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Doctor's office

I find I've got a number of tales to tell about events that occurred in a doctor's office, or in the doctor's waiting room. The most recent happened at baby Darwin's 15-month checkup.

Darwin pointing and saying 'I go'Upon being taken into the examination room, Darwin seemed to recognized it from a previous visit, perhaps a bit surprising, since that visit had been a full three months earlier. She also apparently wasn't very happy about being there, possibly because every visit ends with her getting some inoculation or other. The modern baby receives a large number of immunizations.

Upon seeing the examination table, Darwin said emphatically, "No! No! No! No!" Then, turning around and pointing back to the door, she added, "I go! I go! I go!" The pediatrician arrived in time to hear this, and said, "Well, I was going to ask you if she's exhibited any speech. I guess I can cross that question off my list." When Darwin's request to leave the office was not honored, she cried through the examination.

The photo to the left shows Darwin saying "I go!" on a happier occasion (no shots ahead). Elissa reports, "She will point somewhere, say 'I go', then will head in that direction or will wait for you to carry her or walk with her."

One of the immunizations on Darwin's list will protect her against polio (full name Poliomyelitis, often called infantile paralysis). In my youth in the 1950s, this was a devastating disease that caused a great deal of concern. At one point, my sisters and I, along with the children of our neighbors the Rosens, were in contact with a youngster who subsequently developed the disease. It was thought at the time that a shot of gamma globulin might reduce the probability of a child developing the disease after an exposure to it.

As a result, gamma globulin was in great demand, and in short supply. The authorities made it available only to people who could show that they had suffered an exposure to polio, which we were able to do. As a result, I found myself, my sisters Alice and Phyllis, and the Rosen children, Harvey, Patricia, and Judy, in Dr. Leonard Ehrlich's office, lined up to each receive a gamma globulin injection.

Gamma globulin is apparently a rather viscous substance, and hence was administered with a fairly large, and large-bore needle. Dr. Ehrlich drew a dose into the syringe, to be given to Pat Rosen. She took one look at the thick needle, said, "I've gotta pee", jumped off the table, and ran out the door before anyone could grab her. Dr. Ehrlich now had a syringe full of precious gamma globulin, which apparently would thicken in the needle and become useless in a few seconds. Thinking quickly, he grabbed Judy Rosen, the next in line, and plunged the needle into her. Thus, none of the valuable medication was lost.

I confess I don't really remember whether it was Pat or Judy who jumped off the table, and hence whether it was Judy or Pat who was quickly grabbed to be given the dose. But the basic story remains the same. Polio ceased being a threat when the Salk vaccine began to be used in 1955 or shortly thereafter.

Dr. Ehrlich was my doctor starting around 1949, when my family moved to Great Neck, New York. Back in those days, he used to make house calls. I recall him visiting us one summer day when my sister Alice was sick. He pulled up into the driveway in his convertible with the top down, classical music playing loudly on his radio (on New York radio station WQXR). Although he turned off the engine, he left the radio on as he walked to our front door.

After examining Alice, he headed back to his car, where the radio was still playing. I asked him why he left the radio on. He said that this enabled him to hear the music right up to the point where he entered the front door, and to hear it again as soon as he came out of the house.

As I got older and went off to college, I continued to see Dr. Ehrlich whenever I came home and had some medical problem. At some point my mother asked him if I ought to find a new doctor, since Dr. Ehrlich was a pediatrician, and I was no longer a child. Dr. Ehrlich said, "That's okay, he can keep seeing me. Often my patients keep seeing me until they have children of their own, and then they've got a pediatrician already available."

Moving on to the next generation, my daughter Sara was concerned about a rather dark mole on her body, so she went off to see a dermatologist. When the receptionist asked why she was seeing the doctor, she said that she was concerned about her mole. The receptionist clarified, "So you're concerned about one of your moles?" Sara replied, "No, I only have one mole."

A nurse ushered her into the examining room, and again asked about the reason for her visit. The entire conversation was repeated a second time, with Sara having to explain again that she had only a single mole on her otherwise flawless skin. Several other members of the medical staff came in for various purposes, and the conversation was repeated over and over.

It was repeated for a final time with the dermatologist, who seemed astounded to find a patient with only a single mole on her entire body. The dermatologist didn't think it looked particularly worrisome, but it was quite dark, and since it was the only one, the dermatologist suggested removing it. Sara agreed, since this would leave nothing on her skin that could possibly cause her any concern.

Although the procedure was fairly simple, in the end it caused more trouble than Sara anticipated. The wound that remained took quite a while to heal. That problem was compounded by an allergic reaction to the adhesive used in the bandages that covered the wound. While explaining this difficulty to a doctor, the doctor proposed adding the notation "latex allergy" to Sara's medical record.

Sara emphatically told the doctor not to do that, explaining that as someone with a secondary job as a balloon twister, she works with latex all the time, and has never had the slightest trouble with it. Whatever was in the adhesive that caused the irritation, it had nothing to do with latex. And you don't want an erroneous entry in your medical file.

Believe it or not, I have several more stories of events that took place in doctor's offices or waiting rooms, included in a subsequent blog entry, called Doctor's office (bis).

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© 2014 Lawrence J. Krakauer   Click here to send me e-mail.
Originally posted June 12, 2014

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