Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Is there a baker on board?

Everyone's parents do something. Some people's parents are bakers. So growing up you take for granted that at dinner there will be good bread every night and on special occasions very nice pastries (I know that the boulanger is not the same as p√Ętissier but they are connected, if you know what I mean. If your dad is a boulanger then his golfing or tennis buddies must include some p√Ętissiers, no? Just as if your father is a doctor then knows more than a few surgeons.)

You grow up not giving it a second thought. And probably your childhood friends take it for granted too. And then one day, later in life, much later in life, it hits you -- everyone didn't grow up the way you did, with this special luxury.

* * *

Well my parents aren't bakers, though that would be nice. They are doctors, which is also nice. The last time I went to see a regular doctor before this week was in 2002 (and before that 1980-something), when I suddenly decided that I need a checkup, since my regular phone calls home did not qualify as such. So I went to see one of my father's medical school friends from his days here in New York. His friend, who I remembered when we used to visit NYC as children, was very nicely set up in an East Side brownstone, with his office on the ground floor and living above. Anyway, I went to see him and we chatted for a bit. He used his stethoscope, took my blood pressure and sent me on my way, pronouncing me in excellent health and "say hi to your father..."

* * *

Once I was on a flight when the stewardess actually came on the announcement system and asked "Is there a doctor on board?" I was only 6, but I had seen this on television so I waited and watched my parents. They didn't reach for the call button. I nudged them a bit, and still nothing. The clock was ticking, at least in my mind. It's not that they were going to let a patient die or even suffer. All of this infinite waiting really only lasted a second. They had already motioned to a stewardess and were in consultation. It turns out there were several doctors on board and everything was under control.

Some time later, I had a dream (or was it a day dream?). I was on a plane and the stewardess came on the intercom and asked "Is there a baker on board? A gentleman in first class is having some trouble with a crusty bread roll."

* * *

Well this week I realized what it's like to grow up without fantastic dinner rolls every night. I need to see a doctor regarding a problem I've been having -- nothing terrible really, but very annoying. And when it's been going on for 3 months (or is it 6?) you think it might be time to see a doctor. By my parents are in India at the moment, and for immigration reasons I can't travel right now. So I finally (after 3 years) chose an official doctor from my health insurance and went in, in the need of seeing a specialist (or so my father told me I needed).

The doctor wasn't available for 3 weeks, but there was an assistant (resident?) who could see me within 10 days. So I went to see him this week. Initially I was suspicious. I don't want to see the assistant, I want to see the real doctor. Actually it turned out he was really, well there's no other word, cool. Looked a bit like the kid on Scrubs. He agreed that I need to see a specialist without much fuss.

* * *

Imagine if you grow up, begin to live on your own, and then finally realize that most people are in 4-10 week wait lists to have some really nice dinner rolls. Well, there it is, and there I am. I have never waited more than 1 week to see a specialist and now I am told that if I'm lucky they can get me in March. I'm not complaining (well, yes I am), but not in a presumptuous way that I somehow deserve better. But truly I had no idea that the whole world doesn't eat eclairs for breakfast if you see what I mean.

I've always intellectually understood that even for the fortunate health care is a struggle and a matter of anxiety here in the United States, and probably in much of the world, because after all can you really trust a doctor as much as your parents?

Today I resolve that I will never, ever take my dinner rolls for granted again.

BB

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