The Medicine Show

I’ve been spending a fair amount of time with my dad lately, mainly in hospital waiting rooms. My mom underwent a huge vascular surgery on July 29 after developing a painful and red foot due to poor circulation.  So, we’ve been in close contact with the various medical professions, closer contact than Dad really enjoys. It does, however, provide him many opportunities to vent about one of his favorite topics: the demise of the medical profession and bureaucratization of healthcare. Interestingly enough, his vitriol was much more outrageous and outraged prior to the successful surgery. Now he’s so relieved and in awe of the surgical marvel and Mom’s extremely positive result (thus far) that he’s much less disparaging of the current medicine show. He is quite complimentary of the “farrier” (aka the podiatrist) that recognized the crisis and facilitated an urgent same-day consult with a vascular specialist. Naturally, once you realize you or your loved one needs an important and somewhat urgent surgery, you want it done NOW. In Mom’s case it took a week, which as it turns out, was not an undue delay. But, feeling extremely anxious and powerless about the entire situation really brought out Dad’s disdain for the current administratively heavy and bureaucratic nature of medicine. He refused to even attempt to call the surgeon’s office with questions because “trying to talk to those guys is like trying to talk to the Pope.” Perhaps. But, you have to at least try, no? The vascular surgeon is a young man (my brother has dubbed him “young Dr. Young”) that now walks on water in our opinion, but Dad mused a lot prior to the surgery about his apparent “lack of whiskers.” Mom’s first encounter with this young surgeon was a week prior to the surgery, as he was about to perform an angiogram on her. She was prepped and waiting in the ambulatory surgery center, when this “kid” in scrubs popped in and said, “Hi, Ruth, I’m Ben. How are you doing?” Mom very pleasantly looked at him and gave him her standard reply, “Well, pretty good, I’m able to be up and about.” Then followed up with, “I’m waiting for the doctor.”  Having read his badge, I said, “Mom, I think this is your doctor.” Dr. Ben grinned, shrugged his shoulders and said, “Yup, I’m it.” We all laughed, and off they went. Now, ten days later, she still wonders who the pleasant good-looking young guy that comes in to see her in the morning is. Today might be the first day in three or four weeks that Mom doesn’t take an opiate painkiller. “Pocket rockets” is what Dad was calling them as he doled out the oxycodone pills to her during her weeks of excruciating pain. “Stoned” was how my brother put it when he saw her with her pinpoint pupils. Anyway, she’s on the mend, Dad and all of us are cautiously optimistic and looking forward to having our sweet mom back home where she can boss the dog around and look out at the calming and therapeutic waters of beautiful Sawyer Lake.

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