Carla - I've Always Been Nuts




Dr. Howard, M.D.




My lifelong doctor had the bedside manner of a coroner.  He was also the best diagnostician you could hope for and if he detected any difficulty he made sure that you were at the front of the line with specialists with one phone call.  Such was the respect amongst his colleagues.


He had a number of phrases, none medical, that would shock most people.  He did his job efficiently and effectively once you became comfortable with his style; he converted you.  A phrase to speed the medical exam process was, “Talk to me, I am not a vet”.  When he gave a flu shot he would inevitably say, “This is going to hurt you, not me”, and jab.  Howard would take my blood pressure, gauge my heart and lungs, and say “You have the circulatory and pulmonary system of a 21-year-old, but look in the mirror”.


I took my son to see him when he was eight, ailing with a severe sinus infection.  This was a task usually conducted by the family’s clinician but my son was suffering and an appointment with that doctor was a week away.  I made one phone call to Howard and was in that evening.  Howard diagnosed the situation clearly and quickly and was writing a script when he asked, “Do you like liquid medicine or pills?” I began to answer on behalf of my son and Howard turned to me and said “I am talking to the patient, not you”, which put me in my place and endeared my son to him forever.  He became his doctor until Howard retired 31 years later.


As was inevitable with the aging process the dreaded prostate exam was called for.   “Howard, can’t we dispense with this and do a simple PSA test?”  He looked me in the eye while menacingly snapping his rubber surgical gloves and asked, “Do you think this is my favorite?  Assume the position.”  While the exam was in process with my trousers around my ankles and Howard’s hand on my shoulder, he muttered, “You only have to get nervous when you feel two hands on your shoulders”.


I went in to see him and he asked, “How old are you now?” I told him and he then prescribed an intensive examination process with a series of specialists, many tests, some very intrusive, that checked our every aspect of my health.  After all of these exams he confirmed my wellbeing, declaring that I didn’t have a single cancer cell in my body.  I asked him, “Why the tests?”  He said, “I am retiring and as one of my longest patients I wanted to leave knowing you were in good shape.”


I still feel bereft.



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