"How's our celebrity," one of Dr. Perry Hookman's fellow doctors asked him yesterday as he moved through the cafeteria line with a piece of fried chicken and a single cucumber on his tray. "My wife say you on television. She couldn't believe it. You looked good. Real good."
Hookman blushed, and mumbled something inaudible. "I'll be glad when this is all over," he later told a friend.
Hookman, until this week little known outside his medical powerbase at Prince George's General Hospital, has become the Washington area's most publicized doctor in recent days since his best known patient, Gov. Marvin Mandel, was hospitalized after suffering a slight stroke that will likely delay his political corruption trial scheduled to begin Wednesday.
The case understandably is the talk of the hospital.
Television cameramen wander in and out; technicians in the lab where the Maryland governor' blood is examined joke about "who is going to stick him next;" and other doctors are Monday morning quarterbacks on the diagnosis of the case.
"I know there's a lot of excitement in the hospital about this," said Dr. Said Daee, a resident surgeon. "The ninth floor (where Mandel's room is located) seems different than before. I see more VIPs coming and going."
Because of the timing of the ailment, there is a high degree of cynicism among some hospital staff members.
"I think anyone in his (Mandel's position would have had a stroke if they knew it would get the out of going to court," said one older doctor, making his rounds.
"It just seems to me that it isn't right," I can't see the reason for him coming here," said a young physician in private practice, visiting a patient. "To me, I get a bad sniff of politics from the whole thing."
Hookman had hoped to avoid this by bringing two outside specialists in on the case: Dr.
Their diagnosis, announced at a press briefing Friday, appeared to leave little doubt about the governor's condition. He had suffered a small stroke, they said, and needed to be hospitalized for two weeks, and avoid undue stress and strain for another two months.
"If the trial is held next week, then the governor won't be there," declared Hookman.
"If he (Mandel) were a truck driver, no one would ask any questions," one of the other doctors complained as the briefing broke up. "We've treating him the same way."
But because Mandel is Maryland governor and because his trial and that of five codefendants has been delayed three previous times, there were questions.
Rumors -- denied by Hookman -- circulated through the hospital that the governor's records were being kept differently than those of other patients. One nurse on the ninth floor complained Friday: "We don't even have Mandel's records."
Cynicism is high among doctors and nurses at the hospital, one resident said. "The feeling is that the timing seems good for both of them: Hookman gets the publicity and the governor gets out of his trial."
By all accounts, Mandel was behaving as the ideal patient, quiet and undemanding. His room on the ninth floor is the same one his wife stayed in when she was in the hospital two years ago with a kidney ailment.
I is a plain, single room, no different than other rooms on the floor. The only thing that distringuishes it from any other room in the hospital are the state police guards outside the door with a telephone.
Apparently the only people to visit the governor since Tuesday, when he was hospitalized complaining of fatigue, are medical personnel, his wife Jeanne, who has kept him abreast of happenings in Annapolis, and a few other members of his family.
"He seems in good spirits. He's a nice quiet patient," said Linda Gardiner, the surpervising nurse on the floor yesterday. "Of course, bot every patient has guards, but he doesn't make any extra demands on us."
Gardiner and other people at the hospital are acutely aware of the controversy about the governor. They've heard jokes made about why he was taken to Prince George's General ratehr than a big name medical center like Johns Hopkins in his home city of Baltimore.
"When I hear those things, it makes me think people don't know anything about hospitals," she said. "You can't say that one hospital is any better than another one."
Hookman has repeatedly said the reason that Mandel was brought to Prince George's General is that he is the governor's family doctor and it is where he practices.
The hospital is obviously enjoying the attention it is getting befause of Mandel. "Everyone likes to see the place where they work in the news," explained one nurse. "My daughter saw the hospital on television and I became sort of a hero in her eyes.'
Since the hospital opened in 1944, it has grown from a small facility serving a suburban and rural constituency into major area medical center and teaching hospital with 100 resident physicians.
"I don't see how this could hurt our reputation," said Gary Gintzeg, who was acting as the hospital's chief administrative officer yesterday. "The whole point is the governor is getting the same care as you or I would. We don't have a VIP suit. He's just one of our regular patients."