Remember that bad, bad cold? By Friday after noon, a week after it began, I was only marginally better. I was still sleeping ten hours at night and napping every afternoon. My appetite was minimal and I had no oomph to exercise.
TBG, of course, noticed. He fetched and carried and comforted but still, the bug remained. Driving home from lunch, he wondered if he should drop me off at the Urgent Care clinic we were passing. He said that he'd come back and pick me up. He thought I should consider the fact that we are flying on Monday, that flying while congested leads to all sorts of interesting complications (as his own medical history bears out), that I should take care of myself now so that I can take care of FlapJilly next week.
"Drive me home," I said.
What a mistake. Having planted the seeds of infection in my brain, his comments loomed larger as the afternoon wore on. I began to feel progressively worse. I charged my phone, took myself to the nail salon, and then called him from the doorway of the clinic. He dismissed the you-were-right-I-was-wrong conversation and congratulated me on making a wise decision, thus reminding me, once again, why we've stayed married for 40 years.
I masked my perhaps-infectious-face at the receptionist's request, and after two minutes of paperwork I was greeted and escorted to an interview room by the first of the most delightful group of women with whom I've spent a Friday night in a long time. It was girls' night out in a medical setting. It was professional and compassionate and decidedly female. It was wonderful.
The nurse took my history, which, of course, includes getting shot. Her connection to the medical team at the scene and at the hospital was personal and profound; she had her own story of engagement and family and we shared the over-whelming sense of loss, even five years down the road. With a few notable exceptions, the male practitioners I've encountered since being perforated have been more concerned with process than with emotions. As I began my Urgent Care journey on Friday night, my emotions were right out on the desk beside us.
It was a safe and sad and thoughtful space, with some tears and some hand squeezes and lots of "I know.... I know..." It was quintessentially female, especially as I lifted my shirt and drew up the leg of my shorts to share my scars. I don't usually flash male nurses that way.
From there, I was walked to the exam room. After just enough time to read an old issue of Us!, the doctor entered and, bravely, shook my hand as she introduced herself. I laughed at her insouciance as she touched my petrie dish digits, and she laughed as she scrubbed her hands extra-carefully at the sink. She had time to make the interaction personal. She was neither harried nor in a hurry; she was all mine.
Again, it was quintessentially female.
Listening to the various parts of my chest and back through her stethoscope, she complimented my deep breaths. I showed off by breathing into my left back and then my right back as she moved her instrument around my body.
"That's very interesting."
"That's Pilates," I said, and we were off on another tangent, covering competence and tenacity and the healing powers of time and exercise. She wanted a chest x-ray, and wondered whether I wanted a coarse cotton gown or if my sports bra was without metal or plastic. Up went my shirt, the underwear was removed, and back went the t-shirt before we walked to the x-ray suite. It felt like a locker room before a yoga class; are your clothes going to get in the way of the work? Any anxiety I had about what the x-ray would show was swept away by the girls-only chatter in the room. I don't usually discuss the ins and outs of my undergarments with male medical practitioners.
The radiology technician was clear, precise, and quick. The results were ready soon after I was returned to my exam room, and the fact that I don't have pneumonia made everyone smile. Bronchitis, my probably diagnosis, doesn't show up on an x-ray, but my broken rib did and that led to five more minutes of scar sharing and why didn't they tell me and then the physician's answer which explained it all: "No one gets shot in the chest without breaking a rib. They probably assumed you knew that."
She was the first person to say that, and I think she got there by being on both sides of the equation. She was a doctor treating a GSW to the Chest and she was a naive woman who'd been shot in the chest. She put the pieces together in a way that no one has before, and I think it was because she and I were hanging out together on a Friday night, chatting up a storm with the girls.
Women have far ranging conversations, with topics overlapping and sentences dropped, but the ebb and flow are what make them so interesting, I think. In this case, a mystery was solved after 5 years of wondering, and it was solved amidst laughter and sarcasm and gentle touches. It was medical care at its finest.
My whole person was considered, examined, and treated. It felt like we were all in it together, that the answer would be revealed after careful and kind inspection of the situation. that every was equally invested in the outcome. They were strangers when we met, and friends when I left.The medication seems to be working and I'm certain that I'll be fine to fly.
I'm so glad I got to hang out with the girls on Friday night.