January 16, 2009  
Doctor, Don't Ask!

As I sit in the doctor’s waiting room an old joke runs thru my mind….A man came running into the office and yelled, "Doctor, doctor!! -my son just swallowed a roll of film!!"The doctor calmly replied, "Let's just wait and see what develops."

That’s how it is with me and doctors; it always seems as if I’m waiting for something to develop.  My mind returns to reality as I look at the other people in the waiting room. I view this as an opportunity to meet new people and to listen to and encourage those that need encouragement.  It’s easy for me. I nod my head in recognition, say hello, and begin by asking the scheduled time they’ve been assigned to see the doctor.  It doesn’t take long before other people are involved in the conversation.  With that information, I can determine the wait time. I’ve noticed that the waiting rooms have gotten smaller, which makes the room seem more crowded than it actually is.  A muted TV is showing the Judge Judy program. I scan the room for a remote, but there is none, so I manually begin to change the channel and I hear a booming voice say, “Please do not change the channel”.  It seems that Judge Judy is the receptionist’s favorite program.  I’m glad Arlene’s with me; we chat between reading our books.

A voice shouts, “Mr. Yaaaaar, please come up to the window and make your copayment”. I’m glad to hear the receptionist’s voice. I know I haven’t been forgotten. 

You’re next

The nurse stood in the doorway and announced, “Mr. Yaaaare.” “Did I pronounce your name correctly?”, the doctor’s nurse asked.  ‘You’re close… it’s Yahre like in sorry,” I responded.  She said, “Walk this way and follow me”. Under other circumstances I may have imitated her walk, but I knew she would not appreciate my humor.  She’s a serious person and I didn’t want to start with my silliness.  She walked with a slight wiggle that I enjoyed watching until she stopped at the scale.  “Up you go”.  I looked at her; she carried a clipboard with my medical chart in her hand ready to write in my numbers.   “Do you think it’s changed since last Thursday?” I commented.  “It’s procedure, get with the program”, she said.  I removed everything from my pockets, placed it all in my hat, and then removed my shoes.  I hope she will remember me and skip the scale on my next visit. This fat guy’s biggest nightmare is getting on a scale.

It seems that between Arlene, my loving wife and I spend more time at doctors’ offices than we care to.  I’m very fortunate in that Arlene accompanies me on most of my doctor visits and I do the same with her. This gives us more time with each other. We’re married for 43 years and spend 17 waking hours together. Still, there is not enough time to share everything we need to discuss.

I present the doctor with a listing of the medications that I am currently taking, including vitamins and herbs. I’ve highlighted the ones that need refills, and a list of questions that I’d like answered.  I notice that he reads the complete list of questions before he begins to speak. I know he’ll address my concerns. I also know I only have 15 minutes then he’s on to the next patient. I have found that the clearer the information is presented the less chance for error. I think that I’ve left nothing out.  My Mom would’ve looked at the doctor as if he was sent by G-d and anything he said, she believed; I don’t.  I’ve seen the results of human error.  When Arlene had her last surgery we printed out all the meds that had been prescribed for her. When the nurse handed her the pills, I would look at them asking her their names before I allowed Arlene to swallow them.  I stayed all day and our friend Ruth stayed all night in the room with her to see that her health needs were met, leaving minimal chance for error.  Health advocates are important; we learned that years ago after my mother-in- law was given the wrong meds in the hospital.

A few minutes before the doctor entered the room, I noticed a large bottle of wooden tongue depressors. I pointed them out to Arlene and asked, ‘How many popsicles did he have to eat to fill up that jar”?  We both laughed and I decide to ask him that question just to see his response.  I placed a red clown’s nose on my face, and I tell him that everyone in his office is clowning around and this has to stop.  The Doc’s used to stuff  like this; he never knows what to expect from me.   I know the rest of the visit will be serious, because I need counsel about going for knee replacement.  Arlene says “I hope he doesn’t suggest a brain transplant. I don’t know why he puts up with you” (she’s beginning to do my shticks and her timing is better than mine. How can I not love my childhood sweetheart).   I say, ‘The answer is simple. I paid for his son’s Bar Mitzvah and his daughter will be getting married in a few years”.

