Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Paging doctor zwicker

it's always the small things that do you in. in my case, the hospital gowns. i don't get it: why not make a single, standard robe, the type of garment a person could figure out once and for all? -- the type of robe even someone like me, someone who needed help putting on her own bra yesterday, could master? i stripped down three times today for the final phase of my heart testing, and each time found myself confronted with a poser. for the ECG, the gown appeared to be kimono-style. but how can you have a kimono-style gown with just one tie at the neck? thus i found myself flashing the entire cardio ward in my search for a loo.

down in the x-ray unit, i caught the tech before she left and asked, casually, "anything i need to know about the gown?" "nope!," she said brightly, "just the usual. three arms."

three arms? three frickin' arms? what is this, some kind of joke? i pulled one down off the shelf and, sure enough, the innocuous-looking pale blue gown turned out to be built for a mutant. an ungainlier garment you have never seen. and that's before i put it on.

i'll say this for the cardiac ease clinic at the uofa hospital: they run a helluva shop. my appointments were scheduled for 9:15 (holter monitor removal), 10:00 (ECG), 10:30 (xray) and 11:30 (cardiologist), but i was moved efficiently from ward to ward and was done everything but the consult by 9:50. i wasn't particularly looking forward to an hour and a half of outdated chatelaine, but the cardio unit had other surprises in store. "let's get you set up with a pager," said the receptionist, "and you can go off and get some lunch." i stared. lunch at 10? but also: a pager?? nobody's ever paged me for a literary emergency ("doctor zwicker, doctor zwicker, we have a poetry situation in the humanities centre"), so this felt like a big moment. she passed over a round red disk with a flashing beacon. "it'll work anywhere in the hospital and even over at the tim hortons," she said. seeing my confusion -- have they mistaken me for a real doctor? -- she added, "it works just like the pagers you get at restaurants." no help. but i nodded sagely anyhow.

they didn't page, but i still enjoyed the fantasy that they might. i felt important, sitting next to my little pager. i kept picking it up, just to be sure it was working, then imagined what i'd say if they did page me. i played out the fantasy all the way back to the cardio unit and into the exam room. i was phrasing introductions with the cardiologist: "dr haraphongse? dr zwicker." "dr zwicker! i'm dr haraphongse." handshakes all around, when --

-- when the nurse practitioner interrupted my reverie by suggesting, ever so gently, "you might want to turn that gown around before the doctor comes in."

oh, and the diagnosis? "vasovagal syncope." translation: "you're a fainter." treatment: "if you're going to faint, try to avoid hitting your head."


Shawna Lemay said...

next time i have a poetry emergency (and this happens more frequently than i like) i am SOO paging you.

Anonymous said...

Oh! I get vasovagal, had it a lot when I was preg. Not a good time for that, seizures too.
Glad your heart's fine. Is it?
You'd think with the title "Dr." they'd at least sub the gown for scrubs!