LET YOUR FINGERS
DO THE WALKING
My knee was aching. Simple stairs had become mountains,
each step a painful challenge. It was clear I needed a skilled orthopedic
surgeon to cut me open and fix my ailing joint.
So, naturally, I looked in the Pacific Bell Yellow Pages and
Now some may say the Yellow Pages is not the best avenue for
choosing someone who is going to be messing around inside your body with
sharp objects. But some may not understand what itís like dealing with
orthopedic surgeons these days.
I didnít have much choice. I originally called the
orthopedist who did the two arthroscopic surgeries on my other knee. Heís
an excellent surgeon, highly recommended, and the appointments secretary
told me I lucked out with a cancellation and I could come in on Thursday.
My visit went not unlike my numerous other visits with him. I
waited over an hour and when he finally breezed into the room, he shook my
hand and asked me the nature of my problem.
"My knee is killing me."
He nodded, bent it a certain way, and I screamed. He nodded
again, bent it another way, and I yelped. "You should probably have
arthroscopic surgery," he announced. "Check with Frances, our
surgery scheduler, and sheíll arrange it."
And just like that, he was gone. Iíve since learned he
schedules appointments every ten minutes, which is an outrage. Heís
never spent more than three minutes with me, leaving me wondering what heís
doing with my other seven minutes.
Meanwhile, I limped down the hall to Francesí office.
"Letís see," she said coldly after keeping me waiting another
fifteen minutes. "Heís very busy. His first available date for
surgery is nine weeks from today."
She recognized the horror in my face but was unfazed. She
sees it every day. I scheduled the appointment and drove home, pondering
nine weeks of limping and pain. When I arrived, the first thing I did was
pull out the Yellow Pages. I was determined to find some doctor who may
not care for me any more than this other guy, but who at least needed my
The first few calls were fruitless. One wasnít covered
under my insurance, another didnít answer the phone, a third was booked
solid. But finally, as I got towards the end of the alphabet, I struck
"We can see you tomorrow and if you need surgery, the
doctor can schedule it for next week," said the nice, caring office
manager. "Thereís only one doctor in our office and we take good
care of our patients."
I was immediately suspicious. This guy couldnít be for
real. An orthopedist that wasnít booked solid---he must be really bad. I
half-expected the office manager to announce that the doctor would do the
surgery sooner but heíd be in court the rest of the week defending
himself in malpractice suits.
It wouldnít have mattered. After dealing with the
orthopedic factory, I was thrilled that anyone would actually show an
interest in seeing me.
The next day I drove the extra 20 miles to his office. I
walked in and was immediately ushered into the examining room. The doctor
came in, mis-pronounced my name, shook my hand, bent my knee and I
screamed. He announced I needed surgery.
And then he was gone, even though from all indications there
were no other patients waiting and he had nowhere to go. I concluded that
all orthopedists are taught in medical school that patients should never
be allotted more than three minutes of their time, no matter what the
My operation, which was performed the following week, was a
success. The pain, which turned out to be caused by a bone spur, was
eliminated, and the limp is gone as well. The Yellow Pages Doctor turned
out to be a good find.
Iíve since seen him for a couple of follow-up visits. He
still mis-pronounces my name, but on one occasion I kept him in the
examining room with me for a good four and a half minutes. He must really