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 Texas : Features : Columns : Letters From North America :
Kids with Scalpels
by Peary Perry
"I have a hard time trusting my life to doctors and airplane pilots who donít look old enough to drive, much less operate on my body or control an huge airplane."
Peary Perry
If you ever want to know when you have either hit middle age or passed it, I can give you a very accurate indicator to go by. Look at the age of your doctorsÖ

Now, if youíll recall, when you were just a kid, all of the doctors you had to go see were old, I mean really old. Now, stick with me here, but Einstein should have been looking at age, rather than the speed of light to determine his theory of relativity. When your mother marched you into that clinic for a shot or checkup for measles or a cold, you knew this guy working on you was ancient, so was his nurse. When youíre ten years of age, everyone, I mean everyone is old. Your teachers may have been twenty-five years of age, but to you they were old. You wonder how they can even get around and speculate as to whether or not youíll ever get to their age. In your mind you donít see how this would ever be possible. Only when you get to be in your thirties and forties, do you stop and think back at just how young your teachers actually were when you were in the first grade.

Same thing goes for doctors, all our lives weíve gotten used to have wise older physicians take care of us as we struggle through the pains and agonies of growing up, falling out of trees, bicycle wrecks, skinned knees, mumps, measles and whatever the disease of the day happened to be.

Somewhere along the way, something curious happened; our old doctors died or retired and were replaced with younger, newer ones who look like kidsÖnot graduates of medical school. I have a hard time trusting my life to doctors and airplane pilots who donít look old enough to drive, much less operate on my body or control an huge airplane.

This past week, I tripped over something in the hallway and tore my good knee all to pieces. I decided the best thing to do is to get it over with, suck it up and get the operation out of the way over this long Memorial Day weekend. Itís day surgery, one of those arthroscopic things they do these days. I had one done on the other knee a few years ago and it wasnít any big deal, so I might as well go on and get this one out of the way as soon as possible. All goes well, with the exception that you canít have anything to drink after midnight the evening before the operation. Iíd kill for a cup of coffee.

Everyone at this day surgery hospital is cheerful, polite, and very efficient. These folks have done this before. I donít know about you, but I hate going in some place and feeling as if Iím the first customer theyíve had. You know, you go into some hamburger joint and when you order a burger, they look at you like a calf looking at a new gate as if they had no clue as to what youíre talking about. Like, why are they there in the first place. Makes me crazy.

Anyway, back to the hospitalÖ.here I am stretched out on the gurney in the operating room and these two kids, I mean kids come in and start sticking needles into me. Iím asking who they are and they kindly explain to this old man that they are my anesthesiologists and will be giving me some stuff to knock me out for the surgery. Well, Iím curious to know more about these guys and we start talking about where they went to school. Seems they went to the same schools in Houston as my boys, then on to medical school and now here they are. Iím feeling more comfortable and we start discussing the differences between big city traffic and where we live now. As I recall, I think I managed to get about five words out of my mouth before I was transported into la-la land and out of it. Needless to say I survived and am doing well, thank you very much.

I woke up a little while later with a young nurse handing me some ice water and crackers. None of these people look old enough to be here. Iím still about half goofy when one of the doctors drops by to check on me and make sure Iím ok. While I sit there I manage to let my mind wander and reflect back on how things change in our lives without us even noticing them since weíre so busy going through lifeís little routines. If the doctors have gotten younger, it makes me wonder if the teachers have as well.

Life is funny, isnít it?


© Peary Perry
Comments go to pperry@austin.rr.com

Letters From North America - June 2, 2005 column
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