Monday, November 11, 2013

Veterans Day reruns

Being a history buff, veterans (especially WW2) are prized patients. I love talking to them and hearing their stories, and it's not uncommon for a guy who served to have to point out to me that's not the reason he came to the doctor.

But one veteran in particular stands out (I've told this story before, but not since 2009).

Bill was a pleasant 90 year-old guy. He was in the first wave at D-Day, and had a shirt full of medals.

By the time I met him, however, he was mildly demented. Macular degeneration and glaucoma had left him blind in one eye with severely impaired vision in the other. His reaction time was terrible.

And, of course, he was still driving. His son brought me pictures of the damage to Bill's car from hitting signs, walls, trees, pedestrians, whatever.

"My son exaggerates, doc. Nothing a little paint won't fix."

Bill stubbornly refused to stop, so I ordered a driving evaluation. Which, of course, he failed miserably. Although it pained me to do it, I filled out the paperwork to revoke his license.

About a week later Bill came in for a follow-up appointment (he took the bus). But he wasn't alone. And my office is pretty small.

He was accompanied by his friends from the local VFW chapter. Like, 8-10 of them. All were well over 80, and wearing their VFW hats.

To my horror, Bill was the only one left in the group who (until recently) hadn't lost his driver's license. As a result, he was their driver. And now he'd lost it, too.

"Give Bill his license back, Dr. Grumpy. You're our only hope"

All gave me glowing testimonials as to what a wonderful driver Bill is, with comments like:

"He almost never hits things."

"It's not his fault traffic lights are outside his visual field."

"Gus's Bar is pretty close, anyway."

"Everyone knows Bill's car, and watches out when they see him coming."

"It wasn't like the dog had an owner."

And my favorite:

"Doc, Bill drove a tank all over France. He's perfectly safe".

Thank you, veterans!


perishedcore said...

I love this story - and I bet you felt as overrun as the vets' enemies in WWII when the troops stormed your office.

Any possibility of a community fund to get them a car service?

Grumpy, M.D. said...

There are several local groups that given rides. These guys just preferred Bill's trips of terror.

Anonymous said...

If he was is was anything like my WW2 dad they could probably have added "He only falls asleep at stoplights."

Anonymous said...

Why am I reminded of..."Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play"?

Anonymous said...

My grandfather didn't have any driving training or a licence when they sent him to fight in Europe. He drove a tank there, and when he came home they gave him a driver's licence. For the rest of his life he drove his car like a tank. It was terrifying.

Anonymous said...

Did you point out what France looked like after he'd been driving a tank all over it?

Anonymous said...

you can tell them to wait till driverless cars are available, maybe in a few years.

Packer said...

There are so few of them left. My father who among other things, was the bugler--because he played the trumpet-- was buried with a boom box playing TAPS, because the demand for live buglers was so high at the time of his death.
They certainly did not remove tyranny from the face of the earth, but they did give it pause.

Anonymous said...

speaking of which, has the the old-guy-pissed-off-that-you're-open-on-Veteran's-Day-you-must-be-communists called yet?

Ms. Donna said...

Oh, sweet! I don't believe the guys think they are sweet, but . . .

The driving thing is a problem for older folks. Somehow,I do NOT see the Senior bus (if the community even has one) stopping at the VFW.

Eileen said...

Anon 11.25 - it seems there are about to be driverless cars in Milton Keynes (in England).

Not that I recommend they nip over there to try them out mind.

And when it comes to heartwarming stories about veterans try this for size:

bobbie said...

I hope you didn't charge him for that second visit...

Anonymous said...

if I ever win the bit lottery, I'm going to start driving a party bus for the remaining WW2 guys. in the meantime, if they are "in house", I just stop by in the evening after rounds/clinic and visit for a bit. I never leave being other than amazed and humbled.... Another absolute benefit of working at the "VA"

Charles said...

Old age can be hard; but even harder for guys like them. After taking out the Nazis, the Italian fascists, and Japan's military regime it has to be hard to lose something as simple as your mobility freedom and rely on others for a simple car ride.

We owe them so so much that we can never repay.

Chris said...

I had a patient who was still driving a 1950 Packard convertible that she bought brand new, and I got to be the guy that told her she couldn't drive anymore. Broke my heart.

RehabRn said...


I'm behind reading your posts, but this one is a classic. Love it.

I work with a lot of veterans and they always have a good story. Two of my WW2 guys were a hoot.

One was a Battle of the Bulge veteran who loved football and had a dream his wife was making him dinner. (he was on tube feeds d/t aspiration). He tried to get out of bed. He died soon after.

Another one was in the Philippines. He despised the heat. He just laughed and laughed whenever one of his roommates (I had the whole room) said, "What is Tom Brokaw talking about the "greatest generation"" and he was really irritated he did not know what it was.

He just sat in the dark and smiled watching TV.

They are classics. I miss both of those characters.

Unknown said...

when i win the bit lottery, I will go to start driving a party bus for the remaining WW2 guys. in the meantime, if they are "in house", I just stop by in the evening after rounds/clinic and visit for a bit. I never leave being other than amazed and humbled.... Another absolute benefit of working at the "VA"


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