I am an eye doc; ophthalmologist is how it is termed for those of us who have been through medical school and can do eye surgery.
Last week I went into an exam room and sitting on the counter was a book. In a chair by the counter was sitting a patient with whom I have often spoken of books. Not everyone brings books to read while waiting for their doctor, but she does. In May 2017 she was reading a book called The Apartment. It was written by Danielle Steel.
I don’t think that I said anything her book that day, but somehow reading must have come up. She had one word for The Apartment: fluff. She also seemed a little sheepish about it. She seemed to like reading those books, but had inklings that other reading might be better, more beneficial, or something. Her manner and words had sprinklings of obscurity.
As the conversation that day puttered around a subject surfaced: daughters & reading material.
My patient thought Danielle Steel would be a reasonable read for one of them.
Hmm? I didn’t. I had some opinions about Danielle Steel, but not generally spouting those off in such company I decided to hold my cards close to the chest. The daughter that was the subject of this discussion was one whom I had found reading Nicholas Sparks in the sun one day on our deck. I wrote about that here.
Neither me nor my patient being easily dissuaded the subject of fluffy reading kept on flapping around the room. I hadn’t yet redirected us to the matter at hand: her eye exam. Oh yeah, eye exam and here we were on other interests!
Hmm. Fluff? Well, what is fluff from her vantage point? My patient was rather opinionated about it being fluff. It seemed that fluff was both bad and good as she seemed a bit apologetic for it and yet was justifying it.
You know she also said? Danielle Steel has another good book. “Fluff, but good.” It is called: Blue.
Blue was the book on the counter that Wednesday afternoon.
Rewind and refocus
Since 2011 my eye clinic has been using an electronic health record.
Maybe you have been to the doctor lately? Does the doc talk to you or your computer? Well, probably a mix of both. Now that the government and the insurance industry have rather forced us into keeping all our patient records electronically it is easy to find ourselves talking to the computer…and hopefully listening to the patient.
If this seems like an out of the blue comment it isn’t really. You see there is a place for us to put in little personal comments to remind us. Maybe you figured that I remembered my interaction with this patient as being back in May. I didn’t. It was in that personal comments section.
Usually I try to glance through that section before heading in to see a patient so we can pick up where we left off or get back to a thing we had had a pleasant chat about. I had a medical student with me that day. Being down from New Jersey he was wrapping up his month with us and preparing for his 8 p.m. flight to his next post, Philadelphia. I will often point out the personal comments section to medical students so they learn how to make it part of their doctor-patient relationship.
This day, though, I did not read that section so when I went in to see my patient I did not know that we had spoken of that very book.
Blue is about to be mine!
“Hey! You’ve got your book along today,” I said as I entered the room.
“Nope, doc. That book is for your daughter.”
Gulp. Danielle Steel? My daughter? Hmm. Gears spinning in my head. I don’t think I said much right then.
“You will let her read it won’t you?”
A lot of things were flopping around in my mind right about then. I ended up with a halting reply as I bumbled out my assessment and plan. It probably went something like this, “Well, maybe, but…I will…probably…um…read it first.”