Remembering Dr. Mac

All at once, he was the most aggravating, loony, grating, compassionate, generous, sane man I have ever known. I’d often declared he was totally certifiable and he probably was. It was in a good way, though. When I learned last night that he’d been killed in a plane crash (he was the pilot) the day before, I couldn’t believe it. People like him don’t die. They live on and on to mow their fields and tend their cattle. He had many talents and one of them was farming.

Dr MacThe last time I saw him was at his and three other doctors’ retirement party. One of the doctors was his sister. That was back in November 2010. He looked happier and more rested than I’d seen him in a long time. Not having to deal with the politics and bureaucracy of the hospital looked good on him. I knew I would miss him but I wished him well.

I remember when he was the New Doctor in Town. He created a stir with his cowboy hat and casual demeanor. As usual, the appointment book was soon filled with the names of curiosity seekers. They weren’t disappointed. He was as unique as he seemed to be.

Some loved him. Some didn’t like him at all. I was in the former camp and not the latter. He was like the younger contentious brother I never had.

Whenever I’d go see him professionally, the talk would inevitably turn to the hospital. He was there through three different managements and he didn’t make life easy for any of them. He fought for his patients when the Other Side was looking at the bottom line. I’d see him come out of the administrator’s office and I’d know the person left behind would be frazzled. I often wondered if I should postpone airing my issues.

He was a non-discriminating person when it came to passing out silliness. Many a morning, I’d hear him on the intercom either singing, wishing someone a happy birthday or giving the weather report as only he could.

I’d bought a bell for the front window for presenting patients but he thought it was for his personal entertainment. I retaliated by taking the “clanger” out. He took it a step farther by reaching in and stealing the whole thing. The others alerted me and I chased him into the parking lot where I dressed him down and got the bell back. Whenever he came by after that, someone would dash for the window and pull the bell out of his reach.

The thick plate glass window at the front of the office had a pass through that seemed to channel a draft onto the person sitting at the switchboard. After we’d taped cardboard over the opening, one of the maintenance men made a thing out of nicely finished wood to block the air flow. The good doctor saw it as a blank canvas and decorated it with a smiley face. I tried to take it off but he’d done an excellent job of it and there was no way to restore it.

He offended quite a few of the older female patients by inviting them to his nudist camp (which he didn’t have). He told my friend, Joyce, that he would give her a job there. Actually, she did work for him tending the flowers around his home but her attention span was short and her employment didn’t last long.

He’d treat his patients anywhere. It didn’t matter to him. One day, I was feeling especially puny and he noticed. We were standing in the hallway next to the nurses’ station. He had his ever-present penlight and he told me to open my mouth and say, “AHHHHHhhh.” “You have buggers in your throat.” Okay. “Do you have a prescription card?” “Yes.” “Come over to the office and I’ll give you an antibiotic that will clear that up.” “But I have a card!” “Yeah, but it doesn’t cover everything.”

More than once when I was coughing, he dispensed a bottle of what I termed “Dr. Mac’s Jungle Juice”. He had his staff discount the co-pay for hospital employees and never charged extra for any of the medications he included with the visit. He was generous to a fault.

Photo Courtesy of Jeff Sills

Photo Courtesy of Jeff Sills

I saw this photo of Dr. Mac with a baby girl on Channel 9’s web site. It was so typical of the good doctor. I contacted the webmaster who forwarded the email on to the father, Jeff Sills. He gave me permission to post the photo and included this note:

To make a long story short, my wife and I adopted her. We were not looking to adopt. A girl in town asked us if we would take her. Because of state law, we had a six month waiting period before the adoption was final. We were unable to have my insurance cover her during that time. She had a lot of health problems, and she had lost down below her birth weight when we got her. Dr. Mac knew this, and would never charge us for treating her. He had more than once met us after hours at his office. She was special to him. We took him a new picture every year, which he would then post on the wall at his office. She is eight and perfect now. Dr. Mac was great. I will be forever grateful…He gave me his cell phone, and his home phone too. He made us feel like he was part of our family.

House calls are a thing of the past, right? Not to Dr. Mac, they weren’t. My mother-in-law and her sister who were living in a private home for 24/7 care had regular visits from—Dr. Mac. I have no idea how many other people got the same attention but I know they did.

During the summer months when I had time, I would take my breaks and sit in the sun on the nursing home patio. He’d pass by on his way from Administration to his office and stop to talk. He’d open the conversation by asking, “Getting your vitamin D?”

Doctors aren’t supposed to get sick, right? Wrong!! They are exposed to any number of maladies and one year he picked up a bug that almost did him in. He lost a lot of weight—enough to be scary. Eventually, he recovered but during all that time he never lost his quirky sense of humor.

