I was in a car accident in high school. The surgeon who sewed me up was very handsome and rode a motorcycle. The plastic surgeon who sewed me up more was even more handsome and was called Bunny. When I was better, I baked him a loaf of bread. I was happy and grateful. But sometimes, late at night, I wondered, Is there more than this?
I developed colitis in college and went into the hospital. My gastroenterologist gave me prednisone and a lot of Percodan, but nothing helped, so he put me into a double-blind study of a new immune suppressor. I wanted to trust him, but things were clearly going downhill. Then, one day, with no warning whatsoever, I could not walk. The pain was unbearable, but it was no use turning to my doctor for help. He’d become increasingly nervous, retreating into his double-blind study. I felt so alone. Would I ever find a doctor who understood me, who would treat me well? Eventually, I reached out to an orthopedist. Perhaps he would be the one! He said I had an infection in my hips and refused to give me enough pain medication, explaining that as a teenager, I would become addicted. I realized he didn’t respect me. I began to hate him, and, yes, I started seeing other doctors. They weren’t right for me, either, but I was desperate. Sure, I enjoyed the glamour, the glitter of seeing the head of surgery here, the top man there. But finally, it was all so empty.
Then something wonderful happened. I met him on Halloween. He was bald and overweight, and he was not even the head of the department. But he explained that my hip problem was a side effect of taking prednisone. There was no infection. I had been living with lies for so long. Did I dare allow myself to hope? Could this be the one? He sent me to a rehab center for six months. He operated on me. I could walk. I was ecstatic. For years, I was content. I finished school. I married. But then he died.
I became pregnant and, taking no chances, went to an obstetrician known for treating difficult pregnancies. He delivered the baby, who was beautiful and healthy. I was ecstatic and full of love. But the doctor stared down at me in the delivery room and coldly asked if I wanted more children. Because he really ought to perform a hysterectomy. As he was a doctor known for treating difficult pregnancies, he seemed to think he owed it to me to make mine a suitably difficult pregnancy, too. And the placenta was not coming down. He threatened me, saying I might hemorrhage and die. As I was explaining to him that I didn’t want to die but I wasn’t hemorrhaging and I didn’t really want a hysterectomy, the placenta came out. Oh, how could I have been such a fool? I never saw him again.
When I had my second child, I went to a gynecologist whom my friend Nancy used because he accepted Workmen’s Circle insurance. He smoked, but I liked his wallpaper and we had such a nice chat about Jewish socialism. After he delivered a healthy and beautiful baby and the placenta did not come down, he rolled his sleeves up higher and tried again. Voilà. I’ve never forgotten our time together, and I continued to see him off and on. But – call me a romantic – I found myself still searching for the One.
Minor foot surgery. A lovely, intelligent young woman performed the operation, which was very successful. I was full of hope. She moved to Philadelphia.
Adopted a small dog named Buster. He was missing two toes on his back paw, which made him even smaller and suggested a difficult past. It was soon clear that he had been traumatized. He woke up in the middle of the night growling and snarling and attacking his own innocently wagging tail. It was like sleeping with a Vietnam vet. We took him to a chiropractor, who was soothing and pleasant and offered hope, and Buster seemed to enjoy his adjustments. But soon enough I had to face the truth. He wasn’t helping. The man, though sensitive and kind, was impotent.
Then, referred by a bichon puppy in the dog park, Buster obtained an appointment with a holistic vet. I held Buster’s head as the doctor took his temperature, and I experienced a strange sensation – a combination of excitement and peace. And I knew! I saw the truth! I had, at long last, reached the end of my search:
I want to be greeted by a receptionist who strokes my head and says how adorable I am. I want an attendant to come out and feed me a snack while I wait, one who says my name over and over in a sweet singsong. I want to be lifted gently onto a table and allowed to climb into the sink if that’s what I feel like doing at that moment. I want the doctor to hold a cookie and show it to me and murmur my name and tell me I’m brave and give me bits of it when I let him look in my ears and examine my toes. I want to growl and bite the doctor when he does something I don’t like, and have him smile and give me more cookie and calm me and explain to me that everyone loves me. I want the receptionist to come in while I’m being examined and say that I’m wonderful and discuss who I look like. I want a doctor who, after examining me, says perhaps I have allergies and so should eat something I’ve never eaten before, like venison. I want a doctor who is so confident and so up-front that he will tell me I am not a candidate for acupuncture because I would bite him and that my spine does not need readjusting because I am, very simply, a head case.
And so, my story ends happily. I have found the doctor of my dreams. If only he was covered by Oxford.
The Best Doctors in New York 2001 issue is not on our site; you can find it on newsstands the week of 05/28/01, or call 212.508.0755 to inquire about ordering a copy.