Back in the day, hell even in MY day as a child, your family doctor was as much a family friend as anything else. In the little town where I grew up there were two practices. You either went to Dr (Bill)Province & Dr Chappell or you went to Dr Records who also had a partner whose name escapes me. We went to see Dr. Bill & Chap as he was called. Their office was downtown Franklin and I'm told that back during the war the upstairs was a hospital. I remember going up there once when I was about five and seeing rows and rows of white metal beds, just like a movie.
Our family doctor knew us from the day we were born, knew our parents and our grandparents and because of that you knew they cared. Even if they were busy that day you never felt like a number. The receptionist went to school with my mom, her sister was our school secretary. It wasn't just a product of being in a small town in Hoosierland, we just did medicine differently then.
I'd say it pretty much has been in serious decline ever since. The science behind it has exploded while the way we practice it has just gone to hell. Doctors are overloaded nurses are overloaded and we patients are just a number now.
I'm lucky that in some areas I actually DO have doctors I feel like I matter to. My OLOGISTS are top notch. When you have OLOGISTS you want them to be very good. So cardiologist, gynecologist, rheumatologists are people who all listen, talk about what's best for me. I would say with confidence that my gyno and rheum doctors both know me well, and I have great conversations with them about and my life and health. I feel GOOD when I leave them.
I have always invested time in finding the RIGHT pediatrician for my kids and I'm happy where we've landed with them, although my favorite partner there died recently, still, they are consistent although I'm not sure our relationship is quite PERSONAL there, the care is good.
But for us, a general practitioner has been something we've struggled with for a long time. As we're aging we need a doctor to help us take care of US. Everyone needs a doctor that you can call when you're sick, a doctor who knows you when you're well and what's NORMAL for you. Everyone needs someone who cares about them in some way involved in their healthcare.
I can't remember the year, but once upon a time my diabetic grandma got an infection from getting her toes clipped at some podiatrist. They cut her, and it didn't heal. And it didn't heal. And it didn't heal. Then it became gangrene.
She ended up in the hospital in Indianapolis on the north side and they were going to take off her leg. That's how my family met Gary. His partner (I forget her name) at that time who was a lady was making rounds, and came in and chatted with my mom and grandma. The more she talked to mom, the more she seemed to question taking off Grandma's whole leg. She made a lot of notes, and then she came back the next day with a different vascular surgeon. In what ended up being a serious of serious surgeon shuffling suddenly the plan went from cut off her leg at the knee, to cut off the toe and save the leg. Gary began rotating in to visit Grandma and Mom during this time when his partner wasn't available.
A relationship of about 30 years or so was born.
Gary was an advocate for my mom and dad like you would not believe. He called me here in Atlanta and talked to me for more than an hour about their health over the past two years, more than once. I haven't been his patient since 1999. He was there through a lot of their life changes and I do not doubt that because of him mom got more time than she might have had, because he got her into a very good group of doctors at IU.
My brother found out recently that it seems their message that dad had died never got through to Gary's nurse, Delphine (also our family nurse). That just gutted me. Nothing changes that they didn't know, Dad's still dead, Mom's still dead. But that's just this HOLE in the process. Our family doctor is supposed to be part of the process of the dying and the grieving and the ending of the things.
When my grandpa died, Dr Bill gave my mom fucking Xanax because she was a wreck. He came to the house and talked to me and I cried on his lap. He told me I could come see him any time I want if felt sad. Dr Bill came to the house after the funeral and was almost like the field marshall, directing church ladies "Maybe put on some more coffee." "Lou Ann why don't you go lay down I'll sit here with your mother." I don't think Gary would've done anything like all that, but mentally there is something about him not knowing that just shakes me still. It's like a huge box went unchecked, and now the fact that my brother had to open up the door of "TELLING PEOPLE DAD IS DEAD" is so hurtful. To him, to me, to Pete, etc.
In the last month I feel like I may have in fact found my new Gary. My pneumonia has reared it's head again and I admit that there is a part of me, that with dread, realizes that for the past 20 years or so my dad got pneumonia every January or February. Why do I have pneumonia out of the blue? Why? I'm going to talk to him about it, my new Gary. His partner spoke to me on the phone last night and gave me his personal cell in case I experience any worsening of conditions. His office remembered me when I called in yesterday afternoon asking for refills. I may have found my GP after all this time.
Times change, and Gary is now part of a mega practice. The patients who go to see him are so very lucky to have this man who is so very caring, and thorough, and just a damn good DOCTOR. Don't try to leave him an important message though.