Second place? Not surgeons

Kevin Cowherd

June 21, 1993|By Kevin Cowherd

My brother-in-law Doug needs an operation for a ruptured disc, and claims to be talking with the best orthopedic surgeon in New York.

"This guy does the Knicks, Giants, Jets," Doug says. "He's absolutely the best."

Then there's my buddy Frank in Baltimore, who had an eye operation not long ago.

"Best ophthalmologist in the business," Frank says. "Same guy who fixed Sugar Ray Leonard's eye."

Finally, there's my old high school friend, Steve, who informed me he was going for a knee operation next week.

"I'm not worried," he said. "The guy cutting me is . . ."

"Don't tell me," I said. "The best in the business?"

"Absolutely. They say he's done a bunch of guys in the NFL."

It occurred to me after listening to these three that I've never heard anyone say: "My surgeon's not that good -- got this vacant look in his eyes, for one thing."

In fact, I've never even heard anyone say: "My surgeon's just . . . OK . He's not the best, but he's right there in the middle."

Nope. Everyone claims to have the best surgeon around.

If you think about it, though, every surgeon can't be the best in the business.

At least half the surgeons out there graduated in the bottom 50 percent of their class at med school.

And what about the surgeons who just barely got through med school -- you know, the screw-ups, the men and women who were sneaking out to beer blasts and wet T-shirt contests when they were supposed to be studying Advanced Kinesiology?

You mean to tell me these doctors aren't out there cutting someone open even as we speak?

I guess it's only human nature to feel more comfortable with a surgeon whose hands have been entrusted with the bone, tissue and organs of rich and powerful celebrities.

I mean, suppose they were wheeling you into the operating room for triple by-pass surgery and suddenly one of the orderlies leaned in your face and whispered: "Wow, you got the same guy who operated on Marv Burgeson! You know, Marv the mailman!"

Me, I'm guessing that doesn't fill you with the same warm feeling of confidence you'd have if your surgeon had just cut open, say, Larry King.

Which isn't to say that Marv Burgeson doesn't deserve the same degree of skill and knowledge from his surgeon as Larry King deserves from his.

Marv Burgeson is a human being, isn't he?

Marv Burgeson doesn't want to be lying there on the operating table, woozy from the first blast of anesthesia, only to look up and see his surgeon crush out a Marlboro and complain about his hangover.

And when Marv Burgeson finally comes to in post-op, he doesn't want some jittery nurse rushing up to him and blurting: "Mr. Burgeson, bear with us here for a moment . . . they took out your spleen by mistake."

No. Marv Burgeson doesn't want to hear that any more than Larry King does.

What I want to know is, the ophthalmologist who fixed Sugar Ray Leonard's eye . . . what was he known for before he operated on Sugar Ray?

Had he operated on any other celebrities?

Or did they tell Sugar Ray something like: "Look, the guy doing your operation is the same guy who worked on Loretta Griswald's detached retina. Loretta used to work in the Junior Miss department at Sears, but is now in Bathroom Fixtures."

Maybe you see what I'm getting at here. If I'm Sugar Ray, I want to see something a little more impressive on my ophthalmologist's resume.

I want to see something other than: "Repaired torn optic nerve of Anthony T. Mancuso. Patient returned to work at Bonanza steak house and was recently named Employee of the Month."

No, I'm afraid that just doesn't get it.

On the other hand, if I heard my ophthalmologist is the same guy who saved Oprah Winfrey's eyesight after a grueling 12-hour cornea transplant, I would be inclined to feel a whole hell of a lot better.

Understand, I'm not saying Oprah did, in fact, undergo major eye surgery.

On the other hand, I'm not saying she didn't.

I wish she'd just come clean on the whole subject. What's she hiding, anyway?

Why not just call a news conference and clear up this whole thing before the tabloids get a hold of it?

I'm sure her surgeon could use the publicity.

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