Five years after a malignancy, I’m back at the blood bank


There once was a nurse named Camille,

Who said, “Gosh, how do you feel?

     For you’ve blown your vein.

     It must be a strain.

Can you come back?  It will soon heal.”

During my oldest daughter’s medical education, a medical ethics lecturer said that one should not be doctor to family or friends, no degree of social contact would be appropriate.  But my family’s youngest doctor grew up here and understands how doctors fit into the community.

At my annual physical this morning I talked with a friend and colleague.  Many have said how great I look, how much more relaxed I am; the same words coming from my doctor mean more.  We discussed the turns in his career, and about how we love the day-to-day, hands-on work of medicine. 

My lab work and exam showed no surprises.

When my gallbladder came out five years ago I asked the surgeon to take my appendix, saying, “I don’t want to get up on this table again.”  Ten days late pathology found carcinoid (a low-grade malignancy) in my appendix. 

The diagnosis didn’t change the way I live, but I was banned from giving blood for five years. 

The VA has done marvelous follow-up; all the CT scans have come back normal.  So today, after the appointment, I went to the blood bank.

Consider giving blood, even if you never have; you can justify 600 calories for every unit.

My wife and children donate blood as often as they can (every eight weeks).  I tell adolescent patients complaining about having blood drawn that the people in my family, mostly female, do it recreationally.

I tried to donate two units of red cells, where machinery takes whole blood and returns plasma, but my vein blew early in the procedure and I didn’t have a good vein on the other side. 

Of course I chatted up the nurses and dropped my wife’s and daughters’ names.  They gave me more sympathy than I deserved.

Afterwards I met my youngest daughter at the Japanese restaurant.  I knew more than half the people there as non-physician health care professionals.  I got to talk about my travels and catch up with their news.

One went to college on a rodeo scholarship; the injuries from that time forced early retirement.   The new-found leisure, she said, would go better if a second career would happen; doing nothing does not suffice.

I love the fact that I can’t go out to eat without running into people I know, and I’ve found the anonymity in my travels the most distasteful part.  

This evening a patient called who had a less than optimal experience with a doctor’s visit today.  Remembering that I respect my non-compete agreement, the question became: which specialist would I recommend under some specific circumstances?  The answer came easily. 

My father, an internist/cardiologist/emergency doctor, always maintained a listed phone number.   I have never had an unlisted number, and I doubt my daughter the doctor will.

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