Sep 7, 2013

Bedside Manners

Whether for a veterinarian, cardiologist, internist, or opthamologist, I am a not-so-strange attractor for those in the medical profession who would first do harm.

Even when my mother chose them, I have had a history of being in the “care” of doctors I don’t like — beginning with the pediatrician in Denver of whom I have “recovered memories.”  At six I told my mother I didn’t like Dr. Johnson, gray and jowly and with hands that were much too busy.  Her response was ” I don’t like him either.”  My mother’s life philosophy was “Get over it.”

Dr. Johnson was recalled to me by a doctor in Venice named Rodolfo Bassetti who listened to my heart by surrounding my naked chest and press his head to my back.  My friend Mary Goodbody sent him packing.

I should have known that the stories about clueless M.D.s were true when I married my first husband, the radiologist, who told one of his patients with MS that she shouldn’t worry about dropping pencils :  ”Don’t sweat the small stuff.”  Or when I told him I had a great idea: “How would you know?”

I am sure all doctors are not like this and I have met a few good ones, but like I said, I tend to attract the ones who first do harm.

As an adult, I have had at least four close encounters with the unkind.  The stories I am telling here are true.

When our dog was dying and had lost 30% of his body weight, the veterinarian told my son, by way of explanation:  ”If your mother lost 30% of her body weight, she would look good in a bikini.”  He should see me now.

My internist, when I showed him some (what I took to be) fat around my knee said: ” ooo.  ick!”

Then there was the cardiologist who attended my massive heart attack — an old acquaintance from medical school days — who read my tests and announced to me, mid heart attack: “Oh Gloria, what happened to you, you used to be so beautiful and now you have the body of a 70 year old man.”

Post heart attack, he stopped by my room at Queen’s to tell me a medicine he had just ordered for my heart-which-had-flipped-out :  It will either solve the problem, he said, or it’s the death spiral.

But I was prompted to write this blog by a recent visit to my opthamologist, who I have been seeing for my bizarre eye condition, keritoconus, for more than 30 years.  Before I sat in his chair, he said, and I am NOT kidding: ” Well, you’ve survived nine years [from your heart attack].  Almost everyone has another incident by 11 years.”

When I left with a new prescription a half hour later, I asked him if he was sure I should fill it, on account of the fact that I would be dead in two years?

I do not wish to impugn these doctor’s abilities because I am alive, I can see and I still have the “ooo.ick” fat on my knee.

But here’s the thing:  they can say this stuff, but I can’t say f-you.  Who knows? I might “accidentally” get the death spiral.



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Gloria. Circa 1955.

Gloria. Circa 2012.

Other than working for the American Red Cross in Korea for two years, Gloria Garvey has lived in Hawai`i since 1971. Her opinion and other writing has appeared in: The American Philatelist. Honolulu Weekly, The Honolulu Advertiser, The Honolulu Star Bulletin, The Star Advertiser, Hawai`i Reporter, Pacific Business News, Island Scene, The Design Management Journal.

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