The body repair work racket

Sallie Satterthwaite's picture

Where do these people come from, and how do they know when we are at our most vulnerable? When in the grip of the medical industry, even if for only a few weeks, one also learns that most of the ads in evening news are directed at oneself. Who’d have thought I’d ever care which brand of artificial knee has advantages over another or what granny panty gives enough protection but not too much?

Sooner or later, I suppose, everything has relevance.

The following letter arrived a week or so ago. Because a friend of ours has the same name, I was tempted to think maybe it was the product of his ever-gestating mind, or that it had been sent to me by mistake.

I find it ironic to say the least, combined with geriatrically sensitive pain medicine and demonstrations of tai chi, purported to maintain grace and strength among the elderly.

“Mrs. Satterthwaite,

“It is with a heavy heart that I learned of your upcoming body repair work. My heart is heavy because I feel I was neglected in the repairman selection process. I never received an RFP (Request For Proposal) or any form of opportunity to bid on the work.

“While I am a relative newcomer to the field and I use rather unorthodox solutions, I am somewhat certain you can recall the laughter and down-the-nose looks that victimized Wilbur and Orville during their quest for heavier than air flight.

“I have an angle bracket that was salvaged from an obsolete satellite receiver antenna. It is very light, sturdy and nearly rust free. A nearly new bolt and nut were salvaged at the same time. I have recently learned how to use a plasma cutter and MIG welder, and I am almost certain I can fashion a relatively suitable knee joint. I have a complimentary tube of Gorilla Glue that should be suitable for joining metal to bone.

“I have some old copper wire that is probably nearly as strong as tendons. Duct tape has been proven a somewhat suitable substitute for skin.

“Again, I think I am probably an acceptable candidate for fulfilling nearly all of your body work needs. I have submitted a diagrammatic representation of my methodology to the AMA [American Medical Association] for inclusion in an upcoming publication of The New England Journal of Medicine. I am pretty sure the editors and board members will be amazed and thrilled with my submission. All I need is an opportunity to demonstrate my theories.

“This brings me back to my reason for writing this e-mail. In spite of the late date, I would be willing to do the entire job, to include replacing all joints below the thigh for only 354 payments of $39.95.

“There is some question about the acceptability of my methods with the insurance companies and credit card companies so payments will need to be in small, unmarked bills.

“Please sign this e-mail as a legal document describing the methodology and FOB costs. Also, your signature will constitute a complete and total medical release.

“Sincerely yours, Russell Crawford, n/a customer.”



Crawford’s frequent use of vague expressions like “pretty sure,” and “should be,” “probably nearly as strong” raised caution in my mind. If I’m right about who he is, he has a history of a sort of mission work. He has a reputation for getting in there and setting things aright – at least to his idea of what is right – from mopping up Hurricane Katrina to restructuring an international air line.

In any case, what’s done is done, in this case a full knee replacement, and I certainly do not intend to have another anytime soon.

Should one of my readers be interested in his services, however, I asked him if he could provide me with references. Or was I part of the demonstration of his “procedure” (as they call everything from trimming fingernails to heart/lung transplants these days)?

“Unfortunately,” I wrote back, “we have two problems here. One, I don't have a printer at the moment, so you'd have to print it out and mail it to me for my signature. (I needn't caution you about sending it from Alabama or Florida, do I? The ICC people are funny about offers like this.)

“And secondly, no, Medicare and Aetna will not cover your procedure. They consider it experimental. I've tried to calculate how many columns it would take to cover your charges and reminded myself once more why my muse is language and not math? Aren't I lucky that you just provided me with one of them? One of them columns, I mean?

“Of course, if you give me the Lutheran discount -- since this is at least the 10th knee replacement in that congregation this year -- perhaps we could get it down to one column a week. In a way, you make this too easy, especially since you also ticked me off a little, suggesting that I can remember people scoffing at the Wright boys.

“Good luck with your innovation. Do consider latex instead of duct tape. Not everyone’s skin is the color of duct tape.

“Thank you for your too-late-thank-Heaven offer.


“Sallie Satterthwaite”

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