For chapter 9 click here: Chapter 9
To go to chapter 1 of the novel click here: Chapter 1
(Author’s note: This chapter has multiple pages. Please click the number at the bottom to continue reading the next page)
“What can I do for you today Mrs. Tipton?” Owen asked as she entered his office with her son Aaron.
As they sat in front of Owen, Mrs. Tipton seemed very worried.
“Dr. I am afraid Aaron has an internal injury to his knee,” She said pointing to Aaron’s knee.
When he saw Mrs. Tipton’s name on the list that morning Owen had smiled and placed a check mark against it. He had started his practice almost thirty years ago. In those early years, the parents of his patients used to believe in the knowledge possessed by the doctors. When the doctor diagnosed an ailment and prescribed a medicine it was taken as a gospel. But lately things had changed. People like Mrs. Tipton were educated professionals with computer Savvy. They parsed the internet and mined the data for any sickness before they came in to see their doctor. Mrs. Tipton, for example, would quote WebMD or what she had heard on TV from Dr. Oz or Sanjay Gupta.
Owen always kept his cool and tried to convince parents like Mrs. Tipton about why their child’s case was different from what they had read or heard. To be a good doctor he knew he had to be patient. Just like in shopping where the customer is always right in medical practice the patient is always right, thought Owen, even though sometimes misguided. He realized that if a doctor gets mad or argumentative he gets a bad reputation and loses the patient.
“How are you Aaron?” Owen said turning to Aaron. “How’s your football practice?”
“Well, I haven’t played since last week. I can’t walk.” Aaron said with a sad face.
“Would you like to tell me when it happened and how?”
“Dr. do you think he tore his ACL?” Mrs. Tipton interjected without waiting for son to speak. She looked very serious.
“Why don’t you tell me what happened, Aaron?” Owen asked the young boy, ignoring Mrs. Tipton.
“I was running on the field, sort of for warming up. All of a sudden I get this pain in my knee, like something moved.”
“Let’s see.” Owen asked Aaron to stand on one leg, the one with the bum knee.
Aaron had difficulty putting his weight on the leg. Owen asked Aaron to lie down on his back on the examination table. He bent his knees and pressed the muscles behind his thigh and asked where it hurt. Aaron made an ouch sound when Owen pressed his thigh.
“Could it be his sciatica Dr.?” it was Mrs. Tipton again.
Owen wanted to ignore her, but resisted. It was better to be patient and explain.
“I’m glad you are considering the possibilities Mrs. Tipton, but I think Aaron is lucky. He seems to have pulled his hamstring. It happens and happens suddenly.” Owen said calmly.
“But why would he feel pain in his knee?”
“MOM.” Aaron turned towards Mrs. Tipton to show he was embarrassed by his mother’s nagging questions before Owen had finished his examination.
“Ok. Ok. But I had read all these symptoms on WebMD. I was worried.” Mrs. Tipton said.
“That’s Ok, Mrs. Tipton.” Owen said. “It’s better to do research, but one can’t be sure about all that is available on the Internet. They only give generic information and all the myriads of possibilities. Only a personal exam in a doctor’s office confirms a diagnosis.”
Mrs. Tipton seemed to quiet down.
“Here’s what I am going to recommend.” Owen said, turning towards Aaron. “I’ll give you a print out with some exercises for this condition. Follow the instructions. It will take a few weeks, but I bet you’ll be back to normal before you know it.”
“If there is a problem, or if you have any more questions, just send me an e-mail.” Owen said as he escorted them out.
“Do we need a follow-up appointment?”
“We’ll wait and see. Keep me informed on Aaron’s progress.
Owen knew that was not the end of it.
The type of patients or parents of patients doing their research before coming to see him was slowly increasing. Owen just accepted that as a growing phenomenon, a sign of the increasing use of the computer, promotion of health related sites and advice columns in newspapers, magazines and TV. Doctors who were not sure of themselves were sometimes irritated by such patients. Owen, on the other hand, wanted to make the best use of the technology. He hired a web design service and opened a web site for his practice. The web site had information on common health problems and helpful hints on how to cope with them. It also had a feature where his patients could send him a message for follow-up and receive an answer without coming into the office.
Owen was an active member of the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP). He attended their annual conferences and seminars to increase his professional network and to keep on top of the latest technology, procedures and instruments. His diary had a collection of special cases and encounters with patients.
One day in November Owen was pleasantly surprised to receive a letter from the AAP. He knew he was current with his dues for the year. Perhaps it is an advanced notice of next year’s conference, he thought. He was partially right. The letter did mention that the 2009 conference was to be held in Montego Bay, Jamaica.
The AAP 2009 conference committee is in the process of finalizing its program. The letter said. We would like to invite you to be a member of a panel to discuss the effect of the internet on patient behavior. Your experience and insight would be of immense value to the membership.
Owen was planning to attend the conference as he did every year, but the surprise invitation to participate in a panel discussion was more of a reason to do so. He took a deep breath after reading the invitation. He was proud that he had been selected to be a part of the panel. It was an honor and a professional recognition by peers. He put the letter in his coat pocket lest he forget later on. He wanted Agnes to see it for herself.
When he returned home that night, he informed Agnes about the letter and asked her if she wanted to accompany him. Agnes had never been to the Caribbean and readily agreed. She started thinking of things she could do while Owen was busy with his meetings. There was the town of Negril she could visit for shopping. She was sure the conference committee would arrange for the excursion. She was charged up and began planning to shop for clothes she should have for the trip. Although her wardrobe was substantial, Agnes always bought something new for special occasions.