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Friday, July 22, 2011

The Follow-Up Visit

The Follow-Up Visit

“You didn’t fracture it.  It was dislocated and the tendon hyper-extended, and you’ve got the sutures which will take out today, but I see no fracture on the x-ray,” said Dr. Linburg as he was looking at the x-ray in the light box on the wall of the little examining area.  Curious retired lawyer that I am, I left my plastic seat and looked at the x-ray myself, shocked beyond belief that I could tell there was no evidence my wife’s left thumb had suffered any insult to the way its calcium had been knitted by God in her mother’s womb, aided and abetted by all the calcium atoms which over 62 years had replaced, and lengthened, and strengthened, the atoms which God borrowed from Her creation to form Susie’s thumb.

“We’re gonna have Jay take out the stitches today and give you a smaller brace.  This here is the reason you’ve been feeling discomfort in your first finger. Who put this big bandage and splint on your thumb?,” wondered the orthopedic surgeon.  Susie recounted how they’d put the big bandage pack on her thumb, her hand, her wrist, and her forearm, almost up to her elbow, at Hartford Hospital.  Dr. Linburg turned around in his black plastic round examining room seat and called out to Jay, who was out of my sight because of the wall I was sitting next to.  “Take Mrs. Dutcher’s sutures out and put her in a [I didn’t catch the name of the small, white, hard, molded plastic thing which had a hole through which her thumb stuck out],” Dr. Linburg ordered.  “I want you to take off the plastic brace when you shower….,” he explained.  “You mean I can take a shower with the brace off?  They told me at the hospital I had to leave on the wrappings and keep it from getting wet while my thumb healed,” Susie said, with relief, plaintively.  “….and I want you to begin bending the tip of that thumb as soon as you can, to get it moving so it doesn’t freeze up.  Just move it back and forth as much as you can.  It’ll hurt at first but get easier as you loosen it up,” the doctor ordered, again to Susie’s, and my, great relief.  It was crystal clear by now that we were in the hands of a real pro. That Dr. Bass at Hartford Hospital was a real clown. 

Dr. Bass was the guy who told Susie she’d fractured her left thumb.  Susie understood from that diagnosis that one or more bones in her thumb were broken in the bicycle crash.  Although I was only a Juris Doctor, with no formal medical training, I, too, concluded from Susie’s report of Dr. Bass’s statements, that the force of the impact had not merely stretched the connective tissues in her minor thumb.  When marriages become irretrievably broken down, and the lawyers are called in to administer the last rites, the colloquial description of the spousal relationship is “fractured,” not merely “strained” or “stretched.” 

And once we learned the truth about Susie’s thumb, it suddenly dawned on me why Dr. Bass had lobbied her to see him in follow-up care for her thumb.  “I hope you’re going to make an appointment to see ME for your thumb.  I’d really like to care for you after you leave the hospital,” he entreated her, in a begging sort of way.  It also occurred to me that someone, perhaps the doctor himself, had somewhere along the way altered the original spelling of his surname.  Why, I wondered to Susie, did doctor ass prefer to be named after a scaly fish, rather than a part of the human anatomy which many men used to describe the part of the female form with respect to which they focus their imaginations and sexual longings when they think of the fairer sex as objects rather than subjects?

“Dr. Linburg, are you Swedish?,” I asked as he was getting up to move to another examining room.  “Yes,” he answered.  “My Norwegian father-in-law would have loved to give you a hard time, then,” I kidded him.  “Oh, well, I’m also part Norwegian,” he countered, smiling.  “Oh, okay.  Glen Price would certainly have liked you then,” I noted.

Richard M. Linburg MD is about 6 feet 2 inches, white hair, slicked back on his head and temples, thin, wearing a long white MD’s coat, dark blue surgical pants, and brown leather loafers with no penny in the tongue of his well-polished but un-shiny shoes.  According to his abbreviated Google-available CV, he’s been practicing medicine for 43 years.

