As you might imagine, the transition from two weeks on two wheels on the shores and islands of Scotland back to Litchfield took a bit more than a soft landing by the KLM pilot, a healthy meal and a sound night's sleep. And like anyone else returning to work from a holiday, I was not over-enthused about unlocking the office door on that Monday morning. Oh, the paperwork! The bills! The inventory!
So it was with some trepidation on Monday morning that I leaned my mechanical steed into the parking lot, slowed to a stop, and looked around. The first thing that I noticed was that the lawn was neatly manicured and the walk swept clean.
I unlocked the door and walked in. The dark blue carpet of the waiting room was the first thing that jumped out at me. Usually this carpet is a bit of a mess, receiving a daily coating of dirt, grass clippings, and whatever else patients bring in with them (note to those starting their own businesses: Never, ever, ever use a solid dark color in public areas, never mind how impressive it looks. You will spend either half of your working life or half of your payroll budget keeping the darn thing clean.)
Today, however, it was spotless. I opened the door to the hallway, and was greeted by more clean carpeting, cupboards and countertops neatly wiped down, everything sparkling.
While it was tempting to attribute this to worker fairies who stole in during the night and plied their cleanliness magic, the truth was much more prosaic and important.
During my abscence, my ever-suffering office manager Teresa had taken it upon herself to make a clean sweep of the place and return it to the pristine condition that she knows I prefer. She even pressed her sons into maintaining the premises outside, and although I understand there was some largesse involved on my part, it still went above and beyond what I could expect from an employee. And it is true, Teresa is far more than an employee. She is part of what makes the Center a living breathing entity. She's the first person that patients see and the last to say goodbye to them. To a large extent, my success as a doctor rides on her capable shoulders.
And I probably don't say this nearly enough. Thank you very much Teresa.
After that brighter-than-expected start, I settled in to the business of being a doctor, which, in primary care, often involves seeing patients. And one after another asked about my trip, and said how glad they were that I had returned. Slowly, my mind and spirit was dragged back -- however unwillingly -- from magical Dunedin, and not only to the business at hand, but a slowly dawning recognition. Or, perhaps, re-recognition.
Over the years, I had begun to forget the magic that I represent to many of my patients, most of whom had unsuccessfully sought relief for their illnesses for months or years before landing on my doorstep. Somehow, I developed the reputation of being the house of last resort, which may be seen by some as a backhanded compliment -- "Heck, nothing else works, might as well try Dr. J..." but which I've always felt to be an honor. To some patients, I'm the guy who could fix what nobody else could.
The interesting thing is that, really, I'm just doing what I'm trained to do. Observing, listening, testing, looking for patterns...I just use a different map than most doctors do, and that map gives me landmarks and lesser-known paths that are obscured by the superhighways on other doctors' maps.
Still, though, I had forgotten what an actual honor it is to be that person in someone's life. Until, that Monday, when patients started hugging me.
I had timed several therapeutic interventions to launch and proceed through the early phases, where my assistance might be required, before I left for Scotland, and to conclude upon my return so that I could again assist on re-entry, as it were.
Happily, we were successful in all quarters, and my patients' achievements were manifest. They were so happy and enthused over their success, and I reveled with them. And they thanked me, and to a man or woman, they each hugged me.
And with those hugs, I remembered that beyond the bills, the thieving insurance companies, the mendacious pharma companies, and the tremendous forces levied against my profession -- beyond all of that is the heartfelt thanks of one person to another.
And that, I remembered, is why 20 years ago, I embarked on a radical journey to become a chiropractic physician.
So, to all of my patients, let me say: Thank you. You are doing all the hard work, I'm just here to guide you along the way a little bit. And thank you for trusting me with your health, and the health of your loved ones.