“Would You Take Me Back?”

Eleanor Burrill reminded me Friday that she turns 90 next month. She has been a patient here as long as I remember, even though she lives in the next town and has to drive 20 miles to get here. We see her once a month or more, because she has to get her bloodwork done to regulate her blood thinner.

She has always been an inspiration because of her vivid intellect and never-ceasing curiosity about how things work, not just her blood sugar, pulse and blood pressure, which she diligently records every day in her monthly planner. Eleanor has a hunger for knowledge and even surfs the Internet. There, she also keeps in contact with her great-grandchildren.

She has always maintained a dignity and a certain distance. I have always thought of her as quite a lady.

She looked serious this time, and after we had taken care of her prescriptions, she told me:

“You know I’ll be ninety next month. I’m afraid I might be getting too old to be driving through moose country to come and see you, especially with winter coming…”

“I can understand that.”

“So I have made an appointment to see the new doctor at Tall Pines Medical Group at the end of next month. Believe me, it was not an easy decision, but I know it’s time. I wish you were closer.”

“You know, I think that’s a wise decision. It will be so much more convenient for you.”

“I didn’t want to hurt your feelings. You have been so good to me.”

“I don’t take this personally at all. You need to be practical and do what works best for you. I hope it works out well for you.”

We both got up from our chairs and shook hands. As I opened the exam room door for her and stepped aside to let her leave the room first, she turned back towards me.

“Thank you. I have a question, though.”


“If I don’t feel comfortable with Dr. Selig, would you consider taking me back?”

“Of course I would!”

She smiled, turned away and made her way down the hall.

I should have hugged her.

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Osler said “Listen to your patient, he is telling you the diagnosis”. Duvefelt says “Listen to your patient, he is telling you what kind of doctor he needs you to be”.


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