by Nanette Tamer
My dog and I got sick at the same time. She got well very quickly. I’m getting there. Dogs are different, to be sure, and so --- I have learned---are dogs’ doctors.
I began to notice a difference, beyond the obvious, while sitting with my dog in her doctor’s waiting room. One whole wall was a cork board covered with notes and cards thanking the veterinarian for curing a pet, accompanied by photos of the animal fully revived, or thanking the veterinarian for helping the parents of the incurable to cope with the loss.
No such thing in my doctors’ waiting rooms. On their walls were only standard issue pseudo paintings. My doctors’ offices had, like most doctors’ offices, a row of diplomas on the wall.
Except for one doctor, my surgeon. His office wall was completely covered with ALL his diplomas: preschool graduation, kindergarten graduation, on through medical school and related accomplishments. What could possibly motivate him to display a kindergarten diploma? Surely his patients would assume he had passed kindergarten, if it ever occurred to them to think about it. Perhaps his young children, young at least in the only family photo on his shelf, thought they belonged on his wall, and he indulged them. Perhaps he thought it was a funny thing to do and would make his patients aware of his sense of humor which was never otherwise in evidence.
I began to think that a change was needed. In my dog’s doctor’s office or examining room a few diplomas would be encouraging. I would like to know that that my dog’s doctor was truly a doctor and had undergone rigorous training somewhere. Conversely, I would like to know how many people my doctor had cured or at least eased into the next world.
The only information available about doctors for people is on websites for evaluating them. There I find only complaints about the office staff or, in a few cases, compliments about the doctor’s manner of speaking. Where were the testimonials from humans they had cured?
I decided to start a new trend, so while my dog and I were waiting for her check-up, I chose a thank you card for the excellent care given to Ralph who was now happy and healthy, as opposed to a card from the parents of Fifi who wrote a little too specifically about the ailment that had plagued her tail. I slipped the card into my pocket along with its tack.
On my next visit to my surgeon, when he turned to his computer to type me up a prescription, I tacked Ralph’s owners’ thank you card to his wall, among his multitudinous diplomas.
On my subsequent visit, still being unrecovered, the card was still there. Perhaps it had gone unnoticed, or perhaps the doctor thought the office staff had posted it and they thought the reverse. Thus encouraged, I added another, heisted for that purpose from my dog’s doctor’s waiting room when I stopped by to pick up her usual anti-flea treatment. This card was about the remarkable rehabilitation of an animal named Fred, apparently an iguana from his depiction in the accompanying photo which I left tacked to the cork wall with a nearby card so that I could bring along the tack.
My dog was totally well and needed nothing from her doctor, so I had no more opportunity to purloin another thank you card. Instead, I had to write one of my own, thanking my doctor for his persistence and patience in trying to determine my diagnosis and a cure. This one I sent through the mail in my own name.
During my next appointment, when it was my turn to go into his office, I saw my note tacked up next to Ralph’s and Fred’s under his Eagle Scout certificate. But not a word did he say about it before or after examining me and prescribing my next set of treatments. Perhaps he had not seen it if a receptionist or assistant who opened and sorted his mail for him had observed the other two notes and assumed he had made the decision to display them and added it to the others.
Soon enough, on my next return visit, I saw two notes on display that I had had no hand in. Still, the collection was skimpy compared to the vet’s. My convalescence was clearly an opportunity to right an injustice in the world of medicine. I began construing patient names and vague maladies from which my doctor had rescued them in various ways. I mailed them sporadically to maintain the illusion that they were from actual patients.
I was eager to see my doctor’s office wall at my next visit. There were the cards I had brought or mailed---along with many others joining the collection and beginning to crowd out the diplomas that preceded medical school.
Some of my friends prodded me to seek a second opinion about my illness from another doctor. After all, if the thank you cards were any indication, my doctor had not cured nearly as many patients as my dog’s doctor, surely a better basis for selecting a doctor than a Junior High Honor Society induction certificate. Though as for my dog’s doctor, I have to assume that her cards are bona fide and not written up by her aunt in order to inspire patients’ confidence. Surely my idea was unique.
Now I am nearly as well as my dog, and my illness was not in vain. I hope that I might have started a trend. If other patients join my thank you card method, human patients will have a better means of deciding upon a doctor than the internet complaints about long waits or ugly carpets. If not, at least I am buoyed by my accomplishment of advertising that my doctor was almost as good of a doctor as my dog’s.