Majorly Medical

More notes from the Eldercare Underground:

Back in May, my mother got a letter from her primary care physician stating that he was going to be retiring on June 24th and would be closing his practice. 

She’d been seeing him every 6 months or so for the twelve years that she’s been living in Texas.

The letter went on to say that no one in his medical group would be taking over his patients (all 2,000 of them!  The town has a population of approx. 11,000 people) and that everyone would need to find a new doctor.  He included a list of doctors in the area who are currently accepting new patients.


The first office that I called on the list, I got a recording that said the receptionist was unavailable at the moment and to leave a message and she would get back to me.  Yuh huh.

After not having heard from them by the next day, I called again—only to find the office was closed because it was a Wednesday. 

(She never did return my call—ever.)

Scratch that doctor off my list.

I called another office and got an actual person who told me to leave a voicemail message on another line that was set up for this new influx of desperate patients, but the person in charge of my mother’s fate probably wouldn’t get back to me for a few days since there had been such a demand.  She said that if I didn’t hear from them after a week, to try again. 

This made me a little nervous.  What if, in the meantime, all the other offices on the list had met their quota of refugees and we were out of luck?

When I left my voicemail message, I felt like I was applying for political asylum or something.  I tried to sweeten the deal for my mother by pleading that even though she was ninety-one, she didn’t have any major medical issues and really, really wouldn’t be much of a bother, I promise.  Then I left it up to God and the woman in charge of deciding who gets in—and I wasn’t sure who had the greater power here.

Sure enough, after a week I hadn’t heard from them so I called again.  This time they took pity on me and let me talk directly with the Great and Powerful Decision Maker who agreed that my mother wouldn’t be much of a burden on the system and set us up with an appointment.  Whew.

We went today to see the new doctor (a woman–which sometimes is good with my mother and sometimes not, depending on the situation) and I was pleased with the way the appointment went.  My mother didn’t complain too much, except after the really nice medical assistant had thoroughly gone over her history and there was a little wait for the doctor to come into the exam room. 

My mother let out a dramatic sigh and said,

“Well, where the hell is the doctor?” 

But at least nobody heard her except me.

While we were continuing our wait, my mother asked me just what it was when I was about four or five that the nurses at the pediatrician’s office used to prompt me to tell them every time we went in. 

It’s funny, because she can’t remember what day it is, but she can remember something that happened about 60 years ago.  Maybe that’s the beauty of being one of what they now call the “old-old.”  You can live in your memories of the past.

The anecdote she was remembering centered around the time my mother had been seen by her doctor (with me in tow) and then I saw my pediatrician right afterward.  The nurses had asked me what my mother had had done at her doctor’s appointment and I’d answered

“She got a shot in she butt.” 

Every visit thereafter, until I was practically a teen-ager, the nurses would gather around me and ask me to repeat what I had said, to the hilarity of all.

But for the grace of God and other Decision Makers, that could have been the start of a brilliant stand-up comedy career.


22 thoughts on “Majorly Medical

  1. Gawd, I was laughing my ass off already and then I saw the cat. Great story. Brings up a serious situation in small town America. Where do we get the doctors from? Remember the movie, “Doc Hollywood?” I’ve brought that up three times today for different reasons.


    • Our problem here is the large elderly population who make use of the medical system a lot more than the younger folks. And a lot of the old ladies around here live forever. It’s not unusual to see obits for women who lived to be 101…or more. Their husbands, however, probably died earlier just to get out of the house and get some peace and quiet…


  2. Hi,
    It certainly was very inconvenient for the doctor to close up shop, but I couldn’t help but have a laugh at the post, good start to this rainy Saturday morning here in OZ.
    Oh and I love the cat. 😆


    • Yes, usually when a doctor retires there is an associate who steps in to take over his patients or the doctor sells his practice to someone. I don’t know why that isn’t the case here. Her doctor, however, isn’t out of medicine completely since he will become the chief medical officer for our hospital.

      Oh, rain! I’ve almost forgotten what it looks like…


  3. ouch. mom finally had enough with Dr. Quacks Like-a-Duck and switched to a new doc… but it was after 3 years of dealing with an abusive admin staff, and complete incompetence on the part of the doc. We had to wait til she made the call, though… but i called out his incompetence at every opportunity!


  4. Oy. That is frustrating. We were very happy with my mother’s former doctor so that made it particularly upsetting in having to get a new one, especially at age 91. He really didn’t give us a whole lot of notice, though. A little over a month from the receipt of his letter to when his practice closed. But, it seems to have worked out okay. So far.


