Monday, January 13, 2020

Is There A Doctor In The House?

How is your medical care?  If you are in a big city you can probably find a doctor.  Though I bet you cannot get an appointment as quickly as you wish.  I know that in Santa Fe a couple of weeks is quick and in one case I was told the first available with a certain doctor was 8 months and they were serious.  Seems that the doctor also worked in Massachusetts thousands of miles away.  I do not believe that this is better or worse than with the socialized medicine in England and elsewhere.

So, here is a story of once upon a time.  Like most kids growing up in New York my daughter played in our local playground with its slides, swings and jungle gyms.  In those days there were no soft landings on rubber mats but just cement, in fact the first time my youngest son was put on the grass he screamed and crawled off to a cement path!  These playgrounds become communities where children, parents and nannies get to know each other and usually, “what happens in the playground stays in the playground.”

The mothers of my daughter, Cathy, and her playground friend, Jennifer, developed a greater relationship.  In fact, those two little girls who met at the age of 1 year are still friendly today, a half century later.   Here is a photo shows of Cathy  (in front) at her 50th birthday party; her friend from the park, Jennifer, is taking the photo.

The two families began to travel together to the Caribbean, London, Venice.  The little girl’s father was, Dr. Stanley Mirsky (Stan)a general practitioner.  I often thought of asking him to become my regular doctor but then I was scared that he would always be commenting on my health habits when we travelled.

Sue & Stan Mirsky

About a decade later something changed. I had had a lovely lunch with a good-looking woman and an Espresso with desert.  A short while afterwards I felt my heart doing weird flip flops.  Jokingly, I blamed this on the presence of my luncheon companion but most probably it was precipitated by the espresso.  It was my first bout with arterial fibrillation. I had no idea what that was at the time and became frightened.   I checked myself into Lenox Hill Hospital and was just left in a hallway overnight but that is another story.

Even though I had gotten a divorce and situations with former friends were awkward.  I was, upset enough that the next morning I asked my new wife to call Dr. Mirsky and see if he would come to get me out of the hospital. He was there within the hour. He remained our doctor for almost 40 years.  Boy, has medicine changed since then! Here are some examples of the kind of care we once knew.

Dr. Mirsky was always available to his patients if you phoned during the day, the latest you heard from him was the end of that day. I was with him one Sunday when he had a call from a patient asking if he would see this person’s assistant, so he went immediately to his office to see the gentleman. Not wanting to end our social afternoon, he took me along and introduced me as Dr. Stiebel. (I refrained from making a diagnosis!) 

Stan was always there for us. When he diagnosed my wife, Penelope, with pneumonia, he had her go immediately to the emergency room to get a test for a possible infection that might be attacking her recently replaced hip.  When he finished his hospital-rounds close to midnight he discovered her still lying in a hallway.  He got her a room and saw to it the next morning that she finally got the vital test. 

Toward the end of the 20th century house calls had become a thing of the past. But when I called Stan saying I was ill … he came over directly to our brownstone apartment. Our son, who was then quite small, discovered Stan in front of our fireplace and, wide-eyed, asked if he was Santa Claus.

I always pictured Stan retiring to a small office in the hospital where all the other doctors would come to talk about their patients and help them with their diagnoses.  Sadly Stan passed away in 2011, otherwise we might be commuting to New York for medical care.

Dr. Stanley Mirsky

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