Monday, October 16, 2017
THE GOOD DOCTOR
I was diagnosed with a heart problem when I was 4 years old. That was in 1939 and there wasn't much in the way of diagnostic tests at that time. The cardiologist my parents took me to said don't play any running games, don't go above 4,000 feet altitude, sit on the sidelines during recess, and come back in a year. I did what they said. I had a different kind of childhood and my schooling was always different from all the other kids. It made me an odd child. But I always carried with me the idea that I could cause my heart to kill me if I was didn't do what the doctor said.
When I married, the doctor, not a cardiologist, said childbirth will give us a good idea of what your heart will do. Although I eventually had 4 children, I had no heart problems, but I still always had doctors who focused on my heart. And I always had a cardiologist.
In 2000, doctors began saying no, I didn't have a heart problem. I didn't believe them. After all, I almost lost my childhood over my bad heart, and something had to justify that.
When I turned 65 and retired I chose a Senior Advantage medical plan and selected my Primary Care doctor. I also found a new cardiologist, Dr. Charles M. Cowan, and made an appointment to see him. I had all my records sent to him.
At the first appointment I told him my woeful heart story. He said he wanted to review my records, ordered an echocardiogram (my first) and told me to come back in a month. He did, and I did. When I saw Dr. Cowan again, he took my hand and in a kind, sweet voice he said, "Honey, your heart is perfect except for 3 very tiny little holes that just never grew together as you grew up. They are so tiny that together they make a funny noise, but that isn't a heart problem. You don't need me. You need to go home and live a normal life.
I was stunned. I finally got him to agree to let me come once a year so he could listen to my heart -- just to make sure. He laughed and told me to book an appointment for a year. There was something about him so reassuring that I finally believed what I was told. Yes, I saw him the next year, and he again assured me my heart was fine. It was his kindness and the fact that he listened to me that made me so fond of him.
But after that second appointment, I never saw him again. In 2008, he and his wife, along with a friend, were killed in a plane crash. He was the pilot, it was his plane, and it malfunctioned on takeoff from the airport at Catalina Island off the Southern California Coast. I also learned from the newspaper article of the crash that his first wife had been shot and killed in a car-jacking some years prior to my initial visit to him. She had stopped to pick up donuts for his office staff when this happened.
I think of Dr. Cowan often when I'm getting my aging body refilled and restored by my "now" doctors. I have yet to find another doctor who is as friendly, encouraging, comforting and genuinely interested not only in my health but my feelings about my health as he was. I was lucky to have him for a doctor, even for such a short time.