No hurricanes. Rather, monsoon season with occasional steam-sucking sunshine so far this verdigris September.
Yesterday afternoon found me reclining on a deep burgundy faux leather examination chair while my young, skinny surfer doc stuck a long needle between the third and fourth metatarsals of my right foot. Dr. E’s eyebrows were upside-down v-shaped fuzzy caterpillars, strange counterpoint to gelled-up black hair spiking in modish points. Not a stud muffin, exactly, but cute. At least, I tried to think so as he delivered the long, slow stick of cortisone into the top of my tender foot. It wasn’t a sharp pain. More what I imagine siphoning bone marrow might feel like.
Unlike me, most of Dr. E’s patients are elderly diabetics. Shortly after I arrived, his nurse settled me into an exam room. Walls are thin in such places. I hear well and am an experienced doc-talk translator. Between weather talk and asides to his nurse, Dr. E race-walked in no-sox worn out jogging shoes between patients as he dressed wounds, ordered x-rays, advised patients on the special care needed for their legs and feet due to the diabetes, and — bless his heart — he listened, he comforted. Out in the hall, a nurse called for him as a patient came in trailing blood spots from her shoe as she was led to an examination room. I heard the patient talking to the nurse. “Oh, I’m so sorry to be messing up your floor.”
When my turn came, he said my x-ray looked “really very good.” Upon seeing the pinkish swollen oval area on my foot, he frowned and spoke to the nurse, who disappeared and reappeared fast as a cartoon superhero, needle and accoutrement in hand. Dr. E was moving too fast for me. I leaned forward. “If there’s no fracture, what’s wrong?”
“Most likely,” (that great equivocating phrase), “the nerves or tendons are inflamed,” he said.
“And will that shot of cortisone solve the problem?”
“You’ll know within 48 hours.”
“And if it doesn’t?”
“Then we go to an MRI and keep looking,” he said, nodding to the nurse to move into position to spray my foot with an anesthetic before plunging in the needle.
“Doctor,” I said, moving closer to hold his attention. “I understand that most of your patients are older folks, many of them quite ill. I am very healthy, and very lucky. But this foot problem is messing with my program, and we’ve got to find out what’s wrong and fix it, so I can continue to stay fit. Diabetes is a wonderful disease not to have.”
Dr. E stopped, needle in mid-air, and looked me in the eye. Ah, contact. You know it when you see it. He nodded. Message received. He bent to his work, apologizing all the way for the discomfort he was delivering along with the medicine.
On the way out, he stopped at the door, turned around to look at me again, and spoke softly, “You’re right. Diabetes really is a wonderful disease not to have.”
I rode the elevator alone back to the clinic lobby. It was 3:30 and raining sideways, so I stopped off at the walk-up cafe window for a latte and a chocolate chip cookie, found a comfortable chair and people-watched. Some were in wheelchairs, some on crutches or limping, young women with downy soft hair on their sleek skulls, crying babies and exhausted-looking caregivers, all making their way in and out of the storm. Two men stood on either side of the automated doors with industrial mops. They handed out plastic umbrella bags to everyone trudging in with their dripping bumper-shooters.
My coffee cup was empty. The cookie was gone. I missed Buck and Maggie, dry at home, awaiting my arrival. My foot was not in good running condition, and I hated the thought of getting soaked to the skin walking to the car. Umbrellas. Ha! I was sitting directly across from the clinic’s pharmacy. They had three packable-style umbrellas: one black, one blue, and one a cheerful stripe, more like a parasol.