Saturday, August 16, 2014

Doctor's Mess

I tend to trust doctors who absentmindedly spill part of their lunches on their clothing, day after day. It makes them seem real and approachable, not snobby residents of the ivory tower. When a neurologist showed up with ketchup stains on her loose fitting pants, I knew I had found a friend. The Jewish last name accentuated her facial features and grey hair was scattered periodically throughout her head. At the age of 41 she made no attempt to dye them.

With men, this approach is less enduring. One psychiatrist dressed like a slob. Every day before Noon he always managed to turn his shirt onto a combination of spilled onions and yellow mustard. I wanted to please him so much that I sometimes lied about the severity of my pain. The average stay in a psych ward is usually matter of days, not weeks. One day's difference will make little to no difference, but I took the pills as prescribed and wished to go home.

I was seated in an examination room, waiting, as we all do. The patient next to me was being seen, and the thin walls meant I heard almost every word in the exchange. The patient was complaining energetically about a recent surgical procedure. The doctor indignantly raised her voice in protest.

“What did you expect?! A magic pill?”

I’m not sure I could have kept my composure after being yelled at like that. It probably would have taken me whole minutes to not inadvertently take out my aggression on the next patient. The doctor was not at fault. Some patients become indignant at the drop of a hat. To be fair, some doctors are thin-skinned and not especially sympathetic.

My urologist is dainty and feminine enough that it’s hard to believe she has bodily functions of her own. Her attitude is that of crisp proficiency, a kind of unfailingly polite demeanor that sometimes is more show than substance. She has a temper she seems to control most of the time, but when challenged it shows itself. The first thing I had to learn as a patient is that she doesn't like compliments, regardless of how enthusiastic and genuine they are presented.

I made sure to side-step these problems. She responded to me cheerfully as though I’d been the first patient she’d seen all day. The urologist was nurturing and helpful, even with her own omnipresent condiment stain that she’d apparently spent several minutes vigorously trying to get rid of it. This one had fallen on her white doctor's jacket slightly less than halfway down the right side. There wasn't much new information to convey, and she was quick to grant sympathy for the slight complications from surgery.

But that was only one interaction. She could be very kind and very testy. Her bedside demeanor, prior to surgery, was impeccable. She showed up at the tail end of winter in an ivory-colored pea coat that suited her features well. Though some might differ, to me she was beautiful. After I was done with the procedure and situated in the recovery room, I had no filter, no way to limit my topics of conversation with the rest of the staff. Highly opinionated by nature, I try to be very careful in how I express my desire for licensed professionals.

There is one problem. No one has the ability to mind what they say in the recovery room. Not at first, at least. The first thirty minutes you are beyond loopy, barely conscious, droning on about no particular subject, waiting for the drugs given you to lose their effect. I believe I called the doctor very good looking in the company of a nurse who was monitoring me. The nurse was was not convinced. She said, Eh, well, she’s cute.

Prior to the procedure, I’d been slowly bleeding through the thin hospital gown they make everyone wear. Many people undergo a surgical procedure ignorant of what is about to happen. They don’t have visible proof of something being wrong. They might know of the internal pain, but they have no means of observing more than that. Strangely, the pain was minimal, but the blood was beginning to soak through my gown into the sheets of the hospital bed. Recognizing this, I’d spoken deliberately to the anesthesiologist, which meant that the procedure would not be delayed a single second longer.

I woke feeling numb and confused, expecting to still be in the operating room. I’d been asked to inhale a plethora of noxious chemicals to put me under, rather than have them administered through an IV. Every time I go under the knife, my head always throbs the moment I fully rouse and it keeps up for another hour. A parade of visitors check on me, the patient, now resting semi-comfortably in new surroundings. The first two who speak to me are only wasting time because I can never remember what they said. Hot doctor, which is what I have taken to calling her, and never to her face, always comes last so she can check in with me before her other rounds.

Sometimes I ask her unnecessary questions to prolong her stay in my company. She obligingly answers them, but then implies through body language that she has other obligations. I am not jealous. I never exceed my limits, but I think each of us, male or female, has a particular look or a personal person towards which we naturally gravitate. Most of my doctor’s appointments are boring, dismal affairs with boring, dismal people.

To have something to look forward to makes all the difference in the world. This is a secretive affair. I would be shocked if any doctor, male or female, were to make a pass at me. They have entirely too much to lose. They would be liable for malpractice and lose their certification. The only situation where that would be even plausible would be if a doctor became a drug addict and began to lose good judgment and to take foolish risks. The only other problem I can think of is if a doctor had bipolar disorder and, in a manic phase, was acting entirely impulsively, even unethically.

These things almost never happen. Male fantasy alone, the most likely outcome in a doctor’s office is a consistent problem with insurance companies and prescription drug coverage. Speaking of impulsive sexual behavior, I never knew anyone who was part of the Mile High Club, either, aside from the bad jokes featured in Playboy. Every man with such a rich fantasy life is better off partnering with another man. The shared genitalia and mutual brain structure means that any dream along those lines is far more likely to actually happen in reality. They will not transpire in an immaculately cleaned and sterile room with a consistently full jar of tongue depressors, gauze, and a sink.

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