Sunday, January 2, 2011

View From a Hospital Room...

Every hospital has the same blankets. You know the ones I mean. Crisp, white, thin crochet. Too light to really keep you warm, but it keeps the chill of the air conditioning off the patients. My mother currently struggles to convince her hands to grip around the end and pull it over her shoulders. I let her try for a moment; she hates when everyone jumps to assist her, before reaching forward silently and pulling it up. She smiles a thank you at me, even as her hands continue to tremble under the cloth. I lean back in my chair and listen to the doctor speaking.

You can tell a lot about a doctor from the way he walks into the room. I’ve met enough of them to know, and I can tell from those first few steps whether or not I’m going to like him. Most breeze through the halls, barely acknowledging the patient with unexplained symptoms, muttering a few short phrases to the nurses, and signing off on a chart they only marginally glanced at. Doctors don’t like patients with multiple sclerosis, I’ve decided. Too many symptoms to make a clear diagnosis, and not a whole lot of healing that they can do. I think it shakes their faith in the ability of medicine to cure all ailments, so they finish with my mom as quickly as they can to get onto “real” patients.

Not this doctor though. This one is different. I’m going to like him.

He walked in and immediately made it a point to introduce himself to not only my mom, but to my dad and I, before he pulled up a chair and sat eye level with her at her bedside. He has her chart in front of him, and I can see he’s actually read it by the notes he’s circled on the page. When he talks, he actually speaks to my mom and waits for her answer, which is huge in and of itself. Every question requires a long pause afterwards as my mom thinks through the question and tries to convince her mouth to move and the words to connect in a response. Sometimes, the words she says don’t make sense; it’s a curse of the illness. One might substitute “cat” in place of “vitamin”, simply because the brain is misfiring. She knows exactly what she’s trying to say, but it just doesn’t come out right. Nonetheless, he patiently waits, instead of looking to someone else to translate so he can get out of the room faster.

I quietly shift in my chair as they talk, trying to absorb as much information as I can about this latest development. About 48 hours prior, my mom stopped eating. She refused water, and couldn’t swallow, which in turn meant that she couldn’t take her medication. She has to have medication to function – another curse of the disease is the debilitating pain which runs through the nerves connecting her brain to her face. When she wasn’t crying in pain, she was sleeping up to 16 hours a day, and not responding to anyone around her. I spoke to my dad around midnight on December 30th, the worry in his voice was palpable. She was taken to the hospital first thing the following morning, and now here we were, waiting for diagnosis.

My mom laughs at something the doctor has said, and the sound cuts through the haze in my head. It occurs to me how rarely I’ve heard that sound, odd how it sounds so foreign to my ears. I smile, looking between her and the doctor. Yes, I knew I was going to like him.

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