My primary Dr. is really brilliant and a great diagnostician.  He even visited Arlene when she was in a hospital with which he was not affiliated (she suffered from meningitis a few years ago).  Most doctors would not do that. He’s a real mench. I’ve given him free tickets. ”Not good for anything, but it’s free”.  One time he walked in and I was lying on the table with my feet in the stirrups.I told him I wanted to see how it would feel to be in a position to deliver a baby. He just ignores my shenanigans. 


Recently my doctor purchased a medical condominium as his new office.  We told him we’d like to buy him a plant to celebrate and wish him success.  He said, “There won’t be room for plants, it’s a small waiting room”.  So we decided to purchase a miniature Bonsai plant in a very, very small pot to sit on his desk.  I was carrying the plant in my hand as I signed in when the receptionist asked what I was doing with the plant.  I quickly responded that, Hal, my plant, was also ill and I needed a doctor’s opinion.  The people in the office smiled, and when I left the office I was questioned “What happened to your plant? I responded that the doctor is keeping “Hal” overnight for observation. We all laughed.  Now whenever I go to visit my doctor, I tell the receptionist that, “I’m here to pick up Hal”.

The Orthopedist

I was in an outpatient surgery. Three weeks prior I had taken an MRI to confirm that a scope of the cartilage on my right knee was necessary.  Dr. Messer’s “Scheduling Nurse” scheduled the procedure and date at the local hospital.  This was to be Day Surgery.

It was 6 a.m. when we entered the Day Surgery unit and I was called immediately.  The week before I had given them all the information and underwent pre-op testing.  At the hospital I was given a green gown and I could feel the air-conditioning blowing on my tukhas.  I informed the nurse that a doctor that was employed in this hospital had designed the gown.  “Really, who is that?”  I replied “Dr. Seymour Butts--- he was the top doctor in I.C.U.” 

The procedure went well, Baruch Hashem, and on my next visit the surgeon informed me I was now a candidate for a knee replacement.  Wow, lucky me, it’s like winning the lottery. I would have preferred winning the money.

The Ophthalmologist

Then there’s Dr. Eisenstein, my ophthalmologist, whom I see every six months; he usually runs about one and a half hours behind his scheduled appointment time.  I asked the receptionist if it’s o.k. if I wait in my car and her response was, “Stay in the waiting room please, we never know when you’ll be called.” That was precisely my point, I thought to myself, the irony of this is that one time I was 20 minutes late for an appointment and the receptionist said, “I’m sorry sir, that’s not acceptable, we’ll have to reschedule you”.  I pray for this woman, yes, I really do. I pray for her to get another job, one that even pays more, as long as I don’t have to interact with her!!!

My Dentist

"A dentist is also a doctor," my Mom used to say, so I can’t leave Dr. Verville out of my story.  He’s 20 years my junior. and is very meticulous in his practice of dentistry.  When I sit in the dental chair he’ll start by telling me a joke and expect me to share one with him.  When I turned 65 he instructed his staff to give me a 10% senior discount without my having to ask.  He even does charitable dental work on people who can't afford dentistry. He's a real mench.

I go for a cleaning 4 times a year and if he enters the room during my cleaning and greets me, he charges me $25.00 for his evaluation.  I tell the hygienist, “don’t tell him I’m here”. I know I can save the $25.00 if he doesn’t shake hands with me.  When the hygienist has finished cleaning my teeth, I quickly get out of the chair and shout “Doctor V., I’ll see you on the way out. Don’t stop working on your patient.”   He chuckles, knowing why I’m saying that.  What I fear most is his conference room.  When he suggests we speak in that room, it can cost me upwards of $5,000. I think that’s his favorite room.  I don’t stay to visit this time. I’ll email him and maybe we’ll go for lunch. 

When I needed 3 implants in my mouth, he sent me to a skilled surgeon.  The next day I received a beautiful plant with a card signed by both doctors.  The second time I had 2 implants put in my mouth and did not receive a plant.  I told Dr. Verville that I had waited all day for the plant and no one showed.  Hmmm, I guess I had to spend more money to get the free plant. If I had received the plant I was going to bring it to Dr. V. as a birthday gift.  They ruined my shtick. 

Eat Kosher!

Mel the fat guy 

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