Do you remember TV doctors from the ‘60s and ‘70s?
I sure do. Marcus Welby took my health seriously. Joe Gannon never fooled around. That’s what’s wrong with our health care system now. Too many Grey’s Anatomy docs playing hide-the-stethoscope in the supply closets and not enough old guys worried about my caffeine intake.
Remember when Trapper John diagnosed “The Disease of the Week (TDOTW)” and he had to share the news that the illness was going to be impossible to cure? He would always give the bad news to the doomed, wan patient in a book-lined office. She was never sitting on the exam table clutching a paper gown around her, or trying to make the ends meet in the back as she limped down the hall gripping a urine sample when she got the news.
I just got done with most of my annual well-woman exam, which is called that because I am, technically, well. For now. But my dear doctor, who looks nothing like Joe Gannon or even Trapper John, is determined to root through every molecule of my being until she finds something wrong, at which point I will cease to be a “well” woman and then I’ll become a “wet-my-pants-worried” woman (now that I’m 50 and have become colonoscopy-bait, she’s going to start referring me to spelunking professionals who will really leave no stone unturned, but that’s for a different day. Bet you can’t wait for that column!)
To fulfill my doctor’s quest for complete information I got referred out for blood work and ultrasounds and mammograms and whatnot, and I obediently complied. It takes forever for the whatnot results to come back, so then I waited for the phone calls, because dear doctor is not going to schedule an appointment for me to sit in her book-lined office. I’m not even going to get a phone call from a live human being.
Instead I get “Terror Waiting,” a diabolical new way to deliver the news that I may or may not have TDOTW. It works this way:
1. Phone rings.
2. I answer with the traditional “hello?”
3. I am greeted with a perky, automated voice, informing me that I have an important message from my doctor (the perky automated voice has obviously never even dreamed that she had TDOTW. She sounds unsympathetic.)
4. She tells me I must call a number for my results. I frantically scramble to find a pen. There is no pen. There might be a Crayon. No, wait. There’s a pencil with no lead. Oh, hell. Why don’t I just slice open my finger with a steak knife (that, I can find!) and scrawl the phone number in blood on my wall? For there is no way I will be able to sleep tonight if I don’t get that message; I’ll lie awake for hours wondering if maybe the perky voice sounded sad there because she knew something.
5. I manage to transcribe the number.
6. I call it. I verify that I am, indeed, me several times. And then the perky automated voice deigns to deliver my message.
7. Which tells me that everything is fine. I have cholesterol levels that would make Marcus Welby weep with joy. And no TDOTW.
Ahwatukee Foothills resident Elizabeth Evans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column appears monthly.