So … where were we?
The weird thing about discovering medical debris left in your person for five months is how you’re just expected to go on with your life as if you weren’t affected at all. I went back to work the next day. My job was such that I didn’t have a permanent desk, and that day I was in a secluded cubicle. My back was pressed against a windowless wall. I called the wound care clinic, keeping my voice down even though I felt like screaming.
“Do I have any,” I hesitated, putting on my one-year-of-law-school airs, “recourse?”
“Well, we can bring this to the managing nurses’ attention.”
I wasn’t even speaking to the manager.
I waited for the managing nurse to call back. I asked her the same question.
“Weren’t you keeping a check on the wound?” She asked, her tone oddly accusatory.
“I’m sorry,” I said, raising my voice. “Are you implying that this was my responsibility?”
No, no, of course not.
She said they could write up a complaint. And that was the end of that.
It became damningly clear at that point that I couldn’t keep seeing Dr. J without intervention. I called the Patient Relations Line — was there any way I could get an advocate or a mediator?
No. But they could write up a complaint.
This is fine. Everything’s fine.
A week or two passes. Dr. J said he’d refer me to a plastic surgeon, but not to expect an appointment right away because most of them are on summer vacation. He says the name of the one he wants me to see. I Google him — I look at his average wait times, I find his Twitter account, I call his office and plead with his secretary to give me an appointment.
I end up getting a letter in the mail — still the district health authority’s primary mode of communication. I have a consultation, but it’s not with who I thought it would be. Dr. W.
I take my lunch break to see Dr. W. This time my Mum drives me — she still insists on going to first consultations with me. I guess I would also want to know if the person who will be cutting into my daughter is a nice guy or not.
Dr. W’s resident comes in first. She asks me to recount my medical history. I’m used to this — I’ve recounted my medical history to nurses, general practitioners, psychologists.
Except now there’s a stumbling block. Something that wasn’t there before.
In the weeks leading up, I oscillated between bemusement and fury. But recounting it out loud to a stranger, it takes on a new meaning — overwhelming sadness. I realized that I was failed.
Like turning on a faucet.
“I don’t even know why it’s making me cry,” I said.
I remember odd details about appointments. I remember what I was wearing. Is there any significance to that? I don’t know. I remember choosing my outfit based on the fact that Dr. W was going to want to look at my wound and that I was also going to work. I wore a sundress. A Lilly Pulitzer for Target one that my Mum had found at a thrift store that month. We laughed, because two years earlier we had been in Bangor, Maine the day the collection dropped, but by the time we went to Target it was nearly sold out. I found a child’s size 16 shift dress abandoned in the fitting room and bought it.
The night before, at the Bangor Motor Inn, two months removed from meeting Dr. J for the first time, I cried in the middle of the night after one of my many trips to the bathroom.
“I feel dirty all the time,” I said. “I see blood all the time and I’m so sick of seeing it.”
When Dr. W finally came in, I cried again. I told him everything.
“If I don’t get this fixed, I don’t know what I’ll do,” I said. “I don’t think I can finish law school.”
It was the first time I said it out loud.
Dr. W told me I didn’t have to worry. I would definitely be going back to school.
“We’re going to get you healed in time for September.”
He told me what he wanted to do — a flap reconstruction, which involved taking tissue from my buttcheek and grafting it onto my wound to allow more healthy tissue to fill it.
He couldn’t say how long I would have to wait for surgery, but he kept firm on his promise.
“I like him,” Mum said when we left.
I told her she said that about Dr. J too. In all honesty, I liked Dr. W as well, but wasn’t about to say it out loud in case things went bad again. I told her he looked like Jeff Goldblum.
“Absolutely not,” she said. “You know I can’t stand him.”
I got a call that afternoon. I was taking the bus home and was on the Bedford Highway. It was Dr. W’s receptionist.
“We can get you in this Thursday.”
Two days. Maybe he did keep his promises.
The next day was my birthday. I got messages from friends that doubled as both birthday greetings and good luck wishes. I told my friends to cancel the weekend plans we made. I told work I wasn’t going to be back.
“Who says the medical system isn’t efficient?” my supervisor joked.
I had an appointment with Dr. J on my lunch break. I told him about the surgery. This was, in all likelihood, the last time I would see him. I told him how disappointed I was. If plastic surgery was supposed to work so well, why wasn’t I sent there a year ago?
He didn’t have a good reason. He said he’s had patients who have had open wounds for over nine years.
Remember, someone always has it worse than you, is how it sounded. I was supposed to be thankful. Gaslit.
I had one last cry in the disabled bathroom. Happy birthday.
Thursday, another waiting room, this time in a different hospital. This time I was reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I was sitting, knowing it would be the last time I would be able to sit normally for a while (such is the case when you get surgery on your butt). The View was on TV again.
Please don’t let this turn out like the last time.