The County Mental Health Clinic’s Referral


My telephone was cradled between my left ear and my shoulder, as I pounded the keyboard of the sluggish rural county computer with one of the requisite patient visit fill-in-the-blanks atrocities — er, I mean “reports.”¬†Finally, I heard the person I was waiting for pick up the other end.
“Hello,” I said. “Is this doctor A…….(name unpronounceable to native speakers of English)?”
-“Yes,” he answered, “I am the only doctor here.”
“This is Doctor Goldstein. I am one of the psychiatrists at the county mental health clinic.”
-“Really? And you call me?”
“Yes,” I said. He seemed to be scared of me.
I continued. “I am sure you are a busy man” I told him, “but there is a patient whom we are both seeing, and she is not doing very well. I want to ask if you can help her, for I can not do very much for her. You can help her.”
He hesitated and then croaked in a trembling voice -“I am not so powerful as you think.”
“It won’t be that hard for you.” I was trying to bolster him up, now.
“I told your nurse I wanted to talk to you about Patty M. I know you see a lot of patients, but she is very young, very obese, poorly dressed, and cries a lot. She is suffering greatly and I think you can help her.”
-“Yes, of course I remember.”
I went on. “She has a hip that really hurts her. I think it is congenital. Maybe she needs surgery. She has stopped her pain medicines as they make her depression even worse. She walks poorly.”
He seemed surprised. “You know of this?”
It is hard not to notice someone who winces in pain with every step. “I used to be a surgeon. I did a couple of hip replacements, back in the day. Can we get her a cane, at least? Maybe some physical therapy?”
-“Of course, nothing is easier. We will do everything you want. You are right; she has suffered greatly. We will do everything. We will send her to the best specialist at U.C.L. A.” He went on.”You are a learned woman. I will do your bidding of course.”
I know he is an overworked doctor in a public clinic, but I could not believe he had missed the pain this young woman suffered with every step.
I needed to thank him.”You will be much blessed for your kindness to this young woman.” He had to know how important this was.
“You will be blessed for telephoning me in this manner,” he replied in a courtly manner
Since he respected me and would do my bidding, I offered to refer him more patients. He said, “only if needed. I have plenty.”
Temporarily satisfied, I silently rejoiced that maybe one person would be helped. Then, I went back to work, trying to find the time to make more phone calls.

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