By Chuck Wiser, “I write the words to share what my eyes see and my heart feels”
If you know the tune of the Otis Redding song, “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” you can hum along and see why I keep thinking of this piece as “Sitting with the Doc of the Day”. As I was sitting in the doctor’s office the other day awaiting the nurses call to the doctor’s exam room, I reflected on the number of doctors that had filled a significant need in my life. If you know me well, you will groan and know that it is a long list. I would like to reminisce with you, some of the doctors in my life and most of them will be recognizable to you dependent on your age or geographical location. This may end up being a two part series as I recall some of the memorable and/or humorous interactions. I will only mention names of those not still on the green side of the turf unless they have given permission for me to do so. Anyone else still “practicing” on me, may be alluded to, but will not be named or otherwise identified.
Something I had always wondered was why they called it a “Doctor’s practice” thinking that I want the real thing not his (or her) practicing at what they are doing. I finally looked it up and here’s what my reference provided; The word’s earliest meaning was, “to pursue or be engaged in (a particular occupation, profession, skill, or art)”. It is first recorded as such in 1421 and that is the meaning it continues to have when we speak of practicing law or medicine, because to practice is to do, as opposed to, theorize or teach.
Going back to my youth in Friendship, NY, “Doc” Webster had an office on Baxter Place (known as Church St. on the 1882 map). I believe Mumps and Measles were treated at my Nile, NY home as the doctors made house calls back in the 50’s and 60’s. Dr. Grey (Gray) also in Friendship, had an office on East Main St. I believe at or near the house that became Roland Studio. I had quite a few Doctor’s visits and Emergency Room trips to Cuba Memorial Hospital in my high school sporting days as I couldn’t seem to get through a soccer season without an ankle sprain or break.
My first real medical adventure occurred while I was in the Navy and on board the USS Desoto County on a cruise in 1964. While still at sea I hemorrhaged in the middle of the night from what turned out to be a bleeding ulcer, at the ripe old age of 18. The Navy being what it is, I had to clean up my own “mess” but was then bedridden for three days until we got back into port. An ambulance met the ship at the dock and transported me. The last thing I remembered before waking up in a hospital bed with a nurse that I thought was an angel looking down at me, was sitting in a wheelchair in the admitting area of the Portsmouth Naval Station Hospital. Nurse Stokes (Nancy) was her name, and I will never forget it. I spent several weeks as their guest. This adventure would lead to another medical life experience that I will mention later.
Relatively “event free” for the next several years I had routine doctor’s visits after moving with my bride to Wellsville, NY in the late 60’s. Dr. Harkness and Dr. Comstock became those who tended to my standard ailments. Dr. Harkness was a jolly, gruff, kind of guy who apparently had a sense of humor. I had developed a growth of some kind in my wrist on my right hand. Being quite concerned as to what it might be, I visited Dr. Harkness. It turned out to be a “Ganglion Cyst”.
After looking it over, “Doc” reached up to his chin rubbing it, saying “Hmmmm” as if in deep thought. He pointed to a shelf behind me and said: “Would you please hand me that big red book there on the right?” I presumed he wanted to research something, much the same as current doctors do with their handheld devices. I handed him the book and he said, “alright, now bend your wrist down with your other hand and turn your head.” Puzzled but cooperative I did as told.
All of a sudden I heard and felt this powerful “whack” on my wrist. He then gently lifted my arm, pointed at my wrist, and said: “See, now it’s gone.” And it was.
In 1969 after several bouts of recurring ulcer problems I was introduced to Dr. Pol Akman as a referred surgeon for my problem. Before delving into detail, I am writing this Wednesday night December 15th, 2021. In looking back at the obituary of Dr. Akman I discovered that he passed away December 15th, 2006. 15 years to the day. The coincidences like that that keep popping up lately me make me wonder.
Back on task, Dr. Akman examined me, did some test work, and recommended strongly that I undergo a surgical procedure. Back “in the day”, the prescribed treatment for a Duodenal Ulcer was a surgical procedure called “Vagotomy with Pyloroplasty”. The Vagus nerve is partially severed reducing and slowing the flow of gastric acid into the stomach. Pyloroplasty opens the lower part of the stomach allowing for more rapid emptying of the stomach. In combination, they reduce the risk of the development of duodenal ulcers. “Science” has discovered that ulcers are caused by an internal bacterial growth which is treated medicinally now. That operation left me with a conversationally explainable scar from my belly button to my sternum resulting from the procedure that I often have to explain even to doctors and nurses. Doctor Akman had the largest hands, and fingers, that I’ve ever seen (or felt) and they matched his heart and sense of humor. I will never forget my visit to the emergency room after trying to “self amputate” my thumb with a hack saw. My wife didn’t really want to drive me to the ER, but not wanting me to go alone had my youngest son ride along with me. As Dr. Akman prepared the tetanus shot syringe my son watched him intently. Suddenly Dr. Akman aimed the syringe and depressed the plunger a little, shooting a small stream at my son’s leg. That sure lightened the mood.
