Medical Student Foundation.’  The boy did good.  We have an appointment at Chang’s Chinese the first Friday in November.  Like Tim O’Brien sang, “I hate to say good bye, so I’ll just say so long.”

       See you soon, Julius.

Dr. B

Here’s the link to Tim O’Brien’s tune:

Glory Hallelujah Gonna Lay my Burdens Down

September 4, 2009

          I turned in my last deep revision of ‘The Mandolin Case’ to my editor, Jenny Lynn.  This was the same night I was getting shed of a kidney stone.  “Glory glory Hallelujah, I’ve laid my burdens down.”

         I was humbled by the fact that Ms. Sharon, a young lady all the way over in Australia, understood ‘The Mandolin Case’ was more than just a book or a project, but like a kidney stone was something I had to get out of me.  Women are so intuitive.  She picked up on it right away.  It’s like the English Professor’s wife said, “when a man writes like that there is a reason.”

        I have been blessed all my life, but I have seen a lot of wrong.  Somehow I’ve avoided trouble all these years.  There were rough spots along the way, though.  To me medicine is all about praying you can help a few sick folks.  I am sad to report to you to some it is about power and money and greed, and the story is not always pretty. 

        ‘The Mandolin Case’ is about some Docs I knew who did their best to live right.  It wasn’t easy.  They became involved in a very ugly and complicated human confrontation.  The docs were able to reach the far shore and lay their burdens down.   They were able to do so and not compromise their dignity or integrity.  They were careful to protect the privacy of people involved, even the guilty ones who did not deserve that discretion or earn the privilege to be treated with respect.  I have to give Indie most of the credit for how they pulled it off.

        The night I finished my revision, as I struggled to pass this stone, I had peace.  I knew I was gonna get my job done.  I laid my burdens down.  Illness always reminds us we are mortal.  I told my family, my agent, and my editor if anything were to happen to me press on and get it out there, because it has to be told.

        “The Mandolin Case’ is more than a book.  It is a saga about how to face adversity, learn from it, and come out better on the other side.  And in ‘The Mandolin Case,’ except for the few who were wicked beyond human hope, everyone involved came out with a deeper understanding of what it means to be human.  I still pray for the ones who didn’t get it, but I ain’t the Judge.

         We meet with a publisher in late September.  I hope they take it on because it will see a wider audience for their efforts.  But if they don’t I have no fear.  I’ll self publish and “have mandolin will travel” will see you out there in 2010.  My story has to be told.  My dream is that humans will put aside their differences and always seek the truth.  I hope my book and my music will be a small part of that.  I’m not a Pollyanna.  I know it isn’t gonna happen in my lifetime, but it ain’t gonna stop me from trying.  After all, a man has to have his dreams, and mine is that in eternity I’ll get some small little corner where I can lay my burdens down forever.

Dr. B

The Suffering Artist

September 2, 2009

        I have no legitimate claim to the title ‘suffering artist,’ although at 1:30 AM as I writhed around with my little kidney stone buddy I might have tried to lay claim to it. 

        I’m better today.  I stopped to figure it up, and as best I can tell I have missed a total of 5 1/2 days of work in a long career as a Doc due to illness.  (I had my other stone on my day off.)  And when I am sick, I have a fine wife who makes magical chicken soup, and access to any kind of Doc I need.  I don’t see how anyone could have had a more blessed life than me.

        As we got in the car yesterday to go to the urologist, the first song to come on was “Talk About Suffering Here Below.’  It hurt to laugh, but I couldn’t help it.  I felt like the Good Lord sent that one to me to remind me the Devil sends the stones, but He is against ’em and will see you through.

        I am on my last major edit of ‘The Mandolin Case’ before we present it to a publisher. I figure my stone gives me the one last argument I needed to convince them.

      I can just hear it now.  “Son, I am sure this is a nice story, but we like to sign artists who have suffered.  It seems to me you have had a picket fence life; a nice wife and 2 1/2 children.  What could you know about suffering?”

        I’m gonna say, “Well sir, much of what you say is true.  I have been blessed.  But I’ve seen a lot of suffering.  One major objective I have as a writer is to pay tribute to those folks, and to the human spirit that allows them to persevere in the hard times.”

        Then I’m gonna say, “Besides that sir, you are an artist, too.  And just because you are now a successful CEO at a major publishing company doesn’t mean you haven’t suffered.  You know how edits go.  My last one went so deep that I writhed around on the couch all night long to get it out.  I suffered as bad as a man would with a kidney stone.  I gave it everything I had.  I think folks will want to read the work of an artist who has suffered like that.”

        And the good news is it is all true.  That stone was rough, but I might as well put the suffering to good use.  After all, that is the exact concept that inspired ‘The Mandolin Case.’  Suffering has a purpose if we can just get to the other side to see what that purpose was.

Dr. B

This Too Will Pass

September 1, 2009

On sick leave for a day.  This is what I posted on FaceBook.  I appreciate all my friends, and will be back soon.

Dr. B 

Song of the Day: ‘This Too Will Pass’ Artist: Rodney Crowell. Right now I’m in the eye of the storm, but old Doc has a kidney stone. It has rendered me not very creative, but still philosophical. If you are sick every so often you don’t lose sight of what your patients are going thru. For everyone who hurts today, “locked in pain, but no one’s to blame, this too will pass.” Keep the faith.