17 January 2015

The Intern & The Snail

At  10:00 am on the dot, I showed up for my first annual appointment with my Breast Surgeon, and was greeted by the receptionist. ‘Oh Dear,’ she gave me a pitying glance, ‘He isn’t here.’ (My yearly check-up with Dr Escargot; the surgeon who forgot to show up on the day of my surgery, leaving his fellow surgeons scrambling to find an immediate replacement. But I’m almost over that now. Time to move ahead).  

Dr. Escargot
I’m pretty sure I rolled my eyes. ‘Is it me?’ I asked. We both laughed a fake laugh, and she explained there’d been an emergency, and he wouldn’t be back till 2. Would I like to see an intern? No. Screw off.  I would not.

I returned at 2 and was ushered into a room. The nurse said that Escargot would be crawling in shortly, but in the meantime, would I mind if the intern came in to ask a few question. This time I said okay, but it was mostly ‘cus I was bored. Also, Mount Sinai is a teaching hospital, so everybody is much happier if the fellows, interns, and students are allowed to touch some naked flesh. (My boobs are extra fun, because they were created from my stomach and have recently been adorned with fabulous new nipples).

I was sitting on the table when the intern walked in, clutching a clipboard to her chest. She asked if she could examine me. I asked if her hands were warm. Three years ago I never would have asked such a thing, but I had become a bit cocky. Now that my breasts are numb it doesn’t really matter – so it was mostly about who had the power (me). I lay down, and Dr Intern began her examination.

The Intern
After a few squeezes she asked about my follow up treatment, and whether I’d lined up a mammogram. I told her I would not be having a mammogram, as I did not have any breast tissue. She squeezed a bit more. ‘So you have implants?’ I shook my head. No – no implants. She looked confused. ‘Small ones?’ she asked. I told her no. She frowned and looked at her notes. ‘You had a double mastectomy. Right? But no implants?’ I told her she was correct.

I didn’t tell her that I’d had DIEP reconstruction because it didn’t occur to me that she wouldn’t know. Wasn’t my whole history on the clipboard? Weren’t the interns debriefed before they but on white coats and pretended they’re doctors? Was she about to cry?

Dr Escargot came in the room and took my hand in his. He explained the DIEP surgery to the intern and told her that it was a very long operation because of all the tricky medical stuff.
‘Twelve hours?' he asked me – in a manner you’d ask a pal with a shared experience.
I paused for a second. Did he really not remember?
‘Nine,’ I said.
We locked eyes for a second and I waited for recognition to creep in. Nine hours was considered remarkably short for bilateral DIEP, and only because I got two extra surgeons on board during the initial scramble to cover Escargots absent arse after it became apparent that he was not in the hospital, and and had just flown off to Germany! But …nothing. His little snail eyes were unburdened.

Clearly, the same could not be said for me. I still carried the resentment. Escargot may move like a snail but his shell was light – I was the one with the baggage. So along with my gown, I ditched it, and let the baby doctor have one more admiring glance before I hopped off the table and moved ahead for real.

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