Doctors in Black Glass Towers
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Doctors in Black Glass Towers <br> By Marc Porter Zasada<br> UNLIKE MANY, I have great sympathy for doctors. I always try to imagine them in their youth, running across the UCLA Campus on a warm spring night, drinking in the smell of pine and the music of student chatter. I picture that tremendous moment when, looking up at the lit windows of some chemistry lab, they suddenly fell in love with science and humanity. <p> I know most doctors failed to anticipate what came later: the six patients every hour, the arguments with Cigna, the lawyers and bureaucrats waiting at the end of each day. <p> So I give doctors my sympathy, even when they glance at their watches in the middle of my expensive 10 minutes. Even when they try to make me feel like a child. Or even when a man at a party remarks, "I've moved my practice to East L.A. because poor people are less demanding of my time, but their insurance pays the same." <p> I know that both of us, patient and doctor, suffer from a system grown massive and built into black glass towers. I know that each year it gets harder to remember tremendous moments. <p> Just now it's 2am on a cold winter night, and the Urban Man waits in a crowded emergency room beneath one of those towers. I've been sitting for three hours in a hard plastic chair while breathing in short, asthmatic gasps -- a little louder when a nurse passes by. <p> At first, I directed my sympathy either to myself or that very old woman wrapped in three coats across the aisle. But over the last hour I've begun to pity the hospital staff themselves, who seem to share a certain misery with us patients. I notice how they also display rumpled clothing, unhealthy bodies, and careless grooming. Gone are starched whites and crisp uniforms. Even the doctors dress way down in this many hundred million dollar place. <p> It's as if they were saying: "Yes, once upon a time, we really were inspired -- but then we realized that like you, we too were at the mercy of a vast and unknowable thing built of scuffed hallways, rising premiums and endless paperwork. So, what the heck?" <p> Come 3am, they finally take me to the chilled, high-tech heart of the joint and they hand me a thin blanket. <p> And yes, a doctor rushes in as doctors always rush in. He's still handsome at thirty, but just now at the tail-end of an 18-hour shift. And I can see he's still recovering from the shock of real medical life--only just realizing he won't earn as much money as he expected, but people will still envy and distrust him as if he did. <p> Me, I rise to the challenge. I try to rouse not his sympathy, but his enthusiasm. I try to make an interesting case of my asthma. I try to speak directly to that boy running across a sweet nighttime campus ten years ago... and yes, for a moment, the Urban Man almost succeeds. <p> For a moment, the doctor chats. He loosens. He speculates. He forgets how we're spending hundreds of dollars a minute, and how we'll both have insurance companies to battle later on. He gives me a puff of something wonderful in a metal tube and actually suggests-I call him tomorrow. For a moment, it's as if he's hung out a little shingle and we were neither of us victims of any system, just doctor and patient, working through a knotty problem together... <p> But then a little alarm rings down the hall, a rumpled nurse appears, and we both remember we're actually in a black glass tower. <p> Copyright - 2005 Marc Porter Zasada. All Rights Reserved. <br>
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