Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Doctor's Office

Doctor's Office 8.5" x 11" ink
When I was a child, I loved comic books, along with the movies. And, every Sunday, as kids, we spread the funny papers on the floor to read while the grownups visited, cooked, or took a nap. The funny papers were part of life, just like movies, radio programs, and magazines. There was a time when the newspapers didn't come out, so our president, FDR, read the funny papers over the radio. I don't recall that I heard the broadcast, though.
I also had a need to express myself with pictures and stories from a very early age. We didn't have art classes in school then. There were a couple of artists in town, and one who was an art teacher in a city, during the school year. But one was busy with her own creations, and the other took care of her elderly mother in the summer. I didn't know there was any such thing as art lessons or classes. Still, I would use notebook paper, pocket note pads that stores gave out to customers, or whatever I could find, and try to draw, as children will do. I didn't know that my mother had taken art classes when she was in school, and had done beautiful drawings. Later, she brought out oil paint and became serious about painting. But, when I was small, she was busy with things like washday on Monday, when they had to scrub clothes in the sink on a rubboard in the kitchen, then take them outside to a washpot over a fire, then hang them on a clothesline to dry. Tuesday was ironing day. Wednesday was housecleaning day. And on the week went until Saturday when she practiced the organ, and Sunday when she played the organ for church, then we had family dinners. In between, she had piano lessons to give, and two little girls and a husband to care for. So, I wasn't aware of her doing any art work until I was about junior high school age. I probably wouldn't have listened, if she had offered suggestions. I had to just find out things for myself.
One of my early attempts at art just almost stopped my whole career. My mother had Olan Mills portraits taken of my sister and me to give for Christmas presents. She had one color picture done, the rest were black and white to give to the relatives. That was all she could afford, she explained.
Unfortunatley, she showed me the pictures and I was so disappointed that the pictures were not all in color. I thought that would be terrible to give the inferior pictures as presents. My mother put the pictures in one of her hiding places-the hall linen closet. Well, while she was busy with things in the kitchen one day, I just couldn't stand it any longer. I got out her lipstick and some crayons and gave those pictures some hair color, lipstick, cheek color, and eye color. I was fixing those portraits! Now they would be colorful and good enough to give as presents! I think I only finished one when I heard her leaving the kitchen. I quickly returned the pictures to the closet and went into another room.
My mother took the portraits from the closet, ready to wrap them for presents. I was standing beside her, waiting to see how pleased she would be when she saw how I had fixed the picture and sure she would ask me to fix the rest of them.
I was horrified when my mother gripped the pictures and stood there in the hall, screaming, with tears rolling down her face. She didn't say a word. She didn't even spank me with the hairbrush. She just kept screaming! I didn't know why. Those pictures now had some color!
I took my art "underground" after that. I took my crayolas to decorate under the kitchen sink, and crawled inside the kitchen cabinets to decorate under that sink. When we had dinners at my great-aunt's house, I would take kids under the table to play while the grownups visited after dinner. Hidden by the tablecloth, we could tell secrets and practice writing and drawing. I taught the younger ones to do their ABCs on the underside of the table. Years later, my great-aunt couldn't figure out where those childish crayon markings came from under her good dining room table.
Inspired by radio programs and movies, or just having a need to draw, or maybe it was because my mind drifted and I wanted to be somewhere else rather than in school, I would start out diligently doing my school work. But, soon, I started drawing on my paper. I thought I had always hidden my creations by drawing on one piece of paper, and covering it with what I was supposed to be working on. When the teacher came by, I would slide the drawing underneath and pretend to be struggling with the answers. I guess they really knew what I was doing.
When I wanted to draw something and didn't know how, like an eye or nose from the side, a foot or hand, I would go to the Sunday funny papers for help. I would see how the artist drew that certain thing in strips like "Blondie", "Prince Valiant", or "Steve Canyon". Then I would try to remember and practice it when I returned to my drawing.
At one time, I learned how to draw one leg on people, but I didn't know how to draw the other leg. So, I had all these people with one leg, for a couple of years, until I figured out how to add the other leg. A few years ago, I found a compostition book that was mine when I was in school, with some of my little stories and characters I had drawn. I was inspired to draw one after a movie or two about pirates. I had a story called "The Pirate and the Beautiful Lady". Well, at least, I had the characters drawn and worked out. I had all these people, all with only one leg-including the "beautiful lady"!
As a result of the way I learned to draw, I seem to revert back to my cartoon style, when I am just thinking of something. No matter how many classes and workshops I have taken, and how I can actually do something a bit more polished, that cartoon style will still come out at times.
At one time, I did a weekly cartoon strip for my hometown newspaper, based on daily life there. So many people have gone, though, that life would seem to be different and those cartoons seem more like history now.
