Every clinician has their own personal practice style, and every medical office their unique drama. When seeing patients, Dr. Ted Pit Olee’gi preferred sitting more than standing, except on occasion when both feet felt like six-month-old chocolate cookies. Do not place any blame on Dr. Ted. For three decades, those pincers have carried a 158-pound weight in a 5 ft 7 inches frame.
To the left of a short corridor is the entrance door to Dr. Ted’s exam room. Upon entry, patients glimpse a black swivel chair located at the center of the office. In front of the black spinning chair is a brown desktop, which only has room for a mouse tucked behind a Lifebook tablet PC.
Diagonal to the laptop and resting on the back wall are two black chairs, with padded backrests. When he is seated, Dr. Ted’s extended right hand can reach for syringes, Band-Aids and tongue depressors from a six-door cabinet hung on the side wall. A motion-activated hand sanitizer dispenser is screwed to the mid section of the cabinet.
Patients who require abdominal palpation lie down on a brown examination table against the wall to the left of Dr. Ted when he sits on his black swivel chair. An apparatus for weight and height measurement occupies part of the space between the doorway and the exam couch.
‘Last patient, twenty-five today,’ said Ted with a sigh. His breath pumped and deflated a broad chest beneath a checkered shirt, buttoned to the top of his collarbone.
Each day at the practice, Dr. Ted Pit looked forward to going home. The time at the bottom of the laptop now showed 6.15 pm. Physicians’ fatigue in practice is proportional to the number of patients seen each day.
The last patient, a three-year-old girl, threw up once a week ago. Her mother brought her here to get a medical note to return the child to daycare. On entering the consulting room, the mother occupied the black chair against the wall while the three-year-old loitered in the maze between the exam table, a plastic trash can and the swiveling chair.
When Dr Olee’gi stood to shake off pain from the whorls of varicose veins hugging his left calf, the child took possession of the swivel chair, rolled it down, and climbed on top, spinning to the right and left.
Ted looked quizzically at the mother, his face an image of someone whose favorite soccer team is three-zero down.
After mother seized the ‘Return to daycare’ note, the girl vacated the swivel chair in exchange for a happy face sticker.
‘You could put the laptop to sleep and leave now,’ a maternal voice whispered into Pit’s left ear.
‘Complete patients charts,’ a male voice in the right ear commanded.
‘Go home,’ the motherly voice countered the male voice. ‘Twenty-five patients for a solo practitioner is enough drill.’
Unable to hear any more commotion below, a resident rodent behind the office ceiling crept towards the cabinet. A squirrel, maybe? Anything rodent kills Dr. Ted Pit, more so when they are hidden. ‘Flee,’ said the maternal voice. ‘Stand your ground,’ countered the male voice.
Conflicted, the doctor raked around in his hair with the spade attached to his left ring finger. ‘A scabbed wound, huh?’ he murmured.
‘From your recent trip to the barber,’ offered the combatant male voice.
The left third finger reinforced the left ring finger and in unison they chased and arrested the scab for proper examination.
Ringworm, giant wart, staphylococcal infection, cancer… which one had death thrown his way, he wondered?
If only he were able to look at his scalp, he could make the diagnosis without any doubt. Like hidden rodents, hidden ailments spook both patients and clinicians.
Packets of antibiotic cream lie in the bottom drawer of the medical cabinet. His dehydrated hands tore open a couple of sachets and squirted the contents onto the end of his right index finger to ferry to the scab site.
But each time the left finger located the scab, the right finger missed the target. The left fingers relocated the scab one more time, but again the right missed delivering the antidote cream on the target. Smears of cream ended up all over Ted’s head and face. For a few minutes he paused in reflection.
Indeed bad days occur in cascades. He who was whipped by a wasp melts at the site of a butterfly. Suddenly, across his shoulders, he could feel the weight of a massive snake. Where there are squirrels, snakes prosper. Two right fingers groped round his neck, located the body of the snake and tossed it high against the wall to his left.
The head slammed against the wall with a thump before the snake bounced off and fell on the brown examination table, which was draped with a white sheet paper roll.
‘Ewooh! The stethoscope,’ he grunted.