Wednesday, February 8, 2012


 No, I am definitely not the doctor, but the Physical Therapy Assistant.  I have been called; "LA DOCTORA" by mostly my Hispanic patients.  Walking thru the door of my patients home,  I feel like I am part of the slowly dying off club of those that make The House Call.  I am dressed in  my starched white lab coat and am carrying my proverbial little black bag. (only this time I have to sling it around my shoulder because it is  loaded down with so many more paper forms as well as necessary tools of the trade) I like to imagine myself as the Country Doctor of years past, coming to pay my respects to the family and to the  patient; bringing all the cures tucked away in my little black bag.   

I have the names of many diseases shuffling around in  my mind as I try to keep them all straight.  Lets see Who was the Hip replacement?  the Congested heart failure? the nurse that worked for 30 years in emergency rooms and now has esophageal cancer?  the woman who owned the candy store I used to go to...has frequent falling?  early onset alzheimers? parkinsons like gait, tremors of unknown origin,  and on and on and on...

I reach into my black bag, pull out the stethoscope to take your vitals, listen to your breathing,  look at an incision from a knee surgery, put my hands on your forehead, ask you your pain level,  make you grip both my  hands as hard as you can... "Come on harder, you can do it more, more," I say, and then I stop and file away this data and let you, the person,  tell me your story.

 I sit next to you usually on the couch or else on your bed with you.  You begin from the usual drop down menu: (in no particular order)  the onset of illness, what hurts, what makes it better,  medications you do not understand, hospital stays where knowone answered your call light for hours so you just took yourself to the bathroom even though the doctor stated strictly that you must never get up alone,   the nurse that got mad at you because you did not eat enough,  the caregiver who brought you clean fresh sheets and smoothed them down so flat you felt you could sleep like a baby again, the family member that chose not to come to visit,  your job.. how long will they hold it..and the beat goes on (as the song goes)

As I sit and listen, I think of the expression  "a laying on of hands."   

In religious terms, it is called "the divine healing. the placing of the hands of the healer upon the person to be healed... or  more specifically; the consecration: setting someone apart for the service of god; next, the transmission of a divine gift and finally the anointing with a healing oil...
In some ways this expression conjures up the pentecostal healings that still continue today... where  the almighty leader sets his hands on shoulders or head of a parishioner and behold the person would be able to walk again...or talk or any such bigger than life magic!

    We have our modern day charlatans, Hood winkers, hucksters, fraudsters, swindlers of the traveling medicine shows, disguised as the big bankers and insurance companies,  who lay claims to being able to cure anything while emptying out your pocketbooks at the same time.."the too good to be true" idea that will never fail to dazzle your wounded and tired souls   BUT,   I am talking about the laying on of hands as a metaphor for the art of  re-assurance,  conferring faith on another that things are destined to be better and that if you feel I have heard you out, have listened well, that you the patient and me "la doctora" have entered into some sort of an unspoken pact...and we  both get to feeling much better  as I reach out to shake your hand and thank you for your time...