Shortly after moving to Chicago, I realized that I needed to find a new doctor, so I started asking around. Natasha goes to some wholesale doctor in a northern suburb far, far away, so I couldn’t go to hers, but she kindly talked to one of her friends who referred me to her doctor. This woman’s doctor is apparently the greatest physician in all of Chicago, so when I called her office to make an appointment, I was told that it would be about three months before I could get in to see her.
Unfortunately at the time, I was convinced I had pink eye because two of my co-workers had pink eye, and my eyes started to itch really badly. Although I’m mostly Sicilian and German, my great-great grandmother emigrated to the US from her homeland in Hypochondria, which is a small region located near Estonia, known best for its chronically ill people. Because of this genetic shortcoming, I have to be very careful not to let illnesses go too long without medical intervention.
Fearing impending blindness, I made an appointment with the first doctor who was available at Dr. Rachstarr’s office, hoping that someday I’d be able to get in to see her. I was able to get a same day appointment with a newer physician, Dr. Middlin. At the time, everything seemed fine. Dr. Middlin checked out my eyes, confirmed that it wasn’t pink eye, and told me I probably had some sort of allergy. She gave me some sample eye drops, validated my parking, and sent me on my way with a packet of Tagamet post-it notes.
Over the course of the past two years, I’ve had a few colds, ailments, and festering wounds that have required medical attention, but every time I’ve wanted to switch to Dr. Rachstarr, a couple things would happen: 1) I would feel a slight pang of guilt for jumping ship and 2) it didn’t matter anyway because I wasn’t a patient of Dr. Rachstarr’s, so I was thrown back onto the three-month waiting list.
So now I suppose you might say that Dr. Middlin and I have developed a sort of a relationship. But like with most relationships, I want out. She’s nice and all, and has really pretty hair, but here’s the thing: I just never get any sense of confidence whatsoever that she knows what she’s talking about.
Take my last ailment, for example. I went in to her with a dry nagging cough that had been lingering for ten days. From past experience, and extensive research on WebMD, I know that you shouldn’t let a cough go more than two weeks, so I called to make an appointment. Dr. Rachstarr was booked until mid 2005, and – big surprise – Dr. Middlin could see me that afternoon.
I explained my symptoms: dry nagging cough, extreme sore throat, wheezing. Dr. Middlin asked a few questions, had me take some deep breaths, looked in my ears, and diagnosed me with post nasal drip.
Post nasal drip?
I tried to explain to her that I had no dripping whatsoever – pre, post, or during – but she was convinced that this was the root of my problem. I asked how post nasal drip could cause a violently sore throat and non-stop cough, and she simply averted her eyes, clicked her pen, and straightened a box of tongue depressors.
I realize that I’m not a doctor, but I do like to use a little science called logic every now and then. It seems to me that if something were dripping down my throat all night long, my throat would be all nice and lubricated, not dry and sore. Who’s with me on this? I know, that’s a repulsive image – forgive me – but it’s all in the name of medicine.
She gave me some sample nasal spray with a picture of a rhinoceros on the box, and told me to snort that up my nose each night for about a week. I read the fine print, and learned that I was going to be huffing steroids for the next three to five days. When I told Natasha I was taking ‘roids, she signed me up on the spot to be on her bowling team. She also warned me that my nose was going to get really huge. And pissed off.
But back to my dilemma. Here’s where I really began to question Dr. Middlin’s medical abilities: without the slightest crack of a smile or hint of irony, she told me that if, after using this snorting device, I noticed thick fluorescent green mucus pouring out of my nose, I should give the office a call. Because apparently that would be a bad thing. I’m glad she warned me, because normally I would just go about my daily business, riding the train, proofing ads, sitting in meetings, all the while with a trail of radioactive lime Jell-O streaming down my face. I’m just that dedicated.
After this latest episode, I started to think back to all the other times I had gone in to see Dr. Middlin, and what she had diagnosed. In the summer of 2003, I was convinced I had melanoma, but after a quick exam, Dr. Middlin gave me some samples of cortisone cream, a Zyban letter opener, and validated my parking. When I had a violent stomach parasite last fall, she gave me a few samples of Zantac, a Flonase pencil holder, and validated my parking.
Suddenly it all started to add up. When I looked back, I realized that for the past two years, Dr. Middlin had never actually written me a prescription. She would just pop in, talk to me for about two minutes, step out briefly, and come back with free samples in tow. I also recalled that she was unusually well dressed, and quite generous with the promotional trinkets. And then it hit me:
My god – Dr. Middlin isn’t a doctor at all! She’s a pharmaceutical rep!
I put together a list of all the free samples she had given me over the past few years:
A quick Google search later and I discovered that the good “Doctor” was recently named GlaxoSmithKline’s Sales Associate of the Year for the entire Midwestern region. I have never felt so violated in all my life. And I have every intention of turning her in to the AMA, just as soon as I complete my Wellbutrin desk set.