The cartoon above is about my visit to the specialist I was sent to after being told I had to go there right away. I was sure that all I needed was glasses.
I was apprehnesive enough, having the weekend to worry about what they might do to me. My daughter drove me to the appointment and waited in the waiting room for me.
I stopped at the door, startled by a sign that said, "If you're sick, don't come in." It added, "Go home and call for another appointment."
Well, I had to think a bit about that one. I understand that it was a different kind of doctor's office, not one where you would normally go if you had something like a sore throat. It just sounded rude, to me, though. What else is a doctor for, but to treat the sick? If you weren't sick, you wouldn't be there, unless you just need a check up or paperwork filled out.
There was another sign at the check in desk, that said they wanted payment before you saw the doctor. I thought that was odd, too. How could you even know how much it was going to be before you saw the doctor! I got even more scared, thinking that it must be so bad that people wouldn't be able to pay after they saw the doctor.
I filled out the new patient forms, gave the receptionist my drivers license and teacher retirement insurance card to copy. I sat down, and waited. The receptionist told me that my insurance would pay for it, so I just had to pay the copay. I was prepared to pay the $132.50 that the other doctor said an eye exam would cost. I was almost shaking and tried to relax by starting to draw. That always brings the nurses out to get me!
I was taken to a little room where more questions were asked and I was given a routine exam with the "machine", eye chart, and drops to dilate and check the pressure in my eyes.
I told them about having the inside of my eyes sunburned while I was working at a track meet years before, and the "migrane" I had in my eyes a couple of years before while I was teaching. That didn't seem to be important.
Then, I was taken to another room for more eye check ups, then to another room for an angiogram and several eye scans. This was not easy since I am one of those people that technicians, nurses, and doctors have a hard time hitting a vein. I usually faint after they probe for a while. I congratulated this techician for being able to get a vein with 3 tries! I tried to relax and not faint.
Lights flashed and I saw things inside my eyes that were really strange. Floaters, that I knew I had, and it was as if I could actually see inside my eye. Blood vessels and all.
The doctor came in with something that looked like a clipboard, but it had a computer screen. He showed me the scans and told me that I had some "pretty fair" cataracts, and wet macular degeneration. He handed me some booklets to read. By then, I could barely see.
In my cartoon, above, "Doctor's Office", I have shown the front of a doctor's office. Dr. Arex (as in rx for prescripitons) is ficticious, of course, as are the other characters. Nurses don't wear uniforms like that anymore, but, how else would we recognize a nurse unless she had a uniform. According to the sign, the doctor only wants to see you if you really don't need a doctor, for anything serious, especially, and if you have plenty of money with you to pay right away. No waiting around for things like insurance payments. A hand reaches out, hidden from view of the patients, expecting cash to be put in the palm before anyone can proceed further. The nurse has a little sympathy for the patients, but the hand doesn't even acknowledge them. The hand believes that all old people have plenty of money hidden away, so she isn't concerned about them-just as long as they pay in full.
Two patients approach the door, not knowing that they needed to bring money, or that they needed to be well, before approaching this doctor's office. They have been injured. He is cut and bleeding, and her eye is hanging out. They hesitate as they read the signs. But can they really wait? Will the doctor see them, even if they are sick, and didn't bring a lot of cash with them? Can they make it to a hospital emergency room, which will cost even more?
And, speaking of the doctor, where is he? He isn't involved in the decision as to whether or not he can or will take care of these patients. He is sheltered, protected by the "hand" up front, from whatever might walk through the front door. He will only see patients who are approved.
And what are those who are not approved supposed to do? That isn't his problem, or "the hand's" problem, or even the company's problem.
It wasn't all that long ago that it cost $5 or $10 to see a doctor. Most people didn't have insurance. It was possible for people to pay for most treatments. Church groups, relatives, the bank, or communities helped pay for expenses when someone in town needed more medical care than they had money for. Doctors would come to the patient's home. They were not only the doctor, but were civic leaders, trusted friends, and respected community leaders. Some did let their power go to their head. Some had rude people working for them as receptionists or nurses. Some doctors were gruff, or were selective in who they saw. But, there was care for almost everyone. People could work with the doctors and make sure that the whole family was cared for.
Now, if people don't have insurance, plus cash, and a lot of it, it seems that more and more people are just out of luck.
My primary doctor had told me that I would have to take certain medications the rest of my life, and that I needed to have tests done, and surgery on my knees. I explained to her that her company would expect to be paid. She hugged me, told me that things would work out for me, she would pray for me, and I should be sure to go to church, as she walked away. I was stunned, knowing that there was nothing I could do. I just tried to smile.
"Doctor's Office" was drawn with ink on cardstock.

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