Now that I am a month past my aspiration pneumonia diagnosis and days in the hospital, I think it’s time to show some gratitude for the medical team who helped me heal. A particular shout out will go to my internist, who I have jokingly called Doogie Howser for several years. Here’s why.
For those of you who are not familiar with Doogie, this is his story- he was the title character in a tv show in the early 1990’s. Douglas “Doogie” Howser, M.D. was a child prodigy with a genius level IQ who graduated from medical school at age 14. He lived at home with his parents, and was doing his residency at a nearby hospital. While he was practicing medicine, he was also dealing with the normal problems of an adolescent. Doogie was played quite well by Neil Patrick Harris, and I watched the show fairly often. It was all pretty funny then since I was in my forties and my physicians were all older than I was.
Sometime in my fifties, this all changed. The two docs I saw regularly, my gynecologist and internist, weren’t practicing anymore- one retired, and the other died unexpectedly. So the search for replacements was on. I went with a new internist in the same practice because I liked the way they ran their office. I knew I needed someone younger this time around, so that was part of the process. I read profiles and educational backgrounds online, and a selection was made. I didn’t meet him for about six months, until I had what I thought was a sinus infection. I waited in the exam room, and when he walked in I tried not to look surprised, but he didn’t just look young. He looked like he was 12. Doogie Howser in the flesh, and he was now my doctor. He was thorough, kind, and concurred with my self diagnosis. But when I left, and for a long time thereafter, he still looked like he was 12. About as old as the young man in the photo below, being helped with his homework by his mother.
I realized that I once looked too young at work too, and thought back to my time as a newly minted attorney, at the ripe old age of 25, working at a large bank. Most of the time I was behind the scenes, doing documentation for loans, compliance work (banks used to more regulated in the 80’s), and anything else I was asked to do. One of my least favorite things was being called to the safe deposit box area when there was a problem. When someone dies, it is not unusual for relatives to want to retrieve important papers from the box. This works if the relative is also listed as an owner of said box and their signature is on file. But a lot of times they would arrive without any of that in place, with just the key and a strong desire to see the contents. When the regular staff answers didn’t work, they would look for some legal advice. The only other lawyers in the bank were in the trust department, and they avoided these issues like the plague. I think they had some sort of sixth sense when the phone rang what the call was about, and they didn’t answer. I was too new to know you could dodge the request, so I would go to the box area, dressed in my blue suit, matching pumps, and white blouse, and politely explain why they couldn’t see the box, and let them know what we needed to accommodate their request. This usually didn’t go over very well. I now know it is partly because I was the legal version of Doogie Howser, and notwithstanding my professional attire, I looked like I was 12.
I have enjoyed fairly good health, so I usually only see Doogie a few times each year. Early on, he thought I might have sleep apnea. I didn’t think so, but to humor him I did a sleep study. I told the nurse who hooked me up to the various monitors that I would have a hard time falling asleep, and that I didn’t have apnea. It only took twenty minutes to fall asleep, and I did indeed have it. I have used a cpap machine for years now, and it is a miraculous thing to feel rested when you wake up. So Doogie did know a thing or two.
In my December post about the trip to the emergency room, I mentioned that it was very unsettling due to Covid- no relatives, extremely busy, and a feeling of being very alone, and very sick. When I made it into the exam room, about an hour after I got there, the door slid open and who should appear but Doogie. I didn’t recognize him at first due to his mask, but it was beyond reassuring to see someone who knew me and had the time to offer some insight into what was going on since the ER staff was spread so thin. He mentioned he was at the hospital seeing another patient when they called to tell him I would be admitted, so I thought it was a coincidence that he stopped in.
I was pleasantly surprised when I found out the next morning that he did rounds, and came to see me every day I was in the hospital. The last time one of my relatives was in the hospital, a staff physician saw the patient, not her personal doctor. When I had my follow up visit at Doogie’s office after I was discharged, I mentioned that I appreciated his care while I was there. He said that while it is becoming uncommon for a practice to do it, they think it is worth it to provide continuity of care. I couldn’t agree more.
So thank you, Dr. Howser. We’ve come a long way since the sinus infection. If any readers have relatives who are just starting out in their first job, let them know that they will look impossibly young and inexperienced to their coworkers, patients or clients during their early years. But over time, their expertise and competence will win them over. And if they can add a few wrinkles and grey hair along the way, that will help too.