Good news/bad news from my doctor

Whatever’s going on, it’s probably not ideal when you have to call your doctor.

But when it’s the other way around — when the doctor contacts you — that can be a stressful moment.

It happened to me, last Thursday.

I was already scheduled for a routine appointment that afternoon with my primary care physician, Dr. Aimee Hromadka, in the Cable Professional Building on County Road in Ipswich. Dr. Hromadka has been my doctor ever since I arrived in Ipswich, so there is no one more intimately acquainted with my physical body, inside and out. If anything has gone wrong, or is going wrong, or is likely to go wrong, or is on the razor’s edge of going wrong, she would be the one to know about it.

She has been a superb doctor, patiently and expertly navigating the maze of my bad habits to keep me in good health. And she’s done it with a lovely sense of humor. During my annual physical, she showed me a printout of my “numbers” — good blood pressure, good cholesterol, good on thyroid and prostate, liver and kidney function. “Only one of these numbers keeps getting worse,” she observed. “Your age.”

After so much success under Dr. Hromadka’s care, I rarely feel any stress heading into an appointment. And especially not last Thursday, anticipating a simple medication adjustment that afternoon.

But I was totally unprepared for the shock of the message she sent, out of the blue, that morning.

It was bad news.

“Congratulations!” she began. “You have the distinct honor of being our final patient in our Ipswich office.”

I had seen the warning signs; I had heard the rumors. North Shore Physicians Group was planning to evacuate their County Road facilities and move into their much larger quarters at 414 Haverhill Road in Rowley.

But now — the end was so near! There was no time to prepare. It was all too sudden.

And I realized that, of course, this wasn’t just about me. The overall healthcare quotient for the town of Ipswich was about to decline precipitously. There’s also the matter of long-term decline in our town’s quality of life. Rowley already has the chocolate factory, the Market Basket, and the McDonald’s. Now they’ll have my doctor too.

Why such a move? I pleaded for answers. At this point, I received good news/bad news. The Haverhill Road facility offers many more medical functions onsite. “When I need to send you for labs,” Dr. Hromadka explained, “it’s right there.” As if this is a good thing: no delay between the moment the doc utters the dreaded term “blood work” and the moment you’re being punctured and drained. On the other hand, this will give me less time to dread the puncturing and the draining — and I’ve heard that dread decreases lifespan. The good news is that I may live longer, now that Dr. Hromadka can have me poked on the spot anytime she wants.

After the initial shock of the Ipswich location’s terminal diagnosis, I began to settle down a little. I took deep breaths and drank water and had a burger. This helped. Soon I was able to see the big picture, to find the silver lining. I live so far west in Ipswich, on outer Linebrook Road, the new place in Rowley is actually way closer to my house. Instead of spending 13 endless minutes to get to my doctor — with the possibility of a serious backup at Winthrop School or the fire station — I’ll get there in only 5 minutes. Saving 16 minutes round-trip on every doctor’s appointment, on top of what I gain by cutting back on dread, will almost certainly extend my life by several years.

Dang, now I wish they’d bailed on Ipswich years ago.


Doug lives 2,222 feet from the Rowley line. Visit him at DougBrendel.com.

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