The Bedside Manner of a Bedpost!
Have you ever had a doctor who was book brilliant but bedside manner stupid? (Please don’t say me!) I have heard all kinds of horror stories over the years. First, the surgeon who eyed his new patient and snapped, “Why is it every patient Dr. Smith sends me is fat?” Then the orthopedic who kept my patient with excrutiating back pain waiting three hours, spent two seconds glancing at a lumbar MRI, then pronounced, “There’s not a thing I can do for you. Just go home and live with the pain.” With that, he strutted out of the room, his “consult” over.
But surgeons aren’t the only ones who flunked “Bedside Manner 101.” One doctor told a non-compliant blood pressure patient, “I don’t give a %#@*&^ if you take your medicine or not– I’m not the one who will end up “Dead on Arrival” or stuck in a wheelchair unable to talk from a stroke.” When another patient complained about her knee pain, he snapped, “What do you expect when you’re old as Methuselah and big as a barn?”
Ironically, the worse bedside manner came from a doctor who treats my father! (I’ve told mom she should have fired him twenty years ago.) In fact, he’s so lacking in bedside manner, my mother calls him “Dr. Doomsday” behind his back. At every office visit he feels obligated to inform my father that heart failure patients usually don’t survive more than five years so dad has already lived on “borrowed time.” My father, alive with heart failure at 93, still plants a garden, shovels snow off the roof, and walks two miles a day, thus defying Dr. Doomsday’s dire predictions.
Last year, Dad had a pacemaker inserted and his heart function actually improved: his ejection fraction increased from 35% to 45%. While sitting in the exam room waiting for their annual visit, my mother whispered to Dad, “Maybe with your improved heart function, for once, Dr. Doom and Gloom (her other pet name for him) will give us a positive report.”
No such luck! Instead, he strolled into the exam room, skimmed the Echocardiogram report, grabbed a chair facing my mother and completely ignored my father. The first words out of his mouth? “Mrs. Willard, if you walked into the kitchen and found your husband dead on the floor, what would you do?”
My mother, shocked he’d ask such a blunt question right in front of my father responded, “Well, I’d check for a pulse and respirations, and if there weren’t any, I’d call 911 and initiate CPR with the new chest compression only technique.” (She was proud of herself for remembering they no longer recommended mouth-to-mouth resusitation for out-of-hospital cardiac arrests.)
“WRONG!” Dr. Doomsday said. “Don’t call 911. Don’t start CPR. CALL THE MORGUE.” He then depressed my parents further with his dire predictions of landing in a vegetative state if Mom initiated CPR. “Just leave him dead and call the morgue.”
“Of course I wouldn’t perform CPR if he was cold and stiff but what if he had just barely keeled over?” my mother asked.
The heart doctor reiterated: “Don’t do CPR or call 911. Unless you WANT to be married to a cucumber.”
My father was too stunned to say a word in the exam room. But typical of my frugal father, in the car on the way home he asked, “How much did that doctor charge Medicare just to tell you to call the morgue?”
I am delighted that my father is recovering from his double lobe pneumonia, if for no other reason than to prove yet again to Dr. Doomsday that my father is one tough old bird! In fact, he might even outlive his cardiologist since laughter and a positive attitude are good for one’s health!