Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. is a Gynecologist, Director of the New York Menopause Center, Clinical Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Weill Cornell Medical College, and Assistant Attending Obstetrician and Gynecologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She is a board certified fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Allen is also a member of the Faculty Advisory Board and the Women’s Health Director of The Weill Cornell Community Clinic (WCCC). Dr. Allen was the recipient of the 2014 American Medical Women’s Association Presidential Award.

Editor’s Note: As readers may have guessed, our Dr. Pat is writing from her vacation spot on Cape Cod this week. Respectfully, we send our sympathies to The Husband, Douglas, even as we invite readers into our dialogue between The Writer and The Editor.

By Dr. Patricia Yarberry Allen

Sailboats are bobbing in the bay just outside.  I just finished eating breakfast of FAGE Yogurt with peaches and coffee on the deck where I was entertained by the sound of waves and birdsong. The husband had lots of artery clogging food, but it won’t kill him this weekend. (Ed. “Go Doug!)

Hughey, our new friend, is an extremely fat seagull who has given up the arduous life of the itinerant fisherman and has become a bon vivant dining on left overs as he swoops to our table before the food is removed by the room service crew. (Ed. “Pat, you actually permitted a fat seagull on your premises??”) He grabs some large piece of food and heads out to sea, no doubt gloating to the politically correct gulls that remain true to their natures.

This is my kind of holiday. Close enough to home to reach by car. Reading and writing; walking around with the husband who looks at the cars in the lots and tells me how the economy is going in this part of the world based on car facts (who knew?)(Ed; Actually the husband knows a hell of alot about the economy. To get his expert take on money and markets, click here.); lounging around the pool for just enough time to show off my new green swim suit and fetching hat and to get some Vitamin D and a few more freckles.

I do not like to travel. I like to read travel books and imagine wonderful adventures but there are too many obstacles in my psychological and knowledge based life that prevent me from being part of the traveling life. I hate airports and the mess of commercial flying. Why spend 4 hours on the tarmac with an overused toilet?  I have better things to do with my free time.  Best to live where you want to be I think.

I choose my destinations based in no small part on avoiding infectious diseases that can be acquired there.  (Ed. “Oh dear. Does this mean all my sharing of the delights of Kabul have been for naught? What about the proposed WVFC chapter in Mumbai?” )I have never been the same since I spent a year as an infectious disease fellow as part of my training experience.  I learned about tropical diseases so I avoid countries with break-bone fever epidemics, Ebola, SARS, drug resistant malaria, and parasites that enter your feet and stay with you for years.  “Why would you raise your hand to go on that journey?” I think when friends tell me with excitement that they will be spending thousands and thousands of dollars to visit the countries of X, Y, or Z just to  buy a lottery ticket to get a disease for the short or long term.

Then, of course, I learned the basics of the world’s infected food and water supplies. I have since then become my very own expert in food borne illnesses.

I know a Chinese born doctor who contracted cholera from steamed broccoli in the fanciest hotel in Beijing.  This was 4 years ago, mind you.  He explained that the hotel was new and had all the sparkling conveniences anyone could want but that the food was prepared in a sub-basement area and that the vegetables were steamed in the traditional way.  The infectious agent that causes cholera can not be eradicated by the temperature attained by brief steaming so he contracted this debilitating infectious disease. All water acquired locally has been collected from the infected water system and put into Evian like bottles.

Don’t get me started.(Ed. “Um, Pat…you’re already started. By the way, you can get tainted food in Manhattan too, you know.”)

Then there is the matter of dining out no matter where I am.  Truly having a meal out with me is no picnic. (Ed; “I do think the clamour of people wishing to dine out with you will definately die down after this pieces runs.”) The husband says that I approach the menu as though I am in a war zone and am looking for a two hour foxhole to inhabit while others eat, drink and are merry.  I open the menu carefully and look at the current danger zones:  This week it is beef.  That damned Nebraska slaughter house, Nebraska Beef Limited, that had been packaging and sending out E.coli infected beef across the country and sited numerous times was forced to recall 5.3 million pounds of beef in July then allowed to keep going sending out beef that had to be recalled just this week.  This time 1.2 million pounds and part of that was sent to the Holy Whole Foods (“we are organic and we are safe; that is why we charge so much” is their unspoken motto”).

I opened my menu at the pool restaurant and the alarm went off at once.  Scrolled down at the bottom of the menu was the disclosure, “Consuming raw or undercooked meats, seafood or eggs may increase your risk of food borne illness”.  People have to be told this?  Don’t they read? (Ed. “That silly notice is required by law, not just by the dumbness of restaurant owners who obviously are trying to poison you.”)

So, I ordered.  Bottled water, no ice.  (Did you read the study about more bacteria in ice than was found in toilet water?  Standard bedtime reading for moi.)  So far, so good.  Wait service had clean nails.  Very good.  Then the skirmish with the invisible chef begins.  What is really fresh today?  I had the New England Clam Chowder seduced by the fact that I was in New England so the clams might be fresh.  Then I had the Grilled Atlantic Salmon  (“no madam, the chef assures me that none of our fish is from a fish farm and we get our fish fresh from the market 2 hours away”)…and we were on the Atlantic….

The husband eats with gusto.  Anything, anywhere.  He clearly is from some super-hero planet.  Nothing can kill him.

It is our second day of vacation.  I am certainly not gaining weight, but I am grateful to be feeling just fine thank you.  I may be a little nuts but like all lunatics, there is often some real science behind their madness. (Ed: “As lunatics go…you are still our favorite.”)

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  • Adrian Miller August 16, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    Who’s up for kidnapping Dr. Pat and taking her to parts unknown for lots of decadent indulgences. Use your imaginations here:) Ah, I too was on Cape Cod this summer but am eagerly awaiting my upcoming trip to Istanbul where I will tempt the food poisoning gods by eating copious amounts of fabulous food native to their land. Sitting on the tarmac be damed, you only live once:) Each to her own.

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