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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, October 20, 2018 1:00 am

Area's medical helpers 'saints of the ordinary'

Bob Lockwood

Had a friend way back when who spent his last days living in a retirement home for priests. Priests back then were routinely serving into their 80s, so this was an older crew.

Each evening before dinner, they would gather for an hour and a nip or two would be served. My buddy called it “Whine and Cheese” because most of the time was spent complaining about aches and pains, some days old, others decades old. A nip didn't help. But it didn't hurt.

I was a younger guy and only half-listened to the tale of aging woe. Then I slipped out for a smoke. So it goes.

We react today with a pill rather than a nip. I have few contemporaries of retirement age who don't have a medicine cabinet over the bathroom sink filled with, well, medicine. I'm not talking the opiates. Rather, these are pills for what most of us didn't even know was going south.

It was a first visit with a new doc when I relocated to Fort Wayne from Pittsburgh. Took the mandatory blood tests and he told me I needed pills for something or other. Finished off the prescription and passed a new blood test. Hooray.

I asked the doc how much longer I had to take the pills. Punch line: “The rest of your life.” And that's how it began. I now take 11 pills daily.

That's my whine. But cheese does come with it. Since I have been tossed into the eternal medical mish-mash of the doctors, surgeons, specialists, nurse practitioners – all the Grand Poobahs – I spend most of the time with the good old boys and girls down the line.

The kids in the pharmacy, the clerks, schedulers, co-pay collectors, endless paper-filler-outers, valet parkers – these are the people who really run things when I need that prescription, medical office visited or forms signed. Patron saints of the ordinary.

The lady was printing out the forms I have to initial, sign, initial, sign that are exactly the same that I filled out two floors up. I mention that and she shakes her head and says, “Isn't that something?”

But I've interrupted her. She's been talking about her dog and that's worth more than forms. I realize that the dog she is talking about has not been with us for a long time. I think of the line from the old song “Mr. Bojangles”: “The dog up and died ... and after 20 years (s)he still grieves.”

The valets at Lutheran who park my car knew my name by the second visit and had my schedule down pat by the third.

Bluntly, the valets see people at their worst. Their customers are sick, but the last place they want to be is where they find themselves. Stuff is going to happen. Another pill, for sure. But there is the valet smiling into the grumpiness.

The exception proved the norm. I arrived on my time and a new valet – a young girl – didn't like the way I pulled the car to the curb. Broke her personal valet rules. I got a brief chewing out. When I was leaving, a caregiver was getting her turn for the way she was handling a wheelchair. We figured she got the job through a judge. Next day, the girl was gone. Never saw her again.

The valets don't take a dime for a tip and not even an umbrella. It was doing a Hoosier drenching one noontime. From my working days, I must have five cheap umbrellas in the back seat. I offered the valet one and she looked at it like stolen money. Then she jogged off hatless in the rain to get somebody's car.

At the neighborhood pharmacy, I feel like Tim Allen on the old “Home Improvement” show where they had a cup with his name on it at the emergency room. They all know my full name and date, month, year of birth.

A few weeks back, I was working on something and the spouse said she'd pick up my prescriptions at the pharmacy. When she got home, she laughed and said all the kids working there were worried something had gone wrong with me.

One of the kids at the pharmacy drive-up told me one day I had a great smile. I wanted to wise-guy it – “The best money can buy!” – but just said “thanks.” I'm mostly invisible to young women. She made my day.

Good souls all around Fort Wayne medicine. Much more cheese than whine.