When I was growing up, back when dinosaurs prowled the earth, there was another extinct species that prowled the earth with them – doctors who made home visits.
In our neighborhood, every child born in the 50s and 60s grew up under the soothing, if somewhat loud, ministrations of Dr. Di Nicolantonio, referred to by children and parents alike as Dr. DiNick.
His family owned the Venice Restaurant across the street from my dad’s store. The only time anyone wavered even slightly in their belief that his appearance alone could cure all illnesses was when his nephew contracted polio. But the boy lived and everyone heaved a sigh of relief and concluded that even polio couldn’t beat Dr. DiNick.
No one had much in the way of health insurance back then. Many parents, like mine, owned their little store and lived from day to day on it’s sales. So calling for the doctor meant your mom thought you were really sick. You’d lie there in bed, feverish, scratchy throat, coughing, and suddenly you’d hear this booming voice coming down the hallway asking where that sick kid was.
And you knew immediately that two things would happen. One is that you were going to get better. Two is that from his magic black bag he would pull the cure for whatever ailed you.
He’d plop the bag on your bureau, pull out his medical instruments and check you from stem to stern, never once lowering the volume of his voice. Being raised as a strict Catholic, I always figured he had to talk loud so God could hear him and help him make me better.
When my sister developed the worse case of measles the century had ever seen, and her temperature hit 105 and moved towards 106, she wasn’t rushed to any hospital. We didn’t have the money for that. Instead, she was placed in my mother’s bed and sponged bathed continuously. Dr, DiNick was there from early in the morning to late at night. He came by on his way to work, he called during the day, he stopped on his way home, he called before he went to bed. My parents never felt alone with the crisis and never expected anyone but him to be on the other end of the phone.
No answering services. No doctors covering for him. No request to bring my sister to the emergency room and he’d see her in the morning.
As I enter the last third of my life, I find myself using more medical services than I ever thought possible. I’m happy about the advances that have been made that have given me a chance to live longer than my grandparents who had the same illness. But I do miss the comfort of a Dr. DiNick.
The only place I find anything like it is in the offices of alternative medicine practitioners, holistic healers and chiropractors. These health care workers look at the whole of me, make it a point to remember who I am and what’s important in my life. They ask about my family, my pets, my life. I’m more than a series of numbers from a blood test or symptoms from an exam. When I leave their offices I not only feel better, I am better because they engage all of me in the healing process. And they engage themselves with me.
A friend of mine recently went for a physical to a large medical practice. For an inordinate amount of money, he was seen for a limited period of time, touched and looked at hardly at all and pronounced healthy without ever even disrobing. He could have had advanced skin cancer all over his body and it would have been missed.
This same friend then went to a holistic healer. He came out amazed. Three practitioners had been in the room with him. They had met his eyes, talked to him as though he were more than a compilation of statistics, and given him a treatment that provided substantial relief for a condition that western medicine only treats with drugs and surgery.
I know modern medicine has made great strides for which we should be grateful. It’s just a sin that so much of it’s humanity seems to have gotten lost along the way. I wish Dr.DiNIck could come back and show them how it’s done.