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Here’s What Happened ... Here’s What Didn’t

Here's what actually happened.

She was trembling and a little flushed when she walked into the examining room to take my blood pressure and prep me for the doctor.    "I haven't done this in a while," she said, pumping up the blood pressure cuff, nervously eyeing a hypodermic needle on a stainless steel tray.  "Lately I've mostly been working in the back reviewing medical charts."   I twitched a little, actually at a loss for words.   This was when I (rather unwisely) remembered how a good joke can sometimes put a person at ease.  "Don't worry," I said, smirking to force feed the humor.  "I'm a doctor.  I'll tell you if you do it wrong."    

The problem was that this turned out not to be so funny - mostly because she didn't get the joke.   In fact she didn't get it so much that when she let the air out of the blood pressure bag she whispered, "You have excellent blood pressure, doctor."

By the time I got my mouth opened to try to fix the problem, she was already on her way out the door looking to get away from me as fast as she could, mumbling "Dr. Weis will be right in to see you, Dr. Taddei," and then closing the door behind her. 

And things only got worse when Dr. Weiss showed up.   "Hello there," he said, shaking my hand, "I hear you're a physician ..."  

Now there are two things you can do in a situation like this.   You can run out of the room and never go back there again, or you can quickly correct the lie, endure the condescending looks of a man who already feels superior to you because he actually is a doctor (and you're not) and then you can run out of the room and never go back there again.

Actually, in the moment before I took the second option, I also thought of a third option.  It was something that crossed my mind for the two seconds that it took me to come to my senses.  Maybe I could just play along.  Maybe I could avoid the embarrassment and just tell him that I was a doctor.   Other people lived out their fantasies all the time, didn't they?   Other people realized that the time they had left to live was getting shorter and shorter and they escaped by pretending they could start all over again.  Why couldn't I?   In fact, who knew where this might lead . . . 

Here's what didn't happen

"Hello there," he says, shaking my hand.  "I hear you're a physician." 

"Why yes, I am."  I say.   "But I don't like to make too big of a deal out of it." 

"I know what you mean," he replies with that look of understanding shared only among those of us who have seen the inside of a human body.  "So what can I do for you today, doctor?"

"First of all call me Tony."

He glances at my chart and then looks up at me with a knowing grin.

"Well, Tony.   Judging by this, I think you probably already know what I can do for you."

"I do?  I mean, yes, I do . . .  It's what I think it is . . .  Am I right?"

"Yes you are.   So, I'm guessing you just need me to write the script . . ."

"Yeah, that's it.   I'm just trying to avoid any ethical issues."

"No problem.  I'm always happy to help a fellow practitioner."

He writes out the script and hands it to me.  He then pauses for a moment before he decides to tell me that a group of the doctors in his practice are going out for drinks after work.  "We always like to get to know other professionals in the area.  Would you like to join us?"

My brain does one of those little flips, that tickling quick high you get in those moments where you realize you are free to follow any lie, any deception, any poor choice or illegal activity without getting caught and with the potential for personal gain or a life-changing series of events - whether it be sex with a woman who doesn't know that you have a girlfriend, the theft of a fat wallet you see lying next to a vacant car as you happen by in a parking lot, or the chance to have drinks with a group of men and women who have given their life to medical science because you lied and told them that you have too.   

"I'd love to," I say, looking directly into Dr. Weiss's eyes.  "Where and what time should we meet?"

I hurry home and Google medical specialties, deciding on pediatrics because I have always liked children and because having raised three of my own and spent hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars in pediatricians' offices I feel I both have a head start on this choice of specialties as well as a right to get some return on my money.   I read up on pediatrics for the next three hours, choose Johns Hopkins as my medical school, memorize some rare childhood diseases (See:  Krabbe disease, Eisenmenger Syndrome, Osteogenesis Imperfecta  . . .) and then I go out to find a medical supply store where I can buy some tongue depressors with cartoon characters on them which I put in my shirt pocket before joining Dr. Weiss and his colleagues for a drink.

Our drinks go better than you might expect and all the doctors in the practice are very impressed with both my education and my compassion for children as well as with my shyness when it comes to talking about my work which I modestly explain is not my style and which only gets them to respect me more.   Their only regret, they tell me, is that they can't hire me since they run a practice that specializes in gastrointestinal problems.  I assure them I'm happy where I am and then I rush home, having now decided to apply to an online premed program.   

Time seems to speed up now as I finish my premed studies long distance at the University of Bucharest and then apply to a medical school in the Bahamas which I attend by taking a leave of absence from my current job.   My wife and children are incredibly supportive and - when I come back from doing my residency at a small hospital in the Philippines (which certifies me to treat patients in the US) - they are so happy that "daddy is doctor" that they forget all about the fact that I've deserted them for almost four years.  The problem is that by then I've already met and married a 20 year old Pilipino girl and when my wife finds out she files for divorce, taking me for half the earnings of my future medical practice.

I see it as just the price one has to pay for a career in medicine.

Anyway, years go by and I am practicing pediatrics in a small office I run with a former CIA Black Op (who also did his pediatric residency in the Philippines and with whom I bonded after I found out that he too felt compelled to change his life, although for different reasons than me which he would have liked to talk about except that if he did he would have had to kill me and bury my body at sea) when, oddly enough, Dr. Weiss walks into my examining room with his eight year old daughter, Becky.

"Well, well, if it isn't Dr. Taddei," says Dr. Weiss with a genuine grin of delight.   

For a moment, I think of once again reminding him to ‘call me Tony,' but then I decide that I'd rather not, given that I now actually am a doctor.   

"It's been quite a few years.   My partners and I wondered what happened to you."

"Well I keep a low profile.  My work treating sick children is satisfaction enough."

It's then that Dr. Weiss introduces me to his daughter.  "Dr. Taddei, this is Becky.   Becky, say hi to Dr. Taddei."

She shyly says hello and her father prompts her again.   "Tell Dr. Taddei what you want to be when you grow up."  

Without taking her eyes off her father, Becky says, "I want to be a doctor like you."

"Well Dr. Taddei is also a doctor.  Maybe you'd like to take care of children like he does."

"Maybe," she mumbles.

 "That would be wonderful," I say.  "There are lots of children who would love to have you as their doctor when you grow up."

Dr. Weiss smiles at me with what I can only see as wistful, professional pride.    Here we are, just a couple of men of science, passing the torch to the next generation.   

"Yeah," Becky blurts out.  "But my daddy doesn't want to be a doctor, anymore.  He complains to my mommy all the time.   He says that, if he could, he'd just walk away . . . He eve says that sometimes when he's taking care of sick people, he's really thinking about what would happen to him if he just left them in the examining room to go off and become a writer." 

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"Everything is created twice, first in the mind of the creator and then in reality."  Steven Covey