Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Do You Go To Ontario?

“Do you go to Ontario?” asked the dispatcher for Expressdoc, a national housecall agency.

Ontario is in San Bernardino County, fifty miles distant, but this is small potatoes. My record drive is ninety miles to Santa Barbara.

The call arrived at 12:20, so I was not optimistic about missing rush hour traffic on the way back. But it worked out fine; the hour’s drive passed with no significant slowing. I listened to Slaughterhouse Five on my CD; highly recommended.

The patient was a Brazilian lady visiting her son; her upset stomach presented no problem.

The son and I chatted as he accompanied me to the elevator. He told me he was reevaluating his decision to remain in the US because the political atmosphere had grown so shrill.

Did you ever think there’d come a time when Latin Americans considered their governments more stable?

Saturday, March 26, 2016

A Dangerous Occupation

As I entered the room, half a dozen family members stood and bowed. When Japanese bow, it means no one speaks English, so I phoned the Japanese insurance agency that sent me.

Passing my cell phone back and forth to the patient, I asked the usual questions and listened to the dispatcher’s interpretation. After the exam, I phoned the agency again to deliver my conclusions.

The guest had the flu. 

Everyone gathered and bowed as I left. Even as the door closed, I was worrying.

Doctors are casual about washing their hands. If your doctor skips it, his hands carry whatever infection they picked up from previous patients. Remind him.

I usually come directly from home where I don’t handle sick people, but I always wash my hands before seeing a guest; afterwards I do the same. I do this partly though habit but also to protect myself.

As I walked down the hall, I was aware that I couldn’t disinfect my phone which the guest had handled repeatedly. Over the coming week, I’ll learn whether or not I’ll catch her flu.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

An Unsatisfied Customer

A Quantas flight attendant was vomiting, so I drove 49 miles to the Radisson in Newport Beach.

Fortunately, she was already getting better. She hadn’t vomited in six hours but was still queasy. I told her that she should continue to improve and advised her to suck on ice chips. I went to the ice machine and filled a tub. Normally, I would have left antinausea pills, but she was pregnant. She thanked me effusively as I left.

Soon after, a nurse from the airline phoned. Tactfully, she explained that the Quantas crew member had expressed concern. In her original call, the crew member had requested medicine for vomiting. A doctor had come but left without giving anything.

I explained that she was recovering and didn’t need medicine. In any case, she was pregnant, so taking drugs was not a good idea. The nurse expressed complete sympathy.

Later, the director of the housecall agency phoned. Tactfully, he explained that a nurse had passed on some concerns expressed by a flight attendant. I repeated my explanation, and he expressed complete sympathy. The following day he phoned again to assure me that I had done the right thing and that he was working hard to make Quantas see the light.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Medicine is Easy, Parking is Hard, Part 2

Finding a hotel is easy, but some travelers live elsewhere.

I received a call to Marina Del Rey, an upscale beach community. Google maps revealed that the guest’s address was an apartment complex with many buildings, an ominous beginning.

As I suspected, street parking was forbidden. I drove onto the complex and followed directions toward visitor parking. That required the guest to open the gate to the parking garage, but, being a temporary resident, he didn’t know how.

Fortunately it was a business day, so the leasing office was open. Ignoring signs threatening terrible consequences for non-apartment seekers, I parked in the leasing zone. The salesperson was helpful, directing me to a distant building.

After a long walk, I found the address – 4131 Via Marina – over a door, but it was locked, and there was no call-box. I phoned the patient who had no idea where I was. I walked around the building. On the opposite side was a large entrance, but its address was 4135. Completing my circumnavigation found me back at 4131 and the locked door. I suspected that 4135 was the proper entrance, and that turned out to be true.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Too Many Cooks

An eight year-old’s lower lid revealed a small bump. My diagnosis was a sty. As I explained, the mother held out her cell phone.

“I e-mailed our doctor two days ago,” she explained. I saw a photo of the child’s face and the doctor’s message which diagnosed an eye infection and prescribed antibiotic drops.

“The drops aren’t working, so I might need something stronger,” she added. The photograph was not too revealing. I offered to discuss matters with the doctor, but he wasn’t available.

Most stys go away without treatment although hot compresses are supposed to help. Drops aren’t necessary.

I explained this, being careful to add that the child had a real problem but one that didn’t require medicine.

This often doesn’t work, and it didn’t work this time. She looked uneasy. I knew she was thinking, “The doctor’s not giving me anything. So he must think there’s nothing wrong. But look at the eye…”

She perked up when I told her she could continue using the drops. Everyone knows that when you have an eye problem, you need eye drops.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Not Again!!

“I need a doctor.”

“I’m a doctor.”

“No. I need a doctor.”

“This is Doctor Oppenheim. You’re speaking to a doctor.”

“No! No! I need a doctor!!”

Like most of you, I hear what I expect to hear. It turned out the guest didn’t need a doctor but an adaptor for American electrical voltage. He had made the same request – in a foreign accent – to the hotel operator who immediately connected him to me.

It’s the fourth time in about 30,000 phone calls that I’ve had this dialogue.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

A Real-Life Stereotype

A diamond dealer from Israel, a guest at the L.A. Marriott, fell violently ill with a stomach virus. He went to an emergency room, remaining overnight for IVs and tests. Returning to the hotel, he felt better except for some diarrhea. I examined him and reassured him and handed over anti-diarrhea pills.

“Are you Jewish,” he asked.

“I’m a doctor,” I said.

He thought for a while and then asked “Would you give me a discount on the bill?”

I gave him a discount.

After another pause he asked “Would you keep the old fee on the invoice that I give to my insurance?”

I told him I’d already made the change.

“But the insurance charged too much: $90 just for a week in America!” he complained.

“Are you kidding?... You should kiss the feet of whoever sold you the insurance. Wait till you see the bill from the emergency room. It’ll be about $5,000.”

He didn’t believe me.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Reward of Virtue

I did something admirable last week while reviewing my credit card statement. 

I keep receipts until the charge shows up on my monthly bill and then discard them. I noticed that a $137 restaurant bill from October still hadn’t appeared. Had the waiter mislaid it?....  What to do…. No one would object if I kept waiting. But when I ordered the meal, I was obligated to pay for it.

After some agonizing, I e-mailed the restaurant to remind them. Then, since no one was around to praise me, I praised myself.  

As I turned that honorable action over in my mind, a memory took shape. Didn’t the restaurant mistakenly decline my credit card? And didn’t my wife pay with her credit card for which I reimbursed her?

I examined the receipt.  Sure enough, it revealed the last four numbers of her credit card, not mine. So I had paid the bill! I sent another e-mail to the restaurant, cancelling the earlier one. Honesty had cost me nothing. Who says virtue is its own reward?