A free Wednesday afternoon, time to catch up on charts and paperwork, do a little online CME.
“I’ll see a few walk-ins if anyone comes by,” I told my front office.
A knock on my door sometime later: “A patient for you, Doctor.”
“Send him back,” I said.
He was a well-dressed man in his 30s, a new patient for me.
“I’ve been having a lot of headaches; sometimes, I feel pressure in my eyes. Can I have something for the pain?”
I asked his name: “Jacob Gershowitz.”
“Jacob, “I said. “I don’t like the sounds of your symptoms. I’m going to send you for an MRI,” and I typed the request into the EMR and sent him to the front office.
More time passed, and there was another knock at the door: “Ready for another?”
“Ready,” I said, and in came a most attractive young blonde woman.
“How can I help, Miss…?”
“I’m Norma Jean Baker, Doctor. I have trouble sleeping, and I get very sad and depressed. My regular doctor is on vacation. Can I have something for sleep and something for my nerves?”
“Miss Baker,” I said. “I fear you may not be using these medications well. Would you be willing to speak with someone who can help you with these medications and with your feelings?”
She said she would.
I gave her the name of a good counselor with an office nearby; she took the information, thanked me, and left.
After a few minutes, another walk-in:
“Hiya, Doc,” said a burly yet athletic appearing man. “The name is George Herman Ruth, and folks call me Babe.”
“And what can I do for you, Babe? “I asked.
“Got a bad cough,” he said, “probably too many ciggy butts. The booze probably doesn’t help. You got something for that?”
I told Mr. Ruth that he was smoking and drinking too much, and his response surprised me.
“Doc, everybody keeps giving me cigarettes and drinks. You’re the first person to tell me to stop. You look like a smart guy. We got a deal. I’m going to quit.”
He gave me a big hug and left with a wave, “So long, Doc.”
Before long, it was 5 p.m., and I was ready to head home.
Another knock: “Can you take one more?”
“Sure,” I said, and in came a well-dressed man in his 40s. He thanked me for seeing him, told me he was off to California, and he needed a sleeping pill for the plane.
I asked his name: “Robert Kennedy, “he said.
“Can I call you Bobby?” I asked. He nodded yes.
“I can give you something mild for sleep. I do want to give you some advice. We are in dangerous times. Try to avoid putting yourself in risky situations out there.”
He agreed he would, took a prescription for two Restoril, one to go, one to come back, shook my hand, gave me a great smile, and was out the door.
So I finished my notes, logged off, gathered my stuff and headed home, saying good night to my front office staff as I left.
I had a strong sense of accomplishment.
My wife, Ruth, met me as I came in and asked about my day.
“I don’t want to brag, Ruth. It was great. I think I saved four lives today, important lives.”
“Tell me more, she said. “Tell me more.”
“Well, George Gershwin came in with headaches. I sent him for an MRI, and that should find his tumor. He can have surgery and have a full life, with many years of composing wonderful music ahead of him.”
“Then what?” she said.
Then I saw Marilyn Monroe, and I convinced her to get counseling. She is going to recover and live a long life.”
“And?” she added.
“Then I saw the Babe. He is going to quit tobacco and alcohol. I am so excited for him.”
“Anyone else?” she asked.
“My last patient was RFK. I warned him about Los Angeles. He is going to be careful, won’t get assassinated, and will become President.”
“Honey,” My wife said. “You need a cup of tea and a few Oreos. I need to give you some bad news.”
“What? I asked. “It was a great day.
“George Gershwin died in 1937 with a glioblastoma. Marilyn Monroe died of an overdose in 1962. Babe Ruth died with throat cancer in 1948. Robert Kennedy was shot to death in 1968. Sorry, Hon.”
“Damn,” I said. “I thought I made a difference today. Guess not. I did try hard though,” I said. “I did try.”
“So now what,” she asked with a supportive smile.
“I get up again tomorrow and try harder. We do the best we can for every patient. That’s what doctors do.”
Richard E. Waltman is a family physician.
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