The Family Doctor

Posted on 19 August 2009 at 12:04 pm in Personal Stories, Writing.

In our present day of medical specialists, where you are delivered at birth by an obstetrician, followed by a pediatrician as you grow up, and finally you move onto either a General Practitioner or Doctor of Internal Medicine as an adult, I am reminded of the doctor that I had growing up, that covered it all. His name was Dr. Tuch (pronounced with a German gutteral “ch”).

These were the 1950s and 60s, where the doctor you had was a Family physician. He not only tended to your birth, but also as you grew up attended to all of your needs and that of the needs of everyone else in your family. This was also the time when doctor’s still made house calls, though my memories of Dr. Tuch center around his office.

Dr. Tuch was old when I was born, or at least seemed so to me. He had already delivered both of my older sisters and countless other relatives and children in the neighborhood. He was not the most local doctor around, since I remember you had to take public transportation to get to his office (my parents didn’t drive), but he was the most known in our circle of relatives and friends of German descent.

From my point of view Dr. Tuch looked exactly like Alfred Hitchcock.

Dr. Tuch at my bar mitzvah in 1963.

Dr. Tuch at my bar mitzvah in 1963.

Walking into his office you would immediately be confronted with the smell of alcohol disinfectant. Just thinking about Dr. Tuch brings up that smell. It was very distinct. Though doctor’s offices nowadays may be disinfected on a regular basis, they do not hold the odor of the amount of alcohol Dr. Tuch must have needed to sterilize his office.

When you sat down on his examination table, he would do the traditional listening of your lungs and heart through his stethoscope. It must have been pretty hard for him to hear anything, since he constantly wheezed, himself when he was examining me.  I would guess he must have been a smoker. Most of my parents’ friends and relations were smokers at that time.

Some of the immunizations I had to get as a child were given at school. All of those shots were given by nurses in my arm. It was quick and easy. I could see what they were doing and though a bit apprehensive about getting shots, I didn’t mind it that much. Dr. Tuch was very straightforward and direct in his dealings with patients. Try as I might to convince Dr. Tuch that the arm is the appropriate place to give shots, I always got injections by him in my butt.

As I grew older and entered high school, I continued to use Dr. Tuch to deal with all of my maladies. Two of the things that I recall him having impact with were the big toe on my left foot  and my stomach.

My first year, he had to deal with an infected in-grown toenail that was bothering me. Where most doctors at the time dealt with infected toenails through antibiotics alone or by having the infected toenail removed, Dr. Tuch took another route. He decided to cut a square shaped hole in my toenail and then treated it with antibiotics. This kept my toe bandaged up for at least a month. I had to visit his office frequently to be rebandaged and disinfected as the toenail continued to grow until the cut part was beyond the top of my toe and looked normal again. The sad part for me was that I missed out on the one P.E. class I really enjoyed (Gymnastics). There would be no trampoline for me. The other issue was that that toenail never acted normal again. To this day, it still has a bigger calcium buildup behind it than any of my other toes, making it much harder to trim. Thank you Dr. Tuch.

The other malady I had was stomach problems was also in my first year of high school. There was a time when I missed 4 days of high school, with stomach concerns (the minimum number of days you could be out without a doctor’s note), went back for one day and then missed another 4.  I don’t think there was anything wrong with me, it was probably only nervous stomach from being in high school. Dr. Tuch came to the rescue on that one. He checked me over and prescribed some gel caps for me to take. I still remember the little football shaped red and gray pills I had to take to calm my stomach. To this day I don’t know if he was actually giving me real medicine or a placebo, but whatever it was, it worked. My fears of high school faded away, my stomach calmed down and life went on.

That is the last instance that I remember seeing Dr. Tuch. According to the Social Security Death index, it looks as if he died in December of 1973, he would have been 76 years old. When I went to college I used the College Infirmary service to treat medical issues and when I graduated college and started living on my own, I found my own personal doctor. He too was old and didn’t last very long.

Now I use a walk-in service to treat my medical needs. This particular one has all of my records, but doesn’t know me other than a name on a chart. I also get to see all the types of specialists that one is required to as you get older: gastroenterologists, dermatologists, podiatrists, orthopedists, optometrists, ENTs… you get the idea. My wife does also, but wants to find a more local doctor that can tend to her needs and that you might get to see if you call for a visit, rather than whoever is on call that day.  My son still has the same pediatrician he had since the day he was born.

As far as Dr. Tuch, I miss having a doctor that knows who I am. Dr. Tuch was not only a doctor; he was a friend to the family. He was invited to certain family events, like my bar mitzvah. As old and as quirky as he was, he is still a distinct memory of my childhood. The smells of his office, the sounds of his breathing, the sights of his waiting room, office and examination room are vivid memories that I’m not likely to forget.

1 Comment

  1. anonymous - August 21, 2009 at 6:58 pm

    I enjoyed reading this piece. I did not remember that he was invited to your bar mitzvah. I don’t recall that he was invited to any other family event.

    Physicians in those days were very different from the physicians of today and as you described their practice is also very different. I wonder what the medicinal care will look like in years to come.

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