When I Was A Boy, A Doctor’s Insight Was Law

 

aadoctor

When I was a child and was literally dragged to Dr. What’s-His-Face for an annual check-up (less a check-up and more a ritualistic cadence of tsk, tsk, tsk’s) as he poked and kneaded and cold-handedly fiddled with my . . . which backs away from coldness . . . and shy’s away from evaluation like a cub scout whose self-built car elicits jeers from his Scout Master (who also happens to be his dad).  The snap of gloves and odor of soap which resembled anti-freeze gave the doctor time to compose his subtle and sensitive conclusion:  “He’s too fat and getting fatter and his fat is hiding his . . . which, for sanitary reasons may require the removal of . . . which was when I buckled my Indian Beaded Belt and disappeared until hours past dusk when a neighbor found me shivering beneath the front porch.

That incident was a painful secret which I’ve carried on my back for fifty years and continues to cause retreat when doctor’s or lover’s reach out.  Such a sad burden to carry because of one unsympathetic phrase from a stranger who had no right being a pediatrician.  I often wondered how he treated his dogs.

My mother’s ignorance and prostrating to figures of authority always meant that any run-in with any adult possessing even a pinch more aacopauthority than her resulted in stern and week-long pain.  Just what exactly did these arrogant and sadistic adults possess that was never crossed?  They had been appointed to their position because of educated insight which was never, ever, EVER questioned..

Which, of course, perpetuated a multi-century tradition which has continued even to this day.  Most doctor offices have a small-framed notice somewhere above their “All services must be paid TODAY!”  reminder which reads something like,  “My profession hasn’t been questioned or challenged in three hundred years, so don’t try to be the first today!”  And in you go to be examined, quizzed, and questioned only to receive a prescription scribed in ancient Egyptian and an “order” for physical therapy.

aaangryguyDo I sound somewhat angry?  Of course I am!  Doctors get paid enormous salaries yet complain about the escalating costs of malpractice insurance.  Malpractice insurance exists because professionals are trusted and believed and paid.  And for this degree of faith we get an educated guess of what might be ailing us.

But this is what I’m REALLY angry about: Two doctor’s at Froedert Hospital assured me my brother Rich did not suffer a stroke based on a CT scan.  It was 48 hours later when I insisted they perform an MRI.  Voila’!  A clot in a vein feeding the occipital lobe (responsible for eyesight).  Because of unconscionable arrogance my brother is legally blind while these two doctors suffer NO consequence.  Upon discharge from Froedert, I was told that Rich was totally blind due to A) The Stroke and B) A severe seizure two days later.  I made decisions based upon the information told to me by staff in the Stroke Unit.  And guess what?  He isn’t blind!  Albeit his eyesight has been significantly compromised, but his field of vision is approximately 17″ in diameter!  And the staff at Froedert?

And the worst example of guesstimating occurred this past weekend when Rich suffered a severe heart attack.  The errors in order of aapuzzleddocappearance: A) Someone at the acute rehab facility removed his DNR bracelet, yet never informed the paramedics that he had a DNR order in effect; B) The paramedics, unaware of the DNR order, couldn’t inform the ER staff;  C) When Rich went into arrest they performed heroic measures to yank him back to life including five minutes of chest compressions resulting in several broken ribs and the insertion of a temporary pacemaker to maintain his heart rate (why didn’t anyone call me while they repeatedly beat Rich?  They called me after!)  D) An ICU doctor called me and informed me that the ER stepped beyond Rich’s wishes and now, NOW I’ve got to decide if and when we reverse their . . . their, what . . . their adrenaline infused jump to action?  And when YOU do decide he will . . . be gone.

For nine hours I held firm to Rich’s wish: DNR. And I would honor his wish just like I’ve always honored him. And I aastoplightwouldn’t allow my own emotion, hope, or desire to shake my resolve. I spent nine hours picking up strength like a child picks dandelions. And upon my arrival at his room in the ICU he was semi-conscious, breathing on his own, and occasionally howling in pain as he coughed with broken ribs. The equivalent of The Cuban Missile Crisis was over and Rich, contrary to what the ICU doctor emphatically informed me, was alive, on his own, without my intervention. And even though he’d crossed that line, he’d come back, I think, just so we could laugh at the old, standard jokes as though it was the first time we’d heard them!

And those doctors? The heroic and uninformed professional, and the cardiac-specialized professional made two BIG mistakes and continue to work without consequence for their egregious and painful errors. Alas, that three hundred year old tradition continues.

