Personal Calls


She said it was a personal call.


I looked across the room, towards the little squawk box that was relaying this information to me. I knew my receptionist was somewhere up front, trying to triage this phone call while handling the needs of several clients in the waiting room. My receptionist was trying to reach out to me. You see, I don’t receive many PERSONAL calls at work. A few folks call up and ask for “Christine”. It is almost 100% guaranteed that these are salespeople who have never met me. My husband calls so rarely that he has to re-introduce himself each time. “I’m her husband”, he mutters. The startled receptionist still double checks. Is it true? This is her husband? I hear about it over dinner.


Most people calling by telephone get right down to business and schedule an appointment to see their pet. Some call to give updates on their pets’ medical progress. And every so often, every 2 or 3 months, somebody calls and requests to speak to me “personally”. When pressed to tell the receptionist which patient/pet they are calling about (So a chart can be pulled. So my memory can be refreshed. So I can enter appropriate notes into your pets’ medical record) they answer “It’s personal”.


My receptionist does not want to interfere or be nosy about my personal life. So they take the name and page back. The “back” meaning usually the surgery suite. Which is where I was at that particular moment. “She says it’s personal”.


My hands were encased in a pair of sterile surgical gloves and beneath them an anesthetized patient waited for me to sew up the cut in her side. Chasing the neighbor’s cat had not ended well for Daisy. In the dogs’ enthusiasm she misjudged the tail gate of the pickup truck the cat darted under, resulting in a nasty gash across her left shoulder and down her chest, about 6 inches long. Bits of tissue stuck out through the matted, bloodied fur.


I looked down at my patient and back at the box. What was her name again? A complete blank. I didn’t recognize the name. I am not applying for any kind of anything – no book club, no credit card, no once-in-a-lifetime-just-for-you deals. My children are out of school for the summer and they are not signed up for anything. My husband is golfing and on his own. My patient needs my attention. Shaking my head, I pick up the suture and needle holders. “Doesn’t ring a bell. Find out why she’s calling and tell her I won’t be returning her call if it doesn’t make sense.” Case dismissed.


I carefully begin to re-appose the torn muscle bellies over the ribs and slowly the body is knitted back together, layer by layer until the sleek skin edges (jagged pieces carefully excised so smooth clean edges present for improved healing) are pieced back together. No crazy quilt here, the skin is smooth. Daisy should make a good recovery.


I had completely forgotten about the “personal” call by the time I found my way back to my desk. The note taken by the receptionist was mildly alarming. The personal call was about a woman from Social Services. Huh? I racked my brain. They had actually called at my house, knocked upon my door. They told the babysitter they were looking for my husband. He of course, was nowhere to be found because he was off enjoying the thick bacon and Bloody Mary’s they serve at “senior” golf tournaments around the Valley. I don’t think he’s missed one yet.  He claims to put in a 5 mile walk around each course so I don’t complain. But what in the world? I called him on Hole 11 and passed on the information.


Within 15 minutes he called me back, barely able to speak for laughing. He had sustained credit card fraud earlier that year. In reviewing the case, the card company worried that he might be a victim of elder abuse and sent out Social Workers to investigate that his caretakers were honorable. For a moment I worried that he’d agreed with them and told them to cut me off his cards…….I guess he didn’t think of that angle.


Daisy, I’m happy to report, healed beautifully and is back to chasing cats. So much for mending our ways.


Christine B. McFadden, DVM

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