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 found one.
    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 business.
    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 paydirt.
    "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 circumstances.
    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 care.
 

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