True story: this guy is at the doctor’s and during his examination the doctor leaves the room for a moment. So the guy steals a quick glance at his chart and there at the bottom the doctor had written: “SOB”. The guy is livid. The doc comes back into the room and the patient points at the SOB and grunts angrily, “Why are you calling me a son of a b**ch??” The doctor, suppressing a small smile answers calmly, “SOB is an acronym for “shortness of breath” which you mentioned earlier. Shall we talk about that?”
My actual doctor told me that story yesterday during my yearly physical check up, possibly to distract me from the fact that there would be a certain amount of uncomfortable probing going on very soon. We had a good chuckle but to tell you the truth it didn’t help the probing bit all that much.
The good news for me though was that all things considered I should have a few miles left on me barring unforeseen personal calamity, however, the subsequent bad news for me was, paradoxically, actually good news for my doctor. “Well,” he said as he handed me my printouts. ”I’ve enjoyed having you as a patient all these years but I need to tell you that I’m retiring. I’ll be here until June, and I’m afraid I don’t have any suggestions for finding another doctor.”
I responded with a choking sound and then immediately thought to myself, if I’m going to pass out I might as well do it in a doctor’s office. It wasn’t a total surprise because I had recently cleverly deduced that since I was getting older (and older) at a surprisingly rapid rate, my doctor would be getting older too. But these days it’s virtually impossible to find a doctor that will take you on as a new patient even if you are an old fossil.
(And by the way, I’ve always thought it a bit disconcerting that a doctor’s job is referred to as a “practice”. I’d like to think that the health care professional I’m seeing is quite a bit beyond the ‘practice’ stage.)
Thing is, I really like my doctor. He’s always been a top notch physician, and he is totally excellence in the three C’s: competence, compassion, and commitment. And – bonus! — he keeps the probing to a minimum. And now, after decades of taking care of my physical and often mental well-being including treating various and random internal organs, broken bones, pulled muscles, sore joints, hyper this and hyper that and some serious and many not-so-serious health complaints, it’s ‘who’s going to keep me alive now?’.
I remember one time I was sitting on the bed thingy in his office and my doc was giving my knee an injection on account of arthritis. He was sitting on a low stool in front of my knees when I asked him what else I could do to make my knee hurt less. He just looked up, took his pointer finger and poked it directly into my bulging stomach fat, and then, without a word, calmly went about the business of sticking a large needle into my kneecap. I left the office almost considering an attempt to lose weight, and I was actually smiling.
The best doctors are like that – human beings and not just prescription-dispensing machines. And while I literally don’t know how I’m going to replace my doctor, all I can say is, “Thank you, Dr. Peter Mah. My wish for you is what you once told me: “May you live happily to 99, have a nice supper and a pleasant walk with your family, and then die peacefully in your sleep.”
Harley Hay is a Red Deer author and filmmaker. You can send him column ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.