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Lenore Hirsch

Lenore Hirsch

If you’re in your 60s, your kids are probably at least approaching 40. So what’s someone who’s maybe 30? Perhaps an immature pretender to adulthood and recently out of hospital residency.

It takes me back to Doogie Howser — and if you don’t know who that is, you’re not a boomer. I loved Doogie. For you erudite souls who were reading the classics instead of watching TV, he is now known as Neil Patrick Harris. He played a teen genius who did all his schooling in no time at all and became a doctor. A teenager in white coat and stethoscope.

I would have loved to have the smart, precocious Doogie as my doctor then, but not now. I mean how do you discuss thinning skin, fear of falling down, or sexual problems with somebody who has never experienced them? These young doctors probably haven’t had any aches and pains beyond carrying a backpack and lack of sleep, so how can they really have empathy?

I once saw a cardiologist who looked maybe 13, probably smart as a whip. But his conversation was totally absent. Over three visits, what he had to say to me was limited to four sentences:

1) “We should do a stress test.”

2) “You failed the stress test.”

3) “We should do an angiogram.”

4) “The angiogram showed nothing wrong.”

No further explanation. My attempts to draw him out and help me to understand how I could fail for no reason were fruitless. He sat at his computer and read me the results, perhaps noting my clear frustration: “Patient may suffer from anxiety disorder.”

I made an appointment with a seasoned cardiologist I had seen in the past to get some perspective. He heard my story, told me I just needed to get into shape, and talked about the usual unwelcome topics—exercise, diet, and weight loss. I wasn’t happy, but was relieved to have my concerns acknowledged.

It’s only logical to expect a doctor to listen to what you have to say about your body. After all, aside from what any test has to say, who knows more about your body’s habits and functions than you? We seniors should not be afraid to tell our stories and ask questions when we don’t understand what the doc is saying or the procedures he is suggesting.

I had one primary doc a few years back who was old. I mean, he was the age I am now, probably should have been retired. But he was a smart guy.

When I told him I was concerned about my hearing and whether it was becoming problematic, he reached into his pocket and pulled out an old gold pocket watch, then held it to my ear.

“Can you hear that?” he asked. I nodded. He said, “Your hearing’s fine.” Now that’s some old-fashioned medicine.

These young whipper-snappers are armed with their prescription pads ready to sign you up for every test under the sun and/or get you to take every new drug some pharmaceutical company thinks might make it a bundle. Give me a doc who uses his head instead of his pen.

Of course, if I ever develop a mysterious or life-threatening disease, I’ll want to see the smartest, most cutting-edge specialist available. Someone who spends his or her measly spare time reading medical journals. Someone who contributes to medical journals. A brisk, multi-tasking, media-savvy, millennial. Just pretend I’m your own mother and save me—please.

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Send your comments and suggestions to lenore@lenorehirsch.com.

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