One day, when I was a preschooler, my mom ...

One day, when I was a preschooler, my mom rushed me to the doctor because I’d swallowed a penny. She probably knew that Dr. Shafer wasn’t the only doctor in the world, but I didn’t know that. He was “The Doctor” and he lived between our house and town. He usually saw us at his home, as was the case when I swallowed the penny.

Shafer first comforted Mom, who was almost hysterical. He then looked in my mouth and said, “It will pass, let’s wait.” But Mom wasn’t satisfied with that simple treatment, so Shafer made a phone call and sent us in the Guitar Building in Columbia for an X-ray.

That X-ray cost $5. Five dollars! One of the earliest joys that I can recall was knowing that my parents thought enough of me to justify their spending all that money. Self-esteem set in, right then. Until that day I’d been Little Miss Nobody. I was tiny, the second child, the girl, my brother’s little sister.

Suddenly, I took on a new importance in the neighborhood. Mom related the incident to her friends, who were my friends’ mothers. People swarmed around me at Olivet Church, a few days later, to here about the rush trip and the X-ray. “Did it hurt?” they asked. “Could they see inside your body?” And, “Did the X-ray get the penny out?”

The penny, of course, had been forgotten. But not the incident. I’d never been so important in all four or five years of my life.

Recently, I was looking in the yellow pages of the Columbia telephone directory so I could call my “skin man.” I stopped to count how many of my “men” -- and women -- there are. There’s the bone man, ear man, throat man, internist, dentist, the heart man, eye man, the GYN, surgeons, lab technicians, the people who put patients to sleep. And, of course My doctor. Thank goodness I don’t need an otorhinolaryngologist!~ I can’t even pronounce that.

Having this large medical staff doesn’t exactly relate to the fact that I’m old. A younger person might need additional physicians for infectious diseases, growing pains, child psychiatry, adolescent medicine or adolescent rheumatism.

Thumbing through 16 pages in GTE’s 1994-95 “Guide to Physicians and Surgeons,” the thought struck me: Suppose one of my grandsons had swallowed a penny, would I have called someone listed in gastrointestinal endoscopy? Or thoracic surgery or radiology or pediatric surgery or internal medicine or otorhinolaryngology? Or none of the above!

None of these individuals lives between my house and town, and I don’t call any of them by his or her first name. I’d have been more shook up than was my dear old Mom. Perhaps I’d have first called my cardiologist to have him prescribe a tranquilizer for me. I might then have used the “wait and see, it will pass” technique that worked so well in 1919.

Wonder what Old Dr. Shafer would say if he could see those 16 pages of names?

By the way, he didn’t charge anything at all when I swallowed the penny.

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