Is that a yes, no or maybe?

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Picture this: Al tells the story when he was a little boy about his granddad in the chicken yard. Their big red rooster with spurs chased him and jumped on his back. His granddad was yelling, screaming and running all over the yard trying to get the rooster off. Al’s little 4-foot-9 grandmother ran out of the house, grabbed the rooster off of his back and wrung his neck with her bare hands. They ate the rooster for supper.

This story is a little more civilized than what happened to Al and me in the doctor’s office in a nearby town. I felt like I had confronted the red rooster with spurs in the chicken yard. The nurses were like hens cackling and clucking around him, smoothing the doctor’s feathers down and apologizing to his patients for his obnoxious behavior.

The rooster jumped on my Sweet Al’s back and I felt no mercy and wanted to wring his neck with my own bare hands. Not on my watch is anyone going to make my Sweet Al feel bad about himself.

Al’s knee had been hurting for the past six months. We weren’t sure what was going on. It was beginning to buckle under him and he was walking with a cane.

Friends had referred us to this doctor. Al went through the procedure of filling out paperwork, and then we waited for the doctor. The tall, nice looking, cock-of-the-walk appeared with a tan and silver hair. He was starched, pressed, creased and had pranced around the chicken yard for 30 years. He was ready to retire in four months and hit the golf course. He was strutting and showing off for the student doctors, who were following him around.

The doctor asked Al about the pain, when it started, where it hurt.

I thought Al answered all his questions. Apparently, it wasn’t what the doctor wanted to hear.

Al explained what it felt like and told his story about his knee and about his ankle. His leg is 2 inches shorter than the other one because of an accident when he was 2 years old. He has no ankle bone and his ankle is fused. It doesn’t move. All this was related to the pain in Al’s knee.

The doctor asked, “Where does it hurt?”

Al pointed to his knee.

The doctor confronted Al. “Does it hurt all night?”

“I don’t know, it’s when I wake up.”

The doctor asked again, “Does it hurt at night when you sleep?”

“When I wake up.”

The doctor got belligerent. “I asked you if it hurts all night?”


The doctor said to Al, “I want a yes or no answer. That’s all.”

“Well, all I know I have a lot of pain.”

“I didn’t ask you that, I want you to answer simply yes or no.”

Al said, “Yes.”

Al was getting confused and said to the doctor, “All I know is my knee hurts.”

That’s not what I asked you. “When does your knee hurt?”

“All the time.”

I thought you said, “Sometimes.”

I’m sitting in the corner, being quiet. I listened to him talk down to Al.

The doctor left the room to get an x-ray technician. While he was out of the room, Al said to me, “All I know, it hurts.”

We laughed about what just happened.

I said to Al, “Just say yes or no.”

Al said, “Yes, it hurts.”

They took Al down for x-rays, and the doctor came back with his students. He became “Mr. Personality.” “Well, boys and girls … pull up your chairs so you can see the x-ray.”

The x-ray showed exactly what the problem was. All that badgering wasn’t necessary. Eventually, Al will have to have a knee replacement, but for now there are two or three ways to handle the pain.

We listened to the doctor as he went through the procedure. We agreed to the Synvisc-One, a lubricant that will help the pain for now.

Then I asked the doctor the fatal question. “Giving him a dose of Synvisc-One in his knee, will it work?”

The doctor answered, “Yes, no or maybe.”

It all became funny to me, so I challenged him. “I don’t want a yes, no or maybe, I want one word. Just say yes or no.”

The doctor stammered and said, “I meant what I said, it could be a yes, no or maybe.”

His feathers ruffled and my hackles went up. I don’t know if anyone had ever called him down before, but I said again, “Just say yes or no.”

Then it went downhill from there. He recommended a brace on Al’s shoe.

Al said he had never worn a lift for his shoe before, but thought he should get one now.

The doctor said he was going to send in the “brace man,” who would measure a brace for his shoe. It would be a heel on the outside and a lift on the inside.

While the doctor was out, I asked Al, “Do you think you want a brace on your shoe? You’ve been walking on your toes all these years, your ankle won’t move. You wear different pairs of shoes. What shoe would you put a brace on?”

Al said, “You’re right. I wear different pairs of shoes every day.”

The doctor came back into the room and Al said innocently, “Doctor, I don’t think I’ll get the brace. I have this shoe fetish, I couldn’t have a brace for just one pair of shoes.”

Oh, Lord, I thought that old rooster was going to come unglued. He backed up, threw up his hands and said, “I just recommended a brace, I don’t care if you get a brace or not, don’t get one, I don’t care.”

Then I said, “This is all new to us. We hadn’t thought about a brace before. We need time to think about it. Does Medicare cover the brace?”

He said, “I don’t know.”

I laughed, “I don’t know? That isn’t an acceptable answer. Just say yes or no.”

The doctor said, “I’m tired of talking about a brace. The conversation is over. I don’t want to hear about it. I don’t care if you have a brace or not.” He left the room again.

The nurse, who had been in the room during this whole ordeal cheered, gave me a high-five and two-thumbs up. She gave me her card and said, “Call me about the brace or any other questions, I can answer your questions for you.”

I said to the nurse, “How do you put up with him?”

“If he wasn’t such a good doctor, I would’ve left a long time ago.”

That old rooster wouldn’t leave it alone. He circled the chicken yard, came back into the little room and said, “I’m leaving.”

I said, “Is that a yes, no or maybe?”

He waved me off with his hand.

Outside, Al said to me, “I’m so glad you were with me. It’s been a hard day.”

“Believe me, I was just getting started. Nobody’s going to mess with my Sweet Al.”

Final Brushstroke: That old rooster has been the cock of the walk too long. The hens have been fluttering around him and have been smoothing down his feathers all these years. When he jumped on my Sweet Al’s back with his spurs, I challenged him and wrung his neck. I ate on that old tough rooster all the way home. There was nothing left of him for supper.

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This story was posted on May 15, 2014.