The Doctor Will See You Now
By: Elias Orrego
The child slid his hand gently along the surface of the porous red rocks, letting his palm get a scratch and a tickle. He picked up a couple and tapped them together; it gave off the same faint echo that could be heard underwater in a public pool. It blended into the silence of the waiting room and the tide-like hum of the cars driving by, on the street outside.
He wiped the red silt from his hands onto his shorts, and then onto the almost fake plant that grew out of the rocks by his side. So many offices had those plants, and he always had to touch them to see if they were real or fake. Sometimes he still couldn’t tell.
His mother had read the books on the shelf before. There weren't any new ones. Sliding off the stretched upholstery on the cold metal chair sounded as if he was passing gas, and the five-year-old laughed to himself. Then, he rested his hands on the cushion of the chair, and felt the air seep back in. His mother flashed a smile, and made eye-contact over the top of her reading glasses, for a moment, before returning to Reader’s Digest.
The lady at the desk was answering phone calls and sifting through papers. Looking up over the counter, the boy could make out graying hairs in her part. “Mhmm, let me see if that time works…” More paper shuffling. More talking. Another call. He looked at the toy table, longingly. “Yup, we have your records,” the woman behind the counter said again. He play-stomped over to the toys. There were no other kids in, that day.
“Albert? The doctor will see you now,” a calm, pleasant voice called out, looking up from a clipboard. His mother plopped the paperback down and slipped her reading glasses into her purse.
Albert stopped playing with the three-dimensional abacus, as his imaginary roller-coaster, and followed the directions of the nice lady’s hand gestures.
It was a dimly lit room, this time, and they sat in the silence and waited while staring at metal instruments and posters of organs and bones.
A gray-haired, white-coated man came in with a clip-board and a warm smile. He asked a few questions and wrote some things down. Then he had a “chat with Mom” while Albert listened to his heart through the stethoscope.
The next day Albert would tap the red stones in another office. The next week, another. They all had those 3D abacus toys, and he played with the shapes, and made sounds of the people going around and around, back and forth on a roller coaster. More questions, more tests. A big metal tube like a space-ship to lie down in.
“You’re a good boy.”
“You’re so patient.”
It seemed Albert missed more days of school in a week than he went. He liked kindergarten class, but he didn’t complain about skipping a day, especially when Mrs. Hunt was replaced by Ms. Freeman, and she told him off for talking, or leaning back in his chair, or “taking too long”. Did he feel well enough, today? He would ask himself, because he knew his mother would ask. His tummy was sore. He had appointments to go to.
But being in the doctor’s office and hospital made Albert feel special, like he did when he broke his leg, and lay in traction for six weeks. It was worth learning how to walk again, to be told he was brave, to be smiled at by nurses—pushed around on wheels. Visited by family and people who cared. “The doctor will see you now…”
His leg had been fine for months. There were no back problems or pain. He was a miracle child. But, this stomach stuff—that was a mystery.
“It’s been months of these tests,” said the doctor. It was the family doctor, this time (another follow-up visit), “and I’m going to refer you to…”
Six months wait. The top doctor for stomachs in all the Pacific was right there in Sydney, all along. He would see what the problem was. He would find a solution.
There was light coming into his office. Albert sat with both parents, across from the specialist’s desk. It was different, this visit, this doctor—he was sure. He spoke calmly and surely. “Tell me about the accident.”
Albert’s father recounted the story that was ever-clear in Albert’s mind. “He was pinned under the fallen brick wall.” He broke his femur and pelvis. It was a “compound fracture”.
Albert remembered the pushing down of the hard, cold wall. His twelve-year-old sister and her friends, unable to budge it. His mother came running from the house. There was screaming and crying and praying. Albert shed a tear, and his body tensed all over, unable to move or even feel where everything was, under the crushing. The four girls, his mother, and an old man who happened to be walking by, were able to lift it just a few inches. Albert army-crawled out, and the wall hit the ground.
“It was a miracle,” the doctor confirmed, “that the back was ok, he can walk.” Albert knew that. Then the doctor said something different, something the family had never heard reasoned, “I believe that the impact of the brick wall crushed part of the small intestine. It has scarred over, but it has healed improperly, and that is the cause of the episodes.”
There were a couple of tests they could do very simply, that would confirm what he thought. The procedure was simple. If the theory was confirmed, they could get into surgery right away.
All those nights on the floor… The constant dull pain, and the frequent sharp pain, every couple of days. It was given a reason. A fixable reason. A reasonable fix.
All that burning of the throat, the gums, the teeth. All that feeling that the food was better on the floor than inside of a tummy at war with itself. All of that no longer needed to be Albert’s norm. That bad part of his body, that didn’t heal right. It could be taken out. Removed. It didn’t have to bother him anymore. Everything was going to get better, from here on out.
A week later, the tests were confirmed, and Albert lay on his bed, in his gown, with his parents nearby and the nurses looking over.
“The doctor will see you now…”