The Doctor Said…


My dear lady friend with whom I have been working these past few months is showing more signs of improvement as required by her relatives. The one who was shouting: “Oh gawd, oh lawd!” Actually, she has graduated to “Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy.” This more refined way of calling on divine help came about after I told her on several occasions that the neighbours may think that she is in labour pains. She said that she did not care, but after a while she must have thought about it.

As for me, she insists that I do not understand English (she doesn’t know how right she is), because I am never ready to let go of her leg when she wants me to. She recently told me that she is looking for a strong Nurse who could help her get to the bathroom to bathe. I told her I believe that she is really looking for a Hymac to lift her to the bathroom, because any Nurse who has an inkling of self-preservation would require that she put more effort into supporting herself so that the Nurse does not drag her guts out trying to move a 200lbs (plus) woman from her bed to the bathroom daily.

Sure, there is the wheelchair, but because of the pain in her knees, she does not want to stand on her feet for more than a few seconds before dropping all her weight on whoever is supporting her. So, I’m working on the knees…hanging the leg over the side of the bed and bending it. There is some flexibility these days. After the initial call for divine help, she is able to obey my instructions to lift the leg and bend it again. When she loses her patience with me, she would lift the leg up in haste and put it back on the bed. I am totally fine with that.

On my last visit I was about to help the Nurse put her into the wheelchair when the Doctor visited. He wanted to test her pressure before she sat up and suggested that we leave her lying on the bed as having her sit up may affect the reading. When the Doctor was through, I requested that he test my blood pressure. I sat and he wrapped up my arm with that not-too-modern thing that seeks to squash my muscles against my bone.

The other Nurse, who drove him over, enquired about the reading. He told her it was very good. I have no idea what the numbers are supposed to mean…anymore. I vaguely remember a time when I did. But their communication about the reading sounded similar to the ones I have heard in the past where there is speculation that my heart rate is like that of a person who is asleep.

He then asked to see my tongue and decided that it was pale and suggested that I eat liver. I’m a vegetarian. He told the Nurse to get me some of the Iron tablets from the Health Centre. No, thank you. She then suggested something else. Now, now, isn’t life full of ironies? Measured against me, he is unhealthy…legally blind, cannot hold his spine erect any longer, signs of nerve problems, and a case of Bell’s Palsy coming to the fore. Okay. Fine. My tongue is pale. Based on what? The hundreds of tongues he has seen before? Should I seriously regard his remark when he does not know my medical (or lack of such) history?

Throughout my life I have had a pale tongue. I think it no different to some folks having pale skin while others are dark. And, when I think of all the folks I know with their rosy pink tongues who easily feel cold, and who always subscribe to the flu every time it comes around, and who are exhausted at the drop of a hat, I am most thankful for whatever the composition of my blood is.

Everything for me cruises. The bone marrow cruises in its production of the red cells. Then the red cells cruise over to join the white ones. Then they cruise around my body. So when he checked my tongue, it was possible that the red cells were by my neck cruising their way up to my tongue. This is why we need a second and third opinion. On another note, this is one of those reminders that we are all here on Earth because of our lack of perfection. In some cases we may just have a slack screw, and in other cases a bolt or nut may be entirely missing. So we must be patient, with ourselves first, and with others.

Okay. Back to my client. The Doctor checked her lungs and decided that more massage is needed. Ha! He said that the lower right lobe was congested. Naturally. In school they teach us that the left side has two lobes and the right has three. Why else would the right side have an extra lobe if not for storage? It’s logical. Why is this Doctor making it into a medical condition? Anyway, he said that she should be turned on her left side and cupping massage should be done on the right for about 15 minutes. 15 minutes? That’s a lot of cupping. Yes. 15 minutes. Okay. And how often should this be done? Three times a day? 3 times? Yes. Well alright then! Nice to know it’s not entirely my responsibility.

The Caregiver was there listening to this additional responsibility that she was being given. She enquired whether the funny-looking device could be used. Yes. I ask for how many minutes, as 15 minutes of mechanical massage against an old woman’s ribcage had to be manslaughter. The Doctor suggested about 5 minutes. Okay. I average by my next visit all the fluid would be out of the lung…if the order is followed.

My sister had a Nurse friend who got into conflict with many of her superiors for her short white uniforms. They had to be above her knees…some higher than others. But she was a qualified Nurse so she did not stick around in one place when the harassment got going. Twenty years have gone by and now she’s mostly into HIV/AIDS counselling and the likes, but the white skirt remains up there.

Having hid for most of my ‘young’ days behind maxi skirts and long-sleeved tops, I could not understand how she felt comfortable being so exposed. So ‘young’ me enquired of her one day why she insisted on having her legs exposed. “Girl, you know how many tongues does climb up these legs?” I could not imagine. Had I remembered this story before I would have brought it to the Doctor’s attention that my tongue is pale because it is not tasked with activities that lend themselves to overstimulation, which could result in that rosy colour he seems to think is so natural.

After I left them I went to the market to buy a few things. I saw cassava selling for $2 per pound and stopped to get five pounds. I peel them, dice them, bag them, and put them in the freezer until I’m ready to put them in the pot. So, there I was waiting my turn, as other customers were there before me, when the vendor from the adjacent stall got rather vocal about his cassava. “It breaking white and dripping milk.” Hmmm. Terribly ambiguous, but it’s nice to know that there’s a campaign for pale.