southern medicine

Bone scan image by Myohan via Wikipedia.orgWho would have thought that a bone scan could be such a pleasant experience?

I didn’t. I figured I’d show up at Tidelands Health Waccamaw Hospital in Murrells Inlet, S.C., at the appointed hour, go downstairs to Nuclear Medicine, get an injection, lie on a table and listen to machinery whir around me, then get up and go home.

But two musicians whose day job is in nuclear medicine at the hospital made the scan a truly harmonious (no pun) event.

Imagine my surprise when over the soft whir of the scanner as the test began I heard music. Good music!

This was courtesy of Tom Goodman, 64 and a former Hoosier, and Darrin McCann, 45, who hails from all over. Those two can scan my old bones anytime they like (as long as they bring their music with them).

You know, yourself, that normally in situations like this the best a patient can expect is elevator music.

Read my lips: I hate elevator music!

It’s not even music. Reminds me of the old blues song by W.C. Handy, “Loveless Love.” You remember it: “From silkless silk to milkless milk, we are growing used to soul-less souls.” (Sing it again, Billie Holiday, wherever you are!)

Elevator music is music with no soul.

Can I get an amen on that?

If clarinetist Goodman and guitarist McCann had come up with the idea of accompanying bone scans with soul-less music, you wouldn’t be reading this. I wouldn’t have written it. But neither man just plays music; they both KNOW music.

In the short time I was there, we talked about music ranging from swing to rock to country and about musicians from B.B. King to Willie Nelson, from Norah Jones to the Eagles, and from Benny Goodman to Delbert McClinton. They knew them all.  Goodman even named his son Benny (after Guess Who), and the son plays clarinet, too – “better than I do,” said Dad, who now plays mostly in church.

“Both of us really love music,” said McCann, who used to play in bands, but now plays mostly for himself.

And both men spoke and smiled as one when I asked their favorite musical artists.

Without hesitation, they said, “The Beatles.”

When they said that, one of my all-time favorite rock ‘n’ roll songs raced through my mind: “Oh, she was just seventeen, you know what I mean, and the way she looked was way beyond compare…” That song, from the Beatles’ debut album “Please Please Me,” tore the doors off popular music when it roared onto the scene in 1963 to introduce The Fab Four.

Of course, Goodman and McCann don’t play get-up-and-dance music for patients. Patients are required to lie still during the scan. But the soft and soothing music the technicians do play is just as good in its own right, and the music the patients seem to like best is that of Bob DeAngelis, a Canadian jazz musician.

How did a Canadian jazz musician get into the act?

“I was shopping with my wife in Bed, Bath & Beyond when I heard good music being played in the store,” Goodman said. He asked a clerk about it, she showed him the album, and he bought it.

On the album, titled “In A Sentimental Mood,” were such old favorites as “What a Difference a Day Makes,” “Tenderly,” “Blue Velvet,” “Que Sera Sera,” all featuring the very listenable clarinet of DeAngelis.

Knowing he had stumbled onto a good thing, Goodman soon bought more albums.

“We now have a little bit of everything,” McCann said.

And so many patients have asked about the music that Goodman and McCann are now ready with a printout to give to the curious so they can find the music themselves on Amazon and websites.

P.S. My scan was clear.

So is my conscience, in case you wondered.

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Image: Bone scan image by Myohan via Wikipedia.org and used under a Creative Commons license.
Robert Lamb

Robert Lamb

I grew up in Augusta, Ga., where I attended Boys' Catholic High. After service in the Navy, I attended the University of Georgia, majoring in English, and then began a (wholly unexpected) journalism career on the old Augusta Herald, an evening paper, and ended years later in Atlanta at The (great) Atlanta Constitution, which I left in late 1982 to write The Great American Novel. That goal has proved remarkably elusive, but my first attempt (Striking Out, in 1991) was nominated for the PEN/Hemingway Award. My second novel, Atlanta Blues, spent a few minutes on the best-seller list in (at least) Columbia, S.C., and was described in one newspaper’s year-end roundup as “one of the three best novels of 2004 by a Southern writer.” My third novel won no honors but at least didn’t get me hanged; titled A Majority of One, it is about a clash between religion and the Constitution over book-banning in the high school of a Georgia town. For my next novel, And Tell Tchaikovsky the News, I returned to an Atlanta setting for a story about the redemptive powers of, in this case anyhow, “that good rock ’n’ roll.” I've also published a collection of short stories and poems: Six of One, Half Dozen of Another. One of its stories, “R.I.P.,” was a winner in the S.C. Fiction Project in 2009. Before retirement, I taught creative writing and American literature at the University of South Carolina and its Honors College, and feature writing in its School of Journalism. I maintain a now-and-then blog at boblamb.wordpress.comand I walk my dog on the beach a lot at Pawleys Island, S.C.