Way back in my college-student/cab-driver days I happened to meet a heart surgeon on his way to a lecture. It's been a while so I'm not sure how the subject came up, but something he said always stuck with me: "If you have a correctly diagnosed problem for which there is a proven remedy, there is no place in the world where you will be better off than in an American hospital. But, if we don't know what's wrong with you, you might as well be in darkest Africa."
This came to mind today as I arrived home from my more-or-less regular review of the room-n-board accommodations at Union Hospital. Apparently if you've had heart surgery, stroke, heart attack, etc. you can get a night or two in any hospital in the country just by having a few chest pains. By now I've got this "review" procedure down so well I know when they miss a step. I've also learned which nurses you can talk to [thank you Vickie], and which ones to whom you just say "I'm fine."
The trick is to find a really good doctor -- a knowledgeable, considerate, involved physician whom you are prepared to trust with your life (which in my case has not necessarily been an exercise in rhetoric).
Because of my incredibly busy schedule (read: "hospital hatred") I had been able to postpone my tour of Union for all of three days. But, when I called my cardiologist on Monday hoping to buy a few more days of "busy schedule" postponement, he wanted me in right away. Now, what kind of doctor trains his employees to by-pass procedure just because a guy has a few aches and pains? Aren't those people supposed to give you an appointment two weeks from next Wednesday?
Here you have to bear with me while I explain my personal theology [which I am prepared to impose on no one]. It seems to me that in America when God chooses to heal a human body He mostly uses doctors. And, if I really do believe God works through doctors, it is incumbent upon me to do what that doctor thinks wisest.
Dr. Dalloul walked in the room having already decided to put me in the hospital "for observation." And, yes, it was a wise choice. I did not have a heart attack, but it was Wednesday morning before I could walk as far as I can walk.
Now here's the thing:
For complicated reasons we left Union and returned Wednesday to Providence. Dr. Dalloul wanted to know about one particular test, but it was too soon to get records from Union. Although I was added to his appointment schedule at the last minute, there was plenty of time for the good doctor to assure me they do have a good idea of what is wrong and there are proven treatments. Not too long after arriving home his nurse called saying the doctor had reviewed the hospital records and wanted me to get this other test ASAP. Between leaving the hospital and this follow-up call was about three hours. Not sure about anyone else's experience, but having a doctor seek out test results and act on them immediately is not something I've come to expect.
So, I am opening nominations for best doctor in the area. My nominee is Dr. Elias Dalloul of Providence Medical Center.
David L. Lewis is an observer of and sometimes commentator on life who may be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.