Saturday, July 7, 2018

Conversational Medicine

I spent a day at the Amsterdam AMC, the university hospital, in essence for a relatively complicated eye operation, a stressful thing in itself (to put it mildly) and worsened by a troublesome history in that eye and a number of current circumstances. But the main event was preceeded by many hours of administrative humbug and repeat tests that made one long for the days of the simple-but-knowledgeable-and-most-of-all-kind-and-understanding country doctor—a James Herriott for humans, essentially, or a Doc Martin (deliciously rude, but heart in the right place). But alas, those days seem to have long gone, and likely gone forever, just like the days people played piano duet or string quartet at night instead of watching indiscribable nonsense on television.

Or perhaps not completely. Thanks to this mini medical odyssey around the AMC, I now realize how perhaps almost all the doctors, many of the nurses, and even many secretaries are aware of how disorganized the place is. Nobody can do anything about it, but many of them express dissatisfaction and disappointment about it, which often translates into highly ironic, almost cynical jokes.

But more importantly, one young doctor, the assistant who was the first of three eye doctors to see me today and who took the lion’s share of taking my history, effectively made my day by saying something I had to boastfully (sorry) write this piece about.

The doc asked whether I had had light flashes and/or moments that I did not see anything with the eye in question. That was a nice surprise, because none of the four (highly qualified) eye doctors who had seen me yesterday had asked that. (By the way, I have now been seen by a total of seven eye doctors in less than 36 hours, one calling my eye “really interesting,” wholly aptly, I guess.) In any event, as I started to explain my experience of seeing those flashes, the young doctor interrupted me.

“But wait,” he said, “are you actually a professional writer?” (It sounds even better in Dutch, I think: “Bent u schrijver dan, van beroep?”)

“No,” I said, “but I do like writing, and I consider that a big compliment. Thank you.”

“I mean,” he said, “you explain it so vividly, it sounded like a writer.”

I have had compliments for my writing from time to time, but this was a whole new experience. Most of all, the hint at personal interest between that one doctor and an admittedly unusual patient made the whole day a little bit easier to bear.

Plus it gave me a reason to sit down and write this little piece with my pirate patch still on.

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