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´╗┐Title: An Ounce of Cure
Author: Nourse, Alan Edward, 1928-1992
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "An Ounce of Cure" ***

An Ounce of Cure

The doctor's office was shiny and modern. Behind the desk the doctor
smiled down at James Wheatley through thick glasses. "Now, then! What
seems to be the trouble?"

Wheatley had been palpitating for five days straight at the prospect of
coming here. "I know it's silly," he said. "But I've been having a pain
in my toe."

"Indeed!" said the doctor. "Well, now! How long have you had this pain,
my man?"

"About six months now, I'd say. Just now and then, you know. It's never
really been bad. Until last week. You see--"

"I see," said the doctor. "Getting worse all the time, you say."

Wheatley wiggled the painful toe reflectively. "Well--you might say
that. You see, when I first--"

"How old did you say you were, Mr. Wheatley?"


"Fifty-_five_!" The doctor leafed through the medical record on his
desk. "But this is incredible. You haven't had a checkup in almost ten

"I guess I haven't," said Wheatley, apologetically. "I'd been feeling
pretty well until--"

"_Feeling_ well!" The doctor stared in horror. "But my dear fellow, no
checkup since January 1963! We aren't in the Middle Ages, you know. This
is 1972."

"Well, of course--"

"Of course you may be _feeling_ well enough, but that doesn't mean
everything is just the way it should be. And now, you see, you're having
pains in your toes!"

"One toe," said Wheatley. "The little one on the right. It seemed to

"One toe _today_, perhaps," said the doctor heavily. "But _tomorrow_--"
He heaved a sigh. "How about your breathing lately? Been growing short
of breath when you hurry upstairs?"

"Well--I _have_ been bothered a little."

"I thought so! Heart pound when you run for the subway? Feel tired all
day? Pains in your calves when you walk fast?"

"Uh--yes, occasionally, I--" Wheatley looked worried and rubbed his toe
on the chair leg.

"You know that fifty-five is a dangerous age," said the doctor gravely.
"Do you have a cough? Heartburn after dinner? Prop up on pillows at
night? Just as I thought! And no checkup for ten years!" He sighed

"I suppose I should have seen to it," Wheatley admitted. "But you see,
it's just that my toe--"

"My dear fellow! Your toe is _part_ of you. It doesn't just exist down
there all by itself. If your _toe_ hurts, there must be a _reason_."

Wheatley looked more worried than ever. "There must? I thought--perhaps
you could just give me a little something--"

"To stop the pain?" The doctor looked shocked. "Well, of course I could
_do_ that, but that's not getting at the root of the trouble, is it?
That's just treating symptoms. Medieval quackery. Medicine has advanced
a long way since your last checkup, my friend. And even treatment has
its dangers. Did you know that more people died last year of _aspirin_
poisoning than of _cyanide_ poisoning?"

Wheatley wiped his forehead. "I--dear me! I never realized--"

"We have to _think_ about those things," said the doctor. "Now, the
problem here is to find out _why_ you have the pain in your toe. It
could be inflammatory. Maybe a tumor. Perhaps it could be, uh,
functional ... or maybe vascular!"

"Perhaps you could take my blood pressure, or something," Wheatley

"Well, of course I _could_. But that isn't really my field, you know. It
wouldn't really _mean_ anything, if I did it. But there's nothing to
worry about. We have a fine Hypertensive man at the Diagnostic Clinic."
The doctor checked the appointment book on his desk. "Now, if we could
see you there next Monday morning at nine--"

       *       *       *       *       *

"Very interesting X rays," said the young doctor with the red hair.
"_Very_ interesting. See this shadow in the duodenal cap? See the
prolonged emptying time? And I've never seen such beautiful

"This is my toe?" asked Wheatley, edging toward the doctors. It seemed
he had been waiting for a very long time.