 

Hu-mil-i-a-tion, Noun, 1. To Disgrace or Ridicule the Dignity of Another

Humiliation comes in many flavors: decline, disgrace, resignation, ridicule, shame, stigma, and upset.

HUMILIATION BY DISGRACE OR RIDICULE:

ahancockDuring nine years of my corporate career I was employed by a prestigious and globally recognized design firm where I held the esteemed position of Director of Executive Service.  One of my fundamental responsibilities was to manage the execution of, or, if requested, provide service personally to guarantee the success, without fail, of any kind of celebration that a partner requested or attended. For example, one client favored Scotch Whisky so I was asked to produce a Scotch Whisky tasting of adagobabar35-year old Scotches: Bowmore, Tamnavalin, Berriach, The Macallan, and Laphroaig and pairing them with: smoked salmon, black bread, Roquefort cheese, venison, smoked duck, and Dagoba organic dark chocolates.  Another wanted me to hire handsome male and beautiful female models clothed in Hugo Boss black suits and Adrianna Papell  cocktail dresses so that his guests were surrounded by classic beauty and modern design.  Yet another wanted a nine foot by nine foot parcel of the reception area to display five hundred forced Paper Whites in full bloom during one of the harshest winters on record, so he could capitalize on his design theme, Fresh Air, and subtly reinforce his theme and that we’re capable of just about anything, including any ideas they may entertain. Paper Whites naturally bloom in spring, so we had to force them to bloom (by apaperwhitereplicating a spring-like environment) early.  But there are no guarantees when forcing bulbs to bloom.  But lo’ and behold all five hundred bulbs bloomed creating an intoxicating fragrance throughout the hot house, or so I was told by the gardener downstate moments after he informed me that their truck carrying my Paper Whites was caught in a white out, spun off the road, and landed chassis deep in fresh snow where my lovely Paper Whites shivered as they slowly froze.  But as luck would have it, the potential client canceled their appointment.  Rumor has it that they’d all ready selected a firm, and we were just a curiosity.  But my all-time favorite: Four hundred and ten Shamrock Shakes delivered precisely at 12:00 noon on St. Patrick’s day.

The occasion at which I was disgraced and ridiculed by friends and colleagues was a simple party thrown by a partner who wished to celebrate the winning of a new commission in China with his design and marketing team.  The celebration started after work hours which required me to stay late as my supervision was requested by the partner.  As team members began to leave and the last partner to depart for the day was the host of this party.  On his way out he bellowed, “give them anything they want!  Anything!”   A senior designer approached me to ask if I might open acocktailpartythe partner’s private stash.  (When I was promoted the Managing Partner said to me, “Your job is quite simple: First, make all the partners happy; Second, never question or deny a partner’s request no matter how preposterous it may seem.)”  So began my study of each partner from alcohol to zany; I interrogated their assistants to drill down to expectations, tolerance for substitution, and the senior assistant’s castigation should he/she book an airline ticket in the unbearable and reprehensible middle seat in coach.  I stockpiled their favorite liquors, pop, snacks, and wine as a precaution.  Most employees and partners were aware of the liquor cabinet but didn’t know its location, yet knew that I possessed the only key.  I followed my instructions and wheeled out a trolley cart filled with the nonpareil of spirits and wines that ever passed their lips.

And then the fateful question: “Hey, I hear you’ve got top-shelf snacks!  Like those thumb-sized cashews for Adriel,” (at $28.00 per pound, you acashewbet they’re for the senior partner I thought to myself.)  We want some of those to go with the liquor.  By now it was close to eight o’clock and I was beginning to tire as I unlocked the file drawer directly beneath the partner’s private fax machine.  I removed a two pound sack of cashews, opened it, and delivered it to Lacy, the marketing rep for the project.  Lacy and I had always been friends, the tit-for-tat type of friend.  She, like several others, based their success and traded in information.  My success was based on character, trust, and top-level confidentiality.  She failed to pluck any morsel of intel from me.

By the time Lacy stuck her petite paw into the bag of cashews, a small crowd gathered round.  At almost the same moment they all realized that the cashews were very warm (from sitting in a file drawer directly beneath the partner’s private fax machine.  And then Lacy said it first followed by taunting laughter; then another said it; then a small group in unison; and the wave of ridicule and disgrace rose higher and higher then tumbled, crushing me with its demeaning vitriol.  I grabbed my briefcase and left the office quickly hearing slowed apologies backed by more laughter.  The firm boasts about a zero-tolerance policy for harassment so when I filed my formal complaint against Lacy I was told by the HR manager that she’d already heard about the incident and that Lacy will face her comeuppance.  Oh yes, and that I should forget she said:

Hey everyone!  Hey look!  Warm nuts!  He serves them warm nuts.  He warms the Partner’s nuts!  You get that?  He warms the Partner’s nuts!

