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No Good Deed Part One

No Good Deed - Part One

Several weeks ago, a patient asked me for a favor. He had a very ill friend living in Florida. After a brief discussion about his friend, he wanted me to make him a new member of my practice because his friend had had a number of unsatisfactory physician encounters and he was taking a large amount of narcotics to deal reduce the pain of living. My patient expressed a sincere concern that his Florida friend might just unintentionally overdose and kill himself if something was not done soon to significantly reduce his agony. It sounded like his friend needed help.

Twenty years ago or more, I made a trip from Cincinnati, Ohio to Birmingham, Michigan to celebrate my grandmother's seventy-fifth birthday with a large gathering of family and friends. She was well liked and highly respected in the Armenian community. My Uncle Charlie was hosting the party at his home which was located on a beautiful secluded hundred acre lake in the wealthy suburb of Bloomfield Hills. As I arrived at his home, I came upon my Uncle Pat who had just sliced his scalp open on a sharp edge of a kitchen cabinet door. The laceration was deep and bleeding profusely. What made the inspection of his wound more disturbing was that his beautiful thick silvery colored hair accentuated the starkness of the bright red blood flowing from his wound. I said, "I think you need stitches." He replied, "Oh hell. I'm not going to an emergency room. I've got too much to do. Can't you do something? After all, aren't you a doctor for Christ's sakes." I thought for a moment. I had no suturing equipment, nothing to sterilize the wound and no hope of getting any suturing equipment any time soon. "Yep. I can fix it. Got any Vodka around anywhere?" My uncle looked puzzled, "Sure." He went to the liquor cabinet and pulled out a bottle of 100 proof Bennet's. He gave me the bottle. I open the cap and as I poured some of the vodka on his wound he shrieked. Ethanol is a superb disinfectant. I held pressure of the cut for a few minutes. The bleeding stopped. Then I neatly closed the wound by sewing his head hairs together that bordered the wound. I was able to get the blood off of his hair with hydrogen peroxide. He looked in the mirror and then back at me, "Damn. You're good Kevin. Thanks. We've got work to do." And off he went.

As I sat down on the deck overlooking the lake, guests were arriving. The band was setting up. It was a busy few minutes. An elderly woman came up and asked me if I was my grandmother's grandson the doctor. I acknowledged that I was her grandson and a physician. In her bag, she was totting a number of bottles of medication for her various ailments. She sat down beside me and started telling me about her ailments. I listened. After her medical biography was finished, she asked me to look at her medications and adjust them. I did just that. She smiled, "Thank you. You are a good boy. I go now." She got up and walked away. Before I could get up from my chair, another elderly woman carrying a similar bag sat down in the chair next to me just vacated by the first woman. She asked me, "Are you the doctor?" I felt annoyed, "Yes. I am the doctor." She started to describe her illnesses to me. In midstream, I said rather loudly, "Hold it! I'm not your doctor. I'm here to celebrate my grandmother's 75th birthday. Not practice medicine. Please just leave me alone." The woman looked like I hit her in the forehead with a large heavy tree branch. She shed a tear or two, got up and walked away. I felt relieved.

Just as I was going to get up and get something to drink, my grandmother sat down in the seat beside me. She did not look happy. “Hi grandma. How's the party?" She heard my greeting, frowned, "What are you doing? You're very wrong to deny my friends medical advice Kevin! These are my friends. You're a doctor." I felt the anger in my grandmother's voice, it was loud and penetrating. "I didn't come to the party to take care of your friends. I came to celebrate your birthday." As soon as those words left my mouth, I knew those were the wrong words to say. She sat straight up and had the look of a scorned woman.

"Kevin! Did anyone force you to be a doctor? Anyone put a gun to your head? Make you go to medical school?" I looked at her straight in the eyes and quietly said, "No." "Okay then! You became a doctor all by yourself. Did any of us pay for your education?" Again I said, "No." "So you paid for your education. You chose to be a doctor. So anytime anyone asks you for help with their medicines, you have to help them. If they are sick, you have to help them. You are a doctor! People respect you as a doctor. You chose to be a doctor. You are a doctor. You have no choice. If you don't like it. Quit! But if you become a plumber or electrician, you must answer questions about what you do no matter where you are and who asks you for help! Do I make myself clear? You're a doctor Kevin. So be a doctor! Always."

I sat there as if someone spilled coffee in my pants. My entire mood changed. I was in shock. I had not embraced being a doctor, I just thought that was my vocation. I realized I could no longer just wear the mask of a doctor, I had to be the doctor. That moment changed my life forever. I looked at my grandmother and smiled, "Okay grandma. I'll be the doctor. You're right." She smiled. Stood up and looked at me. "I am going to go visit our guests. Be the doctor! Always. And don't you forget it!" She walked away. And before I could catch my breath, that elderly lady who felt scorned was back in that seat next to me. She pulled out her bottles and we went over her medicines and ailments. I spent the entire night sitting in that chair holding a makeshift medical clinic. When the party was over, I ate cold leftovers. My grandmother came up to me, "Thank you. You were the best gift tonight. Let's go home." And we went back to her house for the night. I became a doctor and I could no longer deny anyone who asked me to help them. Anytime. Anywhere. As my patient beseeched me to look after his friend, I could hear the voice of my grandmother in my head, "You must help anyone who asks. You must be the doctor!"

So I reluctantly agreed to try to help my patient's friend in Florida. And as the saying goes, no good deed goes unpunished.

Posted by Amanda Sanders at 8:36 AM
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