Wednesday, June 15, 2011

I Said, "Doctor!"

Welcome to another week of Writer's Challenge II. The folks at are always welcome to new people joining the fun. You can sign up to do it just once, or you can keep coming back week after week - no pressure, no huge commitment. If you feel like giving it a whirl, click the link here. Pairings are randomly generated, but you never know, you just might be responsible for giving me my next prompt!

This week my prompt comes from Tobie, who writes here. The prompt is,"Doctor or dentist?"

Ugh... argh... blurg... not my favorite prompt ever (sorry, Tobie!). I'm not sure just how creative I'll be, but here I go...


The choice is clear here... doctor. With apologies to dentists everywhere, you've just never earned any kind of reverence from me. But a doctor is what I'd want to be if I were to be something else. Specifically, I'd want to be a surgeon. Oogie bodily stuff doesn't faze me a bit. I can handle blood and guts without swooning. Added to that, I have a profound curiosity and admiration for the human body.

Think about it. These carcasses we're given to parade around in have some pretty impressive abilities and capabilities. We have blood and skin that regenerates, muscles that move and beat and even compensate if need be, bones that keep us upright and give us structure, organs that filter icky stuff, eyes, ears, noses, tongues, vocal chords. Our bodies are fallible, faulty vessels, yes. But awesome too.

Even when we're bereft of some of those things, we manage. For nine years I lived with a man who was a paraplegic and witnessed some truly amazing compensatory stuff. Sure, his legs looked like chicken drumsticks (his description) and were completely useless, but he had incredible, gravity defying upper body strength.

A few years back I had some extensive corrective surgery on my left leg. The surgery included taking the tissue on my calf all the way down to the muscle fascia, leaving it open for a week to granulate, then grafting over it with skin from my thigh. Painful, oh hell yes. Fascinating? Serious wow factor. A couple of days after the surgery, my doctor, her physicians assistant, and a nurse were in my room to change the dressing and check on progress. After they removed the dressing - which prompted me to make moaning and keening sounds that I never want to hear coming from myself again (it fucking hurt!) - they got close and surveyed the thing like they were looking for gold nuggets in a pan of muck.

I couldn't help myself. I had to look too. I saw the lower half of my left leg looking like something that should be hanging in a meat locker being wailed on by some broke Philadelphian boxing protégé. My doc pointed out various points of interest to the other two - nobody noticed that I was looking. She made note of a particularly lumpy looking bit and said, "That's the calf muscle." Really?! I was looking at the inner workings of my own calf muscle?! She said, "Flex your foot, Barb." I did and watched the raw muscle move. In chorus, the assistant, the nurse, and I all said, "Wowwww..." That's when they looked up to see me completely rapt by the same thing they were looking at - my filleted leg. I could tell they were kind of impressed that I was participating. That was when it dawned on me that I wasn't watching the Discovery Channel, but my own leg. That was when I lay back down and felt a little swoony after all, saying, "Alright... unless you want to pay me, show's over. I need meds!" But I can't lie. I'm really glad I looked.

A week later the same doctor took a big swatch of skin from my upper thigh and grafted it onto that slab of meat. Three months later I had a leg that was completely healed over. There's a lot of nerve damage - it's numb mostly and painful sometimes and gimpy all the time. Still, I can walk on it, and that blows my mind.

When John was in the depths of his illness, I changed catheters, emptied bags of fetid urine, swabbed bedsores, cleaned up shitty puke... whatever needed to be done. None of it bothered me a bit. The hospice nurses were surprised that I was so willing and capable in my care for him. However, as I saw it, stuff needed to be done and I simply did it. The morning after he died, I received a phone call from his oncologist. I remember his words ringing like a bell through the fog of my grief. He said, "I wish all my patients had someone to care for them the way you cared for John."

I would have been a good doctor. I would have been a good doctor because I would have loved being a doctor.


  1. Well, I think you did a fine job with this prompt. And you're stronger than me, in this aspect - I could never look at my own leg in that state. I had a hard enough time not turning away every time the nurses had to poke and repoke to find a vein during my chemo. I hope, though, that even given my squeamishness, I'd be able to step up to the plate should my loved ones ever need me to. I'd like to think I could, and I'm sure some kind of strength would just take over.

  2. I remember having blood drawn and having the nurse push my head away because I was watching it flow into the vial.
    I once wanted to be a forensic pathologist.

  3. "oogie" - fun word - I keep saying it. Oogie oogie! When I had my c-section, my husband leaned over the curtain and took a bunch of pictures, which he tried to show me later. Sadly, I was not interested.

  4. Thanks guys!

    @Jess... you'd be able to do it if you ever had to. And here's hoping you never have to.

    @Head Ant... forensic pathology would be fun!

    @Ixy... oogie is one of my favorite non-words.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.