Thursday, November 06, 2014

Rally For Thanksgiving: The Best Medicine

Today, November tried its hardest to give me a Melville Day. (See yesterday's post for a full explanation.) The sun had apparently worn itself out after its extended engagement earlier in the week, and we also had rain, that cold, ugly rain that greys up the sky, the day, and the soul. Had I not had a quick morning checkup with My Hero, the neurologist, I probably would have spent the whole day trying to justify remaining in my jammies and fleece robe, doing just enough Domestic Goddessing to stave off Guilt while intermittently chatting and playing Words With Friends via the Interwebs (on my phone, as I said I would never, ever do, for those of you scoring at home).

Instead, I got dressed and coaxed my short short hair (still growing out) into yet another new iteration and grabbed a bottle of dry riesling and headed out to see my doctor.

Yes, I took wine to my doctor's appointment. Dr. B. is another reason I like November.

My original neurologist, whose name I don't remember, was a Filipino gentleman and was kindly and sweet. He was tiny and smiled all the time, and he was quite thorough and methodical. When he decided to retire, his practice was referred to Dr. B., a Cleveland Clinic neurologist whose examining rooms were outfitted with laptops. My first appointment was memorable in that he complimented me on not misspelling "mycin" when I wrote that I was allergic to mycin drugs. "Most people spell it with an a, as in myacin," he said brusquely. "I find that very irritating." I looked up at him and smiled. "I teach English," I said. "I'm very careful about spelling."

From that moment on, we had a great deal to talk about, and sometimes now it is difficult to squeeze in my migraine condition. We have discussed literature, education, language, oh, all sorts of things. And because it is a migraine trigger for me as well as our shared passion, we often discuss wine. As it happens, Dr. B. is a former resident of Toronto, so he is quite familiar with my favourite wine regions. "I'm bringing you a bottle of a truly extraordinary dry riesling," I said to him last May. "It's from the Bench region, and you will love it. It's an award winner; it's balanced and not too sweet, but there's not a lot of minerality." He looked at me out of the corners of his eyes as he poked savagely at the keyboard, summarizing my office visit. "I like the German style. I need a little sweetness. I can barely go off-dry. Did we try magnesium, once a day, 250 milligrams?"

Today, I set the bottle of Vineland 2009 Dry Riesling, (Gold Medal Winner) right in front of that poor keyboard and waited for him to sweep into the room. (Truth be told, I feel equally sorry for the hinges on the doors.) "So," he said, with emphasis. "How have you been? How many headaches?" He looked up from the folder to me, then noticed the bottle on the computer table. "Is this for me?" He smiled, then looked at the label. "Vineland? Is that...New Jersey?" I shook my head and laughed. "No, Dr. B.! Canada, remember?" He rolled his eyes. "Of course," he said. "Niagara. But, you do know about Vineland in New Jersey, don't you? It's the largest city in New Jersey by area. It's huge, but there's nothing there. It has only about sixty thousand people." And that's all it took. From there, we talked about New Jersey being the Garden State, his attendance at a German dinner at a local restaurant, raising his kids to speak Ukrainian in the home, ESL instruction, wine, weather, and about a dozen other things, including my migraines. When it was time for me to leave, I had thoroughly enjoyed my visit, and so had he. He thanked me again for the wine, walked me to the front desk, chatted some more, then put on and zipped up his jacket. "I'll be back at two," he said and sauntered out the back door.

"Was I his last appointment of the morning?" I asked. The receptionist smiled. "Yep! He was actually supposed to have been gone about twenty minutes ago."

On my way home I noticed how, because of the rain, the tree trunks were black, providing a dramatic contrast for the remaining autumn leaves. The crimson, gold, and cinnamon foliage looked even more brilliant against this darkness and the steely sky.  My windshield wipers swept across to clear away the raindrops every now and then.

wine doctor image


  1. Oh, Nance, I absolutely love this post! I can see your whole visit with your words. What a treat to have a doctor like this fellow! And I'm sure he thinks it's a treat to have you as a patient.

    I'd like to think that the majority of patient-doctor interactions were more like this before the arrival of HMOs and the like, which brought 10-minute office exams into our lives. There are still some doctors who make this connection with their patients, but they are the exception.

    Anyway, thank you for sharing this visit. It brightened my day and even though it ended in rain, I hope the exchange brightened yours. It sounds cliché, but in the end, I think it's always the human connection that sustains us.


