In one iconic scene from the movie, the war is going badly for the South. Pampered Southern ladies Scarlett and Melanie are in Atlanta. Melanie is about to have a baby, and the young house maid, Prissy (played by Butterfly McQueen, who, before becoming an actor, wanted to be a nurse), brags to Scarlett that she knows all about delivering babies and has assisted at many births. But when the doctor can’t come because he is tending to wounded Confederate soldiers, and Scarlett tells Prissy she has to go it alone, Prissy breaks down and shrieks the truth: “I don’t know nothin’ ‘bout birthin’ babies!” http://www.tcm.com/mediaroom/video/281121/Gone-With-The-Wind-Movie-Clip-Bringing-A-Baby.html (I love this part of the movie so much that I sometimes shriek Prissy’s line myself when I’m feeling overwhelmed by life.)
Prissy is the nurse in my head. She tells me she knows everything about everything, but I think all my 21st century Prissy is doing is trying to match my symptoms to the most terrifying disease, syndrome, infection or condition she can find. She tells me it’s going to be ok and that she has taken care of this kind of problem many times before. But the minute I wake up with a scratchy throat, she screams, “IT’S EBOLA! YOU’VE GOT EBOLA!” When my oldest daughter broke her arm (and when my son broke his head, and when my other daughter got stitches, etc., etc.) and I was trying to act like a calm grownup, Prissy was in my head shrieking “I don’t know nothin’ ‘bout broken bones!” When I have heartburn, she tells me it’s a heart attack. And, like in the movie, she doesn’t bring the doctor. She tells me the doctor is busy with real sick people. “There’s folks dying out there, quit worrying about your mole . . . although it is bigger than last week. What, you can’t remember how big it was last week? You have Alzheimer’s AND melanoma!”
She’s no Florence Nightingale, but I guess it could be worse. I could be stuck with Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, or Annie Wilkes, from Misery. Prissy hasn’t had me lobotomized or broken my ankles. Yet.
Doctors are not amused by Prissy. They don’t seem to like walking into the exam room, asking what brings me in today, and hearing Prissy’s suggestions about what the problem might be. I try to leave Prissy in the car when I go to the doctor, but if she insists on coming in with me I get sort of a kick out of seeing my doctor roll her eyes, because if she rolls her eyes that means I’m being ridiculous and Prissy is wrong and I do not have Ebola or Alzheimer’s or Pseudobulbar Affect. (Have you SEEN that commercial? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cqjT_YqmNas. Prissy has me terrified of it! I’m afraid to laugh too hard at a joke or tear up over that commercial where the different species of animals are friends because what if it’s not really that funny or that touching and I have Pseudobulbar Affect?! Someone please tell me if you notice this behavior.)
Another thing about doctors—have you noticed that when you’re young, you call the doctor’s office all urgent because you think you might have strep and want to get rid of it ASAP, and since you’re there anyway you mention some other random problems and Life Questions and they assure you that you’re fine and throw you out. You go to the doctor when YOU want to see the DOCTOR. But once you hit 50 you try to duck into the doctor’s office, snag a scrip for heartburn that’s been going on for 473 days in a row and duck out with a friendly “thanks-seeya-next-year,” but now they want to chat and ask a hundred questions about this heartburn and a bunch of other things you’d rather not think about like colonoscopies and sketchy bloodwork. The DOCTOR wants to see YOU. This is a 180 in the ol’ doctor/patient relationship, and it does not feel like a good one. Hitting 50 must be one of those milestones, like puberty, except nobody tells you your body is about to make some changes and it’s not fun or exciting.
I suppose my doctor should be glad I have Prissy in my head, because I show up in her office as requested just to shut Prissy up. (Prissy says “You’re welcome.”)