by RIP RENSE
THE DOCTOR IS IN(EPT )
Groopman, a chair in medicine at Harvard Medical School, has written
a book called
“How Doctors Think.” Maybe better to have called it, “If Doctors Think.”
Me, I don’t want to know how doctors think.
I didn’t need Groopman’s
important expose to acquire my attitude. I didn’t need to hear how, when he
was a young doctor, Groopman ignored a woman’s complaints because he
couldn’t stand the sound of her voice. Turns out he ignored her torn aorta,
and ignored her into an early grave.
I didn’t need to know how
Groopman found out about doctors’ arrogance and incompetence only after he
became a patient. How he went to six different surgeons for a hand injury,
got four different diagnoses (one for a condition that does not exist, you
know, like W.C. Fields’ “mogo on the gogogo”), and one recommendation for
unnecessary surgery (often a redundant term.)
A. Opera 'Tannhauser' director Ian Judge responds to Rense 'Opera,
Buff' column HERE
I know alllllll
about doctors. And let me tell you: in a word, they’re sick.
No, not all. There are
doctors doing work out there who should have bushels of roses and
gardenias strewn in their wake
every day as they go to work. Doctors who should dine for free in any
restaurant in the world, for the rest of their days. Doctors who should be
running the country.
haven’t met any of them, and I’ve met a lot of doctors. Let’s roll the
hands on the clock on the clubhouse wall back, wayyyy back, kiddies,
to the time when I was a kiddie with a broken arm. After I got it out of the
cast (with all that neat dead skin to peel off---ewwww!), why, it was um,
bent. String it and you could have used it for archery practice.
“Don’t worry,” said the
doc cheerily. “It will straighten out in about six months.”
(It broke again about
three weeks later, then had to be re-broken and set under a general
Then there was the time.
. .Look, I got a million of ‘em! Thank
do not have the sort of horror stories that many people have. Take one of
the cases in Groopman’s book: a woman diagnosed with anorexia/bulimia who
had undergone every treatment imaginable, including stays in mental wards.
Turns out she had a simple gluten allergy. It was the doctors who needed the
In fact, I had one
absolutely great doctor, to whom I will be grateful to the end of my tour of
duty in this body. I was having cripplingly debilitating symptoms, among
which were inability to digest almost all food, and and problems contending
with gravity for more than an hour (read: walk) without collapsing. I don’t
even remember the doc’s name, so short was my visit with him.
Syndrome,” he said flatly. “We don’t know anything about it, or how to treat
it. Go out and read as many books about it as you can, and good luck.”
That guy potentially
saved me countless thousands of dollars (of course, as I was living the
huh, high life of a freelance writer at the time, this was a moot
point), and untold diagnostic nightmares. Speaking of which. . .
There was the sawbones
who, 30 years ago, wanted to biopsy my prostate. This, he explained, would
be accomplished by obtaining a great big machine that would “fire a tiny
dart” into my prostate (whoopee!), take a “small bite” of it (yowzah!), and
extract said Rip Chunk for study. The plus side: the machine was not as
large as a fire hose. Hey, party down.
Now while such activities
are mere sport in some quarters of West Hollywood, this really, really did
not appeal to me. So I went to a urologist at Cedars-Sinai (took six months
to pay off on “freelancers’ insurance”), and he spoke these lilting,
beatific words: “Perfectly health prostate.” When I nervously said that this
made me question whether I should get a biopsy, he added:
“Well, I sure wouldn’t!”
Just to be polite, I
phoned doctor # 1 and cancelled my rendezvous with the dart, explaining how
he had been vetoed by Cedars-Sinai. Well, it turns out that the
jackass---I’m sorry, estimable physician---had specially rented the
Sphincter Annihilator just for me, and he was in danger of suffering that
disorder most feared by disciples of Hippocrates: lackadollar.
“Umm. . .” he said on the
phone, his voice strained. “I’m. . .I’m. . .very worried about you.”
As compassionate as I am,
my pity for his financial difficulty was outweighed by my own selfish desire
to avoid being sodomized by his rented erector set.
|I figured it was a short step from verbal
abuse to more southerly manifestation. That old joke with the
punchline, “Rectum! Hell, it killed him!” came to mind.
I really should
write a poem called “Me and My Prostate,” you know, after “Me and My
Shadow.” I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me. . .I have a
little prostate that does not let me pee. . .This happens to most men of
my august achievement. A couple of years ago I submitted once more to the
procedure involved in measuring prostate health. Talk about giving
somebody the finger.
Anyhow, this exam was the
Wagner opera of prostate evaluation. Incredibly long, requiring prodigious
stamina, plumbing the very depths of angst, with some impressive sustained
notes along the way. (Entirely from me.) Had my remonstrations been in the
proper German, they would gone, in part, “Mutter
I mean, there are
prostate exams, and there are prostate seminars. I should have brought a
book. This guy had me in a position that would have been perfect etiquette
in any respectable San Francisco bathhouse, but was alien to my modest
sensibilities. Here’s a hint: elbows on the table. No amount of
bass-baritone profanity would deter this dedicated physician from his solemn
Well, turns out there was
probably more on this doc’s mind than health. . .
A month later, I was
getting a general physical from a nice old GP. When it came time for the
“digital” portion of the exam, I explained that I had just had one---or
maybe it should have counted for several, given the number of fingers I
think were employed. GP figured I was just trying to wheedle out of
unpleasantry, and asked the name of my urologist. I told him.
