Have you seen the British show “Doc Martin”? It airs on public television and Mother and I watch it without fail, even though we’ve seen all five seasons several times. We keep hoping that just maybe this Thursday night will be the night they’ll tell us when we can expect to see season six. It’s set in rural England and is about a surgeon who because of his new aversion to blood becomes a general practitioner. He’s uptight, tactless, socially challenged and doesn’t necessarily set out to torture his patients but he never fails to offend several people per episode. While miraculously solving several health problems, of course.
It’s fun to watch the mayhem that occurs in the small town as the big city surgeon tries to fit his superior skills to the need of the local common folk. And it’s harmless because we are the viewers are not affected by Doc Martin’s behavior.
What’s not as much fun are doctors in real life who are tactless or less than efficient or caring; or just plain bizarre. I bet you’ve met one or two. Am I right?
There was the ophthalmologist who tried to talk me out of contact lenses when I was twenty-seven and was fed up with glasses. He was sure I was too old to make the change. In the thirty-five years since, my contacts and I have been best friends.
How about the gynecologist who wanted to know if I was a nervous person?
“Only when I have to come here and put my feet up in stirrups.” I answered.
Then there was the allergist who needed to draw some of my blood and the only way I could bare my arm was to pull my dress over my head because the sleeves were too tight to pull up my arm. He went beet red in the face. What was the big deal? He was a doctor after all. I wondered when I heard later than he committed suicide by jumping off a building what had really been going on inside his head.
And of course, the one that takes the cake (or at least is in the running for first prize) occurred on my first visit to a new gynecologist. In the year or so prior to my visit I’d had a small patch of very painful shingles on the back of my upper thigh. I got treatment and was told the scar would take a long time, if ever, to fade. So there I was in the new doctor’s exam room, up on the table, and he has me lie back and put my feet in the stirrups. I get in position and he and the nurse move to the end of the exam table and he says, LOUDLY, with shock in his voice,
“What is that?”
As I was younger in those days and had a brain that worked lightning fast, I immediately ran through all the possibilities of what he could possibly be seeing, as well as the idiocy of a medical professional asking a rude question at such a delicate time and decided to not panic or be rude back.
“You mean my shingles scar?” I said.
Those are all harmless incidences that make good party stories but the ones that are not so funny are the ones that border on the incompetent. Two of my favorite doctors who were taking good care of me decided to rearrange their practices and so I had to find a new endocrinologist to manage the challenges that I have with the triangle of health that is the endocrine system: thyroid, hormones and adrenals. In balance with each other, they function wonderfully and I enjoy health. Let one get out of balance and the whole triangle falls apart and misery ensues.
My new endocrinologist took one look at my medications (that had been working just fine for me) and kept saying,
“A normal person does not need all this medication.”
So, of course, he would only write prescriptions as he saw fit and did not take into account how the changes would affect that delicate balance that allowed me to enjoy life. When my system crashed and I was distraught, his advice was that I seek out a counselor to help me with my mental and emotional issues. I found help, all right. From another medical professional who understood how to treat all my physical issues, not just one.
But the strangest doctor I’ve come across just might be the Urologist who treated Daddy for his prostate cancer. The man never came closer than three feet to Daddy in the exam room. He knew his stuff and gave responsible advice and care, but he asked me to help Daddy get on the table and to loosen his clothes. He sent his nurse in to check Daddy’s catheter and on another visit, to remove the catheter. The doctor never touched Daddy. Never shook his hand. Never came close to either of us physically. Come to think of it, he fits the Doc Martin mold pretty well.
So, ladies and gentlemen, the Bizarre Doctor Award goes to….? Which one would you choose? Or, perhaps you have a better candidate?