It happened on one of my first weekends in Minnesota. Ted, my eight-year old son, needed to be seen by a doctor. Since the clinic was closed, we had to go to the hospital. There, the registration clerk called for a nurse. She in turn, lead us to the emergency room. The nurse then asked questions, checked Ted’s vitals, and recorded the information. Before she left, she told us the doctor would be with us shortly.
Ted sat on the hospital bed and I sat in the chair beside it. The only other person in the area was a man wearing dirty boots, jeans, and a plaid shirt. He smiled at us and continued his janitorial work. When he finished sweeping, he walked over with his broom to say hello. We were new to town and welcomed his friendly chit-chat. However, when he asked Ted to lift his shirt, I turned on a dime. My protective, motherly instincts took over. This man was a stranger to us. He was a janitor. I snapped at him, “No. Thank you. We will wait for the doctor.” I firmly told Ted to put his shirt back down. Ted complied. The man backed away and then burst out laughing.
When the man regained his composure, he introduced himself as the doctor. He apologized for the confusion. He offered a handshake and an explanation. The doctor shared that he was on call for the emergency room. Prior to our arrival, there had been a life-threatening emergency. He had been working in the fields of his farm, when he got the call. There had been no time for him to change his field clothes. He rushed to stabilize the patient, who was then transported to another hospital.
Afterwards, the doctor saw the mess he had made with his muddy boots. He teased that the nurses didn’t like it when he made such messes, so he got a broom. As he was cleaning up the mud, we arrived. And as the nurse did her assessments, the doctor had paid attention. From my own account, he already knew Ted’s previous treatment plan. All he needed to do was to listen to Ted’s lungs. And to do that, he needed Ted to raise his shirt. The doctor teased that he’d change into medical scrubs first, if needed.
I was flooded with a mess of emotions. I had arrived concerned for my son’s health. Now, I was worried I had offended the very doctor that would treat my son. I was also embarrassed and frustrated. Honestly, I try hard not to stereotype people based on clothes, homes, jobs, etc. And yet, I also found myself desperately trying not to laugh. Such things like this only happened in movies; think: Doc Hollywood. Yet, this was not fiction. It was the real deal. I fought back the tears and then squealed with laughter. There were some down to earth doctors here. So down to earth, that one of them left behind a trail of mud…