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My Brush with Modern Medicine

November 18, 2018
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I am happy to say that my condition will soon be better.  I owe it all to Dr. M. 

My Family Doctor, Dr. M of Bayhealth in Milford examined me when I complained that my nose was invariably stuffed beyond breathing every morning and was occasionally painful, as well.  Of course, when I got to the doctor’s office at my appointed time, I had a chance to catch up on old copies of TIME, PEOPLE and WOMEN’S DAY magazines, not something I usually had time for. 

I was soon thereafter called from the waiting room by a cheerful young girl who led me to a digital scale where my weight (too high) was measured along with my height (too short) and my temperature was taken by putting something that looked like a funnel on a stick in my ear and she also swiped my brow with a mini light saber that felt strangely cool.  She then held my wrist to check my pulse, enhanced by her entrancing perfume. 

Dr. M saw me after I had the usual short one-hour questioning by his newest nurse in his “examining room”.  She was very thorough, even asking about my long-dead parents’ health history and all my childhood bumps and bruises which she dutifully tapped into the station computer with my help on the spelling.  When she left, I wished I had remembered to bring my unfinished copy of War and Peace with me as the wall chart declaring the Body Mass Index[BMI] that was considered “Normal” "Obese” “Morbidly Obese” and “Hopeless” and the admonitions to tell your examiner about your food or medicine allergies, unusual stools and/or reactions to rectal probing became quite monotonous on their twentieth reading.  

Eventually, another nurse entered and gave me a “gown” to put on that resembled a large pillowcase slit down the middle.  She had me wear it backwards so it couldn’t close in back.  I did not remove my underpants and socks.  When she knocked and came back in – asking if I was ‘decent’ which was impossible to achieve – she had me sit on the examining table while she read out most of what the first interrogator had typed into the computer.  Satisfied that the new girl had got it right and that I had mostly told the truth, she proceeded to take my blood pressure with a contraption attached to the wall, wrote down her findings and ignored my question as to what my numbers were.  She simply said “the doctor will discuss it with you” and replaced the apparatus in the wall.  Then she departed, promising “the doctor will be right with you.” 

After a little while I began recounting the first two thirds of War and Peace that I had finished.  When I got to the duel, there was a knock on the door and Dr. M arrived, with a smile on his face, reading my file.  He looked me over and sat down at the computer, reviewing the information there.  At the same time, he asked after my wife, the cat and our son who lives in Virginia.  Turning to face me, he started to say something when a rap at the door of the little room was followed by a nurse peering in to ask if Dr. M had admitted a Mrs. S to the hospital.  He excused himself and walked out. 

I was just reliving the Battle of Waterloo when Dr. M returned.  He apologized and explained the hospital refused to admit his patient, Mrs. S, without his say-so.  The new admissions clerk didn’t know Dr. M from Adam so he had to talk personally with the new hospital administrator.  He was sorry for the extra one-hour delay but it couldn’t be helped as he was no longer his own boss.  He announced he had sold his practice to the hospital corporation to avoid going bankrupt.  The paperwork of his four-physician practice required eight clerks, six nurses and a receptionist, not to mention outsourced billing and cooing. 

Impolitely, I interrupted what was about to be a long and visceral denunciation of Obamacare and Medicare to ask what I could do to stop waking up feeling like my nose was a turkey stuffed for roasting.  He shone a light up my nose, felt the glands in my neck and face, said, “Hmmm” a few times.  Before I could ask what “Hmmm” meant, he had a cold stethoscope on my back as I took deep breaths.  He repeated the listening on my chest and thumped me there a few times.  I sounded hollow.  Next, he had me remove my socks and wiggle my toes, clench my toes on command and react to his running a sharpish blade up and down the soles of my feet.  The last gave me chills and made me afraid I was being cut.  He saw my cold sweat and explained he was checking me for possible symptoms of diabetes.  All I could utter was a weak “OK” as he stretched on a glove that I knew was a portent of the dreaded rectal probe of the prostate.  