The winter came when I was feeling especially bad. I was having headaches and balance problems. He diagnosed it as stress and prescribed walking 30 minutes a day. My B12 level was dangerously low so he told me to supplement. That helped but it wasn’t until June when I was visiting DD in Washington that my visit to a naturopath initiated my B12 injections.

When I returned home, it was with an order to be injected twice a week with 1 ml of B12. The first few times, I got the injections at the hospital at $180 a pop. I’d cleared it with my insurance that it would be covered. It was a total shock when my first EOB came and the whole amount was due from me. I called Blue Cross and, since I’d documented everything related to the case, it was reprocessed and paid. From then on, however, it would be my responsibility.

I told Dr. Mac what was going on. “Come over to the office and we’ll do it for $10. BUT I don’t think you need it twice a week.” He advised once a month but we compromised with once weekly.

After I’d had several injections at $10 per, he protested that I was still spending too much money. “B12 is cheap. You need to learn to give yourself the shots and save all that money.” I protested I wouldn’t make a good junkie and I was willing to keep paying him to have his nurse give it to me. Okay. I was the boss.

THEN, rumors started floating around. Dr. Mac was retiring and would be closing his practice soon. WHAT?? He couldn’t! He was 10 years younger than I was and he was supposed to keep working forever and ever! I confronted him one day and he confirmed the rumors. A sign went up on the clinic door. It was official.

I continued going to the office for my B12 until one day he sat me down and said, “The nurse isn’t going to give you your shot today. I’m going to teach you to do it yourself.” NOOOOOOOOOOoooooooo! I can’t do it! I don’t wanna! Mommy, he’s being mean to me!!

He asked if I could pull my slacks leg up over my thigh. No. He got a gown and turned his back while I put it on and let my slacks fall down around my ankles.

Step by step, he showed me what to do. He swabbed the top of the vial with a prep pad, took the cap off the needle and filled the syringe. I’ve never been leery of watching someone “shoot” me and it was a good thing. He pointed to a place on my leg and said, “You can put the needle in right there.” Swabbing my leg with another prep pad, he aimed and plunged the needle into my leg in one swift move, injected the B12, pulled the needle out and it didn’t even bleed. “That’s it. Think you can do it?” I hesitantly said I thought so.

That one was a freebie and on my way out, he loaded me up with syringes, prep pads and several vials of B12, no charge. He told me to come back before he closed for good and he’d give me more.

The first time I injected myself, I did it just the way he taught me except I had to stick me twice. The first time, it only went in about 1/16″ and I involuntarily pulled it back. Since then, it has gotten to be old hat. I don’t enjoy doing it but I walk myself through the process with Dr. Mac’s voice in my head.

Now that voice is silenced. Those who mourn are his wife, two adult children, two grandchildren, siblings, extended family and an untold host of friends. During his years of practice, Dr. Mac was instrumental in healing a lot of people including me. Now he is awaiting the coming of the Life-giver and is enjoying the deepest sleep known to man. Dr. Mac, rest in peace.

8 Responses to Remembering Dr. Mac

  1. Mary Jane February 26, 2013 at 11:48 am #

    What a beautiful tribute! Too bad it couldn’t (or can’t) be read at his funeral/memorial service. Maybe on the funeral home’s site for him?

    • Tommie February 26, 2013 at 11:58 am #

      I think it would be a little long for the site. I’m not going to post a link there, either. There’s a link on Facebook and a lot of the people who knew him are my friends.

  2. Joanie Crosby February 26, 2013 at 4:44 pm #

    He “forgave” his part of my hospital bill when I had to be hospitalized for anemia. I know he is one DR I will never forget.

    • Tommie February 26, 2013 at 4:51 pm #

      He drove his office staff crazy doing things like that but that was just him. He was more interested in the welfare of his patients (including financial) than he was in making money.

  3. LIla February 26, 2013 at 5:30 pm #

    Tommie, I can understand why you feel so bad. He must have been one great guy and a doctor worthy of his calling.

    • Tommie February 26, 2013 at 6:10 pm #

      He was all of that and more.

  4. Judy Rash February 27, 2013 at 5:57 am #

    Dr. mac took care of my father, mother and Uncle. He used to come my mommas house to talk to her about Dads alzheimers and encourage her. She always gave him fresh produce out of her garden. He took care of my uncle, and came to their home as my uncle was dying andstay with the family to the end. He was truly a one of a kind Dr. There will never be another Dr. mac. With the traditional cowboy hat.
    My family have and will carry many many wonderful memories of Dr Mac. Yes, he will truly be missed. He was truly a humantarian…..and so loved….

    • Tommie February 27, 2013 at 7:08 am #

      Thank you for that, Judy. We’ve all lost someone special in him.

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