My Sister, the Doctor

My sister and I are different as night and day. Her hair: wild curls with a gorgeous streak of pure gray in front. Mine: a bob bleached to near-extinction and (on good days) oiled and ironed. Her career: family doctor. Mine: marketer. Her favorite place to be: Hard to tell – Tibet? New Orleans? Seattle? Quebec? Mine: The double-pre-owned, cat-shredded sectional in my living room, watching football.

We aren’t overly close. She visits once a year, loves my son to distraction — but for some reason we don’t have the “sister mojo” that you see in the greeting card aisle. We love each other, but from a distance.

I admit it was with a repressed sigh that I embarked on her latest piece of writing. (She writes? I didn’t know that!). Our mother is in the “pass it on” stage of life, meaning she passes on everything from advice about what museums to visit; scores and scores of books; newspaper clippings; Depression glassware; sleds; vacation diaries; chapters of the genealogy tome she’s writing; etc. etc. I wish I could be worthy of this cornucopia of love . . . but I read the J.A. Jance books and save the vacation diaries for later . . . at least I have a file for them . . . In my daily email (does anyone else wish their moms would send a weekly digest? Mom, I don’t really mean this!) there was a link to an article my sister had published in Pulse, called “Concierge Care.” 

I always think about the way businesses run. It may be from nearly 19 years as a graphic designer, talking to business owners about their most vexing challenges – not just in promoting their businesses, but in running them. I can’t simply get my hair cut — I’m talking with the hairdresser about how she manages no-shows and how she chose the art for the wall. When I’m on the soccer sidelines, I’m thinking about where you could put a coffee shop so parents could have a warm drink. I went for a spa facial and promised the owner I’d retweet her!

So I start reading this article by my sister. . . . Like her, I recently had a family member hospitalized, but our experience was very different than the one she relates. The first part of her article reads like a fairy tale about how medicine should be. I’ve been ignored by ER nurses, seen one of my best friends dosed with the wrong medicine, breezed off by doctors who say “they’ll be right back” and then apparently are kidnapped and replaced by someone else, 24 hours later, who cares even less — and I’m a fairly healthy person who almost never is hospitalized. I’m holding my breath so hard reading her article that I’m thinking an oxygen tank would be good right about now.

The conclusion of her piece is all about how the business of medicine could be improved — the same kind of stuff I strain my nerves about. Except in her case, she might actually be able to change things.

My sister is a Buddhist and I’m a wannabe Christian — however, I think Christmas has nothing to do with God and more to do with the other guy. So I figured, wrongly, that we wouldn’t exchange gifts this year.

My sister’s gift to me was the gift of understanding that we aren’t really so different after all. And that, in the medical profession, there are people trying to change things, make them more customer-friendly (or, more to the point, more human and more humane) — and that one of them is my sister. My gift to her is this humble apology for any time I’ve spent not realizing how much wisdom and insight she has. Not to mention a keyword-stuffed link to her article, in the next paragraph

And if you’ve gotten this far, please continue on and read her original article describing how your hospital visit should be. As my mother says, “There’s a twist at the end.”

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