When my name was called, we went into the patient’s waiting room together. It looked like any other doctor’s office. I’m not sure why I expected it to look any different. Maybe it was the word “specialist” that had been plastered into my consciousness soon after the diagnosis. “Oh,” our friend had emphatically said, “You need to see a Specialist, right away.” The word specialist received the emphasis. It was as if they’d said God. “You need to see God, right away.” Yes, I’d thought, please pencil me in.
So when the doctor entered, I was eager, even though I’d dreaded the trip. I looked at him with desperation, ravenously devouring his slight expressions and few words. But he looked like any other doctor, hardly divine, in plastic 70’s rimmed glasses, a wrinkled button-up shirt and a putrid tan sweater-vest. For Christ’s Sake, this was my savior?
Pulling up images of my brain on his laptop, he confirmed my diagnosis coldly, with the precision of a scalpel slicing flesh. And he calmly counted my lesions on the screen in black and white. Each number pierced my insides, causing Multiple Scars that he could not tack onto his list. The brain lesions were labeled black holes; they were places that were damaged, that they didn’t expect to recover. Sickened by the term, I suddenly understood why I felt like parts of me had been lost, why facts and words were suddenly inaccessible. It hadn’t been a figment of my overactive imagination after all – small portions of my brain had literally vanished into thin air; it was being scientifically documented right before my eyes.
“Let’s do the exam,” he said after he’d finished his counting.
I sat, restlessly fidgeting on the thin white tissue paper that coated the table beneath me. I had no idea what to expect. My parents looked at each other, ready to leave the room, assuming that the examination would require the removal of clothing, the use of some advanced machinery of some kind. “You can stay,” he’s said, sensing their uneasiness. And then, he began to conduct the exam.
“Follow my pen with your eyes,” he said, moving it from side to side. “Put your arms out. Close your eyes and touch your index finger to your nose.” He tapped each of my knees with a tuning fork, watching my knees give a slight response. Nodding, he asked me to remove my shoes and socks. On the bottoms of my feet, he used a broken wooden tongue depressor. “Scratchy?” He asked, rubbing it up my right foot. I nodded in disbelief. “Scratchy?” He asked again, sliding the wood along my left foot. Mouth agape, I nodded, half expecting some sort of calculation to be digitally sent from the tongue depressor to his notebook. But of course, it wasn’t.
“Stand up,” he said at last.
“Walk with one foot in front of the other.” I tried to, but I felt wobbly. I hoped he didn’t ask me to recite the alphabet backwards. I kept thinking that if I had been pulled over at a DUI check point, I certainly would have failed.
“Mmm.” He scribbled something into his notebook.
During each test, he barely reacted, like a robot, taking measurements and filing them into his mental database.
At the end of the visit, he gave me Post-It notes with Vitamin D and Swank Diet scrawled across them. “We’ve found these might be successful. You can try them if you want,” he stated coldly. His lack of enthusiasm and definitive answers was deadening. Not only was my body damaged, but my soul was becoming damaged as well. The pure simplicity of the exam began to infuriate me. I’d assumed incorrectly that anything could be solved in the medical world with the right combination of intelligence and access to “modern” medicine.