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Saturday, April 11, 2015

Enough of This Crisis

I’d resolved to tell the neurologist my plans to return to work the following week. I’d spent two weeks at Cindy’s home just five minutes from the hospital, enduring two spinal taps a week in the Emergency Room. Then Dr. Roberts* released me to my parents’ home thirty minutes away for another two weeks and three spinal taps. Enough. This would be my last spinal tap-- for a while anyway. All the way to his office I practiced my little speech. You’re not going to chicken out, I told myself as my feet crossed the threshold into his waiting room.

By the time Mom and I reached the stiff, straight-back chairs, my stomach had tightened to a small, hard ball deep inside. My mouth felt like it’d been lined with cotton and swallowing proved difficult. Mom’s whispered words interrupted my concentration on the physical signs of stress.

“Can you believe this place? Just look at the clutter!” Mom straightened one stack of magazines after another.

“Well, he certainly likes National Geographic,” I said, noticing tall stacks of the magazine filled the small square coffee table.

“Hmmph! Doesn’t he think his patients might like to read something else while they wait for him? Just look at this. There’s not a single other magazine on the table.”

Since I had no thought of reading while I continued silently rehearsing my speech, I hadn’t really noticed. My attention drawn to the fact that the single reading selection totally filled every inch of what I assumed to be a wooden table, I had to laugh. Mom’s frown turned my laugh into a quieter giggle, but I couldn’t stop.

“I hope we’re not here long enough to read all of those issues; there must be ten years worth!” Mom continued straightening and harrumphing. “Look at it this way, Mom, you may find some good recipe from Borneo or other exotic place inside those pages; and I bet they’ll even tell you how to trap that warthog using only the offerings found on the forest floor.”

“That’s not funny,” Mom said. “I should have brought my Good Housekeeping. Do you see today’s newspaper anywhere?”

Before I could respond, I heard a door open at the front of the small room. To my amazement, Dr. Roberts came towards us. Okay, it’s not just the furnishings in his waiting room that shout, “low-budget program”; he’s his own nurse, too. The thought made me smile; I restrained my sarcasm fighting to spill out through my lips.

“Come on in,” Dr. Roberts said, without greeting my mother.

“And, good morning to you, too, doctor,” my mother said through clenched teeth. Clearly, the two had not lost the enmity that had grown to full-bloom during my hospitalization.

The neurologist stopped and turned towards Mom. “Oh, yes, good morning Mrs. Hawley. We’ll be just a minute.” He reached for my arm, leaving no question as to where he expected my mother to spend the time.

“It’s okay, Mom. I’ll tell you what he says on the way home.”

I managed to worm my way through the obstacle course to his exam room, but wondered if Mom’s adamant urging that I find another doctor might have some merit. I consoled myself by recalling things I’d read about other geniuses that worked in such cluttered disarray.

After the usual neurological exam, Dr. Roberts rolled his stool over to the desk and began writing. I cleared my throat and said, “I want to talk to you about something.” He looked up but said nothing. “I’m going home next week. I don’t mean my parents’ home, but my home. I need to get back to work.”

Now, I had his attention. Turning towards me, the doctor said, “What makes you think you’re ready to return to work? Did I say anything about you going back to work yet?”

I jumped in before he could continue. “No, you didn’t but I’m ready. I don’t expect you to think so because you never found the tumor; but I’m telling you I’m ready right now. I don’t think I’m going to get any better than I am right this moment, so why not just get on with my life?”

“What about the pain? Any change in your vision?”

“I’m used to the feeling of the slight pressure so it doesn’t hurt at all. I can see fine. I think I’ve lost some peripheral vision in my left eye, but I can even see to drive. In fact, I drove Mom’s car today because she gets too nervous in the city. I’m going home.”

“I’ve scheduled another tap for you this afternoon. We’ll see what that looks like and then decide.”

Since I expected he’d done that already, I didn’t object. I’d do whatever I needed to do to get his release.

“Okay, no problem. But, if there’s no change from the last one, I’m going home.”

He only grunted and opened the door for me to pass into the hallway, over-flowing with stacks of stuff. Only after we’d reached the waiting room, did the doctor speak.

“Okay, I’ll see you over there at one o’clock, sharp. That’ll give you time to have lunch.” He whipped around, returning to his personal sanctuary behind the door, without waiting for a response from Mom or me. I just shook my head and laughed, but heard mother’s menacing growl as I led her out of the office.

Later, I waited on the table of the Emergency Room for Dr. Roberts to return with the results. The spinal tap hadn’t been worse than usual, but I’d really not miss those painful procedures at all. Though I’d suffered through more than a dozen already, I knew I’d never get used to the torture of those spinal taps. The results this particular day would mean the difference in my release or rescheduling, so I prayed as I waited for the neurologist’s word.

“Okay, I’ve got the results,” the doctor said. “It is pretty much unchanged from last time, but—“

“No but’s, Dr. Roberts; I’m going home. I can come back in a few weeks for a check, if you insist, but I’m going home now.”

“If you’d let me finish… BUT, I want Dr. Schultz* to see you first. He’s a neurosurgeon who’s aware of your case. If he says you can go, then I’ll agree. If he doesn’t, I won’t and you’ll be on your own to pay the bill if you leave against my medical advice.”

“Okay, so when can I see him. Where do I go? Here, at the hospital or his office?”

The appointment had been scheduled for his office on the following Wednesday. I protested for an earlier time, but I’d wasted my energy. Wednesday, I’d tell the surgeon I’d be returning home as soon as he signed the papers. He just had to see how ready I was.

*Names changed.

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