There was a time starting in the late 60’s or early 70’s that my wife had been going through spells of severe headaches, later diagnosed as “Cluster Headaches”, which some think of as Migraine headaches. There are similarities but with differences that can be better or worse depending on your viewpoint. Eventually the headaches led to many visits to the ER, where, one night, she ended up being treated by the “on call” doctor, Keith Sale. A doctor/patient relationship soon developed, as he was extremely helpful to her, and based on his compassion, understanding and “patient first always” attitude, he became her Primary Care Physician (PCP). Her headaches would be spaced a couple of years apart but when they arrived, they would occur daily and were severe. After a couple of episodes with other “on call”, delayed and nonchalant ER Doctor visits, Dr. Sale left standing instructions that he was to be contacted directly, immediately, without delay, should she appear at the ER suffering a headache.
Somewhere along in through that time frame, one day our oldest son starting down our cellar stairs, somehow stepped wrong and twisted and broke his ankle, ending up with a lump on the head caused by his sudden stop at the foot of the stairs having met the concrete wall. Dr. Keith Sale was on duty and was called to the ER as a cast would be required. While treating our son he off handedly mentioned something like: “it was odd that a young healthy boy would fall down the stairs like that, getting a lump on his head and breaking his ankle in the fall.”
I was a little put off by the comment and didn’t think very highly of Dr. Sale for what I perceived was thinking that something untoward had happened. My wife had by then had him as her Primary PCP and, although thinking it an odd comment, wasn’t overly concerned. Fast forward a few years and following Dr. Akman’s retirement, and a couple of my previous broken ankles, I ended up one day in the ER while Dr. Sale was on duty. He did me the honor of “casting” my ankle or foot, which being so often I can’t remember which, and I was pleased with his demeanor and professionalism and caring for me in a compassionate way. I recalled and rethought my previous impressions coming to the conclusion that he was not being critical of us when previously questioning our son’s accident but actually doing his due diligence given the frequency of “non accidental” accidents happening in area households. Passing his “casting call” appearance, Dr. Sale became my PCP and remained so until his retirement several years later. We now share a social friendship via Facebook and I travel the world vicariously through his and his wife’s worldly travels.
Many of my former doctor’s have passed away, all but one following a normal “end of life” progression. One however, Mia Chung, an Eye Surgeon, was lost tragically. Coinciding with my wife’s eye ailment treatments at the Flaum Eye Institute, I visited an ophthalmologist for a follow up exam to check the progression of early stage cataracts having experienced some “eye floaters”. While examining me, the doctor, having looked and re-looked using her complex eye examination device said to me: Your cataracts aren’t the problem, you have a double retina tear in your right eye. I asked, when or how do I get that taken care of? “Right now, and right here” was her answer. Enter, Dr. Mia Chung a laser surgery specialist. She proceeded to “LASER weld” the double tear. Two years later I re-visited for a follow up exam and she proceeded to “weld up” the tear in my left eye.
When attempting to schedule a follow up eye appointment a few months later I was told that Dr. Chung was “no longer with us”. I asked, “Oh, where has she gone?”. The somber reply advised that Dr, Chung had been killed in a tragic skiing accident when she went over a cliff in Nepal.
As I approach the end of my self imposed article length I haven’t even scratched the surface of my sights to be seen from the “Doc of the Day” so am planning a sequel to this either next week or later if a hot topic pops up before then. I will mention with much more brevity a few names not heretofore mentioned, perhaps with a one liner accompaniment.
- Dr. Berringer: Dentist at Friendship, NY in the 50’s and 60’s. He sang nonstop about his mule named “Chuck”, and upon visiting him once and waking up in his chair with my head lower than my feet and the winter window wide open, he said the Novocain musta hit a vein.
- Dr. Foreman: Hornell surgeon: Changed my Belly Button from an “outey” to an “Inney”.
- Heide- APCo Nurse: Drop those drawers so I can numb that sliding raspberry. (Side note: Mom was right when she said never wear your ripped and torn underwear to work…or something like that. I ripped them to alleviate pain not expecting nurse’s office visit)
- Dr. Khalifa (Wife’s eye surgeon): “Nurse, Mrs. Wiser is over there sitting by that guy with the neon yellow sweatshirt on.”
Short ditty to “Dock of the day” tune:
Just sitting by the Doc of the Day, watching the hours and days fade away.
Sittin in the morning sun, watching these weirdos come and go can be fun.
I’m sittin by the “Doc of the Day, won’dring just how much it will cost me today.
Staring at the setting evening sun wondering just when this day will get done.
I’m so glad we have the “Doc of the Day” and they don’t think we’re a waste of their time