“Doc, how are you feeling?” He asks me this every time I see him. His cap is resting at a jaunty angle across the handle of the quad cane standing beside him. He is of the generation that knows it is impolite for a gentleman to wear a hat indoors.
“Great!” I replied, like always. “Thanks for asking. How are YOU feeling? And how is therapy going since your stroke?”
This time, rather than answering the question he squinted at me and said, “Are you sure you feel OK, Doc?”
“Why? Do I look stressed?” Did it show? I thought I was doing a good job of hiding it.
“Nah. You coughed.”
“Oh, that. No worries. I’m fine.” I had picked up an upper respiratory infection from my kids the week before and the cough was lingering.
“Do you know why I ask you how you are feeling every time I see you? Have I told you the story?”
“Years ago before I became your number one patient (I tell everyone I am your number one patient, Doc) I went to see my primary care doctor to follow up on my blood pressure. He was coughing. My wife told him he needed to see a doctor about it because he sounded awful. He told her not to worry, he would be just fine. He kept coughing though and my wife again told him as he was leaving that he needed to see someone. He just laughed, then went into a coughing fit. Two weeks later I go for my follow up appointment and the lady at the front says, ‘Oh, you didn’t hear? He DIED!’ He died, Doc. From pneumonia and congestive heart failure.”
“Oh.” He stares at me intently. I choke back a cough. Well, then. “Say, how is that therapy going?”