DO-IT-YOURSELF HEART SURGERY
“No, no, don’t take me into surgery!” Ray yelled, as he was being wheeled to the operating room.
“But you had a heart attack. If we don’t operate, you’ll die,” the dutiful attendant said, squeezing his shoulder to indicate care.
“I know, I know!” Ray said, “But if I wake up, I’ll have to pay the medical bills. Dying seems easier.”
“But you have health insurance,” the attendant said. “We checked your card. Otherwise, we couldn’t do anything for you.”
“Are you kidding?” Ray exclaimed. “By the time the insurance company deducts all the things they won’t pay for, my responsibility will be at least half!”
“Are you sure? You have a good policy.”
“That’s why I said half. A bad policy and I’d be responsible for more.”
“But we can’t let you die,” a female attendant said, as they wheeled him into the OR.
“Please, please, have mercy,” he said, “I can’t afford to live! Just let me die in peace!”
“It’s against the rules,” she informed him. “Now that you’re here, we have to operate.”
When he was under the lights, the surgeon peered down on him.
“What do you figure?” Ray asked him, “$100,000?”
“At least,” the surgeon said, and nodded toward the anesthesiologist.
Ray looked behind him and saw that he was about to be sedated. Weak as was, he realized he had only one choice. He jumped up and grabbed the scalpel from the surgeon.
“What are you doing?” his would-be savior demanded through his mask. “I need that.”
“I’m going to perform the operation myself,” Ray replied, holding the scalpel above his chest.
“Yourself?” the surgeon asked. “You can’t do that. You’ll bleed to death.”
“Better now than for years to come!” Ray raged. “How much more will it cost if I lie down and do it?”
“I don’t know,” an attendant said. “We don’t have any experience in self-surgery.”
“I’m the only one in this room with a license to perform a heart operation,” the surgeon advised him.
“But I can’t pay for it without wrecking my life. Either I operate or I die!”
“Call security,” the surgeon told an attendant.
“Yes, Doctor Johnson,” she said, and headed for the phone.
“Don’t do that!” Ray called, “I can’t wait. I need to operate now.”
Just then he staggered a bit. “What if I just have angioplasty?” he asked the surgeon.
“You need a quadruple bypass.”
“What about if I only have a double? Can I save half?”
“Same price,” the surgeon said.
“And a single?”
“It won’t help. Your blood vessels are all clogged. To much rich living.”
“But don’t you see? That’s why I can’t stand to be poor. I’m used to living well.” Then he raised the scalpel again, and looked at the surgeon. “Cut your fee in half or I operate right now.”
The surgeon looked around, uncertain about what to do, and Ray moved the scalpel closer to his chest. “Once I begin, you’ll be out of the picture. Half or nothing.”
“All right, all right” the surgeon conceded, “Just get back on the operating table.
“But you have to put in a claim for the full price. That way my responsibility will be even less.”
“I can’t do that,” the surgeon told him. “It’s unethical.”
“Then, let the surgery begin,” Ray threatened, and grabbed his blue robe to cut a hole in it.
“I won’t tell anybody about the special rate,” the anesthesiologist confided to the surgeon.
“I want a deal from you, too,” Ray said.
“I never reduce my rates,” he replied, with a look of condescension toward the surgeon. “Anesthesiologists are always surprisingly expensive, and we intend to stay that way.”
“Can you operate without it?” Ray asked the surgeon.
“No way, you’ll move too much. We even have to stop your heart from beating.”
“Do you have to restart it?”
“We have to try,” the surgeon said, with some impatience. “Come on, now, saving half on my rate is a good deal.”
“And I’ll tell you what,” the anesthesiologist said, “I’ll take off ten percent.”
“You can’t get a better deal than that,” the surgeon told him, and held out his hand.
“All right, you win,” Ray said. “Maybe now I can afford to live.”
With that, he handed the scalpel back to the surgeon and fainted onto the operating table.
The OR staff quickly hooked him up to the EKG and the anesthesiologist administered the sleep potion.
“Half price,” the surgeon said, scalpel at the ready. “It’s enough to make me feel like a humanitarian.”
“A humanitarian?” the anesthesiologist said, reminiscing about his idealistic student days. “Do you think I can qualify as one at 10% off?”
By Tom Attea