Alden skull, memories and prostate cancer.


the earth is a lot like the universe...you go straight around you end up where you were...

The picture above is an Alden rowing skull. Have you ever rowed? Well I love the water, I like to exercise so several years ago I bought this “row boat” and I have had it out at the lake ever since. When I had the dock (a 1950’s era quonset hut model) updated I had the guy include racks for the skull so that from dock to water would be easy. The Alden has a “drop down” rowing mechanism that you put in the skull and then you attach the oars into this and then you are on your way. Rowing is a total exercise because you use both the upper body and the legs and it is very aerobic. Then there is a skill to it to coordinated the oars, balance as well as moving back and forth on the seat. Wind and waves, especially if a big boat happens by is a scary situation for fear of tipping over. Now if you tip over the oars and the skull would float but the drop down seat would sink. You feet are in straps in the drop down  seat so it can be a bit dicey. The Alden is known for its stability but even at that wind, waves and boats get your attention. I have a route from my dock to a large bridge over Lake Lanier and going to that as a stopping point and back takes about 45 minutes and is a very good work out which depending on the water and weather can be quite delightful. I mean the perfect exercise, aerobic, outside and in water, and on top of all that all the muscle groups are utilized and you are refining a skill. (The thinking is that you upgrade to a more difficult to row but faster narrower skull which I am tempted to do. I have to decide do I want skill and speed, or just a very good aerobic exercise experience.) So far the work out has taken front seat.

After I had my prostate surgery in May of 2007 I shifted my interest to spin at a new YMCA that opened near my office. I have done spin 3-5 times a week since then and have not touched the skull. All I have done with it is to hit it from time to time while fishing to be sure no wasp’s nests were in it.

Well it’s spring here in Northeast Georgia and I finished relatively early this past Tuesday and decided to crack out the ole skull and test my skills. The cover for it had been blown away years ago and now mildew covered the entire bottom. I have two non functional jet skis that I am having trouble having someone to take away and they had to be moved at great pain to allow for the skull to get to the platform and then to the water. After about 40 minutes of kicking the jet ski to be sure no snakes (they like to stay under the jet ski and the platform) tying ropes and untying ropes and moving the jet skis I finally get to the skull to move it to the platform (pictured in blue in the picture above.) When I begin to move the skull about 5 bird eggs fall out with two bird nest. The best I could tell is that these were old nests evidenced by some of the eggs already had cracks and such and did not appear to be active or viable. As I am moving the skull  the nests begin to float away from the dock in an odd fashion that was almost mesermizing…little spinning spaceships on the water floating on the water as if they had been made for that exact purpose.

I get the skull to the platform, I go into the dock and get the drop down rigging and the oars. I put the rigging into the skull and attach the oars and move it into the water being careful not to let it get a way as I put on some moth-eaten rowing slippers that I had not used for four or five years. I inspected them for spiders (have you ever heard of someone getting bitten by a spider, a brown recluse to be exact, by putting on old shoes without checking for the possibility of insects) and then try to balance the skull and carefully ease my self onto the seat on the rigging. As I do the skull shifts and the seat moves forward all at the time I was attempting to sit on the seat, the result being that my bottom landed on the rails of the rigging and not the seat. Had there been a sharp object I would have been impaled. I am now precariously sitting in the bottom of the skull and not the seat and I am stuck and fearful of capsizing the whole deal. A large boat goes by and the resultant waves complicate my situation. I am thinking, how did I used to do this? After about 20 minutes of shifting, pulling, balancing, I was able to get on the seat and then get my feet in the foot holders. Shakey at first and then it came back to me. What a joy and then the memories began to flow.(I was called by a friend of my who is a thoracic surgeon and who had done heart bypasses for twenty years and then stopped for three and then started doing them again when he changed practices.

“I didn’t know you were doing hearts now,” I said.

“It’s like falling off a bike John. You don’t forget,” he said. I guess my rowing skills were the same.

Now the point of this post and about “those memories.”

