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Carol Perkins: Guess What's Wrong

Previous Column: Memories of Recess

By Carol Perkins

For some, a visit to the doctor is an attempt to be comforted and reassured nothing is wrong. My grandmother was faithful to her doctor with a once-a-month visit to ensure she was healthy. She went after her trip to the beauty shop.

I was thinking about how varied a doctor's patients are. Unless a specialist, a doctor sees all ages and for all illnesses. Some are deathly sick, while others need comfort and reassurance. Sometimes a doctor is supposed to guess what's wrong with a patient.

Picture this: The doctor comes into a room and says, "How are you today?" to one of his monthly patients. She says, "Fine, how are you?" I'm sure the doctor wants to say, "Why are you here if you are fine?" but he knows her. "What brought you in today," he asks. The patient might say. "I don't really know what's wrong; I just feel like myself." She wants to be able to work in her garden the way she did when she was seventy.

"Do you hurt anywhere?" He has played this Guess What's Wrong With Me game with many older patients.

"Not that I can point to, but I feel tired all over. No energy."

He continues, "Is there any particular area that is bothering you?"

"My stomach hasn't been right. I wasn't gonna mention eating those onions out of the garden, but you'd figure it out. I must have eaten too many," she laughed.

"That'll do it," he says as he listens to her abdomen, heart, and lungs.

"I can't do what I used to do without getting tired," she continues. He wants to say that most people who are ninety can't do what they want to do, but he doesn't.

"We'll do blood work and make sure your levels are good." That satisfies the patient because the blood work paints a picture. She has had blood work done more than a few times.

"My shoulder still bothers me, but I know that's arthritis," she says, looking for more areas to address. She relaxes when he tells her that her heart sounds good and her lungs are clear.

We count on our doctors for more than just their medical training. Doctors often must be counselors. Patients have different personalities, and he soon learns whether they are sick or needy. Sometimes they are both. Sometimes they need a pat on the hand, and a "You're doing fine" to get through another month.

You can contact Carol at

This story was posted on 2022-09-08 10:13:40
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