ADVENTURES WITH DOCTORS’ OFFICES

I know you understand as you get older that doctors become a larger part of your life. As your body makes accommodations to your age, some stuff just goes wrong. The first thing you do when something baffling strikes you is to consult your wife with these words, “Dear I seem to have a . . . (mention part of the body). If it something that she might be able to look at, you show it to her with a quizzical look on your own face. Invariably, after much discussion of the wisdom of using an over the counter product, you face your wife and her scowl and agree to call the doctor.

You don’t have much hope of reaching anyone at the doctor’s office other than a machine, or the answering service telling you that the staff is at lunch, or that Dr. ??? is off at a conference, or taking an emergency situation at the hospital. By the time you reach a real person, you have answered all your email, looked up all of your investments, or read the complete msnfoxsports site on your computer. If you are lucky, you can make yourself a cup of coffee, or a bologna sandwich and finish it before you have to talk.

After the elevator music ceases, a voice comes on the phone announcing that this is Dr. so and So’s office, what I can do for you. I always detect a note of antipathy. I can image the woman (and it is most assuredly a woman) answering patients queries all day long. She is not very happy to hear from you. If you announce who you are and the person knows you, that is terrific. More often than not, I cannot tell the difference between the tinny mechanical voice and the real person.

“What can we do for you?” she questions. Now think of this. If it is someone you know, you have no problem explaining a very painful hemorrhoid, a fungal infection in your nether regions or an irregular bowel movement. However, if it is someone who does not know you, you fumble and look for synonyms that will not embarrass either of you. Most often it does not seem to work.

The voice then tells you that she will consult with the doctor and have your chart available for the doctor. Next question is, “Do you think you would want to make an appointment?” Our first available appointment is in March of 2020, unless you would want to see our physician’s assistant sometime in the week after next. My answer is always, “I will wait till the doctor calls me.” I have no desire to bear my pain for a year or two, or even a day or two.

The other possibility is getting someone on the phone that is irrationally nasty and cold. In that case, I just say. “Have the doctor call me.” The problem with that is that you might have to wait a long time for the call to come to you. I always give my landline and my cell phone number. Neither one of those guarantees a call within a reasonable time.

When the call does come, it is a 50% chance that a nurse or aide will call with directions from the doctor. It usually means that some medication is waiting for me at the pharmacy. I am thankful for that, although, I once went through four prescriptions before the doctor gave up and saw me on an emergency basis (that is called fitting me in).

When the doctor calls, the conversations are universally positive. I get the answers that I need and go on my way. As I age, I have little hesitancy in calling the doctor’s office. I do, however, make sure that I am surrounded by a book, my computer and a ration of food.

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