 

Maybe Bruce Banner, Tony Stark, Logan, Bruce Wayne & Clark Kent Were Bipolar

I’ve identified the significant trigger, which, if pulled, catapults my otherwise sensible, responsible, and respectful self into a derivative of me, but one which possesses out-of-this-world dynamism akin to superhero’s or mutants.  The physical me doesn’t change, just the degree of acumen and acuity I’d refined in furtherance of a twenty-year career playing The Fool to a cadre of Somebody’s.  These heavyweight’s attained their ascendency via marriage; owning an avaricious, pugnacious and predatory law firm; partnership with an iconic architectural firm; ruthless attorney for corporate raiders.  Not one cared about procedure; they simply expected what they’d requested.  Failure was my burden to bear and under which I would suffer.

Only once did I return empty-handed: “I flew to Florida; drove to the grove; oranges are out of season; no juice.”  She pushed her Eames chair away from her desk and stood in front of me, “Do I look like an idiot to you?  I mean, when you think “idiot,” is it this face you see?  Because that’s precisely what you so deftly hand-delivered.  But I didn’t ask for an example of an idiot, did I?  I mean, if I did, which I didn’t, but if I did then you could get a mirror from one of the secretaries.  You wouldn’t simply fire-up the Ol’ Gulf stream and coast to Florida (at $2,350.00 per flight hour plus pilot time, hotel, fuel,, and food).  No, no explanations: I asked for orange juice from “Lily’s Grove,” of which I own by the way: Oh!  Didn’t you know that?  What?  No investigation before you saddle-up and zoom to Miami?  When I’d heard from Jorge that a “chiquito desmandares” demanded that he sell him orange juice for his “gillpollas cacia” the only conclusion I could draw was, “Mulligan must think I’m an idiot!”  Since you’re absolutely certain there’s no orange juice from Lily’s Grove, just for fun, let’s see if I might know someone who could help. . .Buenos dias, Jorge. . .”

That lesson (failure) provided an essential insight: if a heavyweight asks for something that has the appearance of impossibility, they already know where and how to get it.  They simply aren’t interested in doing it for themselves.  Self-effacing, tenacious, and propriety could be helpful behaviors in discovering a source for this item.

Only when forethought (plan B, escape route) is absent and I discover that I’m in a wholly defensive position with no options does this derivative of self appear.  This derivative is my super-hero or, as I now recognize, my manic-self (who I will name “Heartless”).  “Heartless” has a single purpose: self-preservation amidst unyielding stress, confusion, and fatigue, the by-products of an extremely complicated problem or series of problems which causes inescapable mental burden and my organic belief that failure cannot be considered because of its dire consequences and the real-life ramifications to everyone involved.

“Heartless‘s” appearance goes unnoticed and the logjam that promoted his incantation begins to loosen and the stalled efforts discover renewed vigor, and less and less sleep is needed, and more and more and more organization and meticulous paperwork are demanded.  “Heartless” remains present for varying lengths of time: Sometimes 3 months, sometimes a year.  But his denunciation follows the same pattern: “Heartless” turns his attention away from the situation of which he was borne, and on to me, which he sees as the real victim of the entire circumstance.  And then he uses every weapon in his arsenal to create as much collateral damage as possible: spending huge amounts of money on items which I’ve wanted, yet dare not buy (dog, tattoo, Rolex GMT II, 55″ TV, fully outfitted wood shop, custom-made Japanese fountain pen); ingesting too little or too much of my medication; abhorrent social behavior; and the worst and most pointed, vehement, and hateful: accusations and ceaseless arguments with my spouse.

The moment someone, anyone really, recognizes that I’m in the midst of a manic crisis, “Heartless” disappears.  And all that’s left behind is a meandering trail of damage, some salvageable, some not.  Destruction is definitely his foot print.  But I’ve considered too, that perhaps “Heartless”buys and says and behaves in ways some tightly-tucked-away part of me wants to behave or say or buy.  But I, like so many of us, have toed the civil line and buried our uncensored selves in a nook no one will find.  Wouldn’t it be tragic if we’ve been taught that decorum dictates that superhero’s remain in comic books and not shopping at Prada.