Sow’s Ear: "My veterinarian sent me"
April 14, 2006
by Gwen Petersen
Big Timber, Mont.
When my cat is sick or my dog is poorly or a cow develops a problem, I can take the animal to the veterinary hospital; or the veterinarian will respond with an actual house or barn call. Said vet makes a diagnosis, gives advice, suggests treatments and usually applies hands-on care to the ailing critter.
Since I’m a being that walks on two legs and since I’m not a monkey or a turkey or a dancing poodle, I fall into that group known (generically) as people. Therefore, as a Homo sapiens individual, should I develop a problem, an illness or a condition requiring medical attention, the veterinarian is not allowed to help me.
No, I must gather my wits and my personal parts and haul them to a health center ” which can be a hospital, a doctor’s office, or a clinic.
At the treatment place, greeters ask me to take a seat in a waiting room full of individuals who don’t feel well. Like me, they sag in their chairs, or hold their heads or stare at the walls. Nobody makes eye contact or conversation. They leaf through magazines that have been leafed through previously by gobs of sick people and I wonder how many traveling germs, bacteria and nasty infections I’m receiving as I flip pages. (Horses and cows rarely bother with reading material while waiting for the vet.)
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At long long last a nurse, carrying a fat file folder, beckons to me to follow her. I do. She leads me into a room the size of a dumpster and I am instructed to sit down in a plastic armchair. The nurse opens the folder giving the thick sheaf of papers within a chance to breathe. This stack of stuff is my “chart,” a collection of judgments, opinions and descriptions of whatever I’ve had go out of kilter since the last ice age. I have no idea what is actually written on those pages as the words are deemed sacred and confidential, not to be viewed by me, the sicko.
The nurse writes something in the chart, probably the date.
“Why are you here?” she asks.
“Because I’m sick.”
“What’s the matter?”
“Same thing as when I was here two days ago, only it’s worse.”
“And what was that?”
“Doesn’t it say in the chart?”
The nurse changes the subject. She unfurls a blood pressure cuff. I roll up my sleeve. She pumps, listens, releases the cuff and goes back to the chart where she writes something. She does not volunteer the results. If I want to know, I must ask the question.
The nurse takes my temperature by sticking a gizmo in my ear or stuffing a thermometer under my tongue. She does not mention what she reads. If I wish to learn my current temperature, I must ask the question.
The nurse takes my pulse, turns to the chart, writes something. She does not share her findings with me. If I want to know, I must ask the question.
The nurse leaves, taking the folder with her (so I won’t be tempted to peek). She closes the door behind her.
I wait. The door opens. The doctor enters. He’s carrying a fat folder ” my chart. He places it on the counter, sits on a short stool that has wheels. He stares at me and asks, “Why are you here?
There’s only one possible answer: “My veterinarian sent me,” I say.