Just My Luck – Chapter 9-1



Several months after my September 2002 return to work in my 9/11 modified job at Aon, a change in our medical benefits required that a form be completed by each covered employee and signed by his or her “primary care” (PC) physician.

A fair request, only I didn’t have one at the time. Dr. K was continuing to help me with my PTSD, but she was a psychiatrist, not a PC doctor.

So, at long last, I had a bona fide excuse to enlist a new PC physician to my ever growing personal medical team.

A Fine Recommendation

For several years my prior PC physician had been Dr. R., the gastroenterologist who diagnosed and cured my ulcers during my Marsh days in the 1980s.  Not long after meeting for the first time, he and I were on a first name basis. He had a great sense of humor, and we had some friends in common, so I asked him if he’d take me on as a PC  patient back then.  He agreed.

While on disability leave from Aon related to 9/11, I received a letter from Dr. R. informing me that he was relinquishing his PC practice in order to dedicate all of his working hours to Gastroenterology.  He explained that researchers’ discoveries in his field of specialty, and new methods and pharmacological tools were advancing that science rapidly.  He had to keep pace with those developments so he unfortunately had no time for PC patients.

I understood completely, filed his letter in my overflowing circular file, and proceeded with my life once again without the benefit of a PC doctor.  I figured when, if ever, I needed one, I’d find one.  Until then, I too was too busy to worry about primary medical care issues.

 Day 1

I now had a need.  Though it was administrative, it was imminent .

I contacted Dr. R. to ask his suggestion of a really good PC physician for me.  With no hesitation he suggested Dr. Pamela A., who practiced Internal Medicine and was a partner of his in a local medical group.  The head of the Pulmonary Department of our local hospital was also a friend, so I called him to ask if he knew Dr. A. and if so, what he thought of her work.  He was very complimentary about her medical skills and echoed Dr. R.’s high recommendation.

Day 1 + 3 Weeks

Pleased by my friends’ advice, I contacted Dr. A.’s office, described my situation and need, and made an appointment to meet. A few weeks later, at our meet and greet, Dr. A. agreed to be my PC physician and signed my form.

Another administrative assignment dutifully fulfilled.

As I was leaving, Dr. A.asked me to make an appointment for a physical exam, which was her normal procedure when taking on new patients.   Down the hall, the keeper of her appointment book said Dr. A didn’t have an available suitable time slot for the physical until three months out.  Feeling in good health, I saw no problem with that.  I had what I needed for now, so I took the offer and asked the scheduler if she would give me a reminder call a week before the appointment.

She did.

A Second Opinion

Day 1 + 3 Weeks + 3 Months

Fast forward three months.  The physical exam was pretty much routine.  Dr. A. took my blood pressure, listened to my heart and lungs, prodded and poked me and told me the results of the blood work would be sent to me, etc., etc.  But just as I was leaving  she asked me if I had a Urologist.  (This was the second time in two visits she waited for me to think our business was done and then laid a surprise next step on me as I headed for the door. I made a mental note that she probably saves the worst news for last.)

I replied, “Yes, I’ve been a patient of Dr. S”

“The reason I ask is that I’d like you to make an appointment to see him.  It’s probably nothing, but I felt a roughness in an area on your prostate gland and I’d like his opinion on it.  As I say, it’s most likely nothing to worry about; your PSA is only at 1.2 and that’s a good sign.  I just want to make sure that everything is O.K.”

I was impressed with her concern and took comfort in her opinion that she just wanted to confirm that things were fine.  I had no idea what a PSA was, but since it was fine I felt no need to find out.


The Chain saw Memory

Day 1 + 3 Weeks + 3 Months + 1 Week

A week later I was in Dr. S’s office for the first time in 10 years.  A couple of months after the birth of our second child, Tom, in February 1983, I went to Dr. S. for a vasectomy.  It’s not because Tom had cured us of wanting more children, I just didn’t want to have to save for more than two college tuitions.  In that context the vasectomy was a fabulous bargain, and I like bargains.

I asked Dr. S. if he remembered me and he said he didn’t but given a guess he’d say I must have been one of his many vasectomy patients.

“Yes, I was.” I said. “Maybe you’ll remember this.   When I came in for the procedure you were expanding your offices here.  There were construction workers banging nails into lumber all around the place.  Your procedure room was at the back of the building on this floor. Outside the closed window shade the framing was being built to extend the back of the building out another 15 feet or so behind that room.”

Dr. S. nodded to confirm his memory of that construction job.

“I was on the table in your procedure room, exposed where necessary, and you and your nurse assistant were gowned, masked and gloved ready to start the operation.   Just a heartbeat after you called for the scalpel, a construction worker right outside the window shouted, chainsaw_clown_by_barbwire1-d3bt0b7Hey Joe, Where do ya want me to cut this thing off,’ and started up and revved up his chain saw.”

A huge smile broke out on Dr. S as I completed our anecdote, “I started making a ‘T’ with my hands like a basketball player would and shouted, ‘Whoa!!  Time out doc!  Time out!’  All three of us laughed uncontrollably for a good five minutes.”

“That was you?!” he said laughing once again.  “You don’t know how many times I’ve told that story.”

“Probably about as many times as I have.” I responded.

Sometimes it’s good to have something to be remembered by.

Nine Out of Ten Doctors…

Dr. S did the same examination of my prostate as had Dr. A and took an ultrasound image of the gland.  After these chores were done he told me, “You know, nine out of ten doctors would not have thought this serious enough for a second opinion, but it does feel a bit granular in some spots so she was right to have me check this out.”  He showed me the ultra sound image. “See these little white spots?”

I did.

“That’s what she and I felt,” he continued.  “They’re most likely calcium deposits, nothing to worry about.  But let’s biopsy them just to make sure.”

He did.



(to be continued)


©2016 James Ash


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