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Monday, March 13, 2006

Have you started your prep?

Monday: at nine, we rose and dressed and walked up to the clinic, two blocks west of the hotel.

As I opened the door to the waiting room, I was immediately thrilled to see all the famous paintings.

Dr. Reed is a competent copyist, with a trained eye and hand. When not fixing people, he goes to such places as the Museè d'Orsay and brings home fascinating canvases Рfamous works, mostly by Impressionists Рwith his own signature. These he hangs on the walls of the clinic, a feast for the eyes of his patients. It feels both self-assured and generous.

They were terribly busy – people running back and forth, it seemed like an E.R. I caught my first glimpse of Dr. Reed. He practically ran to the inside counter of the clinic, instructed Anne, the Person in Charge, on something, and turned away. As he did so, he glanced into the waiting room, stopped and returned to Anne. “Is that Risa out there?”

“It is.”

He added more instructions, and whipped away down the hall. Anne entered the waiting room and spoke with us.

“Have you started your prep?” asked Anne. “You didn't eat breakfast this morning, did you?”

“Umm, Dr. Reed said on the phone, 'Come in at 9:15 Monday and we'll start your prep.' So I was expecting, like, an exam or something.”

“That will happen, but prep starts first thing in the morning. Didn't you see this?” She handed me a sheet of paper with cryptic instructions on it.

“It's the first time I've seen this one. I think.”

“Well, run right over to the pharmacy and get your magnesium citrate. Don't dally along the way, either. Do you have your Neomycin and Flagyl?”

Beloved took the paper. “Yes, and I'll keep track of her.”

“Good girl. Sorry we're so awfully busy; bring her back at noon, O.K.?”

Between the clinic and the inn there is a block of bistros and shops, and one very tiny pharmacy. Here we stopped for the magnesium citrate. The proprietor handed me a small green bottle.

“That's it?”

“Yes. One unit. Half now, half later.”

“All the stories I've read everyone says it's a gallon.”

“That's the old way. This is a little better. Still bad tasting. Refrigerate; makes it a little better.”

We went home to our little room and assembled all the gear. Green bottle, two pill bottles, a row of Fleet Enema bottles, fruit juices. Beloved planned her campaign and made her first move.

“O.K., drink half of this now.” She handed me the green bottle.

I ambled out onto the dock and looked across the water. A pelican drifted out from under the bridge and flapped up into the air some ten feet, then smashed down next to a piling. When its head came up, it was gulping down a fish. The pelican looked over at me.

Right. Bottoms up.

Not bad, really. Kind of an Eastern European lemon-soda flavor.


At noon we went to see Dr. Reed, but he wasn't ready for us until one. We had nothing else to do, though, so we memorized a few magazines.

By the time he called us into the office, I had worn out my welcome in all the chairs,and was leaning against the arm of the couch that Beloved was sitting in, reading something to her from Time.

“Careful,” he said, “Theoretically that couch arm could break.”

Damn. Always good at first impressions, risa b.

In Dr. Reed's office, with its expansive view of the surrounding town and the beach hotels in the distance, we answered a few questions, then Beloved excused herself to run get the Neomycin and Flagyl from our room. It was time for the next dose; I'd have to take them during the visit.

Dr. Reed busied himself with my medical records.

He's a lithe, spry man, maybe a little older than me, with expressive eyes and a shining head. Dapper is one word that comes to mind. Abrupt might be another, but only if tempered with gracious. He's a mixture of wisdom and curiosity, for whom the world's mysteries are beautiful when unsolved and still beautiful when solved. I began to relax. Then --

“So where are the X-rays?”

“They said they would send them both fax and CD.”

“There's nothing here. And the PTT and the PT and the Platelet Count.”

“They assured me they did send them. I'll see if I have them here. Uhh, when Beloved gets back. My copies are in that black bag she had here.”

He placed a call to the little country hospital. While this was going on, tears welled up in my eyes. Am I going to be stopped here, by these wretched pieces of paper everyone promised me, at the very finish line? I reached for a tissue.

Dr. Reed spotted me.

“Have you got sinus?”

“No! I'm just having a kind of panic attack.”

“Panic attack? We can't have those; if you're afraid of the procedure, we won't be able to proceed.”

“No, no, it's just the opposite. I'm upset because the records aren't here and I tried so hard.”

I looked down at the tissue twisting and ripping in my hands.

“I had to work so hard to get here.”

His eyes softened. “Dear, sometimes they lose things, sometimes we lose things. But we have to be very cautious here and make sure nothing is unknown that can be known about your condition.”

Beloved came in. I pounced.

“Quick, the gray pouch!”


“It's in the bag here.”

I rummaged around inside and came up with it. Beloved shook out four pills and opened a water bottle as I flipped through the copies I had been given at the country clinic, with snow blowing by outside, now so long ago as it seemed to me.

“Here's X-ray.”

“Great. That looks beautiful, sweetie.”

I held out the PT and PTT, and presumably Platelet.

“Slow down,” he said. He was taking notes on the X-rays.

He took the other sheets, scanned them briefly, and looked up.

“Well, let's go across the hall and do a brief examination.”

We were left briefly alone in a patient examination room. Beloved tied me into a gown.

After a couple of knocks, Dr. Reed came in.

He took a blood pressure. “Honey, what's your usual BP?”

“One-twenty over eighty.”

“You've got one-sixty over ninety.”

My jaw dropped.

“Wha ...?”

“Let me check the record again.”

While he was across the hall, Beloved and I looked across at each other. I had had no idea I was that stressed over the records.

Dr. Red bustled back in. “Yes, that's what the tell me – one-twenty-eighty. You do want to do this, right?”

“Yes. Yes, I do.”

“O.K. Well, you're gonna be fine. Now lie down, on your back, please.” With that dropping inflection New Yorkers use for the last word of a polite request. A gentleman. Maybe I should relax, then, neh?

Much of the rest of the exam was routine -- “cough.” “Exhale.” -- and the like – but he did a couple of things that were new to me. One was that he took a very specific measurement. The other was that he commented on the electrolysis.

“Perfect,” he said.

Back in his office, Dr. Reed seemed much more expansive and welcoming. We chatted awhile – longer than I would have expected, with such a busy morning – and he showed us the prep room, the O.R. -- very nice, as small O.R.s go – and sent us back to our den, giving Nurse beloved the necessary instructions along the corridor.

“Lots of water – lots of juice. She needs potassium, her potassium is low. Apple juice. Orange juice. Vegetable juice. And then nothing after midnight. O.K. See you in the morning. Talk to Anne before you go.”

Anne swiveled in her office chair toward the counter. “9:15 tomorrow.” She smiled.

--risa b


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