A colleague of mine replied to an email I sent her on her Treo, because, she wrote, her computer was down. “My thumbs can’t take much more,” she added. I wrote back that she needn’t worry, because according to my thumb doctor, it’s a myth that PDA abuse leads to carpel tunnel syndrome.

As I typed the message, it occurred to me: I have a thumb doctor! A doctor specifically for a single digit on my right hand. I saw him in the fall, after my thumb became numb when I continued to cut pumpkins out for Halloween decorations long after the nerve at the base of my thumb had begun to throb. Must. Finish. Pumpkins. And I did, and I paid.

It makes sense that as you get older, you see more doctors–you’ve had more time on the planet to injure yourself and develop diseases and wear your organs out with all that breathing and beating and digesting. But why do the doctors become increasingly focused on smaller and smaller parts of your body? It makes me fear for the future, because I’m sure I’ll need a nostril specialist or to consult the world’s foremost expert on cuticles!

Think about it: Barring any chronic or catastrophic childhood illnesses or conditions, when you’re a kid, you have a pediatrician.

Then as a young adult, assuming you have health insurance, you’ll have a general practitioner and a gynecologist. You might have a dermatologist if you have acne.

If you are pregnant and plan to have the baby, you switch to an OB, but if you can’t get pregs on your own (like I couldn’t) you add a reproductive endocrinologist to your pit crew. And if, when the RE orders the baseline mammogram before he pumps you full of hormones so you can get pregnant, they find an abnormality (as they did with me), all of a sudden you have a breast surgeon! She biopsies the lumps and determines that they’re benign (whew!) so you’re perfectly healthy, but your grand doctor total is up to at least seven, eight if you count the radiologist. Naturally all this drama makes you a little coo coo and depressed, so you see a psychopharmacologist, who writes you prescriptions that might help your mood. That’s nine.

Meanwhile, your knee aches from all that exercise you’ve been doing to keep healthy and avoid having to see a cardiologist, and perhaps from carrying the twins you got from messing around with fertility drugs, so you see an orthopedist (10), who tells you you shouldn’t run so much. Maybe a routine physical reveals that your liver function is elevated (which can indicate hepatitis but often just mean that your liver has gotten fat), and so you see a gastroenterologist (11) who, if you’re lucky, tells you you’re fine.

At some point, probably in your early 40s, you’re inexplicably exhausted and gaining weight, and your GP sends you to a rheumatologist (12) and/or an endocrinologist (13) to rule out various autoimmune diseases and thyroid issues. Turns out, you’re just pooped because you have twins and have been working too hard and  the drugs meant to help your mood make you drowsy and your metabolism is staging a work slowdown in protest to your getting older. But you keep busy, cutting pumpkins out for Halloween and trying not to eat the candy you bought for the kids. Ouch–you now have a thumb doctor (an orthopedist and/or a neurologist who specializes in hands, 14). Somewhere along the line, you might have acquired  an allergist (15) and an ear, nose and throat guy (16), because lately you’ve been prone to sinus infections. Oh, Christ, I forgot about the podiatrist who dealt with my fungal toenail (17) which of course is still there.

I have 17 doctors and counting, and I’ve never been seriously ill, knock laminate. I’m not including the other practitioners, like physicians assistants or complementary medicine specialists, such as acupuncturists.

One could argue that I’m healthy because I’ve seen all these MDs, or that the fact that I have seen all these doctors is a sign that I take great care of myself. Either of those may be true, but I would be thrilled to cap the number of doctors at 20 and call it a life.

How many doctors have you seen? Do the math, please, and comment.

Photo by: daniel zimmel, CC Licensed