If I can’t pronounce it, I don’t have it
It’s Friday afternoon of Halloween 1998, and I’m unhappily sucked into a doctor’s appointment that I’m annoyed to be at. I’m reading my Organic Chemistry textbook while waiting for Dr. Markind to step into the exam room. Dr. Markind has been my neurologist/ confidante now for 13 years, working together to get my debilitating migraines under control. I always enjoy our banter as we talk school, the wine business, and new trends in Pharmaceuticals; all mutual interests between two wine/ science geeks. He’s watched me grow up with these headaches, and I’m looking forward to a quick visit, some small talk, and an abundance of free samples to offset the high cost of my prescriptions. Most importantly, I need to get to work in time to get a good section tonight. A good Friday night will pay for my books this upcoming winter semester. I tried getting out of this appointment, as I’m an uninsured Pharmaceutical student with a full time waitressing job. The $200 office visit is not only out of my budget, it pretty much ensures I’ll be eating leftovers from the restaurant for the next month. I’m out of my migraine prescription, and Dr. Markind refuses to refill it until he sees me for my annual visit. As it is, I’m cutting the time awfully close between my morning job at the wine shop and my night job at the restaurant.
I’ve been really tired lately, and those damn flashing spots in front of my eyes aren’t really helping matters. Perhaps once mid-terms are over, I’ll get a day off. Yeah right; I’ll keep dreaming. Maybe Markind has a logical explanation. Dr. Markind strolls in, with his usual warm, friendly smile as he sees that it’s me. “How goes the wine trade? Any good recommendations for your favorite headache doctor? How’s the love-life? You still with that German Chef?” We chat for a good 10 minutes before Miney, his secretary, beeps in to remind him that his next patient has arrived. Oops- this ALWAYS happens to us. I start to go down my usual list of complaints; yes, my migraines have been increasing in frequency; yes, I am still on the Pill, and no, I do NOT want to take Amitriptyline to prevent my headaches; it made me too sleepy to work on the stuff and function at school. He begins the standard barrage of neurological tests; stick out your tongue, walk on your heels, walk on your toes, tuck your chin to your chest, tilt your head back, shrug your shoulders, hold up your arms and don’t let him push them down, etc., etc….As we chat away, he begins the sensory test with the really neat tuning forks. After bonking me on the knee a few times, he holds the fork out to the side and asked me how many fingers he was holding up. I say zero.
“Come on Amy. Be serious,” he jokes. “How many am I holding up now? Again I say, “Not a clue”. Moving his arm to the left, he repeats the exercise. “And now?” Nothing. His hand was MISSING. It was like a charcoal grey curtain cut him off at the forearm on either side. The right was worse- he had no arm at all. What the heck? Repeating the exercise for clarity, he then grabs an instrument from the counter, flips off the lights, and comes in close to my face to shine the light into my eye. His medicinal breath smells sweet, and is slow, and somehow hesitant, and I am far from feeling soothed. His movements become quicker and his questions come faster and more business-like and abrupt. He pages Miney, “Tell Dr. Murphy to fill in with my next patient. Amy and I are going downstairs for some tests.” Now am starting to panic.
He sits down on his stool across from me (which I find odd, because he never does that unless he’s about to lecture me about my cigarette smoking), and asks me point- blank, “Have you had a blow to the head recently?” I sigh a dramatic sigh of relief and feel suddenly at ease. “No, definitely not! “ I giggled. “Why do you ask?” “Well, I believe you have a detached retina, Amy. Have you noticed that your peripheral vision is giving you trouble?” “Not really,” I answer, thinking for a moment. “Wait! Yes! I DID have a concussion back in August from a horse I was caring for. I got clocked in the head while feeding him. That totally must be it!” I exclaim, pleased with myself for solving the mystery. “Not so fast, young lady. That’s an awfully long time since your concussion. It’s already Halloween- I doubt they’re related. But let’s check nonetheless. Have you been having ‘aura’ lately?”
It was as though I had been struck by lightning. I sat up briskly on the exam table as the last few weeks played out in my head. Suddenly all of the events began to make medical sense. Of course! I was having those ‘flashing lights’ in my eyes at my computer because of “aura” from my headaches! But wait; I wasn’t having any headaches during those flashes…..”Rats” I thought, deflated. Something didn’t click. Perhaps it was the concussion after all.
“Yeah, doc. I’ve been getting these crazy flashing lights. At first I thought I was tired from school and work, which made total sense. Then I thought it was aura from my migraines, even though I’ve never had the type of migraines that come with an aura. What do you think?” He begins slowly, “Well, I suppose it’s a possibility, but it’s unlikely that the concussion is what caused the auras given the amount of time that has passed. That was nearly two months ago, and you would have had symptoms almost immediately. Did you?” “No, I didn’t”, feeling dejected that the simple, logical, explanation I had surmised wasn’t correct.
“Well, I’m sending you downstairs to the ophthalmologist to take a peek at your retina to be sure it’s intact. I have a feeling that it’s detached, which explains the flashing and peripheral vision loss. If that’s the case, you need surgery right away.” “Surgery? What? Right away?” All I can think is “I am SO out of here!” I quickly gather my belongings and thank him, rushing for the door, scattering index cards across the floor. “Thanks Dr. Markind, I’ll make that appointment on my way out. I’m going to be late for work, and you know how Fridays are in the restaurant biz!” I said, nearly dropping the bag of samples and prescriptions he had handed me in my haste. “Not so fast, young lady,” he booms. “Sit down.” I freeze, turn on my heels, and sit. He picks up the phone and asks Miney to call Danbury Eye Surgeons and to get me in right away for an emergency appointment with a possible retinal detachment. As I squirmed in my chair, Dr. Markind keeps shooting worried glances my way, suddenly becoming parental in his demeanor. I was halfway between frightened that he may be onto something, and pissed because I know there’s no way in hell I can afford an eye doctor visit in addition to this visit. Why is he doing this to me? Doesn’t he know I can’t afford it? If I show up late to work, I’m going to get fired, especially on a Friday! If I have no job, then there’s no money for next semester’s tuition and books. Why doesn’t he understand that I have to go now?
As he hung up the phone, he turns to me, and says, “We are going to go down there together. Work can wait. I can call them for you if that would help?” he gently, but firmly suggests. I realize then that I have no choice but to follow him; I’m not going to win this one. I vainly try protesting, saying that I am going to lose my job, and that I can’t afford an eye surgeon’s bill, but he’s not buying any of it. I got a stern, “This is important. It’s your sight we’re talking about here. If your retina is detached, they have to surgically re-attach it or you’ll go blind. End of story. There is no getting around this Amy.” I drop my head, defeated, and shuffle behind him to the elevator, silently cursing the day I made this damn appointment.