 I knew him from many years ago, when a client of mine, Steve Wilcox, suffered aseptic necrosis of the lunate bones in his right wrist, from an auto accident, and Dr. Linburg did surgery to fuse Steve’s lunates and stop the continuing deterioration of the blood supply (the necrosis) to the calcium molecules in his wrist.  Steve always spoke highly of Dr. Linburg. 

That was in the late 70’s, just a few years after I’d started practicing as a Juris Doctor, and Richard Linburg had only been practicing as a Medical Doctor for 8 more years than I had.  Because Richard Linburg went to 4 years of medical school, and three or more years of post-medical-school internship and surgical residency, Dr. Linburg was probably 39 years old when he treated Steve Wilcox. 

I only had to do three years of law school before I began practicing law, and Dr. Linburg has been practicing medicine 8 years longer than I had when I retired in March of this year, so 8 plus the 4 years (4th year of med school plus three more years of internship and residency) makes him probably 12 years older than I, so in 1978 when I got money (justice?) for Steve’s injuries and Dr. Linburg treated his lunate bones, I was 28 years old and Richard Linburg 40 years old.  That makes Dr. Linburg 73 years old to my 61. 

You may now be almost as confused by the numbers I’m throwing around as I always was when I played golf with my senior partner, Dave Royston.  In the 19th Hole, as we cooled off from a hot round with a beer from the tap, David appeared to churn the scorecards through his prodigious intelligence, following which process El Hefe aka Il Papa Davidus announced how many dollars each of us owed the winner, as determined by Attorney Royston, with no right of protest or appeal.

As Susie and I were leaving Dr. Linburg’s medical “factory,” his chief medical assistant, Karen, explained to Susie how she should wash the thin white knit fabric which Jay, Dr. Linburg’s physician’s assistant, who also removed her sutures, had put over Susie’s thumb before he installed the white plastic molded splint device.  “You should make sure I understand the washing instructions, because I’m the one who now does the laundry at our house,” I said to Karen, who then repeated the washing instructions.  “Just use ordinary sham-pooh,” Karen repeated.  The “pooh” was pronounced just the way most Philadelphia-born-and-raised people say their “ohs,” like “thirty-tooh,” with the “ooh” sounding a lot like the sound of the “ew” in “Spiro Agnew.”  To describe this more concretely in words, that “ew” is pronounced in the City of Brotherly Love with an expression around the edges of the mouth, the nose and cheek area, and the forehead, which occurs when a person is smelling a noxious odor or recoiling at the vision or verbal description of a very unpleasant event. 

“Are you from Philadelphia?” I asked Karen.  “You’re the first person who’s ever guessed correctly.  Yes, from Northeast Philly,” Karen confessed.  “I’m from the Northeast also,” I said.  “Rhawn and Frontenanc, in Rhawnhurst,” I explained.  “I was born in Port Richmond and then we moved to South Orange, New Jersey, up near New York,” Karen said.  “My grandmother lived most of her married live in Bridesburg, near Port Richmond.  I went to Northeast High School,” I continued.  “My father went to Northeast High School,” she said.  “The old Northeast, at 5th and Lehigh, within walking distance of the old Connie Mack Stadium?,” I asked.  “Yes,” she answered.

After making our next appointment with Dr. Linburg, for August 1st, after the doctor returns from his vacation African safari with his grandchildren, I said to Karen, “I look forward to talking with you next time about Philadelphia and Northeast High School.”  She said, “Yes, I look forward to it.”

With that, we left the office, used the restrooms, and Susie got a drink of water from Jay, a very nice African American young man who was, like Tyler, one of Dr. Linburg’s physician assistants.  I thanked Jay and told him how nice it was to meet him and the rest of Dr. Linburg’s medical team.  Just before Susie and I got on the elevator to return to her Prius, I reached up with the palm of my right hand and Jay reached back towards me with his, and we high-fived and smiled as we parted ways, until August 1st.

(un-read and un-edited; I hope you overlooked any typos, grammatical errors, or lousy sentences--The Editor-Not)

namaste, bob know the routine

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