I now have an Infectious Disease Specialist. I feel extremely exotic and special.
At my first appointment I wasn’t sure what to expect. Aside from a possibly long wait. You know, typical doctor’s office stuff. Yet, the moment I signed in and turned to my waiting room comrades—a dreary, quiet group whose infectious diseases I couldn’t help but wonder about—I realized that I’d forgotten my Kindle. Damn it.
My book group has ambitiously taken on Anna Karenina, so I try to get a page or two under my belt at every possible free minute. It gives me some hope of finishing the book by 2015.
Annoyed that I wouldn’t make any Anna progress, I turned to the magazine rack to find bleak reading prospects. Diabetes Today, the AARP magazine, and some clinically-upbeat periodical called Empower.
While pondering whether diabetes was “infectious” and what that word reflected about my own presence in that office—Was it that I’d gotten something infectious or that others could get something from me? Wait—that’s contagious. So I guess I’m The Infected, not The Infector, which is mildly reassuring… Anyway, while sorting through these thoughts a nurse came to the doorway and called me in.
Notice how I didn’t say “a male nurse.” Why is it that male nurses are always “male nurses” and not just nurses? I’m fighting for the rights of this maligned group right here and now. Just so you know.
So while he was taking my vital signs, the I’m-not-mentioning-he-was-male nurse brought up the fact that he has diabetes. Not sure how it is that we got on that topic, but he was clearly trying to take attention away from infected patients like myself by A) being male and a nurse, and B) prattling on to me about his illness.
Though he did seem like a kind man. And he thankfully managed to take my temperature and blood pressure without getting all low blood sugar on me, or slipping into a diabetic coma.
And before I knew it my brand new infectious disease specialist swept in to start our appointment. To hopefully diagnose the mysterious set of symptoms that had sent two other less exotic and less special doctors off scratching their heads.
So he sat down and started earnestly asking questions and scribbling down notes in what appeared to be utterly illegible script. Which somehow validated that he was a real doctor. Maybe even a good doctor. The other thing that made me certain he’d get to the bottom of this—aside from his outpouring of questions, “What animals have you been around? Have you traveled out of the country? Eaten raw fish or meat?—the other thing that got me was his clothes.
Yes, I’m not sure how YOUR infectious disease specialist dresses, but mine wears a safari suit. Or more specifically, khaki pants and a matching khaki shirt. It’s very evocative of the kinds of ensembles one might wear in the kinds of places one might acquire an infectious disease. (Even though I got mine—if I actually even have one—in the wilds of small-town New England.)
He stepped out to get my records and I half-expected him to re-enter the room wearing a mosquito net over a pith helmet. I pictured him jumping into an open-sided Jeep, bumping over scrub brush and dirt to get to the nurse’s station. I imagined him hopping out at a dense jungle outcropping and using a machete to bushwhack his way through dense foliage towards the computer that housed my lab results.
No wonder he’s got male nurses, I thought. They’re probably trained to keep the wild animals at bay.
Anyway, he returned from his “getting my chart” adventure seemingly unscathed. And our appointment continued devoid of any thrilling aha moments or the appearance of monkeys. In fact, his summary of what’s been happening to me was about as milk toast as they come.
Essentially he mirrored what the other docs had said. It could be Lyme Disease, so take the antibiotics. Get tested in two weeks to see if you got a false negative the first time. But by the time you take that second test, you’ll have been on the meds for so long, you might not test positive then. Even if you had it.
So? So? So? So, that’s IT?! That is the finale of all these weeks of blood tests, MRIs, and “sorry but this will be uncomfortable” nerve testing?
I may never know what caused my limbs to go numb, my muscles to ache, and my joints to throb with pain. I may never know if I ever even had what they’re guessing it mighta been. And as a consolation prize I get to take 30-days worth of stomach-churning antibiotics. Hooray!
Call me demanding, but this is one lame-ass final act.
“Be happy you feel better,” he said. And faster than a hyena running up a tree, he was gone.
I’ve definitely learned a thing or two from this whole experience. Having an infectious disease specialist isn’t anywhere near as cool as you think it’ll be. And AARP Magazine is nothing to look forward to.