Minutes Turn to Hours and Seconds Slow to Eternity

headshot-2017
Imelda Muller, M.D. ’17

Minutes turn to hours and seconds slow to eternity as we wait. Those once lining the walls have begun to indulge in the vertical support behind them, some sinking to the floor. We are all waiting for the man in the long white coat.

 

When he arrives we commence our actions. One patient at a time is called into the small room. Few words are exchanged, and the yellow glow of Glenmark shines as he writes with Rhinathiol and shuffles papers to the ‘completed’ pile, one face at a time. With a knock, a well-dressed man presents himself, briefcase in hand and a shining smile to match. The Doctor stops mid-sentence to embrace this new face and the patients’ words dissolve in the air between them, left to be blown away in the breeze. A stool is pulled up beside the doctor, and the man is welcomed. The two men begin their conversation, erupting in waves of laughter, embracing in the practiced comradery of old friends. The man with the briefcase is given the privilege of time with the doctor- more time than the last five patients combined. Before the man departs, he presents the doctor with packages-folders, notepads, pens like the one in his hand, tubes of ointment. The bustling benches threaten to pour onto us from behind the closed door.

When he arrives we commence our actions. One patient at a time is called into the small room. Few words are exchanged, and the doctor’s name dances across his chest. The embroidered letters glisten as the strokes of his pen work though the pile of pink papers, one face at a time. With a knock, a well- dressed man presents himself, briefcase in hand and a shining smile to match. The doctors finishes his conversation with the patient in front of him, a chorus of calls and responses, until all of the patient’s questions have been answered. The man with the suitcase takes the empty seat, vacated by the previous patient. The doctor swiftly waves him away, and the man is not privileged enough to transfer his weight to the sturdy stool beneath him. He is sternly told to come back another day, scorned for stealing valuable seconds from a room full of sick and waiting patients. The bustling benches empty steadily through the open door between us.

The next patient arrives, bearing a rash, covered from head to toe. The doctor turns to the Canditrol poster on the wall behind him, explaining the diagnosis displayed in the picture. The doctor uses his new pen to write the new name of the new cream for this new patient. He leans on the Supirocin desk beneath him. He tells the patient when to come back, referring to the Pelox calendar above him .

The next patient arrives, bearing a rash, covered from head to toe. The doctor turns to a book beside him, corners rubbed round and pages wilted. He carefully shows the patient a series of pictures, explaining how the patient’s presentation is similar and different. He counsels the patient about management of his condition, implications of treatment, and provides reassurance. As he speaks, he uses his pen to annotate careful instructions for the patient. He tells the patient when to come back, referring to the calendar in his pocket.

The pile of pink papers beside him quickly grows, one after another. A shocking number of patients appear to qualify for this new cream.

The pile of pink papers beside him slowly grows, one after another. Each patient is given individualized attention and time is thoughtfully allocated to carefully addressing their concerns.

At the top of the next hour, another smartly dressed man appears. Another suitcase urging the doctor’s presence. The doctor turns to me and explains there is an important meeting. I ask to join and we depart for the next building, stepping over rashes, and oozing skin that will wait until we are through. We return nearly an hour later, bellies full. The doctor’s pockets are now swinging with the momentum of more pens and notepads. Heavy with samples that, when deposited carefully into his patients’ pockets, have the paradoxical potential to relieve their burdens.

At the top of the next hour, another smartly dressed man appears. Another suitcase urging the doctor’s presence. He is beckoned to a meeting. He waves this man away and calls the next patient in, explaining there is no time for meetings in the middle of clinic. The man with the suitcase seems to accept this, quickly and quietly unpacking his propositions on another small table in the room, backing out of the room with a few quick words. Samples in boxes sit untouched on the table.

In the late morning, we see a boy. He comes alone, imprisoned by his own excoriations. He has no mother with him, and therefore has no mother’s purse to provide for him. He is sent away without a note to carry to the pharmacy. The doctor’s pockets sing with commerce, while the boy’s pockets scream in agony.

In the late morning, we see a boy. He comes alone, imprisoned by his own excoriations. He has no mother with him, and therefore has no mother’s purse to provide for him. He is sent away without a note to carry to the pharmacy, as the doctor directs him to fill his pockets with the sample boxes sitting on the table.

By lunch, the doctor announces his departure. He explains that the burden of patients is too grand for one day. He will not see the rest of the patients. They must come back for the next clinic. For the children and their patient parents, this will not be for another week.

By lunch, we are not yet halfway through. The Sisters ask when he thinks they will conclude. He explains that the burden of patients is too grand to leave for the day. He will stay and see the rest of the patients. They will not have to wait until the next clinic, for a week is too long. For the children and their patient parents, all will be seen today.

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