Finally finished, having wiped my ass with the inadequate Kleenex he provided and gotten dressed, he typed some text into the computer. He said, “I’m sending you to Dr. Gilhooly who specializes in The Nose and will be able to treat your problem.  Otherwise, you’re perfectly healthy for your age, mildly obese – lose fifteen pounds, twenty would be better -- and stop smoking.”  Before I could remind him I stopped smoking in 1980, he smiled and departed.

Feeling frustrated but relieved my appointment was over, I went to the clerk’s desk to pay and see if I could get on Dr. Gilhooly’s calendar.  The clerk was most helpful.  My insurance covered all but $200 of my visit and she asked me to wait while she contacted Dr. Gilhooly’s office.  I was in luck.  Dr. Gilhooly had a cancellation in August.  I took it.  She gave me a mimeographed sheet showing where Gilhooly, Myer and Shaw had their practice and where to park.  I thanked her and got home in time to eat dinner while watching the 11:00 News.

Six weeks later, I arrived, as requested, at Dr. Gilhooly’s office at 10:00AM for my noon appointment.  After I completed the twelve-page family and health history form and signed the required release forms and pledged to pay my co-pay before leaving the doctor’s office on pain of death, I was ushered into a small cubicle where once again my vitals were weighed and recorded for posterity. 

I was then placed in a small examining room into which I had smuggled a small paperback mystery.  I was only halfway through the engrossing novel when I was interrupted by a nurse bearing a laptop and the forms I had completed.  She bade me sit while she carefully and politely verified my answers and complimented me on the thoroughness and grammar of my essay on page ten.  I thanked her and mentioned I had once, briefly, taught High School English.  That set her off and I learned she was from a family of schoolteachers at various levels of education.  She was regaling me about her uncle, a former Headmaster at a New England Academy, when the doctor arrived.

He introduced himself and immediately commended Dr. M for sending me to him.  He reviewed my notes while I began to feel a breeze coming through my paper “gown” on my chest only half as cold as on my exposed back quarter.  Of course, he asked again that I explain my complaint – waking each morning congested, sometimes painfully, occasionally with an accompanying headache that took most of the morning to subside unless treated with nap and a dose of “migraine” pills bought over the counter. 

He listened with attention and seemed very sympathetic.  Had I had the symptoms today?  No.  When, most recently?  Yesterday and two days before that.  At what time had I gone to bed and how well did I sleep.  At 1:00AM to 8:00 AM, fitfully not falling into deep sleep until late.  Had I drunk coffee within an hour of bedtime?  No, but 2 hours before I went to bed.  Did I get up during the night?  No, never.  In what position did I sleep?  Various.  Usually on one side or the other in a fetal position or on my back.   Was my discomfort always in the same place on my body?  Yes – always the left side of my head and sinus and neck. 

He immediately clapped his hands.  I jumped.  He said, “Very good!  Let us examine you and see what we can find!” 

I felt he must have discovered the cure and willingly accepted his examination of my nostrils, shining lights into the backs of my eyes and the familiar listening to my lungs and heart, occasionally thumping while I wheezed and he applied the stethoscope. 

Then he had me get dressed and again busied himself with the laptop left by the nurse.  As he typed, he asked once more about my allergy medicine (xyzal) and the migraine pills (from Dollar General).

After I was dressed, he picked up the phone and called to ask whoever was on the other end to see if Dr. Sapperstein would be available anytime soon to see me.  Suddenly, I began to sweat.  Was I in such bad shape that I needed another specialist?  Could I afford all this extra cost?  Was it going to be worth it?

While we waited for the voice to get back to him, he smiled reassuringly and said he thought my case would be quite simple, but that Dr. Sapperstein (pronounced sapper steen) would be the right doctor to fix me up.  He said he and Sapperstein were residents together at Belleview Medical Center where Dr. Sapperstein had a unique specialty in SSH (Sinister Sinus Homeopathy), just the right man to treat my ills and a leader in his field.  I was feeling better already.  Relief was in sight.

Just then the phone rang and, after listening briefly, Dr. Gilhooly said triumphantly that Dr. Sapperstein could see me in January.  I can’t wait.