The Malpractice law suit-

  • I had been sued by a hospital employee who asked me to perform a surgery before he left the hospital so it would be covered by insurance. He had chronic epididymitis and wanted me to remove the epididymis, an epididymectomy. I had seen him many times and the procedure was reasonable and the timing was a well. I was doing him a “favor” to move it up on my schedule to get it done. At the time of the surgery and after removing the epididymis is not a firm area of the testicle beneath where the epididymis was. Bad situation. I had made the wrong incision for a testis tumor and was forced to do a biopsy and frozen section to see if this area was cancer. It was. Another bad situation:going to sleep for one procedure and wake up and another performed because of cancer. After telling a family member the situation I performed an orchiectomy and prepared for the onslaught that was to come which was a law suit. A doctor in Atlanta told the patient that “that doctor up in Gainesville didn’t know what in the hell he was doing. You never make a scrotal incision to remove cancer. That’s urology 101.” So hence the lawsuit claiming that the patient, 45 and unmarried, was now unable to father children because I had cured him of cancer. The radiation to prophylactically treat the abdomen included the scrotum and affected the other side and I was accused of negligence and making him infertile. So dispositions and lawyer fees and meetings culminated in one week away from my practice, for which I was not reimbursed, in court and a barrage of insults about me and my abilities, skills, and judgement all in front of 12 of my peers. A jury is funny thing, think OJ Simpson, anything can happen with a jury and as a doctor you worry that they don’t grasp the complexities of medicine. You just don’t know when it comes to a jury. I was found to have acted in compliance with the “standard of care.” I cried in front of the jury as I nodded my appreciation for their decision. A very emotional time, doctors who have been sued will tell you it is the most devastating thing and emotional thing one can go through in one’s career. Man it was something else. So we get the verdict. I call my wife and say we are Okay. The opposing lawyer comes over and shakes my hand and says he enjoyed working with me. What the hell? I couldn’t look at him and I did not respond. Where do these guys get off anyway?
  • On the way home I stop to get some gas and while I am contemplating the trial and how good it felt to be found innocent and over, a friend pulls up to get gas as well and says, “How’s it going John?” You have probably felt the way I am about to explain…it was surreal. All that I had been through that week and just getting the verdict in a trial about my abilities as a doctor and unbeknownst to my friend who is unaware of what I had been through. I worried about things being in the paper and what my family or friends or patient would think about my lawsuit. Did you know the “paper” isn’t interested unless there is a judgment and the doctor is found in the wrong and there is an award of money. That makes the paper, the doctor winning doesn’t. And another thing, the patient that sues is out nothing. The lawyer is on consignment so he gets money only if he wins but it is a lot that is why they will take the case for no money up front and why so many patients are willing to sue doctors…no risk financially to them. It is quite the set up for everyone but the doctor.
  • So out to the lake and into the Alden skull. Man that was nice. The air, the sun, the water, the aerobic part of it. What a tonic to what I had been through. Now whenever I pass that gas station or row, I think of that trial and how rowing the Alden was my reward for falling “below the standard of care.”

Boy Scout Camp-

  •  As I leave my cove in my Alden to the right is a peninsular of sorts that is part of Gainesville’s Scoutland. A very nice tract of land donated to scouts for camping and all sorts of scouting activities. My son Sam is an Eagle Scout and we spent a lot of time out there. Many times as I have rowed past the peninsula (Webelo Island the scouts call it)  I  could smell the camp fires and hear the sounds of the scouts readying their campsites. My memory here is also something I think about every time I pass this spot.
  • Sam and some other of his patrol were doing a week of scouting in the summer one year. Sam’s group were outcasts of sorts. Sam for one was a scout to in a way to humor me, he knew how much I wanted him to complete the program, but his heart was not always in scouting and particularly in defying  the adult leaders.  This particular summer was as hot as an August in Georgia could be and many times that week I thought about how miserable the scouts must be doing all the scout things in such heat. Well, one of Sam’s buddies had a soccer game or something that he had permission to leave for that then to come back. For some reason the plan was for the parent to pick the child up by boat, it may have been that the game was accessible by water. Anyway Sam and two other scouts left with the boy with the mother thinking they had permission as well and that all the adults on Scoutland knew about it. The go to the game and then on the way back ski and top that off with eating at a restaurant accessible by water as well. When they return everyone is looking for them and then when they found out they had been on a boat all afternoon, the whole camp, scouts and adults alike were furious. The next day the activity was to find you food for that evening by following directions on a map done by the adult leaders. Sam’s patrol got their payback. The adults hid their food in a waterproof container and sinked it off the tip of Webelo Island in about 3 feet of water. His patrol looked for hours and never found the food and in exasperation and against the rules decided to go swimming. In the process Sam’s foot hit something under water and upon checking it out found their food. All the adults were quite impressed with their “map reading skills.” That very spot I row over and as such rethink the whole thing each time I row to the “bridge.”

A Fire on the Island

  • Just across from Webelo Island is another island that right in front of my dock about 1000 yards out. When I row I pass between this island and the Webelo Island. One night I was on top of our dock with my little brother Jeff and his two sons, Sam and my wife Karen. To our astonishment it appeared that the island was on fire. It looked like the entire center of it was in flames. There were no boats or any signs of humans. We decided  fire up the boat and go check it out. I was thinking that if indeed it were a fire that we’d call 911 and report it. So we all get in the boat and ride over to the island and all of us get out the see the flames. When we get to the fire what we see is a huge bonfire and about 8 Hispanic appearing men around it. The fire, the shadows and their spidery reflections on each of the unshirted men was as much scary as erery. I stupidly say, ‘ Buenos dias seniors!” There is no response. Apparently they had not seen us and my speaking startled them. They just looked at us. In unison we all just began to slowly back pedal without another word and run to boat and leave as fast as we could. Who were those men? Why no boat? Drugs? Criminals? Illegals? Anyway I seriously felt that we were in harm’s way and that we were lucky to have had a problem with those men. Once in the boat Jeff’s youngest son Thomas says, “That was fun. Let’s find another island with a fire daddy.”

There are more but that’s enough for now. Anyway I am throwing away the two old jet skis, I’m going to clean up the Alden and get some new parts to spiff it up, consider getting a newer sleeker model and get back into rowing again. Maybe try to muster up newer nicer friendlier memories.

Oh the prostate cancer connection. Having the surgery got me off my game of excercise and then we hired an office manager who was a spin instructor and then I went from outdoor solitary excercise to group and instructor oriented type excercise…spin at the YMCA.

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