Out There: The good doctor

"Go ahead and eat steaks and eggs and cheese and hamburgers," he told me the other day, as my jaw dropped.

Painting by Pepe Fainberg (photo credit: PEPE FAINBERG)
Painting by Pepe Fainberg
(photo credit: PEPE FAINBERG)
It took me a while, but I’ve found my dream doctor.
Wonderful guy, my doctor. Truly.
And of his many fine qualities there are two in particular that specially endear him to me. First, he manages traffic in his office. Second, he dispenses the kind of medical advice I want to hear.
Regarding the traffic-cop trait, I come from a land of the medical receptionist, that nice lady in the doctor’s office – generally named Betsy or Bonnie – who greets you with a smile when you walk in, and who speaks in hushed tones when you approach her desk to say which doctor you’re there to visit.
“Have a seat,” she says, softly. “I will call you when the doctor is ready to see you.”
You might have to wait five minutes, or an hour and five minutes. During this time you might be bothered by a sore throat, or concerned about those sharp pains in your stomach. But one thing you don’t have to worry about is who is next in line, because that is all taken care of by the receptionist: she will inform you when it is your turn.
This gives you pre-doctor peace of mind.
No need to be on the lookout to make sure someone does not sneak in before you, no need to wait on the edge of your seat and pounce once you hear the click of the doorknob opening to the doctor’s inner sanctum.
THEN I moved to Israel, and the thing I dread most about going to the doctor is not that this means I am not well, nor that there might be tests or poking and probing that will leave me uncomfortable.
The thing I dread the most is the anxiety of trying to figure out who is next in line, and the prospect of arguing with fellow patients about whose turn it is to see the doctor next.
In short, I came from the land of the medical receptionist to the land of the list thumbtacked to the door of the doctor’s office with the times of the appointments: 10:00 – Yossi H.; 10:10 – Yossi I.; 10:20 – Yossi J.; 10:30 – Herb K.; 10:40 – Yossi L.; 10:50 – Yossi M.
But what happens if Yossi I. misses his 10:10 appointment, but comes just before my 10:30 one? Or what if someone comes who is not on the list at all, but insists that he made an appointment? And what if that person says he is frightfully ill but looks just fine to the naked eye? Without someone directing the traffic, this turns into quite the stressful experience.
I fret more about people stealing my appointed hour to see the doctor than I do about what the doctor will actually say. For years I refused to let the doctor take my blood pressure during a routine appointment, because I knew this would give a false result, as I felt – actually felt – my blood pressure rise while sitting in the waiting room.
Which is why I really like my doctor. He comes out from behind his desk after each appointment and makes order. He says who is next and handles the protests from people who say they would have come on time but their dog ran away, or their kid’s favorite turtle died.
I don’t know what my doctor learned in medical school, but one of the most valuable skills he has in my eyes is the ability to direct traffic into his office. That puts the patient at ease and makes this one feel better already.
AND ONCE in there, the man gives good advice.
“Go ahead and eat steaks and eggs and cheese and hamburgers,” he told me the other day, as my jaw dropped. “All that stuff about low-fat diets is nonsense. Lowfat diets are full of sugar. Put lots of cream in your coffee.”
He explained that this type of diet – coupled with not eating a lot of carbohydrates – could have the dual effect of both lowering blood pressure and reducing blood-sugar levels. “Eat red meat, lots of it,” he encouraged.
This was the greatest medical appointment I had since I went to the dentist some 25 years ago and he told me I didn’t need to floss.
“I know you’re not going to do it, you know you are not going to do it, so why make you stressed out about something you won’t do anyhow,” the dentist counseled.
“Just brush well.”
Amen, I said to that, and stopped feeling guilty about not flossing. And now I have a doctor encouraging me to eat eggs, meat and high-fat cheese. I just rubbed my lucky ears and promised to do what he ordered.
No medical genius, I didn’t quite understand how this all worked; how things that I’ve been told for years were bad for me are in fact actually good for me. But I didn’t ask too many questions, internalizing a lesson I always taught my children: “Never ask questions you don’t want to hear the answers to.”
And now I’m just hoping the doctor knows what he is talking about. But I’m confident. A medical practitioner who knows how important it is to personally direct the flow of traffic into his office instills in me great confidence that he really does know what is best for his patients.
A collection of the writer’s ‘Out There’ columns, ‘French Fries in Pita,’ is available at www.herbkeinon.com and www.amazon.com