The waiting room was moderately filled with enough empty seats to allow for winter coats and purses placed strategically so that no one else would sit too close.
I made the tactical error of sitting next to an innocuous-looking woman who was soon joined by her husband. He plonked himself down on the other side of her with a combination of breathy wheeze and whistling fart. I wish I could say that was the end of it but it wasn’t. The throat-clearing/sucking noises he was making from somewhere deep in his airways made me suspect he had a tracheostomy but I resisted swinging my head around to check. Knowing there was a medical reason for the sounds would have made me feel empathy for him and I needed a better distraction than that under the circumstances. Instead, I imagined Vincent Price as The Abominable Dr. Phibes, who ate from a hole in one side of his neck and communicated via a phonograph connected to a hole on the other side. Dr. Phibes was well-nourished enough to summon the ten plagues of Egypt to kill a bunch of medical personnel that he blamed for his wife’s death.
Thankfully, the rest of the room was less scary and divided in two sections: irate colonoscopy clients on the left, and on the right, nervous colposcopy ladies trying to gauge the timing of their last bathroom break before their names were called.
After about an hour, I was given shelter from the wind and ushered into another holding area where the timing of the bathroom break became even more crucial. I found it odd when the nurse gave me a Johnny gown but told me to keep my boots on. I opted instead for argyl socks, blue booties, and black tee shirt to accessorize the gown. Fashion over function, or the other way around?
There were three other women ahead of me. The first one to emerge was very young and looked a little shell-shocked. I’d heard the doctor ask her many times in a loud, booming voice if she was okay. I reasoned that she was probably too young to have experienced labour, the mother of all pain scales. The next woman to exit was almost cheerful as she announced, “Suivant, next!”. I took a deep breath and caught her eye as she was putting on her coat. We exchanged a knowing smile. Bet she’d delivered a baby or two.
Suffice to say, and without the gory details, when my turn came, it was a lot worse than I had anticipated. God awful, in fact. The doctor had no bedside manner and asked me all sorts of questions I couldn’t answer. I wanted to shout, “I don’t know, my doctor died two weeks ago!”, but instead I bit my lip and held my breath and tried not to cry.
Some medical people try to make a connection, explain things, reassure. This one didn’t do any of that. In fact, he might as well have talked to me with a phonograph sticking out of his neck. Yup, Dr. Phibes Rises Again. I missed my doctor so much right then, his calm and his kindness, his humanity.
The nurse knew I wasn’t okay. She saw the tears in my eyes. I wanted to cry on her shoulder but I didn’t want to make a scene in front of the other ladies in the waiting room. “I miss Dr. Bray.”, I whispered. She nodded sympathetically.
Did I mention how much I love nurses? Dr Phibes, not so much.