Reader’s Short Story: The Perfect Patient
by Carolynne Lobb
READER'S SHORT STORY
So, there I was, sat in the waiting room at the doctors. All I really wanted to do is blend in and be ignored, but have you not noticed that when you keep yourself to yourself, folk become more interested in you? So, here I was trying the same approach at the doctors. Just chilling, it’s no big deal, it’s just a neee… oh God, I can’t even say the word needle. Am I sweating? Yes, my palms are sweating just at the very word. How the hell am I gonna get through this blood test? The problem is, the more I try and stop thinking about needles the more I start thinking about needles. It’s very rare now that needles get stuck in veins, so they say, but just yesterday I won a free coupon for teabags at the till and I never win anything so I’m beating some odds all ready and that ain’t good. Gosh I hope my nurse isn’t twelve. What if she has only just finished her training and I’m her first real patient?
MY MOUTH OPENS BUT THERE ARE NO WORDS. SHE LOOKS AT ME AND RAISES AN EYEBROW.
No, it’s no good. I need to get out of here fast. I mean I’ve done well. I’ve made the first step. I’ve exposed myself to the fear and now I need to run and hide as my reward. I grab my bag and attempt my get away. Suddenly the nurse appears and shouts my name. I look up pretending I hadn’t heard her and look about the waiting room as innocently as I can muster. Perhaps if I say nothing she will go away! The problem is I was at least 20 years younger than anyone else in the room and if I was called Betty, Ethel or Doris I could have easily made my escape, but the nurse is no fool and looks straight at me. Are you Jess? My mouth opens but there are no words. She looks at me and raises an eyebrow.
“Are you playing dumb?” she grins. I assure her that I’m not and that I always look like this.
“Er, I think I may have to lie down for this needle,” I say.
“You’re not nervous, are you?” she muses.
“Me! Nervous? Ha… as if. I just thought you might be nervous. Are you nervous because if this is your first time I’d rather come back when you’re a bit more experienced. The thing is, you only look young to me. How old are you by the way?”
She stares at me, bemused. “I’m sixty-two. Take your jacket off please. Been here 20 years. Roll up your sleeve please.”
You know, I’m not too sure that I like this no-nonsense approach but this is the least of my worries right now. She then mentions that she needs to go and get a strap to help locate my veins. The mistake she made, besides mentioning the word strap to help locate a vein, was leaving the room to actually go and get said strap, as this was my ideal opportunity to mentally note any exits in order to make my escape. If there is an open window, I will definitely be going through it. And at this practice that’s easy peasy as its all on one level, unlike the last practice when I escaped from the second floor. The sheets that I used from the bed that day merely served as a harness, if you will, and aside from a fractured ankle, broken wrist and some minor internal bleeding all was well. Not to mention that it was a perfect opportunity to work on my fear of heights so don’t try telling me that I don’t face my fears! I noticed, to my alarm, there were no exits and it was at this precise moment that my claustrophobia decides to kick in. I take a deep breath. I find myself licking my forefinger and holding it into the air whilst a finger on my other hand is holding in one of my nostrils. I take a deep breath, Yes, yes I think there is enough air in the room so I’m fine at the moment. Don’t panic. Stay calm. I peer towards the tray she has assembled. My brain is saying DON’T LOOK but my eyes are completely ignoring my brain. It’s as if they have a mind of their own.
I AM RELAXED, WHAT MAKES YOU THINK I’M NOT RELAXED. I COULDN’T BE MORE RELAXED. GOSH IT’S HOT IN HERE. IS IT HOT IN HERE?
Anyway I glance down at my arm and back to the needle on the tray. Now either that’s one large needle or I’ve got very skinny arms. I’m going with the former, as that’s the only way I’m gonna get out of here in one piece and with my dignity intact. Ok, forget dignity. Just getting out in one piece will suit me just dandy.
That’s it. I’m out of here. I get up and bend down to get my bag, meanwhile the nurse comes back in.
“So how are we doing?”
I shoot back up and lean casually on the bed. “Oh, I’m fine, couldn’t be better.” I find myself yawning, you know, to appear casual and carefree. The problem is my jaw is that tense that I can barely close it again. Gosh, all I need now is to start drooling!
“Now just relax,” she insists.
“I am relaxed, what makes you think I’m not relaxed. I couldn’t be more relaxed. Gosh it’s hot in here. Is it hot in here?”
“I think it’s best if you lie down for this in case you get dizzy,” she assures me. Now then, just the mere suggestion of getting dizzy makes me feel, well… dizzy.
“Ok then, so it’s just an overall check today,” she said.
“Oh, that sounds good then. Yes, check the old engine. The old MOT. The… gosh, is that the needle? It looks a bit large. So, it’s just the one needle then, is it?”
“That’s right, just one needle,” she nods.
“Phew, one needle. I can just about cope with…”
“And three bottles,” she interrupts. I stop and freeze. I slowly turn to her.
“Sorry, did you just say bottles. You know, as in more than one?”
“That’s right, I said three bottles,” she confidently assures me.
SO THERE I WAS LYING DOWN, SLEEVES ROLLED UP, SWEATING LIKE A PIG IN A BACON FACTORY KNOWING THAT I’M ABOUT TO BE……
Well, that was it then, a needle fine. Bottle perhaps a bit fine. Bottles plural… definitely not fine! There is now good news and bad news. The good news is I suddenly don’t have the problem with the word needle. The bad news is that I now have a problem with the word bottles.
She shows me the bottles. This is supposed to make me feel better.
“They’re not that big,” she smiles unconvincingly.
But you know what folks, neither am I!
“You’ve got good veins,” she adds.
Oh… Oh! Now I’ve gone and got a problem with the word veins. My problem words have started to fill up and I should be mentally filing them away in the ‘Words That Scare Me’ file but actually that file is beginning to get pretty full. I’m beginning to get desperate and so I try bargaining tactics, always the last resort of the fear process before fight or flight kicks in.
“Could you not just take half the amount and then I’ll come back and give the other half next time. Say one and a half bottles?”
“No,” she says.
“Could you not just take one sample and gather all the tests from that one sample then?”
“No,” she repeats.
Ok, I’m feeling that this particular sister of mercy is not into bargaining and I’m starting to lose faith in her ability to accommodate my fears.
So there I was lying down, sleeves rolled up, sweating like a pig in a bacon factory knowing that I’m about to be…… I can’t even say it…… injected. And then came the magical words, like music to my ears!
“All done,” she says.
Really? Wow! I didn’t feel a thing. She is good. I take a few seconds and breath. That wasn’t bad at all. I get up slowly.
“I thought I did really well there but what can I say, I’m a natural. I mean after all it’s only a needle.”
She smiles at me and then turns her back to use the computer. I get up slowly.
“You know, I think I could have made a good nurse, don’t you?”
“Close the door on your way out, won’t you dear?” she said adamantly.
You know I liked her. And I get the feeling that she liked me. I can tell when someone likes me. They tend to struggle to look me in the eye, you know, and erm… well, communicate, but that’s likely due to the fact that I’ve got a strong character. I know this to be true because I’m a people person at heart. Well, you know, within reason. As long as they don’t talk to me, don’t look at me, and give me a very wide birth I think people are great. You know I hope I get her again next time. I liked her and I bet she feels exactly the same way about me. Now then, off to the dentist next. Gosh I hope that dental hygienist knows how to use that scraper thing properly. I wonder how they get qualified? I hope I’m not their first patient…
NorthernLife May/June 2022.