“Hm,” he said. “Well,
I’ve never, ever been one to comment on a fellow doctor. It’s just not
something I believe in doing. But I think you should know that Dr. Prober
(not his real name) has a reputation for losing his temper. I’ve had several
of his patients complain of serious verbal abuse, when all they did was
explain their symptoms to him.”
Batman! I figured it was a short step
from verbal abuse to more southerly manifestation. That old joke with the
punchline, “Rectum! Hell, it killed him!” came to mind. Then I remembered
how Dr. Prober had addressed me as “dude,” with a mild smirk as he eyed my
Grateful Dead cap and other degenerate attire. Had politics
entered the circumstances? So to speak? I’ll never know, but I sure as hell
What’s that? You want to
hear more? Sure!
Here is the tale of Dr.
Slap and Dr. Happy, the two merry gastroenterologists of West L.A.. See the
jolly physicians at work! See them smile patronizingly at patient’s
description of symptoms! See them decide on patient diagnosis before patient
exam! See them misread patient diagnostic tests! See them give patient
advice that causes patient great pain! See them charge patient thousands of
rapidly declining U.S. dollars!
Slap was a young, burly
fellow who decided that the fact that my insides had suddenly been flooded
and burned by enough acid to fry Timothy Leary was just “stress.” Never mind
that I could eat nothing but unseasoned fish and mashed potatoes and oatmeal
without experiencing extreme pain. He prescribed an anti-acid to the tune of
$500, music that was not conducive to harmonious bank balances. It would,
said Slap, “shut down acid at the molecular level,” which made me think
Dr. Pretorius in “Bride of Frankenstein,” explaining how he created tiny
people. It also probably took ten years off my liver---and did not solve the
Then there was the
little diagnostic Slap gave me that goes by the undecorous name of
“stool test.” Would that it involved the sort of stool you find in bars!
Slap blithely explained that it was just a formality, and that he was
sure there was nothing seriously wrong, blah blah blah, then when
he viewed the test results, his eyes looked George Bush’s when he got the
news of 9/11 in the middle of “My Pet Goat.”
“There’s blood!” he
declared. And then, just to make sure that I had no more stool to test, he
repeated it. “There’s blood!”
Now that’s bedside manner at its best.
everything!” he added, and I began mentally drawing up my last will and
testament. I really did. I figured the chief difference between me and
Saddam Hussein at that point was that he would at least get a phoney trial.
Ten minutes later, after signing away the remains of my checking account to
a smiley little girly at a computer (who chirped, “Have
a Nice Day!”), I drifted, dragged, sort of numbed my way out of the
office, wondering where I could buy a gun so as to avoid a painful death.
“Wait! Mr. Rense?”
Yes, yes, I was still Mr.
Rense, and would be, perhaps, for another year or two.
It was Slap.
“Did you eat broccoli
How and why he had
developed psychic powers concerning my epicurean inclinations did not break
“Yes. I try to have a
bowl of broccoli several times a week.”
“Ah! Well. . .that can
give a false positive on the stool test!”
“So I’m sure this will
turn out all right. We should retest when you have not eaten broccoli.”
I didn’t know whether to
tap-dance, punch him in the stomach, or thank him. I opted for the latter as
the choice least likely to get me arrested.
You see, Slap had
completely ignored my explanation that the same stomach thing had felled
me in 1983, when an under-evolved creature claiming to be a newspaper editor
cut off all my assignments without explanation for a year. (Seems she
objected to not taking Hollywood seriously.) So at that time, I drank
something radioactive and struck Playboy centerfold poses for an X-Ray
machine, which revealed a “pre-ulcer condition.” This, I was told, meant
that the protective bicarbonate layer in the
been scorched, and it would take up to two years to re-grow.
Slap had simply nodded
and “mm-hmmed” to this report, as if I was reading him nice fairy stories.
Stupidly, I later went
back to the same clinic, but was smart enough to ask for Dr. Happy instead.
Happy was a bit older, and I hoped, wiser. But he proved a wise-guy. Just as
had happened with Slap, when I mentioned that the new Acid Gut Festival
began during a time of extremely hard work, he smiled with a “that’s what I
thought” gleam in his eye, and stopped listening to me. I could tell. I soon
heard him conferring with Slap in the hallway outside the examining room
(!), after which his attitude became even more one of smiling,
there-there-now humoring. I could read his mind, which said my problem
was all in mine. Happy recommended an endoscopy, which is a very funny term
considering they shove a tube with a camera on it down your throat.
And after the merry
doctor had his merry time with the camera in my merry esophagus, and I was
feeling merry from the nifty anesthetic, he merrily said, “Nothing wrong
with you. Eat whatever you want!”
I went out, had a nice
Mexican dinner, and nearly doubled over in moaning agony for three days.
So I’ve given up on
you, doctors. And I thank Dr. Groopman for giving up on most of you,
too. I get acupuncture and Chinese herbs, which are laden with enough heavy
metal to ensure Alzheimer’s shortly, and I think I’m better off. My wallet
is heavier, that’s for sure. And I take supplements, and I do tai-chi, and I
pray to many small gods of many small organs.
Then there was the time a
doctor stuck a needle in my left testicle. . .Oh, guess I’ll save that for
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