Last week, I got fired by my cardiologist. Well, perhaps reassigned might be a better word. Allow me to explain.
First of all, some background. As part of my work-up to see the cardio doc — recommended by my family physician four years ago — a lot of information was put on those initial forms we all get hit with at the doctor's office. In my case, I was honest about the 16 years as a younger man spent in the “party lifestyle” of substance abuse.
But more than being honest, I've given my testimony about those years and getting through that period hundreds of times, whether it's the Cliffs Notes version of around 10 minutes or up to a half-hour, depending on the depth you want to go. This newspaper and another one have also printed the less-harrowing account.
The young nurse took my blood pressure, good there. Then she asked questions about medications, one for cholesterol and another for joint pain. The former is a statin drug, and while I hear many people throw off on statins and their side-effects, the one I experience — muscle soreness — is counteracted by taking CoQ10 supplements. Since starting this regimen, my cholesterol score has dropped around 100 points. That makes me a believer.
She left and the cardiologist came in. He looked over my stress test results from two years ago and said I did well for someone who — like many peers my age — has some plaque buildup in the vessels around the old ticker. He asked me about activity level, and I mentioned walking, swimming 1-2 days a week, lifting light weights and sometimes-hard physical labor when my remodeling work calls for it.
He said it sounded like I was getting stress tests almost every week, and I heartily agreed (sorry). There have been genetic issues working against me — Dad struggled with high blood pressure, and swinging a club with his golfing friends while riding in golf carts around the course was the only exercise respite he got from working behind a desk for decades. Mom had historically-high cholesterol, and I inherited that as well. The only time I remember them getting any exercise together was working in our small garden.
As far as their first-born son, leaving full-time newspapering that entailed spending 90% of the day behind a desk more than two years ago probably has helped my health more than anything, especially by losing 10-15 pounds. For decades I've striven to get a rugby-player body below 200 on the scales, and now I'm hovering just above 190 pounds.
Up to this point, my cardiologist had been calling me “Buddy” in every other sentence, and I was fine with that. Many Southern males and some females, too, use this designation for a friend or someone we're simply trying to be friendly toward. Then he flipped back a couple of pages on my chart and came to my past unhealthy indiscretions, shall we say.
He asked me how that was going and I said fine. Then he ventured further: “How did you get through that?”
I paused and waited until he looked me in the eyes, since the only time he had done that before was when he walked into the room.
“Jesus Christ,” I replied.
When I sense an open door, most of the time I'll walk through it. Now it was my turn to venture, even though I sure haven't been a perfect Christian witness with my words and actions — if there is such a thing on this earthly plane. I've clung on more than one occasion to 1 John 1:9 as a life buoy.
“Doc, when I was younger my biggest fear was public speaking,” I began. “Nothing terrified me more than the thought of standing up before a group of people and having to speak.” (I didn't go into the details of dropping out of Public Speaking 101 at Dalton Junior College around 47 years ago, even though our professor told me in front of the class after my second speech I had improved. It was the thinking about standing up and speaking that made me toss and turn and lose sleep the night before.)
“Oftentimes when God has given you a gift or ability in some area there will be barriers and obstacles placed in your way to keep you from realizing what it is,” I continued. “After I turned my life over to God, he helped me lose my fear of public speaking. Now I speak in front of people every week as a pastor, and I'm not afraid to speak before other groups.”
Then, after flipping the papers back to close my chart, “We'll see you again in another year. Next time you'll be seeing Dr. Jones (not her real name). She's a Christian.”
I followed him out into the hall. He said, “I'll tell Suzy (not the appointment lady's real name) you'll be seeing Dr. Jones next year.”
No “Seeya, Buddy, keep up the good work” when he turned on his heel and strode back down the hall.
I said, “Thanks, Doc,” anyway.
So that's how I got “fired” by my cardiologist — but not the clinic. It's part of a hospital group that has more than 750 doctors and 3,000 employees.
Even with all our adages and nifty quotes regarding success, God doesn't guarantee it. At least the good doctor (and my former cardiologist) couldn't say he'll stop seeing me because of opening my big mouth and spewing the gospel all over him. We were both wearing masks.
Mark Millican is a former staff writer for the Daily Citizen-News.