Thursday, May 1, 2008

Doctors and modern headaches

I've just come in from dealing with Big Medicine, and I can say I'm glad I'm not really sick. It's bad enough just getting a few x-rays. If I had something seriously wrong and had to make numerous clinic/practice visits I would really have to start TM again in a serious way just to maintain my cool. Running around from place to place, crowds of people in enormous waiting rooms, and utter impersonality are the order of the day. It seems like ancient history when I think of how a doctor's visit used to be.

I remember all of the doctors I ever went to when I was growing up because there were only three of them, and they handled everything. The first one I remember is my pediatrician, Dr. Davis. When he retired I graduated to the doctor my mother and father saw, Dr. Nicholson. He also soon retired; his practice was taken over by another doctor, just down the road, who happend to be the one other people in our extended family saw, so that was an easy switch. Dr. Beatty was my doctor from my pre-teens until I went away with the Peace Corps in my 20s. No appointment was necessary; when you needed to see him you just walked into his waiting room, checked in with Mrs. Beatty, who served as her husband's office administrator and receptionist, and had a seat. She greeted you like the old friend you were and chatted with you while you waited. Soon enough, you were called in, and you sat and had another "family" visit with Dr. Beatty. He knew my parents and aunts and uncles and all their medical issues, therefore what to look out for in me. He did x-rays, lab work, and simple things like wart removal (I had a lot of warts when I was a kid) right there in his office; it was truly one-stop shopping for routine medical issues. In retrospect, he could have been from Central Casting as the wise, avuncular gentleman who gave gentle advice and took the scariness out of a doctor visit. I'm not talking about small-town America here, either, where you'd expect everybody to know everybody else. This was Northern Virginia, essentially the same sprawling, sophisticated, resource-rich urban area it is today, but with fewer people. In the 1950s and '60s, that kind of medical care was still available, even in a big place like this.

Those of us who remember and lament the loss of those days have been complaining about it for decades, and we know they are gone forever. Still, our memories of what used to be inform the choices we make now and certainly our reactions to the cold, corporate atmosphere we all must deal with today. I'm lucky that the doctor I see now is as friendly and trustworthy as Dr. Beatty was, but I pay for that luxury. I'm in an HMO, but it's "open access." I can choose whatever private physician I want, as long s/he is approved by my plan. Being able to choose is a privilege worth the extra premium, and I'm under no illusions about how lucky I am to be able to afford it. I once tried a traditional HMO, where the doctor was not in private practice but was an employee of the institution. I didn't like the impersonality of that arrangement; the memory of my long relationship with Dr. Beatty sent me elsewhere fast.

I don't think this "ordeal," such as it is, will last too long. I should have the results of the x-rays and blood tests next week and my doc and I will take it from there. Whatever is causing these aches and pains, I doubt if it's serious; I'll either be treated directly by my main doctor or by a specialist, whom I'll also be able to choose. Knock wood, things will stay this simple for a long time.


Anonymous said...

Yup. I remember the 60's like that in NoVA. I was living in Mt Vernon and it was never a big deal getting Dr May to see you at any time, you just walked in during daily hours and he saw you. The Dentist were always available too. I also remember a freak tiny piece of shrapnel hurled between rice paddies in Vietnam, hit me in the front teeth and pulled the backs of my teeth out and then exited through the back of my throat, neck, just a speck. The Army had me air lifted and traveling through the Orient, one doctor after another till a nurse enroute to Hawaii killed the nerves with a lacquer solution he used to shine his boots with. That kid was a true chemist. Hawaii to Ft Ord to Walter Reed, home again, home again. WOW. I'll never forget it. Hope your tests come back OK.

Cuidado said...

Love, love, love, both of your musical choices today. I got a latter from my hospital today saying that all xrays, CTscans, MRI's, Ultrasounds taken between Dec and April have to be reread. I fell in Dec, had the screw up, the arm surgery (the screw in) in Feb, and the kidney surgery in March and do you know how many of those tests I had. It's been in the news here all week about this radiolofist who was misreading tests. Grrrrrr.

Ralph said...

OMG, Z&M. Now that's one medical adventure I'm sorry anyone would have to experience and I'm grateful that I didn't. Zooey and the rest of us are glad things turned out OK.

Ralph said...

Oh, no, Cuidado! This doesn't change the kidney thing, right? It's just the arm? I hope.

Anonymous said...

Feel Better Soon!

I grew up with "Old Doc Barnes" - also the doctor for the public school system. Most of my office visits were for beginning of school year check-ups. His office was in his home - a beautiful white house with a huge porch.

Every Christmas we received a personalized card. Doc and Mrs. Barnes spent quite a bit of time and as I write this I wish I still had the cards. I remember the year his son was killed in a plane crash - the card still came with this sad news.

And then there were the house visits. When I was sick with the usual childhood measles,etc. there was Doc Barnes coming with good cheer and his exam. Then my mother would go get the prescription filled and bring back coloring books, comic books and at least one new toy.

Thanks for stirring the memory.


Ralph said...

Linda, I love how one memory jogs another. I had German measles as a kid and Dr. Davis did come to see me! I forgot that. And whenever I needed an aspirin, my mother would put half of one a spoon with water and sugar. The old "spoonful of sugar." It worked! (I thought it was delicious.)