Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Nurse the Hate: The Doctor Will See You Now

He sat in one of the two chairs in the physician’s office.  The room was devoid of stimuli with the exception of a plastic model of an inner ear.  He thought about picking it up and inspecting it more closely but paused when he thought about the number of infected hands that must have touched it while waiting to be seen just as he was doing now.  He placed both hands on his legs, sat upright, and waited.  The back of his neck hurt and there was a high pitched ringing in his ears.  Things were looking up.  He wasn’t seeing white spots dancing across his vision.

The door burst open and a chunky woman in a white lab coat entered.  She said her name and title in a flurry without making any eye contact.  “What seems to be the problem today?” she asked while staring at his chart.  He had filled out a lengthy questionnaire in the waiting room a half hour earlier that explained his symptoms quite clearly.  Despite knowing it was pointless he asked what had happened to the information he had provided on the questionnaire.  “Oh, that…  Well, why don’t you just tell me again.” She answered without glancing at him.

He methodically described the worsening of symptoms over the last three weeks.  She stopped him halfway through his well practiced story.  “Do you or any member of your family have a history of heart disease?”  As one in four people die of heart disease, he didn’t think it was noteworthy when he responded “yes”.  Yet it set off a spasm of activity from the woman as she entered data into the computer in front of her.  She then ensued with her barrage of questions.  “Do you drink alcohol?”  Yes.  “How often?”  He knew a friend that had answered that question honestly by responding with “22 beers a week”.  After a gasp from the physician, his insurance premium was substantially raised.  No, honesty was not the best policy.  He answered “a few drinks a week” to vaguely describe his decades long binge drinking system.  The woman moved on despite both of them knowing he was lying.

“Do you use tobacco?”  You mean like if I have a snuff box?  She stared at him.  “Is that a yes?”  No… No I don’t use tobacco.  She let out a sigh and typed rapidly, already tired of him.  “Do you feel safe in your home?”  Excuse me?  “Do you feel safe in your home?  Do you feel at risk?”  He had a steady diet of cable TV news.  He was currently afraid of (in order) climate change, North Korea’s advancing nuclear capabilities, Isis, sun exposure, hurricane risk, ebola, black mold, and lyme disease.  He didn't exactly feel safe at home, but he knew if he answered anything else but "yes I feel safe", he would likely be taken away to some sort of holding cell for observation.  

The woman typed rapidly.  “OK.  The doctor will see you shortly.”  She closed the screen containing his chart and left the room.  He stared straight ahead trying not to think about the plastic ear model to his left.  The back of his skull throbbed.  The white spots came back.  The last time he had been in this office was a year ago.  He had forgotten about the appointment until the last minute.  He had knocked back a double espresso shortly before arriving.  When his blood pressure was taken, the nurse asked if he “felt ok”.  When he asked why, she had responded with “normally when we see someone’s blood pressure that high, they are on a gurney.”  That had resulted in a battery of inconclusive heart exams that he was still trying to pay off.   

After another 20 minutes of waiting, the doctor arrived.  She gave him a grim smile that insinuated the upcoming exchange would be pleasant but professional.  “What seems to be the problem today?”  He began again at the beginning.  Each question he had previously answered in the lobby questionnaire and asked by the chunky woman was answered again.  The doctor asked him to remove his shirt.  She poked him in various parts of his body.  Finally she removed her rubber gloves and tossed them in the garbage can.  “You seem healthy to me."  There was a pause.  "Try and get more sleep.”  She typed into the computer as he put his shirt back on.  The doctor left the examination room.   The back of his head hurt.  There was a ringing in his ears.  He saw spots.  He opened the door and left the doctor’s office. 


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