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Wed., April 29, 2009, 6:49 a.m.

Alas, poor Keith Hindman…

Good morning, Netizens...


Over a decade ago I met Dr. Keith Hindman of the former Deer Park Hospital as most people meet a doctor for the first time, as a patient. Dr. Hindman put me at ease in the first thirty seconds of our chance meeting in the Emergency Room of the former Deer Park Hospital, with a casual, friendly manner that bespoke of life in rural Stevens County rather than Spokane County. He was never nebulous, avoiding fifty dollar words that only a medical practitioner would understand, nor officious, like a doctor who is in a hurry to get to his next patient.


He explained my medical condition, helping me understand atrial fibrillation, and told me I would be hospitalized until that condition corrected itself. I drove myself to Deer Park during my first heart attack.


Almost immediately I knew Hindman had known heart issues of his own, for he admitted he had a stroke many years before that mildly affected his speech. Laying there on the gurney, however, with my poor chest doing a pitter-patter that sounded more like a tin drum being beaten by a demented man with a sledge hammer than normal heart rhythm, I trusted everything he said. That would change over time, for I have never cared for nor trusted a doctor since my childhood doctor who delivered babies in mountain shacks and salvaged bodies from mine accidents with equal ease.


What memories I have of that first face-to-face meeting was how gently and reverently his hands explored my poor broken body, for I already had many scars, even in those days, a fact Hindman did not miss.



Over the next few years, as I continued to visit his office in the Deer Park Medical Clinic, I grew acquainted with Dr. Keith Hindman, and came to trust his mild-mannered professionalism unlike anyone I have seen then or since. During my first visit with a cardiologist at The Heart Institute, while I was having my poor heart catheterized my cardiologist stunned me, actually, by taking several phone calls on his cell phone, while probing my heart's inner workings. One of the phone calls, doubtlessly more important than my well-being, came from his girlfriend, not his wife, and they enjoyed a rather frank conversation about their affair in my presence.


Inadvertently an air bubble entered my heart through the catheter, which hurt like hell. When I tried to tell the nurse, since the doctor had his back turned at the moment, she nudged him in an off-handed manner, and he slipped a nitroglycerin tablet beneath my tongue before resuming his conversation.


When I later told Keith Hindman about this episode, he actually laughed, especially when I told him the solution I derived for what I felt was unacceptable medical practice. The cardiologist much later on, got an expensive divorce, remarried and paid a hefty price for his carelessness in exploring my poor heart.


After I moved to the Big City, I lost sight of Keith Hindman, but never forgot him, because he set a standard of medical caring excellence that survived. He was and still is, in my opinion, a gentle man; perhaps horribly naïve in various ways, but essentially a man who cared more for his patients than himself.


When they closed the Deer Park Hospital, a part of me died with it, because now even rudimentary emergencies imply a $800 trip by ambulance to Spokane and the imperfection of medical care that one encounters in the real ER, not the one on television.


Can you say your doctor/practitioner cares deeply about you?


Dave




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Spokesman-Review readers blog about news and issues in Spokane written by Dave Laird.