June 20, 2018
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A doctor’s bucket list — just in case the world ends soon

Dr. Erik Steele
By Dr. Erik Steele

Optimists and pessimists both have had good choices about the future lately.

Optimists could plan to win the $540 million Powerball lottery, and then retire to play golf and buy presidential elections. Pessimists could plan on the end of the world on Dec. 21, 2012, when some people believe that the Mayan calendar runs out after more than 5,000 years, spelling doom for the planet.

I like to cover all the bases, however, so I bought my first Powerball ticket last week and am also planning for the end of the world. The Powerball thing did not work out for me, and a lot of experts on Mayans and the world think that whole thing is cataclysmic crapola, but what do experts know, after all?

Just in case they are wrong, I have a list of things I want to do before time runs out and the world does a cosmic swan dive, including:

No. 1: Have a date with Candice Bergen, for whom I have had the hots since I was about 12 and discovered what the hots were when I first saw her in a Cie perfume commercial. I’ve had the hots for Suzanne Pleshette too, but she died before the Mayan calendar came up snake eyes, so I was never motivated by Mayan-made mortality to make this kind of Hail Mary pass at her. Does anyone know Candice’s people, so I can have my people call her people?

No. 2: Get some people I can really call “my people,” since most of the people I know would snort in disgust if I dared to call them that, or beat that calendar to punching my lights out.

No. 3: Thank all of the people over the years who have stopped me just before I did something really stupid. They include my wife, my kids, several nurses, my newspaper editors, some of my patients and many others. I just hope they don’t stop me from cuddling comfortably up to Candice.

No. 4: Unfortunately, none of those people was with me in Philadelphia recently, so I also need to thank the guy driving the pickup truck that almost gave me bone-breaking bumper beauty marks while crossing a street there. I was not paying attention, instead being a smartphone idiot reading emails while crossing the street after looking left on what I did not realize was a one-way street with traffic coming from the right. He was paying attention, so he swerved and missed me when I stepped into his path. I’d have been really embarrassed if I got nailed by a pickup truck with the advice “Dodge” in big letters right on the grillwork.

No. 5: Thank my God, who occasionally pitches a close-call fastball to brush me back from stupidity, and remind me that a good life lived carefully can be lost in the blink of an inattentive eye.

No. 6: Related, thank my mother for the guardian angel she has had looking over me since I was old enough to start getting into trouble. The work has been steady, including explosions, fires, falls through the ice, near crashes and way too many miles driving late on rural Maine roads.

No. 7: Thank Lisa, my medical school cadaver. She donated her body to science so I could learn human anatomy on her cold, embalmed remains. I always tried to touch her tenderly, as though she could still feel, and never dissected one bit of her without respect and appreciation for her contribution to my craft.

No. 8: Related, also thank the first guy I ever stitched up. He not only let a trembling-handed, triple-thumbed, third-year medical student suture his scalp, but was really cool when I dropped the needle-tipped syringe filled with Novocain that I was using to first numb the cut. It did a two-and-a-half gainer straight down and stuck the landing beautifully, needle first, into his thigh. His only question as he disimpaled himself and handed back the syringe — “First time, eh?” — needed no answer.

No. 9: Have my Christmas gifts early, please. You know, just in case the world ends in two weeks.

Erik Steele, a physician in Bangor, is chief medical officer of Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems.

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