  2. I'm fond of all of my doctors as well, though the only one I ever brought a gift to was the midwife/nurse practitioner who delivered Maya. She got flowers. You are very kind to not only recommend a wine, but to bring it as well.

    I feel fortunate to have doctors that I like. Even my OB/GYN, which is an unpleasant appt., she calls me friend and we catch up since last year.

    When I get to chatting with my newest doctor, the rheumatologist, I'm always afraid we're going to go too far off topic, and forget to discuss something important. But I do like that she takes the time she does when I'm there.

  3. I thought my endocrinologist, Dr. K., was unique in her warmth and willingness to consult, reassure, and just chat. We discuss books and movies, sharing a passion for Science Fiction. One time she pulled out her prescription pad and wrote down an author and title she was recommending. First time I ever got a prescription for a book!

    I did do domestic Godessing yesterday, appropriate to our cold rainy NEO weather. I baked cookies, did a couple of loads of laundry, put together a pastitio for supper, and played with the dogs. realprof teaches on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so those are my home alone days. I do Wednesday's and Fridays, so it works out well.

  4. I've never been to a doctor who was personable like yours. Fascinating to me. I thought that they all were automatons who do what they have to, then move on.

    Who knows, maybe someday I'll meet one of these friendly docs. You give me hope.

  5. Ally Bean--I'm sorry that you haven't been able to find a friendly, warm physician. I've been fortunate in that regard and have had several. Personally, I don't go back to a doctor who I don't feel comfortable with, so automatons get fired. (But I can't recall firing anyone, really....)

    fauxprof--It's comforting to hear that others have found terrific doctors who also provide good chairside manner. It makes a huge difference, I think, when you can feel a connection and level of trust in your health professional. Dr. B's wife is also a migraineur, so he is doubly sensitive/sympathetic to the condition beyond a professional sense.

    I flirted with the idea of baking yesterday, but Rick is "trying to cut back." I sense an apple crisp in our future this weekend, however; I'll sell it as healthy.

    All of this rain cannot be fun for dog owners. Mud, wet fur, leaves and seed things sticking about make it tough times, I'm sure.

    J@jj--I think that you will always find the time and opening to discuss your concerns with your doctor. That's what you pay for, his/her expertise; it would be silly not to. You go in with that uppermost in your mind anyway. And you can always say, at the end, "Before I go, I need to mention...".

    I've pretty much liked all of my doctors also, with the one notable exception being my last GYN, who left practice. She had zero personality, but I was okay with that. I don't want much conversation while someone is doing a PAP smear, you know? And I always felt like she was preoccupied with a Great Sadness, which perhaps she was. I still like my GP, Dr. Dougie (pet name), but I am switching because of his horrid, terrible, very bad office staff. They are inept, rude, cold, and I have finally reached my breaking point with them. In my defense it has taken ten years and them TWICE forgetting that I was even there, waiting, in the waiting room.

    Shirley--Aren't you a dear? I'm not sure I brightened his day, but the wine might, and I know he appreciates my brains to the extent that I don't pain him.

    I'm so delighted to have brightened your day. I'm sure November in VA is far more pleasant than in NEO, and I wish I could zip down and see you. Failing that, it's so nice to see you back here in Comments.

    Dr. B's staff is also quite cheery in a sincere way, and I think that makes a big difference, too. There is not a factory atmosphere, and they treat everyone with respect: not a lot of "Honey" or "Dear" baloney. It's very professional without being cold. As you said, the human touch. It truly is so important, and I try to remember that every day as I'm out and about, even with just a smile here and there.

  6. Darn it, I forgot what I was going to say. I'm sure it was pithy and apropos... Or probably not :)

  7. I did a wine tour through the Niagara wine country once. I may even have blogged about it. What I treasure from that are some pretty good photos from the winery cellars.

  8. Mary G--I hope you did some wine tastings, too. Depending upon how long ago that was, of course. The Niagara wine industry was not always as good as it is now.

  9. I enjoy both my primary doctor and my endocrinologist, both of whom are women.

    It is indeed a good feeling to know that there are some medical providers who recognize that "caregiving" is not about the one specific reason for the visit, but about acknowledging the whole person and their experiences.

    We have had temps in the 90's this week, so I am very jealous of your rainy, cool weather.

  10. Gina--I haven't had a female doctor in forever, and I wonder if it would be any different for me. I have usually, in the past, anyway, preferred the company of men and male doctors. Most of my best friends have been men until very recently.

    Your 90s are too warm for me in November, so you may keep them. We are due for a run of 30s this coming week, sadly. Would you like some of those? Sigh.


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