Once when I was five, my 7-year-old sister Rosie swallowed a tiny black plastic cat she had gotten from the gumball machine at the grocery store where we were shopping with our mother. Luckily she didn’t choke on the little trinket, but instead grinned widely, filled with pride at her dubious accomplishment.
I, on the other hand, was afraid my sister would get a big tummy ache from her digestive adventure. So I tugged emphatically at Mom’s skirt to get her attention in the produce aisle.
“Mommy,” I solemnly declared, “Rosie swallowed a cat.” After being reassured that her daughter hadn’t gulped down an actual critter, Mom swept us off to the doctor’s office a few blocks away on Brookline Boulevard.
In those days—the early ’60’s—going to the doctor was a scary experience, at least to me. First, it meant sitting for an endless amount of time in a cramped, windowless, dingy waiting room surrounded by dour-faced adults who were coughing and wheezing while they grimaced or stared meanly into space. Then when it was finally your turn, it meant entering the mysterious inner sanctum of the doctor’s examining room, which always reminded me of the scene in the “Wizard of Oz” where Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion cautiously step into that long, lofty, frightening hallway leading up to the mystical Wizard.
On this particular occasion, I reluctantly accompanied Mom and my sister into the doctor’s lair, only too happy that I wasn’t the unfortunate patient. Still I watched in fascinating horror as the doctor turned off all the lights in his examining room and put Rosie behind a fluoroscope to detect the exact location of the black cat in her stomach.
After he pronounced that the cat had done no internal damage and would be harmlessly eliminated from her system within hours after she ate supper, we promptly left the doctor’s office feeling relieved, but I knew full well it wouldn’t be my last visit to that intimidating place. Each time I needed a vaccination, had a sore throat, or suffered an ailment like the measles, I would have to return to the drab waiting room and endure the tedious wait while my fears mounted at the impending examination by the doctor.
No wonder I grew up with a lingering dread of doctors’ offices lasting well into my adulthood. Though it took me a few decades, eventually I outgrew these apprehensions, but some folks never do outgrow their anxieties when it comes to seeing a doctor.
My husband, for example, still has qualms whenever it’s time for his annual physical or if he happens to become ill and requires medical attention.
One time he had walking pneumonia for three weeks without knowing it while constantly complaining about weakness and fatigue. Like an ornery mule, he refused to consult a physician, preferring to suffer needlessly rather than seek help. After much arm-twisting and cajoling, I finally succeeded in dragging him to MinuteClinic in the CVS Pharmacy on Cochran Road. It was the first time we had ever been there, and we were so impressed with the way the staff evaluated and treated his walking pneumonia that we have repeatedly returned for flu shots and vaccinations and would not hesitate to consult them for other minor illnesses or injuries.
On our most recent visit, Nurse Practitioner Kimberly Joseph couldn’t have been more friendly, attentive, and efficient. In addition, unlike the wearisome, everlasting wait in my old doctor’s dim and crowded office on Brookline Boulevard, each time we visited MinuteClinic, we had no wait time whatsoever. If you are kept waiting behind patients ahead of you, MinuteClinic found a way to alleviate that problem, too. You simply go about your business and when they are ready for you, they text you. What more could an impatient patient want?