Shattered Pride

Shannon sat in the back seat grumbling under his breath, indignant for this latest round of family-sponsored molly-coddling.  His leg, swollen and bruised rested uncomfortably on the backseat.  Each bump along the roadside — already mottled with winter-forced cracks and potholes — triggered another painful diatribe on why doctors suck and how his body is in fact invulnerable.  I smiled.  Mom simply tutted at each whispered curse, replenishing her rebuttals for the next explosion of rhetoric . . .

“I haven’t broken anything!  It’s just a sprain.  Throw a little ice on it and it’ll be fine in a day or two.  Drown out the pain with work and alcohol.  A doctor’s office and a sober mind . . . just like health insurance: ain’t worth a damn thing.” Continue reading

Dial a Doctor

The phone rang sometime during lunch, immediately after I had taken my first bite of a delicious egg and mustard sandwich. My mouth now full of egg, ham, and bread, I answer with garbled “Hewoo?”

The voice on the other end sounded stern, impatient, and quick like a German headmistress or someone who used words like “fiddle faddle.”  She was calling from the hospital.  “Is your father available?”

I choked down the bolus of chewed bread and protein, coughing out a semi-audible “No, no he isn’t.  May I . . .” before she interrupts.

“Can I leave a number?”

“Sure,” I say grabbing at a floret of pencils which in my haste spill out onto the floor (I may have cursed.).  An audible impatience sighs across the line.  I grab at an old notebook.  “Whenever you’re ready . . .”

Nancy — that I learn is her name — hurriedly fires off ten numbers and informs me that she will be “here” (I assume an office at the hospital) until four.

“Oh,” I stammer, “May I ask what this call is regarding.”  Now I think this a prudent question; although I know that Dad is scheduled for some minor surgery this Monday.  In fact, he asked me to drive him to and from the hospital.  However, I also realize that the time of his appointed surgery may been moved in the past, so knowing that this message concerned Monday’s visit — as oppose to the surgery several weeks ago — would be important.

“I am calling from the hospital,” she answers, stressing the word hospital as if it was sufficient explanation for anyone.

“Oh, ok . . .” I burble, wondering if I had inadvertently attempted to violate some patient/doctor confidentiality  and got caught in the process.  “Thank . . .”


“. . . you.”

Doctoring the Results

Earlier today Desad linked me to a scene from the series finale of the Extras, where Ricky Gervais’ laments the current state of celebrity. He states something rather frightfully true that struck a strong chord with me. Essentially, he admits that he could have been a doctor but did not want to put in the work. He could have been a soldier but was too afraid.

Did you know that I too tried to be a doctor once? All biochemists play with the idea at one time or another. I even managed to take the MCAT, scoring a 29 without any classes, study groups, or really examining any of the physical science section. This admittance may come off as arrogant but considering the little time spent preparing (only a few weeks before the exam), my score feels like a badge of honor, as well as foolishness. I had scored a single point shy of the average for accepted med school students. Thus, after some consideration, I relinquished the pretense that I was doctor material as well as a hundred dollars for the exam. Badges of honor, after all, do not come cheap.

Sitting back now I consider my choices then, both of deciding to take the test and turning away. The dream perhaps was there. As a boy of twelve, I once vowed that one day I would save someone’s life. I still believe I can; although as I grew, my options have broadened a bit beyond doctor, lawyer, or superhero. Furthermore, although my scores certainly did not exceed the thirty-point average, I may have dazzled a smaller less-prestigious school, using my research and grades as a linchpin. Worst case scenario, I could have retaken the tests months later.

No, the real reason for my retreat is that there was no reason, nothing mature at least. I had applied for the wrong reasons. Simply put I applied to medical school in order to impress a girl. A very beautiful and remarkable girl certainly – one with whom I had worked during the previous summer – but then flowers cost far less than medical school. Additionally, my mind would never suffer the stress and strength necessary to be a proper doctor. My thoughts wander like a dull light swinging in a dark room, given time its bug-stained glow will touch all corners but not all at once. Specifically I fear talking with a patient may cause me to stumble over the exact diagnosis:

What was it again? Measles? Malaria? Marburg? Oh I forgot which. Just take two of these pills and I’ll ponder the results as I wander the bookstore this evening. Don’t worry though, if it’s the first two, you have a good chance to live. In the meantime, try to avoid talking, touching, or generally interacting with anybody you particularly care about.

Eventually as I considered my options, my head caught up with my heart; the foolishness of the previous year clocked me like one of Tyson’s punches. A researcher and an analyst were to be my doom; beaker and library were to be my home; my companions dwelt between pages of a storybook. Even so, as I listen to Gervais talk I wonder if fear of the commitment drove me away as well, fear of being locked into any one job or occupation. Anyway, between the girl and my scrambled egg of a brain, I do believe that I made the correct decision. Whether I made right decision for the right reasons, however . . . ay there’s the rub.