Sunday, December 2, 2007

World AIDS Day(s) Observation: The Women's Clinic at San Francisco General Hospital, Ward 86 - Part 3

...continued from "Positive Participant Observation: The Women's AIDS Clinic at San Francisco General Hospital" (2004), See Parts 1 and 2 (of 4).

A nurse calls me by me family name. I am no follow him to get my weight, blood-pressure, and temperature. I'm told I can't bring my doughnut, and am quickly brought paper plate for it, and am told that a peer advocate will watch it. At this point in the routine I am asked to rate any and all pain as one value, 1 to 10. I wonder if the others have as much trouble as I do understanding that question. I have no idea what to say, and answer randomly, like picking a card from my own self-shuffled, upside down deck. The next ten minutes are missing because I have completely distracted myself by playing with the idea of face cards as indices of pain. My nurse practitioner (we don't regularly see doctors unless we are dying and, like prenatal and pediatric care, I don't know where we go for that either) - Catherine, is running late, so to kill time I go get my TB test, even though I know I'm not coming all the way back down here to get the results checked. I can't imagine that anyone else, without an undeniable result, does either. I lie that I will come back and go, distracted, back to the waiting room smiling to myself at the idea of the queen of pain. I don't want my doughnut.

Next I am escorted to Catherine whose window is wide open this February, because the room is too small for its radiator's nonadjustable output. She takes a deep breath and leans her head back against the wall as if she could be relieved to see me. Maybe she's relieved to see each of us - that we've shown up. Maybe it's that she knows me well enough to know she doesn't need to be any particular way for me. But I think I know her well enough to think she doesn't think she needs to be any particular way for anybody. I don't know anything personal about her at all except that she has a daughter named Sophie who plays piano, although I don't remember how I know that. I don't know Catherine's age, but it seems to stay the seem the same while mine gets closer to it. For the first time it occurs to me to wonder if I might be her longest-present-continuous patient. I almost ask, and then decide against it. She asks how I am, which means, "How is school?" as much as it means anything else. She fills out my lab requisition hurriedly so I can get my blood drawn before the phlebotomists go to lunch.

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