Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Get Out There and Live Your Life, she said

I last visited my GI (gastrointestinal) doctor a few months ago. Due to some complications caused by acid reflux and heartburn, I had to be seen again this past week. My care is managed by Dr. Choudhary at Thomas Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia.

When I arrived at her office, I was looking for Mary Anne, the receptionist that has been checking me in for years. But Mary Anne wasn't there. Instead, in her place was a much younger, much less experienced, and not as warm new receptionist. I signed the necessary forms, then processed my disappointment while taking a seat in the waiting room.

When my name was called to go to an exam room, I noticed that it wasn't the usual voice of Mary, Dr. Choudhary's medical assistant. I popped my head up to acknowledge my  name being called and locked eyes with a short, dark haired medical assistant, greeting me with a smile and leading me to the back. Another new person? I thought. Whoa, is my doctor here today or is there a substitute for her, too?

When I arrived at the back, I was greeted by a very familiar face - Elizabeth, a nurse practitioner who works closely with my doc. She was so happy to see me, giving me a big hug. My visit was unexpected, and she was upset that I was back so soon. I assured her that my visit had nothing to do with my ostomy, and that seemed to put her at ease. She told me there were a lot of changes around there....as if it weren't blatantly obvious.

When Dr. Choudhary entered the exam room, she and I exchanged the usual pleasantries of a doctor and patient who've shared 12 years of friendship, mutual respect, and admiration. We asked about each others' families, and talked briefly about life in general. When I told her of my problem, she asked if I had taken the acid reflux medicine previously prescribed to me, or if I had any refills left at the pharmacy. I responded with a yes, and was told to give it time to work. 

She paused for what seemed like an eternity, then says, "I think you like it here. You've been coming here for so long that it's like you're making up reasons to see me. Ok, maybe you actually have had some reflux symptoms, but you don't have to come and see me in the office. Just call. And if you want to meet for coffee or something, let me know. You have all of my numbers; the office, my cell, my pager - just reach out if anything comes up....but it won't. Because you're doing great. You're healthy. Stop coming around here. This place is for sick people. If you want to see sick people, I'll show you sick people. I can even get you a job here since you like it soo much. But you're not sick. You're well, Ava. Get out there and live your life. I don't wanna see you back here anytime soon."

I chuckled while she was talking and replied with an "OK", and even smiled widely while she was escorting me to the checkout desk. I didn't think much of what she said, until I hit the parking lot. 

It dawned on me...She was right. In the 12 years that I have been a patient at Jefferson, I've gotten used to the campus and the people. The employees in various buildings know me by face and some by name. I've been so used to being around there, I think I miss it when I'm not there for a while. That's why it was disappointing not to see my "usual friends" at the office. Maybe they've moved on....maybe it's time for me to do the same.

So, unless I get a job at Jefferson, I'm not going to be seen on those grounds. It was there that I was born 35 years ago, and it was there that I almost died last year....but thanks to God and the wonderful medical professionals who work there, I'm alive now. I'm going to take my doctor's advice and "Get out there, and live my life." I've got MUCH more living to do. 

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