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OpinionOpEd

Confessions of a former Long Island medical maven

There are a few givens when Long Islanders pick a surgeon. Nobody uses an ordinary doctor. We only consult big men, or surgeons to the stars.

Heathcare professional using a laptop computer.

Heathcare professional using a laptop computer. Photo Credit: iStock

The Long Island medical mavens I know have no medical training.

These well-meaning friends and relatives from Roslyn, Northport, Merrick and elsewhere are teachers, accountants and plumbers who dispense unsolicited medical advice and make patients nervous.

I confess that I was a medical maven until a month ago, when I needed a stent put in my leg to clear a blockage and talked about my upcoming “procedure.” (On Long Island, folks somehow no longer have “operations.”) So in an upsetting role reversal, I became the advisee, not the adviser.

Here’s a sample of what friends said:

  • Are you using a big man? Don’t go under the knife unless he’s a department head at a teaching hospital.
  • Did you get a second opinion? All these guys want to do is cut. Find out if you really need it, and don’t do anything on a Friday. He’ll be gone for the weekend.
  • Are they keeping you 24 hours? Don’t have a drive-by surgery in which they kick you out fast and you have to readmitted.
  • If you’re smart, hire a home health aide.
  • Didya ask for pain pills? (One friend confided that her mother-in-law, may she rest in peace, had the exact same condition, and after surgery, she was in agony and couldn’t get off the bed.)

There are a few givens when Long Islanders pick a surgeon. Nobody uses an ordinary doctor. We only consult big men, or surgeons to the stars, like Dr. Mehmet Oz, who are so busy, you need pull to get a consultation.

Surgeons come in three categories: aggressive, conservative or, best choice, the surgeon your primary physician would pick for his mom, if God forbid, she needed surgery.

However, opinions clash about whether to stay on the Island or go to Manhattan.

Big Apple fans sneer that all they’d let a local yokel cut is a hang nail. Island chauvinists counter that we have gifted doctors here, where hospitals are not like those factories.

These days, plenty of “big women” operate, too, but the medical mavens seem to boost mostly their relatives, especially if the sister, cousin or wife operates at a “biblical” hospital like Mount Sinai or St. Francis. Exceptions are made for Albert Einstein Hospital in the Bronx.

My rationale for being a medical maven was that I was a do-gooder. I remember telling someone having a knee replacement, which I never had, to go to rehab before going home! And if a friend was having a heart bypass (which my husband did), I’d “prescribe” “mood meds” to avoid post-surgical depression. But having been a recipient of the head-shaking and pursed lips of medical mavens after I disclosed my own health care decisions, I apologize now to those I counseled.

After I had surgery, mavens continued giving me advice.

After a perfunctory “Carol, how are you?,” a South Shore friend warned that I could pick up life-threatening C. diff., the notorious bacteria that can cause serious inflammation of the colon, in the hospital.

I popped a Valium and vowed to never ever offer medical advice again — unless you need a stent. Then you must use the big man my husband, Herb, and I had. He operates in both Suffolk and Nassau counties. He’s got such a great reputation, he’s booked weeks ahead. So if there’s trouble getting an appointment, use my name, and they’ll squeeze you right in.

Reader Carol Cott Gross lives in East Northport.

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