(A change of pace, first published February 19, 2017 in Newsday.)
By Larry McCoy
After years of playing basketball and setbacks from torn hamstrings and ligaments, I have finally made an All-America list. No, I’m not on it, but all my doctors are.
Topping the list is my Primary Care Physician (PCP), an Iranian-American Jew who always wears a yarmulke. I had never seen this doctor until the morning after I was mugged in a church parking lot in Rockville Centre. My primary doctor at the time didn’t work Wednesdays, and I walked into Dr. S’s office, told a receptionist what happened and was told “of course, he will see you.” He’s been my doctor ever since. He and his brother left Iran together and both became doctors. Whenever he talks about the brother, a pediatrician, my guy pauses before saying, “I don’t know how he does that.”
Years earlier my PCP had been a young doctor who worked out of his house in Oceanside and could frequently be heard speaking Latvian to his mother who I believe lived with him. For some reason, the richness of the various threads that makes our country (and medical profession) strong seem important at this moment.
My All-America list of doctors, all located on Long Island, is a fairly long one, not surprising for someone nudging 80 and fortunate to have good health insurance. More than a year ago when I needed a hernia operation the surgeon was a Japanese-American. Every three years I get checked for colon cancer by an American Sikh doctor. He too always has his head covered, with a turban even during the colonoscopy.
The doctor who made a small slit in my chest to slip in a heart monitor more than three years ago is a Filipino-American. Another physician in the same cardiology group is Chinese-American. Although I don’t see either of them often, I remember our conversations because they’re both skiers, as am I, and skiing always comes up. (While I don’t golf, I’m sure that skiers talking about skiing are as boring as golfers talking about golf.)
A few months ago I developed a stabbing pain in my lower back and by the end of the day I was holding on to furniture to move from room to room. Spinal stenosis, a doctor I was meeting for the first time informed me. He’s a Dominican-American born in the Bronx. I’m much better now, thanks to steroids and physical therapy. One of the talented physical therapists I’ve seen over the last few years for different ailments is a young man from Trinidad.
Having grown up in a small, mainly white Christian farm town in Indiana, what a wonderful mix of expertise and life experience I’ve been exposed to. What kind of country would this be, what kind of people would we be if we built barriers, physical or bureaucratic, to make sure only certain types of folks were let in it?
One good thing about getting old and seeing the same doctors for years is that they loosen up and tell you things they probably wouldn’t share with new patients. That includes jokes. For instance, are you aware that baseball is mentioned in The Bible? It’s right there at the start, “In the big inning.” Thank you Dr. M and all my other doctors.
Larry McCoy is a retired broadcast journalist.