Heartache and House Calls

Sometimes it takes getting sick to put things in perspective


| November-December 2010



Eric Utne Portrait

2009 © Chris Lyons / lindgrensmith.com

When was the last time you got sick, called a doctor for help, and he or she dropped everything to come to your home to have a look? That’s exactly what my neighbor Dr. Ed Funk did for me last summer. It was a real Norman Rockwell moment, a scene straight from the country-doctor tales of William Carlos Williams. I only learned days later that Ed was in the middle of entertaining guests for dinner when I called. He never mentioned it. He came by to see me nearly every day for the next 10 days.

Ed’s house calls came last July, two months after my sister died of breast cancer.  My life got very busy in the wake of Mary’s death, and I hardly found a moment to mourn. After several weeks of intense travel and public speaking, I came down with mysterious high fevers interspersed with bouts of convulsive chills.

Following a couple of extremely uncomfortable days, I called Ed, a medical doctor who works in a local urgent-care clinic. Ed and I have lived within a block of each other for more than 10 years. His children attend the same elementary school my boys did.

Ed came right over to my place, took one look at me, and urged me to visit his clinic the next morning to get a chest X-ray and blood tests. It turned out that I had a nasty case of pneumonia. The clinic’s docs sent me home with a prescription for a 10-day course of antibiotics.

I never missed a day of school growing up, and have experienced only the occasional flu or cold since. How? Mostly denial. Plus I faithfully followed my grandmother’s advice: Avoid doctors at all costs.

Yet here I was at the mercy of pneumonia. Frightened to be so ill, I did not hesitate to use the recommended antibiotics. It took two courses to knock it out. I cannot recall ever being so sick.