  5. One of the major stress points on any chart for the elderly. One day, the world will wake up and not allow Drs. to do simply quit. Ours around here generally pull in a locum if they can’t ‘sell’ their clinic. Gads, I realized the other day that my doctor will be wanting to retire one of these years and we’ve been shuffling through medical files for over 30 years. That will be very strange. I’ll be talking about MY stress…yikes.


    • It was a little unusual that he didn’t have someone take over his practice, but as long as he gives his patients the names of other doctors willing to accept new patients he can’t be said to be abandoning them. Personally, I don’t blame him for wanting to do other things after 30 years of dealing with people, especially those who don’t or won’t listen to advice about preventing certain diseases through simple lifestyle changes. Everybody would rather take a pill instead.


  6. Humor is our only hope, so I showed up for a shot of hopefulness! Totally gratified.

    We’ve had doctors fleeing like rats from a sinking ship, some drummed out for questionable Medicare practices and some from frustration with finding paying patients. We’re rich in oldsters and wallowing in lifestyle-induced medical problems here, but we’re a reimbursement nightmare.

    Mr. Mature and I felt lucky following the last doctor diaspora to find a nice husband-wife office of Bangladeshi doctors who take our Tricare/Medicare combo known as Tricare For Life. They’re kind, careful, operate strictly by the rules, and we’re so hoping they’ll stay.

    May I suggest flowers for the reception staff, the occasional pizza delivered at lunch-time, and any other briberies that you can think of.


    • Yes, there are a lot of doctors who are getting out. My mother’s doctor didn’t leave the profession entirely, though. As I mentioned in one of the replies, he’s going to be the head honcho at our hospital here; no small task that one. Also, he’s going to be involved in getting an advanced degree from Harvard, so he’s definitely no slouch.

      Glad you found doctors that you’re happy with! That’s a real plus. With my mother, it was a challenge getting our foot in the door, but now that she’s officially an established patient, things should run a lot smoother. They were very nice and made sure we knew that they always have a doctor on call for weekends and emergencies and even a triage nurse who can make things happen quickly if someone needs to be seen right away. I was impressed.


    • I think he’s in his mid to late sixties, so not really up there in age yet. Some doctors continue to practice as long as yours did, but truthfully, it really takes a toll. People don’t realize how stressful the job can be.


  7. I must thank you for the image you posted. I haven’t stopped laughing yet. I broke up again when I saved it and sent it to my sister, who has several cats (I only have one).

    At 65, I sympathize with both you and your mother, over health issues. Having just achieved Medicare status, I run smack into the maelstrom that is our current state of healthcare. I was having chest/breathing problems and was rushed to the hospital (in NJ; I live in TN). I spent a mere 36 hours in the hospital and was billed $43,080. I wish I could have spent that on the Riviera…

    Next time a doctor sez, if you have chest pains, get to the hospital. H/She has no clue what the final bills will be. Cardiopathy was ruled out; sleep apnea has been nominated as the culprit. $43K…and that was just the hospital.

    Sometimes I think a voice recorder is in order to get the maximum out of a doctor visit. He’s the fastest talking southern boy I’ve ever heard.


    • Wow. I’m glad your problem didn’t turn out to be something more serious, but $43K for 36 hours….unbelievable. I qualify for Medicare next year and am keeping my fingers crossed I won’t need to use my current pitiful health insurance much before then.

      My mother’s former doctor used to use medical terms that went over her head, but fortunately I come from a medical/dental background and could explain them to her. Her new doctor (the woman) has a soft voice, so I guess I’ll be doing a lot of translating with her too. Thanks for your comment!


  8. As I said earlier, I was not on silk sheets on a golden bed, in a private suite. If I had taken that money and spent two luxurious weeks on the French Riviera and needed the same medical care, under France’s superior healthcare, I could have taken half of it home with me.

    As a loyal NPR listener, I got the impression that the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation represented something special. No longer! The Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, in Hamilton New Jersey, joins the worst of any BigHealthInsurance in the US. Right up there with UnitedHealthcare and GreatWestern, two of the hackiest insurance companies I’ve ever experienced.

    May they ALL burn in Hell for eternity!

    I’m done ranting all over your lovely blog. You’ve been bookmarked and I look forward to many more visits. Thank you for the pleasure of your company, my dear.


Okay. Your turn!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s