A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to Old Age…

MedicineMy doctor of many years decided he’d rather spend his days hiking than playing ‘identify this rash’ twelve times a day and retired a few months ago at the age of 71. This left me, for the second time in my life, with the reluctant task of replacing a retired doctor.

I hate finding new doctors. When my very first doctor retired, the only physician in my small town who was taking patients was an osteopath. I didn’t care much for him. I felt like he was always treating me with special herbs and spices instead of practicing medicine, yet he looked great by comparison to the doctor I ended up with in the next city I moved to.

When we got to Alaska, we asked some of the doctors we knew from our neighborhood and civic organizations who they would see for their medical needs. One doctor’s name came up repeatedly. We both made appointments. He was a good old-fashioned country doctor who took the time to get to know his patients, created detailed personal and family histories, and would then pointedly ask, “So what’s up with you today? I’m sure you didn’t come here to talk about the weather.”

He knew which patients were whiners and which most likely actually had a sinus infection when they came in and said they did. When you said it hurt, he said, “I believe you”. He diagnosed health not only through blood work, but by asking how easy it was for you to lift things, stand, sit, walk up a hill, get out of bed in the morning and go to sleep at night; whether you were hot or cold, happy or sad, and always inquired what new hobby you were going to take up during the upcoming winter to keep the blues away during the long, dark Alaskan winter. He was interested in the whole person and always told you to assume you were healthy until he said you weren’t. All visits ended with his saying, “See you next time, kiddo”.

Last week I made a new patient appointment with a new doctor. He seems competent, although more clinical and less interested in deep medical history or much else other than blood work, blood pressure, and pulse rate. “Everything looks great,” he said, “you’re in excellent shape”, but there was one more issue associated with seeing a new doctor I hadn’t anticipated.

The new practitioner, who is younger than me, said that at my age I should probably start taking a fish oil supplement to help prevent heart and joint issues common in people as they age. I can only imagine the look on my face. A mere three months ago I was “kiddo”, today I’m firmly ensconced in middle age.

Perspective, my friends, is everything.

Holly A. Bell is a wanderer, ponderer, language studier, writer of poetry and novels, and an interdisciplinary professor of Finance, Economics, and Business at the University of Alaska, living contently in the Mat-Su Valley of Alaska.

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