Physician, heal thyself!

In Lifestyle on September 27, 2012 at 10:01 am


The High Holy Days are over. Yesterday’s fourteen-hour synagogue marathon ended, as always, with a guy blowing into a ram’s horn. The Gates are closed for another year and, G-d willing, we’ll all live to see them open again next year. A small accident during the Ten Days made it more likely I’ll see them with you.

I was driven into the clinic one of my white-coated colleagues after a run-in with another bat in the house and, this time, after getting bitten by the damned thing. After getting one of the required jabs intended to keep me from frothing at the mouth, the doc (a former classmate) peered at me with one of those looks.

“What?” I said, half irritated.

“I’m deciding if I need to admit you.”

I laughed. “Too late”, I said, “You made the mistake of opening the door. I’m already in.”

He smiled, either at the joke, or at his foolishness in opening his door to me.

“No, I’m serious.” His face had the expression that he was not mucking about. I squinted at my old friend who provided me with the short version for his concern.

“You have extremely high blood pressure and a really nasty heart rhythm.”

“Well, that’s no big deal. I was bitten by a disease-carrying Cruise missile. You remember those clips of rabies sufferers from our infectious disease classes?”

“I’ll bet my house, car, kids, and next year’s vacation that you’re not going to come down with rabies. I wouldn’t bet the change in my pocket that, without treatment, you’ll make it six more months without an MI (heart attack), a stroke, or both. In fact, I’m considering admitting you because the odds aren’t even so good you’ll make it to your car.

I glanced at the workup his nurse provided and the numbers that were underlined (in red). They were the same as the numbers she got last week when I got the second of my many pokes in the arm.

I smiled and shook my head and closed my eyes. I sighed out something like, “Here we go.” I told him about my faithful meditation schedule, my nearly meatless diet, and my dedication to spurning grasping materialism.

“Doc? Are you going to let me help you? Or, are you going to tie my hands?” His grey-streaked beard surrounded a very unsmiling mouth. His eyes had a sad, pleading look.

He and I had been “sorta” friends many years back. He was an upperclassman who didn’t act like an upperclassman. We did clinical rounds together at the school’s various family practice clinics and spent our evenings doing admissions “H&Ps” (History and physical examinations) at a (now closed) city hospital.

“Are you going to let me help you?” was one of my own lines. It was sometimes followed by, “If you don’t want my medical advice, why do you come to see me?” He assured me that I was already doing a lot of my care. Meditation, a largely vegetarian diet, and my nearly fully self-actualized lifestyle “Probably kept you going until now.”

The problem was, I needed more. Deep inside, I knew it too.

I was trapped like a raccoon in a cage. Like the old raccoon, I finally stopped thrashing about and resigned myself to whatever was around the bend.

I nodded. He jumped off of his consultation stool and grabbed me in a bear hug. A few minutes later, I walked out of his office with a fistful of prescriptions that I was not yet sure how I would pay for. A self-actualized lifestyle does not have group major medical built into it.

Three days later, the squirrel that had lived in my chest for the past two years moved out. At first, the missing riffs and flutters bothered me. Was something ‘wrong’ with my inner furry companion?

Next, I began to hear conversations without the omnipresent ringing in my ears. I didn’t say “Huh?” anymore. The low hum had even begun to distract me from my meditations. My legs no longer swelled and I felt like doing sixty, and not the recommended thirty, minutes of cardio exercise twice a day. The constant, dull ache between my eyes vanished.

I began to feel like…


No, I’m not a convert to the school of medicine that says there’s a pill for everything and everything needs a pill. That’s wrong-minded medicine. At the same time, you can’t cure an infection with meditation and you cannot diet away appendicitis. Self-actualization creates an atmosphere for satisfaction with life, but it does not create satisfaction with life.

I got very, very lucky.

I made my way out of the clinic. And, even though my friend is a compassionate and empathetic sort of guy to all of his patients, I realized that he taken an extra effort in bringing me around and that it had made all of the difference.

It was just what the doctor ordered.


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