On April 1st, 2005, my husband Leo, underwent quadruple heart bypass in the new "state of the art" Coronary Care Unit at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, Maine. He sailed through the eleven and a half hours of surgery and instantly became a walking poster boy for the heart unit, its doctors and nurses.
Leo religiously took his medicine and followed his doctor's orders to the nth degree and we were all delighted with his excellent prognosis. Always a very hard worker all of his life at Pioneer Plastics Corporation in Auburn, he had never drank or smoked so his recovery was swift and uneventful and he was back to work within two months after the surgery. If you didn't know that he'd had a heart bypass surgery, you'd never know it by looking at him.
So, when we received notice that he was due for his yearly checkup in April, 2008, we took ourselves off to the doctor's office. Upon arrival, we were told that there would be about a fifteen minute wait and that his "regular" doctor was away on family business and would we mind if another doctor took his place. We looked at each other and thought to ourselves, what can we do? If he was away, he was away. The nurse quickly explained that they had a "new" doctor on the staff and that he would be happy to see us, so that was that. We took ourselves off to the waiting area to await our turn.
The waiting room was rather crowded with several other patients waiting impatiently to see their doctors and we grabbed a few out of date magazines and settled down until we were called to see the new doctor.
As we absent mindedly thumbed through the well-turned pages, we talked quietly to each other, trying to remember all the questions about Leo's condition that we were going to ask.
An older man seated next to Leo, gave him the once over and asked "Which doc are you goin to see young feller?" Leo, pleased at being called a "young feller" at his age, smiled at the inquisitive man and told him that due to our regular doctor being away, we were going to see a "new" doctor. Upon hearing this, the man slid his eyes over both of us and mumbled, "Yah, that happened to me last week en yah sure gut a surprise comin, if yah ask me."
Leo slid his eyes sideways at me and just as he was about to ask what the man meant by that comment, we heard the nurse call his name. Leo wished the man good luck with his checkup and as we walked away, we heard the old man say into the air behind us, "I should be wishin you good luck because you're gonna need it!" We turned and stared at him and waited for him to explain but he'd pulled the crumpled newspaper up to cover his eyes and he didn't say another word. So, we turned and followed the impatient nurse down the aisle to the assigned exam room.
She quickly opened the door and as we stepped into the room behind her, she told us that the doctor would be right in and with that, she left the room. Leo settled himself on the edge of the exam table and I took a seat in the corner. I busied myself with checking to see if all of his recent medical records were in order as Leo swung his feet two and fro and watched the clock on the wall as the minutes ticked away.
Ten minutes, then fifteen and finally just as the hands of the clock slid onto twenty minutes, the door opened and a tall, slender, fortyish looking man stepped into the room. He pushed the door closed, nodded curtly to us and then he walked over to where the shelf where the nurse had placed Leo's chart. He swiftly read the pertinent medical facts and then he turned, hooked his foot around the rung in the doctor's stool, sat down and looked us over real good.
Leo slid his hazel eyes to mine and we dumbly looked back at the doctor. He played with the shiny stethoscope that was hanging around his neck for a couple of seconds and then he said. "Mr. and Mrs. David, I'm Dr. Hoffstead. I'll be your doctor for today. Is that ok?" Leo and I nodded our heads and waited to see what would happen next. The doctor reached up, unhooked the stethoscope from around his neck and then he examined it carefully. Again, Leo and I looked questioningly at each other as the doctor put the ear pieces into his ears and slid the listening device over his own heart. He listened intently for several seconds and his head bobbed up and down as he began counting his own heart beats. Satisfied that his own heart was working properly or the stethoscope was in fine working order, he held it up for us to see.
"Mr. David, do you know what this is?" He asked. Leo, thinking this was the dumbest question he'd ever heard, answered, "It's a stethoscope isn't it doc?" The doctor looked at Leo and said, "Well, most people would say it was but maybe it is and maybe it isn't."
Upon hearing the doctor's cryptic response, I rolled my eyes at Leo and we shared a little smile because we didn't know what was coming next. Then he rolled his stool over to where Leo was sitting, stood and reaching out, he pulled the neck of Leo's tee shirt open, deftly slid the stethoscope inside and stood there, listening to Leo's heart. Satisfied that all was well, he stepped aside, made a quick note in Leo's chart and then he said, "I'm not really a doctor you know."
Upon hearing this new pronouncement, Leo and I looked at him again and I couldn't believe my ears and a thought roiled through my addled mind "This guy's a nut job! What tha hell was going on?" I had all I could do not to follow my feet's urging to head for the door.
He lay the stethoscope that wasn't a stethoscope down on the exam table next to Leo and then he made another pronouncement, "That's right," he calmly repeated, "I'm not really a doctor." Leo and I gaped at each other. If he wasn't a bonafide doctor, what tha hell was he? Why are we here? We didn't know what to do next. In my early years, while living in Connecticut, I'd worked for a wonderful cardiologist for five years and I'd never experienced anything like this before. I couldn't believe what was happening to us!
