I spend a great deal of my time in doctors' offices. I'm not a pharmaceutical representative or someone who works in health care, I'm someone who treated himself like crap, heedless, headstrong and self-absorbed, for a very long time and now it's catching up with me. I'm almost the character in Entourage on HBO except my posse all have initials and lab coats. The only thing all of them have in common is me (I; Sister Jean taught me well).
I was in the local blood drawing lab yesterday morning to prep for two visits a week from tomorrow to two different doctors. One is my endocrinologist whom I see for treatment of Type 2 diabetes (and yes, I watch CNBC's Diabetes Life every Sunday night at seven, unless I don't) and then my primary care physician who has been working with a lot of the specialists he has been sending me to see ever since I was hospitalized for renal failure last July and then developed pancreatitis.
Now I see a nephrologist, a rheumatologist, a gastro-enterologist and a cardiologist in addition to the vascular surgeon and orthopedic surgeon (plus the first two doctors). Everyone is very nice, professional and reassuring and, considering they have me for a patient, very good-natured. There's a ritual that before I see anyone of them, there's 'blood work' involved.
Yesterday was a tanker truck kind of day for drawing blood. I've had days where eight to ten vials of blood have been drawn as if somehow the answers to how I have gotten here are locked in the plasma or red corpuscles. Those answers haven't been found yet, but my medical team is keen to keep trying.
While at the window to give the phlebotomist or blood services nursing technician (they are two different careers and neither likes to be thought of as the other) and, this time (surprise!) a urine sample was required ('Can you fill this please?' she asked me, holding up the cup on her side of the glass, seated at her desk. 'From here?' I inquired somewhat dubiously) when the door to the waiting area opened and more people shuffled in.
Waiting rooms are bad places for me. I have to sit near other people and I'm not good with people at all. I cannot accept the fact that there's no expectation on any one else's part that I be amusing or amazing or talk at all, and yet, the Imp of the Perverse will not allow me, or them, any surcease as I watch myself attempt small talk with diminishing results that always causes me to redouble my efforts until eventually the unfortunate next to me gets up and moves, or leaves.
This has actually happened to me. Someone named Lacey (I think, or maybe they called out 'Lucy', a couple of months ago, gathered her things and was gone in the blink of an eye--joining in the mists of memory a 'David' and a 'Robert' from bygone years). But yesterday, in walked two adult women with a child of, perhaps, nine or eleven (I'm not good at guessing people's ages or weights; and don't get me started on their IQs). The child, wearing a blue winter jacket and a blue knit cap (it was nice yesterday weather-wise but it was more than a little cold at 7:30 in the morning and it is early February and this is New England, etc....) walked the length of the waiting room to stand alongside of me, practically on top of me, as I waited at the window.
He stared without blinking upwards into my face as one of the adults, perhaps his mother, in an embarrassed tone of voice explained 'Alex is autistic'. Alex studied me, studying him and he smiled. I don't have a doctor for autism (yet) and if you know more about it than I, good for you, but to me, autism suggests Alex finds his inner world more interesting than our external one, and reacts accordingly.
Having been accused by people for too many years of not having emotions (which pi$$es me off-proving the assertion wrong, I think), I was face to face, literally, with a person who was emotionally self-contained and was, in essence, window shopping. I gave him a ticket from the 'take a ticket' basket while explaining to him he would need that number when he was called and he nodded his head seeming to acknowledge that and was led by the other adult woman to a chair opposite the processing window where he sat down without loosening or removing his cap or jacket.
In a few moments Alex got up from his seat and walked to where I was now sitting to stand in front of me at my chair and stare down as I sat. When my name was called, he started to follow me to the drawing area but was detained by the other woman and all the while, from the next room as the tanker truck filled with my blood, I could hear him (actually not so much him as the two adult women) struggling to keep him under control. He never sounded or behaved dangerously or defiantly--just very set in his ways and very determined. When the blood drawing finished, I got the spot of cotton to hold on the extraction point in the arm where they took the blood and then two strips of tape to hold the cotton and to grab thousands of little arm hairs when you tear it off later (fast or slow makes no difference; it hurts and stings).
As I put my jacket on I could feel eyes and turning as I was leaving I saw him staring at me with his left arm raised at the elbow, moving two fingers up and down in a wave of farewell. There are six billion of us on the planet and we're pretty successful at avoiding one another for long periods of time. Yesterday, for a moment, I was reminded that we're all in the same ocean and so I waved back and was gone.