Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Life As a Clergy Wife: Toting Along My Own Chaplain

I'll do anything to goose the healthcare system into being responsive to healthcare needs -- mine and those of others.

Until now, I've relied almost exclusively on my vast and frequently horrific personal experiences as a patient and caregiver. These have made me a fierce advocate for patients' rights. As a result, I'm fearless about demanding to see my health records, get copies of tests, and making doctors take off all their clothes if I have to take off all of mine. 

Kidding about that last thing. Not kidding about squelching the unequal first-name-basis thing. "It's 'Dr. Gould,'" I say, muttering "neuro-proctology" under my breath.

I've recently added Collar Power to my tools and tactics. What the hell, my husband is already dressed for work, he may as well stay in that outfit while accompanying me on medical adventures. Folks seem to get really weirded out if he's wearing a Roman-type notched collar with a black shirt instead of an Anglican-type "dog collar" with a colored or striped shirt. Winning!

He no longer notices the looks his clerical collar generates. I do. I notice an amusing (for me) mix of deference and anxiety and then curiosity when they realize he's with me.

I don't tell him to do this, but he always tends stand behind me with great solemnity. I don't check, but I'm pretty sure he stays in role whenever he hears me say:

"And I've brought my own chaplain, in case you really screw up."


  1. I have taken the opposite approach with name-calling. I address all my doctors by their first name.

  2. Rob..Yep, another great tactic and going either in the direction of using their full name, "Well, Stephen..." or more familiar version, "Well, Steve..." is always a fun approach, depending on what's on their name-tag. Will confess to have been sorely (literally) tempted to descend to, "Well, Stevie..." but have pulled myself back from the brink of that obnoxiousness.

  3. Re: the name question. When one doctor declined to call me by my title, I had the great pleasure of asking this gynecologist, "Well then, shall I call you Dick?"

    I also really like the idea of the doctor having to strip when the patient does, but then I don't have a chaplain in tow, so perhaps I better not try that...

  4. Yep, I kept my lovely wife, the Episcopal priest, by my side as I went in for my knee surgery on Thursday. As I was being wheeled to the OR, she prayed over me, made the sign of the cross on my forehead, and gave me a big ol' kiss. I smiled at the anaesthesiologist and said, "It's good to be married to your priest!"

  5. Susie -- Warm fuzzies and cold chills (in a good way) on reading your comment. Just when I think the times aren't a-changin' fast enough...


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