The tone of this article will surprise some. It’ll even infuriate others. But I want to spend this Thanksgiving article thanking doctors. That’s right. Thanking doctors. How often do you hear that?
I know we love to complain about them. How they keep us waiting long past the scheduled time, then after sitting for more than an hour in the main waiting room with seven kids coughing all over you, the door will open and the nurse will exclaim “Mr. Graham? The doctor is ready to see you now.” No, he’s not! They are only ready to sit you in the “other room”—the one with the blue cot and that thin piece of white paper on it.
You could arrive at an emergency room bleeding from head to toe, your right arm somewhere out on Route 70, and the first thing the admitting clerk will say to you is “Insurance card, please.” Are you then allowed to reply, “I’m sorry, my card was in my right stinkin’ hand!”
Truth be told, it’s all that paperwork crap that angers us the most about the medical scene to begin with. It’s not actually the doctors themselves. The endless automated voice menus when you’re trying to make an appointment. “Push 17 if you are calling drunk from a payphone.” The prescription that was not called in or the fact that it’s not on your co-pay. The electronic referral that’s gone missing. How about the dental assistant who will ask you how your kids are doing when there’s an erector set inside your mouth?
Here’s one I love. “Describe your pain today on a scale from one to 10?” How about, “It really %$#% hurts.” How’s that for a number? And what’s up with getting weighed all the time?! I never want to be weighed. (It used to puzzle me why Tony Soprano was constantly weighing himself. Check it out the next time you watch an old Sopranos episode and he’s in a doctor’s office. It never seemed to stop him from eating! He got bigger with every season.)
I know they are highly trained and well paid. And geez, could you even begin to do what they do? I’ve had three back surgeries; and now I’m delighted to say that my back has been terrific for four and a half years and although I’m not going to be running any marathons soon, I now easily walk around Sea Isle City bouncing from bar to bar. (OK, I guess “stumbling” might be more like it.)
But here’s my point. On a cold, rainy Tuesday afternoon in November of 1989, I walked into Dr. Greg Herman’s office and told him that there was a severe pain running down my leg and that my left foot was falling asleep if I walked into a mall. Any kind of big store, really.
Now here I am, a 6-3, 235-pound dude standing in his office, dripping wet, and somehow he has to figure out what is causing all of this. And I think we take all of that for granted. Geez, it’s difficult enough describing the pain you’re in. So imagine how exhausting it is when you’re a doctor listening to us?
“I hear a ringing in my ears when I come to a red light.” “When I reach up with my left hand to grab a plate out of the pantry I get a weird twinge in my left big toe.” “I think there’s something wrong with my earlobe.” “Hey, my friend wants me to ask you about this blue pill, Doc. Mind you, it’s not for me.”
I worked in a music store one Christmas and I used to get a kick out of the grandmas and uncles who would come in and say, “I’m looking for a song for my little Biffy and it goes like this.” And then they would hum or actually sing a tune and I would have to figure out what song they were describing. (It would always turn out to be “War Pigs” by Black Sabbath.) Impossible!
Doctors and dentists go through the same thing, only the stakes are so much higher, even life threatening. It would have been survivable if I would have given mommy Adele instead of Lily Allen, but the wrong diagnosis from a doctor? The pressure to be right is enormous.
I have been seeing Dr. Greg Herman in Woodbury for almost 20 years and he must roll his eyes when I start whatever pain rap I am attempting to relay. But he has gotten the job done for me for years and before you say “Well, you’re a radio personality, of course he’s going to treat you with kid gloves.” Well, that would be wrong because I wasn’t even on the air at all when I started seeing him and he treated me the same back then as he does today—like he does all his patients, with courtesy and respect.
And I would like to say the same about my dentist. When my radiation and chemo ended when I had throat cancer a few years ago, the real trouble arose after I was in remission. (By the way, my chemo involved me sitting in a recliner, with a remote and a TV, while I got filled up full of drugs. Heck, I’ve been doing that at home for fun for years).
The 33 radiation treatments I had destroyed some saliva gland or something, and my teeth started falling out. My dentist, Dr. Craig Donn of Cherry Hill, worked miracles, putting my teeth back in and keeping them straight; and today, my smile looks better than ever. And there’s nothing I can’t eat. It took him two years to do this and the entire time he was working on me he was openly admitting to me that “I hope this is gonna work” because he had no idea how much damage the after effects of the radiation were going to continue to affect me. And somehow he did it.
Then there was Dr. David Cognetti at Jefferson, who kept me alive to begin with. Every time I see him I say “Doc, if it wasn’t for you I might not have been around to see my daughter Keely get married. Then again, if it wasn’t for you, I would not have been around to pay for my daughter’s wedding.”
Listen, I’m the guy who has trouble screwing in a light bulb, so I have no idea how they do what they do. I know we like to complain about ObamaCare and the insurance and drug companies. I know there’s a handful of countries that have this health care thing down better than we do.
But not by much. Every time I look up in the sky and I see a helicopter medevac’ing some poor soul to the hospital, I thank my lucky stars that we live in a country that can get that done.
So I thought I would take this November Thanksgiving column to wish all the doctors and dentists out there a Happy Thanksgiving and please, continue to be there for us!
Big Daddy Graham is a renowned stand-up comedian and overnight personality on SportsRadio 94WIP. Check out his new podcast, Big Daddy’s Classic Rock Throwdown, at BigDaddyGraham.com.
TWO FUNNY PHILLY GUYS starring Big Daddy Graham and Joe Conklin returns to the Broadway Theatre in Pitman for its sixth-straight Valentine’s Day weekend on Saturday, Feb. 15. Visit BigDaddyGraham.com for tickets. And check out Big Daddy’s Classic Rock Throwdown podcast at WildfireRadio.com every Thursday at 8 p.m.
Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 8 (November, 2014).
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