Friday, May 05, 2006

Dr. Empathy

A couple of months ago, I had the misfortune to experience a type of pain that I recognized. I won't go into the details, but the last time I had this pain it was followed (none too swiftly or surely) by painful surgery that totally failed to take care of the underlying problem, leaving it dormant under my skin, like the villain that's not quite dead enough ten minutes from the end of a horror movie. I know it's never going to kill me or even make me sick, but it does hurt, and I also know we'll never really kick its ass.

Clearly I needed to take a trip to the doctor, and knowing that in my anxiety I would probably fail to make my point (which was, loosely, "fix it this time you bastards or I'll sue you"), I rehearsed my little speech a few times before I went into the office. I walked into the office, confronted the doctor, delivered my speech, and promptly burst into hysterical sobs.

The doctor, fortunately, is that rare wonder of modern medicine, Dr. Empathy. She totally understood my fear of unnecessary and ineffective surgery, and she gave me lots of Kleenex. She's also a gifted comedienne. I know I read somewhere that doctors are less likely to be sued if they exhibit human emotion, even if they are demonstrably at fault, and boy, this lady essentially has a get-out-of-malpractice-free card. She indulged my concerns, made sure she understood them, and prescribed a treatment plan that she thought would get me better without surgery.

The treatment plan is fine, really, but two days ago the pain was back, and today I went back to see Dr. Empathy again. She sat down and said, "You look really familiar. Let me just pull your records up on the computer and then I'll remember what's going on." I joked, "Oh, I'm surprised I'm not more memorable. Do you want a hint? I'm the one who cried hysterically the last time I was here." That did it. Not only did she remember the whole situation, but she insisted that she was to blame for the fact that I cried the last time. "Watch this. I'll do it again. I just look at you like this, and then I say, `Are you okay?'" And damned if she wasn't right--there were tears in my eyes instantly, like some kind of post-hypnotic suggestion.

Three things occurred to me in rapid succession.

One: How is she doing that? Is she a witch? Is there some course they send doctors on? (Empathy 101 for Physicians, maybe?)

Two: Do I really want to trust a doctor who can make me cry at will? (Hell yes--I want her on my side, where I can keep an eye on her.)

Three: How do I acquire this skill and use it for my own nefarious purposes?

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