No, this is not a picture of my first primary care doctor. It is a photo of me when I was two years old. It was around that time that I can still recall Dr. Gerald Backenstoe. For those of us who are old enough to remember “house calls” and such, back when doctors were still allowed to practice medicine freely, clearly, he would not be enjoying medicine today.
Anyway, as the title states, Dr. Backenstoe was my first family doctor, and as so until he passed away at the age of 81, which put me at approximately fourteen years old. I have had only two other doctors, both through a different practice, who until he retired a few years later, I ended up with his successor and have been with her (and occasionally her husband who also practices with her) ever since, more than half of my life.
Currently, I am more than 1300 miles away from my family doctor, and for that reason, I do all that I can to stay healthy. I do not care for what I call “revolving door medicine” or “roulette” medicine, never knowing which doctor you are going to be seeing that particular visit, and then having to trust that doctor is fully informed of your health history before prescribing anything. Committing my care to the same doctor means that I do not have to explain my health past 100 times to different doctors. My doctors know everything about me.
Getting back to Dr. Backenstoe, I do recall him making at least two house calls for me, as well as follow up phone calls. His office, which also was his home, is indescribable. It had that “sterile” smell about it, so you definitely knew you were in a doctor’s office. And throughout all of the exams room were antique medical equipment. But never once did it ever cross anyone’s mind about sterility and cleanliness there, because everyone trusted Dr. Backentstoe to care about not only his patients, but also his career.
For some reading this post, and who may have been his patient, how many recall sitting on that wooden bench, just inside the entrance, wondering which exam room you would be taken to, and then glancing up at the walls to see not only his medical studies history, but also his fondness for aviation? He had a colored history of flying experience including the Army Air Corp, logging over a million miles in the air, and two folklore-ish tales. He had a “cancelled” framed ticket for the fateful Hindenburg hanging on his wall. And after hearing the other tale, I am glad he was not able to keep that date. The other tale was having dinner with Amelia Earhart in his home with joined by his fiancé to become his wife the next day. that date was kept.
While his flying history is quite impressive, as is all of his other credentials of memberships in all kinds of organizations, it is the fact that he practiced medicine for over 50 years. For sports fans, that is a rare mark like a baseball player playing 4 decades like Tim McCarver or a pro-football player playing more than 12 years. But Dr. Backenstoe has that achievement to his name.
He will be forever remembered by me as a kind and gentle doctor and the reason today, that I know what I want and expect from my health care. And to this day, I know with my current doctor, and her husband, in spite of regulations and restrictions, I not only have one of the best doctors, I also have one of the two greatest advocates for my health care (and I have both of them). Because I see the same doctor, no matter the distance or schedule, she will be forever credited with saving my life from a fatal heart attack that could have happened at any time. For that story, go to my page “CABG, Not Just A Green Leafy Vegetable.” But she is also my children’s doctor.
Great doctors are hard to come by, and I need my current doctor to put in fifty years too (sorry doc, but I told you, when you retire, I am done with seeing doctors – I will never have another one that can do what you have done for me).