My doctor and dentist are missing. Maybe their mug shots are not posted on the walls of law enforcement agencies, but they’ve dropped out of my life and — let’s face it — that’s what’s really important here.
Occasionally, you’ll hear it said that someone wasn’t appreciated until they after they were gone, but that’s not the case in this case.
Gene Howard, DDS, and Laura Mayfield, APN (read that as nurse practitioner), have disappeared in separate incidents, but I doubt I’m going to get much sympathy from the FBI or Arkansas State Police.
Howard was a just-graduated dentist from the University of Tennessee when he hung out his shingle on Geyer Springs Road in southwest Little Rock at the age of 28. I was 15.
We started going to him instead of another young dentist we had been using because Howard’s office was closer to our house. I’m sure it was my mother’s decision, though I don’t remember the details.
All I remember about the early days with Dr. Howard was that he was the first dentist I visited who administered “laughing gas.” One day he was forced to drill into one of my teeth and I kept tensing my jaw muscles. He stopped and said, “Mike, if there is any way you can train yourself to relax while I am doing this, it will make it easier for me to get the drilling over with, and make it less painful for you.” I started concentrating on doing that and it became a helpful skill I’ve used over the years.
Though I lived in Missouri and Texas for a while, I was a patient of his whenever I lived in Arkansas. When I moved back to Benton in 2001, I discovered that he had moved his office from Geyer Springs in Little Rock to the service road along Interstate 30 in Bryant. But the first time I scheduled an appointment, it was as if I never had left. “Howdy, partner! It’s good to see you.”
Meanwhile, I found a doctor I liked and with whom I felt comfortable when I went to a walk-in clinic called Your Doctor’s Office on Autumn Street in west Little Rock. I think I had the flu or something. They asked me at the front desk if I wanted to see the husband or wife (who were both doctors) or was I willing to see the nurse practitioner. I told them I was willing to see anyone, as long as I could get something to help me get better.
They sent me in to see Laura Mayfield, APN, who was 30-ish, professional, competent and comforting. After she answered my questions about what an advanced nurse practitioner did, she told me she could prescribe me something that might relieve some of my symptoms, but that it was the flu and it would have to run its course. Friendly but no-nonsense.
From then on, I signed in asking to see Laura Mayfield. Usually, when I went in for something, she would confirm that losing weight might help with a particular symptom.
In April 2012, I had light chest pains at work in downtown Little Rock, so a co-worker took me to the UAMS emergency room. They checked me out and couldn’t find anything, but the ER doctor, who was thorough, called Dr. Mayfield and expressed his concerns and then ordered me to go see her so she could check me out.
During the usual weigh-in the nurse performs as she took me back to the exam room at the clinic, I found that I had lost some weight. Mayfield came in and started listening to my heartbeat and poked and prodded a bit and decided that my discomfort might be caused by reflux and wrote me a prescription for it. I kidded her that after all this time of her telling me to lose weight that I finally had done so, and she hadn’t mentioned it. She said, “Well, excuse me. I was sort of busy trying to make sure that you hadn’t suffered a heart attack.”
I knew Dr. Howard had sold his practice to a younger dentist, but I didn’t know his plans to retire were immediate. But when my wife called to make an appointment late last week, the woman on the phone said he was retired and that she’d have to make an appointment with the new guy.
Meanwhile, I recently called Your Doctor’s Office to get my prescriptions transferred from Oklahoma to Little Rock. They informed me that I could leave a message for her nurse, but that Dr. Mayfield was no longer there. The nurse didn’t call me back, either, but that’s another story.
So I’m 59 years old, my dentist I’ve had since I was a kid has retired on me and my “kid” doctor who I adored has split — moved to a different practice … retired … decided to stay home to raise her son … gone into witness protection … something.
Life is tough when the people who take care of you decide to live their own lives.