Noticing that Leo and I hadn't said a word to his causally uttered statement, he stepped away from Leo, rummaged around in the medical equipment on the shelf for a couple of seconds and came up with a small hammer that is commonly used to test a patient's reflexes. He tapped the small instrument in his palm several times and then he pulled Leo's right pants leg up over his knee. Leo, thinking that the doctor was just going to tap his knee gently like all the other doctors he'd had before just sat where he was.
The "doctor who really wasn't a doctor," brought that little stainless steel hammer down in one swift move and it connected with Leo's knee bone with a loud "cracking" sound. Leo, surprised by the hard rap on his knee, let out a loud yelp and grabbed his leg! The doctor, simply stepped back, smiled a little to himself and said, "Well, Mr. David, I guess your reflexes are just fine."
I couldn't believe what had just happened and I watched as Leo's normally pale countenance, turned a bright red as pain and anger vied for top position on his face. He pulled his pant leg back down and massaged his knee vigorously as the doctor busied himself with writing a note in Leo's chart.
Then the doctor turned around and said, "Have you ever been on a game show?" Leo and I looked stupidly at each other and we shook our heads no. The doctor then raised his hand up and swooped it around his head to include the whole exam room and said, "Well, as I told you before, I'm not really a doctor. I'm in training for a television game show. How do you know that there aren't television cameras watching you right now?"
Upon hearing this, Leo and I stupidly looked around the ceiling and room, trying to see if there really might be a camera watching our every move and reaction. I remember thinking to myself that that might explain why this doctor wasn't acting like any other doctor I'd ever experienced before.
Just as I was about to ask him what in the world was going on, his pager went off and he glanced at it and announced that he'd be right back. As soon as the door closed behind him, I grabbed Leo's hand and said, "This guy's a nut job! Let's get tha hell out of here!" Leo didn't need to hear anymore and he quickly slid off the exam table. I grabbed my purse and his medical records that I'd brought with me and we headed for the door.
We didn't wait to make a new appointment and we didn't speak to anyone either. We hurried down the long corridor to the revolving doors and made for the parking garage as fast as we could go.
All the way home to Minot, as we sat though the eight miles of driving, we didn't speak to each other about what had just happened. We couldn't believe that all that foolishness had actually happened! It was all like a bad dream to us.
Finally, we pulled up into our driveway and as we waited for the garage door to open, Leo turned to me and said, "What are we going to do about this doctor's visit?" "What do you mean?" I asked. "Well," he replied, "I didn't really get a cardiac exam now did I?" "No, you sure as hell didn't and we are not going to pay one red cent for that stupid exam either! As soon as I get upstairs, I'm going to call that medical office and speak with the office manager and make a formal complaint against that stupid doctor!"
I threw my purse on the counter in the kitchen, quickly dialed our doctor's office and waited impatiently for them to answer. Once connected to the office manager, I quickly related our office visit events with the "doctor who wasn't a doctor" and the woman on the other end of the phone was incredulous. "But Mrs. David, that can't be true!" "Well it is and I want to know what you're going to do about it?"
"Give me have a few minutes to check this out and I'll call you back," she said and we hung up.
As I paced around my kitchen waiting for her call, Leo and I reviewed all the events, over and over again. Then, as I listened to his recital of what the doctor had said, I started laughing and Leo turned and looked at me and he started to laugh too. "Oh my God!" I exclaimed. "We must have looked like such dummies! Why did we just sit there and take all that? Why didn't we both get up and get the hell out of there?" "I don't know about you," Leo replied, "But when he brought that little hammer up and hit me in the knee with it, I was so shocked that he'd done that and shocked that it hurt so much, that I couldn't think. I, mean, who would do such a thing?" Before I could answer, the phone rang. I snatched it up and it was the lady from the doctor's office.
"Mrs. David," the woman asked. "Yes," I answered. "I really don't know what to tell you." "What do you mean?" I asked. There was a long pause and then she replied "Well, we talked with Dr. Hoffstead and he verified that everything you and your husband told me was true!" Relieved that we had been believed, I asked her why in the world he'd put us through all that stupidity.
"The only thing I can tell you is that he thought that cardiac exams are way too stressful for most patients and he was just trying to add a little humor to the patient's regular checkup." "So he thinks that what he put us through wasn't stressful?" I asked. "We're ever so sorry that you had to go through all this and we will do whatever it takes to make it right with you." I thought about it for a moment and said, "Well, Leo still needs to have his regular check up and if you will guarantee that we will have a "real" doctor, I make an appointment for another visit." Upon hearing my reply, she laughed and said that we didn't have to worry about that. We'd have a real doctor next time and she scheduled us for another visit the following week.
When we related this story to our friends and relatives, nobody believed us at first, but when we told them that it was the absolute truth, everyone was incredulous! This couldn't have happened, especially at a very fine hospital in a very excellent doctor's office in Lewiston, Maine. But it did, it really did! And oh yes, the only thing I changed in the story was the doctor's name.
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