Ma insisted she was taking me to the doctor. I insisted she was not. I was 12 years old and had never seen the inside of a doctor’s office and I did not think this was the time for a visit..now or ever. Pains in my side all day and one night was more than Ma could stand and so to Bethel we drove. Right up Paradise and into the parking lot. I knew Dr. Boynton, because he came to school and administered the small pox vaccination, which looked plain ugly on my arm forever, it seemed. I was in no mood when the good doctor told me to climb on his table and I refused. Ma, embarrassed through and through, told me to get on the table. I insisted that Dr. Boynton tell me what he was going to do before I subjected my body to his hands. Visions of scalpels and operations raced through my mind..obviously from some of my books I read constantly. After much haggling, I climbed on the table, closed my eyes, figuring this was probably one step from the grave. The good doctor pressed and pushed on my side and since he heard no screams, told Ma to take me home and for me to rest another day before going back to school. That was the first and only good word I heard all day. Ma chastised me all the way home for acting the way I did and she swore she heard the doctor sigh when we left. I hastened to remind her of my episode with Dr. Brown, the dentist in town, a few years before. Did she remember shaking me and rattling my brains to get me to “wake up” after my tooth was pulled? Ha! I guessed not. Well, after that reminder, the ride home was long and very silent.
Back then, you just did not go to the doctor to “prevent” something. Nope, you went to see the doctor when you were sick. Period. Dr. Boynton came every other Saturday to see my Grandfather Martin because of his arthritis. I’d see his car pull in and Dad would usually remark that the Doc was in Shadagee again.
Remember Dr. Nangle in his brown house on Pioneer Street in West Paris? Ah, yes. How many times did I sit in the waiting room, baby in arms, waiting my turn. We always dreaded the person who went in to see the doctor and more or less also wanted to visit while we waited and waited! I can’t remember making an appointment for any special time, but always called to make sure he would see us. So we gathered, like cattle, in the little waiting room. Sometimes there was nothing but silence and even that seemed to echo as some sat in misery. Other times, old friends met and the latest news was exchanged. I remember one night holding Debbie for almost an hour waiting my turn, and an elderly lady asked if she might hold the baby “for a minute.” What a relief just to rest my arms for a moment and she truly enjoyed holding her.
Dr. Nangle was like a rock, it seemed to me and probably many other young mothers. Brian fainted in the June sun and hit his head on cement, so what to do but call my neighbor, Winnie Hanscom, who called Dr. Nangle and stood in her driveway as I deposited Debbie and Gary in her arms. We arrived and Dr. Nangle shooed his patient out his office, grabbed Brian, took one look and called Norway Hospital to tell them we were on the way. Long story short. Brian was in the hospital 3 days with a concussion and finally a very determined mother, getting no information, stomped to the hospital, signed him out all the while having his doctor screaming. I cannot believe the determination that a mother has when confronting any situation dealing with her child. They must have thought I was horrid!!
And while we speak of doctors, I cannot forget Dr. Young in Bethel. So many years ago but the memory remains so strong. A friend gave me steamed clams and oh, they were good. For.that.day. I woke up horribly ill and finally a call went in to Doc Young. He drove into my yard every morning for two straight weeks, empty coffee cup and a jar of instant coffee in hand . While he examined me each day, Debbie made him his cup of coffee. In this day and age, I would say that I had a bout of e-coli and would have been hospital bound. His orders were to drink two cups of scalded milk a day and Brian did that and brought it to me. Suffice it to say, if I could have lived in the bathroom, I should have done so. I did not get a bill for any of those house calls.
Years later I lay on his table while he cauterized from my heel up the calf of my leg to my knee. I had fallen off the harrow and it had bent my right foot back under me and the harrow disc had cut up my leg. Doc was leaving for his home on the coast and stopped in mid-packing to do that deed and to administer my first tetnus shot. Can I say…ow??? Doc said, “You know, Sis, some day you are going to have some awful arthritis in that foot.” You know what, Doc, I wish you were still around so I could tell you that you were absolutely right!
There are so many other memories of our country doctors in and around that little part of Maine. They cared for their patients. They knew their patients and they knew the families. I believe that is one reason why someone in my age group ( old and getting older) is taken aback at health care as it is today. Sometimes I feel like a number. Sometimes I feel like there is x-ray vision into my purse. I know medicine has progressed over the years and I won’t argue that so many lives are saved in this day and age.
So what is the ingredient that is missing? I believe it is a world of big pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, the government and probably a dozen other factors producing so many laws, rules, paper work that yesterday’s doctors do not , cannot exist anymore …even if they want.
I have found one doctor and though he doesn’t make house calls, for the past twenty years, he has pulled up a stool and has taken time to talk. That means a lot in this day and age.