You're giving me a hernia 2015.10.21


I had an episode of déjà vu as I started to write a column about an interaction David and I had in the kitchen Monday night. It sent me searching my computer for the word “hernia.”

I was tucking my shirt into my longjohns after a really long eventful day, enjoying that lovely let-it-all-hang-out feeling when I change out of work clothes and slip into my very thick and comfortable Polartec longjohns. As I tucked in my shirt, David reached over, patted my stomach and jokingly said, “You got a hernia, too?”

“You know, I probably do!” I exclaimed. It’s a running joke between us that I think I have every disease I hear about.

“I don’t really have a fat stomach, I have a hernia!” I exclaimed again, delighted with the new explanation for my protruding stomach.

David, the guy with the real, diagnosed hernia to be operated on today, reached for the counter, bent over with laughter.

“You’re going to give me a double hernia,” he said through his laughter.

That’s pretty much the end of that story, and, unfortunately, not long enough for a whole column. But my computer search resulted in a 1999 document labeled, “letter to dr. d.” I can’t remember if I ever actually sent him this letter upon his retirement, but it brought back fond memories.

Dear Dr. Diccion,

I suppose you’re entitled to retire, but I’m sure not happy about your decision. Your medical presence in this community will be greatly missed.

It took me a while to come around to home-town doctoring. When I first moved to Morenci I sought medical care with the out-of-town specialists—first an OB/GYN, then a pediatrician. I don’t remember when I first looked to you for medical care but I sure wish it had been sooner.

Your patience, concern, generosity, expertise and knowledge in medical matters were greatly appreciated. But what I will miss the most is the way you treated me as a person. When I asked questions, you answered me completely and forthrightly, never with condescension. You were never demeaning. Although I’m sure you didn’t agree with my opinions, you accepted me as I was and did not try to foist your views upon me. 

OK, so you gave me prescriptions for antibiotics you knew I didn’t want to give my kids or take myself, but I always felt it was my choice—and not an order from an all-knowing Godlike physician that I was required to carry out. Perhaps you would have rathered that I saw you that way, but my image of you is a person who knows there are other ways and is willing to discuss other options—even though you may not agree with them.

The most outstanding moment when I look back over the years of doctoring with you is the night Maddy was born at home. You may remember the trouble. Maddy was born without incident but then, as David tells it, “What was supposed to come out didn’t and what wasn’t supposed to come out did.” 

I remember David calling you when we realized I would have to go to the hospital. You met us there, performed the necessary procedures and advised I stay overnight for observation. I wasn’t too thrilled with that idea, but I was thrilled when you agreed to let me go home when my midwife offered to spend the night at my house and monitor my blood pressure and temperature. That kind of willingness to work with the patient’s desires is one of the things that makes you so special. 

My friends from New York City were amazed when I told them the story of Maddy’s “after birth.” 

“You call this doctor at 11 p.m. and he meets you at the hospital and you’re home in three hours?”

It’s the kind of care I’ve become accustomed to and the kind of care that I imagine will be irreplaceable.   

And will we ever find a doctor who provides us with humorous moments in medicine?     

We still kid Ben about the first time he came to you for a sports physical. David had warned him about the test for hernias but Ben couldn’t understand your accent when you asked him to cough. Sitting in front of Ben, but with your back to me, you instructed him, “Cough, Ben, cough.” 

I can still see the bewildered expression on Ben’s face as he looked to me for interpretation. “What did he say? What do I do?” his eyes frantically asked. I quietly pantomimed coughing and tried desperately not to laugh at the poor kid.

On one of my last visits to you, you prescribed antibiotics to treat a pesky, recurring eye infection. I had to laugh when you went into your office and came back with a sample antibiotic. 

You said something like, “I want you to take this now because I know you won’t when you leave here.”

And then you went back into your office and came out with a little cup of water from your own personal water fountain and stood there until I downed the pill. You reminded me of Jewish mothers everywhere and I accepted the pill in the spirit in which it was given.

As I told you at the open house, if you insist on retiring, I guess I’m just not going to get sick anymore.


Colleen Leddy

But I might have a hernia.