A few overdue thank-yous to my docs
It was the end of yet another doctor’s appointment — routine, as it turned out, thank heavens.
The doc pronounced me fit as a fiddle. I beamed. I purred. He gathered up his papers and prepared to leave.
And then I said thank you.
Thank you to a doctor who works more hours than any human should. Thank you to a doctor who has been by my side for more than 35 years. Thank you for heading big trouble off at the pass more than once.
“You don’t have to thank me,” the doc said.
Which only proved why I did.
Keeping each of us alive is a partnership game. We collaborate with spouses to eat right (or not to sin too often). We collaborate with financial planners to keep us from going broke. We collaborate with clergy to keep our souls in the right place.
But the most critical collaboration is with the people in the white coats.
Yes, they are sometimes abrupt. Yes, they are sometimes late — OK, more than sometimes. Yes, they have been known to make mistakes both great and small. Yes, they cost an arm and a leg.
But as you get near the finish line — aren’t we all edging closer? — and you still have your marbles, your blood, your organs and your get up and go…well, who has been your compadre, your Mr. or Ms. Fix It, your partner in crime?
Who has taken your calls in the middle of the night, diagnosed everything like a champ, prescribed just the right meds, wished you the best every time? And who gets up the next day and does it all again?
It’s not quite New Year’s as I write this, but I’m going to make a resolution right now just the same.
In the next 12 months, I will personally thank every one of the doctors who has contributed to my continuing existence.
I can’t thank the pediatrician who diagnosed my German measles when I was a toddler. She is long gone.
And I can’t thank the physician who helped me through a cracked heel during my athletic days. He, too, has gone to the big softball diamond in the sky.
But all the rest (except one) are still drawing breath. Because I am, too, I have started to seek them out, one by one, to do what I should have done ages ago.
Many years back, when I was still what they used to call middle aged, my longtime primary care doctor retired. I shook his hand during our last visit. I wished him the best.
I even wrote some silly songs for his retirement party — and performed them a cappella (there are no tapes, fortunately).
He’s now in his 90s. I hear from friends of his that he still does the crossword puzzle every day and still plays something resembling passable tennis. He’ll be on my thank-you list right up top.
Then there’s the dermatologist who long ago pronounced me her most boring patient.
Boring is what you want to be to your doctors. You never want to watch as they look at some part of you, say “Hmmmm” for about 10 seconds, and then reach for their computer mouse.
A few years ago, my dermatologist gave me the Hmmmm treatment. A few weeks later, I was having surgery to remove pre-cancerous skin — and getting a stern lecture about sunscreen — from a physician who has been saving lives, little patch of skin by little patch of skin, for more than 30 years. He gets a big thanks as soon as I can find him on the phone.
So does the eye doctor who has been alerting me to possible glaucoma for two decades (none yet!). So does the orthopedist who fitted me for orthotics back in the last century. I still use them and still depend on them.
And then there’s the surgeon who saved my life 25 years ago. He’s the “except one” from a few paragraphs earlier. He died suddenly one day, in the hospital where he practiced. Just keeled over and that was that. He was 51.
But he’s the guy who implanted an artificial valve in my then-ailing heart. It — and I — have been cranking steadily ever since.
If he were still here, I’d tell him about all the milestones I’ve reached in the last quarter of a century. I’d praise his epic sense of humor (yes, he told me a joke in the operating room right before I went under). I’d tell him that I think about him every day (that’s the truth — I do).
And I’d thank him. Nothing more. No adjectives. No florid phraseology.
Just thank you. For being a standout healer. Like so many who wear the white coats.
Bob Levey is a national award-winning columnist.