"Toe! Oh, no," said the red-headed doctor. "No, that's the Orthopedic
Radiologist's job. I'm a Gastro-Intestinal man, myself. Upper. Dr.
Schultz here is Lower." The red-headed doctor turned back to his
consultation with Dr. Schultz. Mr. Wheatley rubbed his toe and waited.

Presently another doctor came by. He looked very grave as he sat down
beside Wheatley. "Tell me, Mr. Wheatley, have you had an orthodiagram


"An EKG?"



"I--don't _think_ so."

The doctor looked even graver, and walked away, muttering to himself. In
a few moments he came back with two more doctors. "--no question in _my_
mind that it's cardiomegaly," he was saying, "but Haddonfield should
know. He's the best Left Ventricle man in the city. Excellent paper in
the AMA Journal last July: 'The Inadequacies of Modern Orthodiagramatic
Techniques in Demonstrating Minimal Left Ventricular Hypertrophy.' A
brilliant study, simply brilliant! Now _this_ patient--" He glanced
toward Wheatley, and his voice dropped to a mumble.

Presently two of the men nodded, and one walked over to Wheatley,
cautiously, as though afraid he might suddenly vanish. "Now, there's
nothing to be worried about, Mr. Wheatley," he said. "We're going to
have you fixed up in just no time at all. Just a few more studies. Now,
if you could see me in Valve Clinic tomorrow afternoon at three--"

Wheatley nodded. "Nothing serious, I hope?"

"Serious? Oh, no! Dear me, you _mustn't_ worry. Everything is going to
be all right," the doctor said.

"Well--I--that is, my toe is still bothering me some. It's not nearly as
bad, but I wondered if maybe you--"

Dawn broke on the doctor's face. "Give you something for it? Well now,
we aren't Therapeutic men, you understand. Always best to let the expert
handle the problem in his own field." He paused, stroking his chin for a
moment. "Tell you what we'll do. Dr. Epstein is one of the finest
Therapeutic men in the city. He could take care of you in a jiffy. We'll
see if we can't arrange an appointment with him after you've seen me

Mr. Wheatley was late to Mitral Valve Clinic the next day because he had
gone to Aortic Valve Clinic by mistake, but finally he found the right
waiting room. A few hours later he was being thumped, photographed, and
listened to. Substances were popped into his right arm, and withdrawn
from his left arm as he marveled at the brilliance of modern medical
techniques. Before they were finished he had been seen by both the
Mitral men and the Aortic men, as well as the Great Arteries man and the
Peripheral Capillary Bed man.

The Therapeutic man happened to be in Atlantic City at a convention and
the Rheumatologist was on vacation, so Wheatley was sent to Functional
Clinic instead. "Always have to rule out these things," the doctors
agreed. "Wouldn't do much good to give you medicine if your trouble
isn't organic, now, would it?" The Psychoneuroticist studied his sex
life, while the Psychosociologist examined his social milieu. Then they
conferred for a long time.

Three days later he was waiting in the hallway downstairs again. Heads
met in a huddle; words and phrases slipped out from time to time as the
discussion grew heated.

"--no doubt in my mind that it's a--"

"But we can't ignore the endocrine implications, doctor--"

"You're perfectly right there, of course. Bittenbender at the University
might be able to answer the question. No better Pituitary
Osmoreceptorologist in the city--"

"--a Tubular Function man should look at those kidneys first. He's
fifty-five, you know."

"--has anyone studied his filtration fraction?"

"--might be a peripheral vascular spasticity factor--"

After a while James Wheatley rose from the bench and slipped out the
door, limping slightly as he went.

       *       *       *       *       *

The room was small and dusky, with heavy Turkish drapes obscuring the
dark hallway beyond. A suggestion of incense hung in the air.

In due course a gaunt, swarthy man in mustache and turban appeared
through the curtains and bowed solemnly. "You come with a problem?" he
asked, in a slight accent.

"As a matter of fact, yes," James Wheatley said hesitantly. "You see,
I've been having a pain in my right little toe...."

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "An Ounce of Cure" ***

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