‘Surgeons gotta, well, do surgery’
Years ago, when The Dude and I were dating (well, actually, we were more than just “dating,” but that’s what one called it then), I went through a rather nasty spell of tummy trouble.
The pain was sometimes so severe, and attacks of gastric distress so sudden, that I would stay over at Dude Man’s place. Aside from the fact that I was smitten with him, I felt safer there since he was a doctor and all.
(The photo at the top of this post is what he looked like when I met him. He told me he grew that rather unfortunate mustache to “look older” to his patients. I suppose it worked, if you were the sort of patient who thinks a 31-year-old with an orange mustache looks “old.”)
Turns out I had good reason to feel safer with him. One night the pain was so bad I had to go to the emergency room. “I’d better go with you,” he said. “If there’s a surgical resident on call, he (residents were almost always a “he” back then) will want to ‘open you up to see what’s going on.'”
He went on to explain that doctors want to do what they’re trained to do: surgeons wanna cut, radiologists wanna x-ray, gynecologists wanna, well, you know.
This all came back to me because, like 80% of the U.S. adult population, I’ve been coping with a bad back: three herniated discs (L4, L5 and S1, as if you care) plus spinal stenosis. (If you really care, you can read about my spinal woes in “Lean to the Left, Lean to the Right. Stand Up, Sit Down, Fight Fight Fight!”
I’ve been to see a neurologist who had me get a brace for my spine, an anesthesiologist who gave me injections, and a physiatrist (not “psychiatrist;” if I saw one of those, he might say it’s all in my head) who prescribed physical therapy.
The pain was so bad a few weeks ago that I called a surgeon. The wise woman (Hi, Mickey!) who took my call said, “Honey, you don’t want to see Dr. Hatchet (not his real name) — he’s a surgeon. Surgeons do surgery. Trust me, stick with the PT.”
The brace made my aching back stiff, hot and sweaty; the injections cost as much as a car and didn’t last. So I took Mickey’s advice and stuck with the PT.
I shouldn’t say “stuck” though, since I absolutely adore my PT Girl. We’ve bonded over the internet (as far as I’m concerned, Zoom was invented for one thing and one thing only, and that’s PT) and over topics as wide-ranging as pets, holiday cooking and visits to our mothers. I even shared photos of The Child’s wedding dress with her. (No, I won’t share them with you; her Childness would kill me, and rightfully so.)
Before I leave you to join PT Girl for our 10AM session, I want to share the story of a doctor who took “doctors gotta do what they’re trained to do” to a whole new level.
This guy was an instructor at Dude Man’s medical school. Named Dr. Stanley Brown. He is long gone, but he’s very much alive in The Dude’s memory.
See, Dr. Brown was a parasitologist. Wrote the definitive textbook on parasitology, in fact. And what, you may ask, do parasitologists use as a diagnostic tool? Nope, it’s not x-rays or EKGs — it’s stool samples.
According to Dude, Dr. Brown would begin every course by introducing himself as “Dr. Stanley Brown, but everyone calls me ‘Stoolie.’ And you know why? Because it’s all about the stool.”
Patient has a fever? Check the stool. Rash? Check the stool. Why, I bet if I went to Stoolie Brown for my back pain, he’d ask for a stool sample. I wouldn’t hesitate; Dude says he was a genius. And, who knows? Maybe a little parasitical critter is at the root of my problems. Stranger things have happened.
Amagansett, New York. April 2021
4 thoughts on “Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly”
I say most of what ails us, especially us old folks, is in our head anyway. Or maybe I’m just talking about my demented (with Alzheimer’s) Mom who has a pain that seems to show up in different places on her body, depending on which doctor she thinks it might be time for her to visit.
Really, though, I found this post interesting, and amusing, for several reasons, besides your personal Dude-related medical history.
I, too, had a fear of the word surgeon applied to any doctor I saw. Imagine how I felt when I discovered after many moons of suffering, indifferent spots on the lower right side of my body, that I would be forced to visit one of these. Turns out my fear was well-taken because, several years post-surgery, I no longer have pain but am unable to sit down on or rise up from the floor without difficulty. Why I’m not too keen about doing something similar to the left arthritic hip as I have recently begun feeling pains on that side.
My youngest just started her 3rd year of med school. This is the time they start seeing and actually laying hands on real living patients in a hospital. As I live vicariously through my children and many of my friends, especially now that I am stuck caring for Mom, I have been especially interested in her progress towards determining her desired specialty, as have, unfortunately, many people she barely knows but to whom her grandma likes to brag. First it was psych. That was way back in high school but since I found it so fascinating I thought how great it would be for her to do that.
She worked for a couple of dermatologists and in a hospital emergency room before she got into med school and ruled both of those out, which was no skin off my nose! Now she’s thinking about family practice or internal medicine.
Does this mean I may have to take up more of an interest in stools somewhere down the road? I mean, since PT can help fix pains in parts of the body that may not be close to the part you are moving in treatment (based on my post-op ortho op experience), it makes sense that the condition of one’s stool or urine or teeth or gums might indicate something is wrong elsewhere in one’s body. Right?
Wow. What a terrifically thorough comment! Thank you! Sounds like you have been through waaaaay more physical difficulties than I. Good thing your daughter is going to be a doctor! Thank you, and hang in there (!)
Oh I’m sure there’s a lot I could learn from Dr. Brown (he didn’t even need a nickname!) but I don’t think I want to know. I do love my chiropractor–if for nothing else than it’s a monthly reminder to stretch and assess my posture. The biggest change I see is in photos–my boobs look big (and I am very small–we’ve discussed that), because I’m actually standing up straight. I’ve also been walking a lot. PT is a God-send, and I hear the same thing from so many: don’t get surgery unless it’s the absolute last resort! If I can keep my hip from needing to be replaced until I’m good and gray I’ll be OK. And, by the way, your hair looks great!
I knew you’d catch the humor of Dr. Brown not even needing that nickname, Becca! Yes, PT Girl has become My New Best Friend. Funny, I didn’t start PT to look better, but it’s amazing what proper alignment and some tight abs can do for a girl. Thanks for the nice hair compliment — I haven’t lightened it since pre-pandemic and no one can even tell (!) So what was I paying for all this time, I have to ask myself (?)