Stranger in a Strange Land: Deep Breath: Just What the Doctor Ordered

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Deep Breath: Just What the Doctor Ordered

Originally appearing in 365, Ink. (

I cringe with tension as I anticipate the oncoming chill…There it is. It snakes its way up my spine, causing me to gasp, and sends my heart racing. There’s no hiding now. My body tattles and he can hear all. “Deep breath,” the doctor instructs as he slowly slides his cold metal stethoscope across my heart and towards my upper chest. I take in an extended breath, pause, and slowly exhale. My heart slows. “Deep breath,” the doctor repeats, this time with his metallic ear resting on my shoulder blade. Again I take a long breath and instantly feel relaxed, somehow better. After several more meditative breaths, the doctor removes the stethoscope from his ears, places his index finger inquisitively under his chin and nods with intelligent understanding. I wait patiently for the verdict. “No problem, no problem,” he ensures me.

This is how I remember going to the doctor as a kid. Noticeably absent are scenes of kicking, screaming and threatening to harm the doctor’s well being. Unlike most kids, going to the doctor was never a problem for me. Instead of being synonymous to what a child views as non-consensual acupuncture, a trip to the doctor was more along the lines of yoga. I’m not saying going to the doctor’s office was all ice cream and stickers. Remember, I was a kid. All I am saying is that for me, going to the doctor was never a problem because my doctor was Dr. Krish.

Dr. Krish was one of those rare physicians who knew you not only as a patient, but also as a person. He was gentle, friendly and, for the most part, honest when he told you “this will only hurt a bit”. Dr. Krish was a doctor who developed a familial relationship with his patients. I recall his office walls being cluttered with holiday cards, photographs and general greetings from his appreciative patients. He knew your name, age, school, hobbies, interests and, despite your best attempt to fake feeling fine, exactly what was wrong. Dr. Krish made your visit as comfortable as a trip to the doctor’s can be by always remembering the little nuances of each patient, such as how I reflexively gag whenever a wooden Popsicle stick is used to depress my tongue. For me, the Popsicle Stick of Torture stayed locked away in its little glass jar on top of the desk and my throat was examined with an old fashioned “Say Ahhh”.

What made Dr. Krish an exceptional doctor was the prescription for life he inadvertently gave. This is the prescription of the “Deep Breath”. I have often used this medicine as a mantra for handling all of life’s many twists. To deal with switching schools during the awkward years of junior high, I used a dose of the “Deep Breath”. When unceremoniously dumped by a high school girlfriend, only to turn around and discover the perfect one, I regained my breath by taking a “Deep Breath”. When sitting for the three-day bar exam, giving a speech before the freshman class at the University of Iowa, or trying to finagle my way out of a car wreck in downtown Dublin while lacking the proper documentation-In all of these situations I took a long inhale, paused, and slowly exhaled. My body relaxed and my mind became clear, giving me a new perspective on the situation. “No problem, no problem,” I would think.

I don’t think a doctor can prescribe a better medication than this. Besides taking care of my colds, keeping my shots up to date, and poking me with an endless amount of needles, Dr. Krish went beyond his basic call of duty. Instead of just giving me the treatment I needed to feel better for a day, he gave me a treatment that has allowed me to feel better for life. And of course it wasn’t just me that he prescribed this to, he’s been prescribing “Deep Breaths” to hundreds of patients for over twenty-five years. Because of him we have all been able to live a happier, healthier and generally side-effect free life; something no prescription drug seems capable of doing.

I think of all this as I flip through the morning paper and read a statement announcing Dr. Krish’s retirement. Although I’m saddened to think there will be no more prescriptions of “Deep Breaths”, I guess after so many years of helping us it is time for the doctor to try a little of his own medicine. Take a deep breath Dr. Krish, you of all people deserve it.


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