Berger’s Burg: Patients deal with ups, downs of doctor visits

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The good, the bad and Dr. Kronkheit:

Dr. Kronkheit — One afternoon, Dr. Kronkheit was called to the Stirnweiss house to examine Mr. Stirnweiss, who was in terrible pain. Dr. K. came out of the bedroom a minute after he arrived and asked for a hammer. A puzzled Mrs. Stirnweiss went to the tool shed and returned with a hammer.

Dr. K. thanked her and went back into the bedroom. A moment later, he came out again and asked for a chisel. Mrs. Stirnweiss complied with the request. A few minutes after, Dr. K. asked for and received a pair of pliers and a hacksaw. “What in heaven’s name are you doing to my husband?” the frightened wife said.

“Not a thing,” Dr. K. replied. “I can’t get my darn instrument bag open.”

A man brought his limp dog into Dr. K’s office for treatment. “But I am an M.D., not a veterinarian,” Dr. K. told him.

“It’s all right, Doc, save my dog.”

“Okay,” Dr. K. replied and laid the dog on the table. He pulled out his stethoscope and placed the receptor on the dog’s chest. After a moment or two, Dr. K. shook his head and said sadly, “I am sorry, but your dog passed away.”

“Doc, are you certain?” the man asked.

Dr. K. scratched his chin and left the room. In a few minutes, he returned with a Labrador retriever and a cat. The retriever went right to the poor dog and checked it thoroughly. After a considerable amount of sniffing, the retriever shook his head.

Dr. K. then brought out the cat. She walked softly around the dog several times and also shook her head. “There is nothing more I can do,” Dr. K. admitted, and he handed the man a bill for $600.

The dog owner went berserk. “$600, just to tell me that my dog is dead?”

Dr. K. said, “If you would have taken my word for it, the cost would have been $60, but for the Lab work and the CAT scan...”

Dr. K. has many patients. They find him to be a consummate, old-fashioned medical practitioner with an impeccable bedside manner. He runs his office in a knowledgeable, compassionate and expedient way.

In this age of high-speed medicine, Dr. K. adopted a quick response to his patients’ ills. Last week, I had the “blahs.” So, I went to his office and found it full of waiting patients. But Dr. K., as always, rose to the occasion. He called in every patient in turn and I witnessed a master at work.

“Doc, you are charging too much for painting my throat.”

“What do you expect for $100 — wallpaper? Next!”

“Doc, what should I do if my temperature goes up another point?”

“Sell! Next!”

“Doc, how can I avoid falling hair?”

“Step to one side. Next!”

“Doc, every bone in my body hurts.”

“Be glad you are not a herring. Next!”

“Doc, what should I take when I get rundown?”

“The license plate number. Next!”

“Doc, I think I have developed a split personality.”

“Okay, which one is going to pay your bill? Next!”

“Doc, should I file my nails?”

“No, throw them away like everybody else. Next!”

“Doc, I get this terrible pain in my back every time I bend over.”

“Don’t bend over. Next!”

“Doc, nobody ever pays attention to me.”


“Doc, I think I have a bad liver.”

“Well, take it back to the butcher. Next!”

“Doc, are papayas healthy?”

“I never heard one complain. Next!”

“Doc, don’t you think I should get a second opinion?”

“Sure, come back tomorrow. Next!”

“Doc, I keep worrying about money.”

“I think I can relieve you of that. Next!”

“Doc, what is the flu?”

“It is just a bad cold with a great press agent. Next!”

Then it was my turn. I said, “Good morning, Doc.”

He answered, “Good day! Next!”

I went home, took two aspirins and called myself in the morning.

The Bad — Many of us have a love-hate relationship with doctors. We admire them because they perform great deeds in curing ills and saving lives. But we also know or hear about many horror stories. Everyone has one to tell. I have several.

There was a doctor who did not contact a patient when that patient’s lab tests came back positive for a serious malady. Only a chance phone call from the patient, several weeks later, uncovered this omission.

“You are not my regular patient,” was the doctor’s explanation. Fortunately, the patient was retested by another doctor and, this time, the test proved negative (my brother).

Then there was a doctor in a Southern state who stitched up a young boy to close a gaping wound. He removed the stitches when the boy’s father could not pay for the procedure (newspaper article).

How about the refusal of a California ER doctor to examine a patient who was stricken with an apparent cardiac arrest unless full payment was made in advance? The man’s wife had to drive home 29 miles to get her checkbook. By the time she returned, the patient had died (Gloria’s father).

I was a New York City managerial employee and, as such, was enrolled in the NYC health plan. Since I was blessed with good health, I never used the service for many years; however, one morning, I was awakened by a severe pain. I also had difficulty walking.

Since I did not want to ruin my perfect attendance, I dragged myself to work. But the pain proved too much, so I called the health plan office to refer me to a doctor. I was given one with office hours from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. I telephoned his office several times throughout the morning for an appointment, but no one answered.

My secretary joined in telephoning and met with the same result. So, at 3 p.m., still wracked with pain, I drove to the doctor’s office, two hours early, so I would be his first patient. I plopped myself outside the door of his locked office and waited. One hour after my arrival, a nurse arrived. I took a seat at the rear of the waiting room.

At 6 p.m., an hour late, the doctor finally marched in. As he entered, he scanned the patients sitting in the waiting room, which was now filled to capacity. He spotted me doubled up in pain and walked into his examining room. The nurse began calling patients who arrived after I did. It wasn’t until 9 p.m. (three hours later), when the office was cleared, that I was finally called.

The doctor stared at me and, before I could speak, said that he does not see patients without an appointment. I tried to explain that I called many times that morning, but no one answered the phone. The doctor then began muttering that the NYC health plan patients were all alike. They pop in whenever they please and cause his private patients much inconvenience.

He then packed up his belongings. “Make an appointment,” I heard him say, and he disappeared out the door. I hobbled home to recover on my own.

And, the year I was to marry, I discovered there was a law (since rescinded) that stipulated that no marriage could be performed unless both participants underwent a current blood test, with the results complete no sooner than three days before the marriage. So, biting my tongue, I made an appointment with Dr. “Nasty” two weeks before the marriage.

I explained that the results must be in my hands before the three-day period or I would not be allowed to marry. Everything was go. The hall and orchestra were set, the guests returned their invitations, and my tuxedo was hanging in the closet.

Eight days before the marriage, I telephoned the doctor and he said that the results were not back yet and he hung up. Seven days before, six days before and five days before. I called again with the same rude answer. I panicked.

My sister, Anna, asked what the problem was. When I told her that the marriage may have to be postponed because my blood test results were not back yet, she picked up the phone and blistered the doctor. I got the result back the very next day. The marriage went on as scheduled and I changed doctors.

The Good — To be fair, I now have a wonderful array of doctors who not only are great health providers, but also “mensches.” Now, let me tell you about dentists.

Reach columnist Alex Berger by e-mail at or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 140.

Posted 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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