Posted tagged ‘patients’

Here’s Who This Doc is Loyal To

February 19, 2010

         God and family are at the top of the list of course, but today I am talking about loyalty as a doctor.  Who is the doctor loyal to?

        This will be a very short post, because it is a very short answer: it is the patient. 

        For the most part, I am what I seem; a simple country doctor who plays the mandolin and whose idea of a big night on the town is to take his wife to a bluegrass show.  There have only been a few people I went to war with over the years. 

        It was over the same issue every time.  If anyone stepped on the rights of my patient, I became a beast.  If they were rude or disrespectful to them, it made no difference to me who they were, I found a politically correct way to insure they wound up out of the loop.  I have worked with the same nurses for twenty-five years, and they would be the first to tell you not to step in between me and my patient any more than you’d crawl into a bear’s den and tell a grizzly how to raise her young’un.  

      My patients are my boss.  I live to serve them.  When I read doctor books, it is with them in mind.  To an outsider, the intensity of these relationships is near impossible to understand. 

        The reason I play the mandolin is so I won’t burn up inside.   My advice to people who want to understand my mind on this is to go the medical school and spent a hundred hours a week for a decade to come to grips with some small fraction of the complexity of the human doctor/patient relationship, and stick with it a few decades until you understand how little you still know.  Then we can talk about it.  Otherwise, I would advise people to not get in between me and my patient.

Dr. B


I Put You Through College and Catfish John

September 25, 2009

        Mrs. Greer was one of the first patients I saw in private practice.  She was in the ER after a sudden cardiac arrhythmia and near syncopy.  (Around here they call it a falling out spell)  Sweat popped out on her brow, and her color was dusky.  Her shortness of breath was so obvious it’d been noticed by a third year med student.  I had seen her once in the office when my dad was out ot town.  She’d seen him for years.

        I approached the bedside and looked up at the cardiac monitor.  She struggled to sit up in the bed.  “You better be nice to me.  I put you through college.”  She wagged a finger at me and sputtered out a laugh in spite of all the coughing.

       I liked this woman immediately.  How brave can you get?  Near death and made me smile.  I am proud to say we got her converted (cardiac that is; she was already saved) and she lived another seventeen years.

       I saw her daughter in the office the other day.  She has developed the exact same cardiac condition her mom had and is doing well.  I asked her how she liked the new office.  “Just fine, Dr. B.  It’s real nice.  But we don’t come to the building.  We come to you.  Wherever you go we’re gonna follow.  We ain’t gonna forget you saved mama.”

        “Maybe I better take you to visit Corporate.  I’m getting kinda gray you know.”

        “Don’t matter to us.”

        “I gotta take good care of you guys.  Your mama put me through college.”

         She smiled at the memory.  “Y’all need to have an open house.  We could do a covered dish supper.”

        “Sounds good to me.”

        “You’ll bring your mandolin won’t you?”

        “I’ve played for my supper before.”

        “Hey Doc, you remember when Sis……”

        It was like that all day.  The only patient I had seen less than twenty years was the fifteen year old with strep throat.  Every time the whistle blew I did think about what it might be like to hop a freight train, but I knew I’d make it a round trip.  I thought how lucky I have been.  I’ve been seeing the same folks for all these years.  I’ve had the same doctor myself.  My barber cut my hair as a kid.  My mechanic and I went to high school together.  My uncle was my dentist until he retired and now I go to my cousin.  I’ve played music with the same cats and golf with the same choose-up boys at the muni.  One way or another, they all of take care of me as much as I take care of them, and all I have to do is read books and write prescriptions.  Mrs. Greer even put me through college.  I didn’t make a big pile of money, but I don’t see how any human could have been more blessed. 

        All I gotta say is what the heck kinda million dollar insurance executive in Raleigh really believes he’s gonna know my patient better than me?  He can photo-copy records all he likes, but he won’t be Doc for my people any more than I’m gonna jump on a stage and turn into Mike Marshall on the mandolin.  Like Mike I gave it my life.  It’s hard to whup a guy like that.

        Don’t tell this, ’cause it might get me in trouble, but when a patient of mine like Catfish John gets a letter from the government or insurance company that recommends a change in their medicine he just laughs at them.  “Don’t them SOBs know I tried that in 1993?”

        “I know that guy, John.  He used to get picked last in softball.”

        “I ain’t surprised.”

        I went back to my desk and picked a few bars of ‘Catfish John.’  If that fellow was to come to town he wouldn’t have any idea where to look for a guy like John.  If he did luck up and find him, he’d be best off to take me on his first few visits.  John doesn’t take to strangers until he’s had a decade to size ’em up and he’s got no more use for a man in a suit and tie who shows up in Harvey County out of the blue and gonna ‘help’ him than I do.

Dr. B

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

July 17, 2009

        I don’t know about y’all, but I love the song ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow.’  Even as a kid, poor Judy Garland sang it like someone who was destined to see some hard times.  I felt sorry for her back then, but the way she sang I am confident she found peace in eternity.

        One of my young FaceBook book friends wrote today that she was sitting on top of a rainbow and had the world by a string.  I liked that imagery.

        I wrote back that somewhere over the rainbow was a life of perpetual grace and dignity and I hoped she’d pull a few strings for me.  Maybe some of my patients would be blessed in the process.

        I left for work.  The first guy I saw was a fellow I have been worried about.  He is in the throws of something very bad, and suffers with a lot of pain.  We talked a while.

        At the end of our conversation, I said, “Well brother, I do know this.  Some where out there a pretty young blond lady angel is pulling a few strings for you.”  

        “Really, Doc?”


        “Dang.”  He broke into a broad grin.

          I sent him back to the pain Docs for some tweaking, but I think he was better before he left the office.  It confirms what I’ve always believed.  Somehow, some way, somewhere over the rainbow we are all in this thing together.

Dr. B