Medical malpractice

Having reached that stage in life known as post-traumatic-middle-age, I have become acutely aware of changes in dinner conversations. Where we once discussed our children, haute cuisine, politics and our recent trips, our banter has taken a turn for the worse. Now, our focus is on medical matters, more specifically, that colorful topic: symptoms. And though I hate admitting it, we have gone from being scintillating raconteurs to boring whiners brought on by our bouts of physical ailments.

For example, our friend, Ted (names have been changed to protect the neurotic) once regaled us with detailed accounts of Wall Street minutiae. For years, Ted told when to buy and when to sell. Once, we even made a few bucks on Ted's advice to invest in snake placenta oil from Argentina. I never even knew snakes had placentas. Now Ted has put his snake oil aside and wants to talk about his health, which fluctuates daily.

Last Saturday night over dinner at a chic French restaurant and an obscenely over-priced bottle of wine, Ted presented an oral dissertation that included a virtual tour through his intestinal tract including his alimentary canal. While I sat there wading through my Vichyssoise, Ted revisited his last bout of diverticulitis with such detailed clarity that rivaled even a gastroenterologist's acumen. While Ted's bowels might have been in an uproar, it is my belief that such information is best reserved for medical examining rooms rather than be aired at the dinner table.

Similarly, Ted's wife, Lois, did not need to share with us her complete gynecological history nor did Bob need to give us a running account of his latest cardio event, or how his arteries are so clogged with pate' de fois gras that even an angioplasty could not remove the goose liver.

I was also astonished to learn that during Bob's open-heart surgery when he was rendered unconscious, he not only shouted obscenities, but confessed to a minor indiscretion with a Brazilian belly dancer back in 2002. Bob's wife, Monica was not thrilled.

As I tried ingesting my grossly expensive, fabulously fresh wild salmon with capers in dill sauce, we were further enlightened to the fact that during his five-and-a-half hour surgery, Bob was pronounced dead for 2 minutes due to a complication that David (a lawyer) said was clearly grounds for a malpractice action.

I was surprised, however, that during this gastronomic medical seminar, my husband, Mark had remained mute, and did not feel compelled to discuss his plantar fasciitis, a condition so painful he had to give up tennis. Instead, in the comfort of our home with no means of escape, Mark complains hourly that he is in such acute pain that even overdosing on Ibuprofen and a half bottle of Dewer's doesn't alleviate the excruciating stabs in his right foot.

But this evening, while the others waxed eloquent on their ailments, Mark was unusually quiet. This concerned me greatly, concluding that he was either deaf, asleep or dead, none of which was the case. The fact was, he had aspirated a piece of fennel from his vertical endive, radicchio, pine nut, arugula and fennel salad, and was starting to turn a slight shade of psychedelic blue.

Suddenly realizing this, all of us jumped to attention while Ted, proficient in the Heimlich maneuver, took charge. He gave Mark a hearty blow beneath his rib cage, dislodging the fennel from his windpipe, bringing him back to life as he knew it before he went blotto.

When Mark was back and finally able to converse, he berated Bob for breaking two of his ribs. He also reprimanded the waiter for serving a lethal weapon masquerading as a salad. Bob said they were now even since during the maneuver, he had scratched the glass on his Rolex watch. By the time the desserts arrived, I was feeling slightly ill with a general malaise brought on by a night out with our friends.

Next week, we're going to the trendy new Italian restaurant. Our friend, Susan (the hypochondriac) and her husband, Jake (the dermatologist) will be joining us. Before leaving home, I plan on swallowing a couple of Valium, downing a double martini and putting myself on life support system. When it comes to dining out with friends, it's important to get yourself in proper working order.

Westporter Judith Marks-White shares her humorous views every Wednesday in the Westport News. She can be reached via e-mail at or at