The doors swung open, and I walked inside the beige specialist’s office, hoping to look young and healthy and confident, perhaps like a feminist lawyer with a full schedule — instead of the partially blind stay-at-home mom that I was. Jeremy followed behind, pushing a stroller with Zeke inside, half-asleep and gripping his cowboy doll.
I walked up to the receptionist, who was on the phone, while Jeremy and Zeke retreated to a corner of the waiting room.
“I’ll be with you in one moment,” she said, raising one finger. I nodded and gazed around the office.
Sheryl had warned me that I would be amongst the geriatric population here – I saw an old woman or two seated, walkers nearby, studying “Good Housekeeping” magazine, and an older gentleman, staring into his paper coffee cup. But I also saw one or two younger folks, pacing, or studying their phones in seats. I wondered what these other patients thought of me and my troupe.
“What can I do for you?” the receptionist looked at me expectantly.
“Hi,” I said, smiling. “I’m Elizabeth Grant. I have an appointment at 8:30 with Dr. Patron? I think that’s how you say his name.”
She ignored my question, and said, “Alright, I have some paperwork for you to fill out,” and she placed a clipboard and pen on the countertop between us. “I also need to make a copy of your license and your insurance card.”
I swung my backpack off my back, resting it on my knee. I reach inside and withdraw my wallet. “Oh, I’m uninsured, technically. I mean, I’m self-pay,” I said. I handed her my license.
“Oh…,” she said, frowning. “I’m going to need to touch base with billing to see how that works.”
“They told me it’d be $250 up front and then the rest at the end of the appointment,” I said.
“Okay,” she said, nodding, seeming unsure. “Well, I’ll go check on that.” She stood and strode past the desk and down a hallway.
I held the clipboard and walked toward Jeremy and Zeke. Zeke sat in Jeremy’s lap, lying flat, his face to the side, burrowed into Jeremy’s armpit.
“He is so out of it,” I said to Jeremy. “Any you-know-what so far?” Jeremy shook his head. “Just some retching,” he said. I grimaced.
I sat beside them in a chair identical to theirs with a muted purple and pink square pattern on the seat and tall, square wooden arm rests. I crossed my legs and set the clipboard on my knees, staring at the paper. I sighed deeply, willing myself to begin – new patient forms always reminded me of standardized testing.
The first questions were easy: address (Denver, CO), emergency contact (Jeremy Grant), insurance information (self-pay). Then I had to write my reason for visiting: “optometrist referred me for a problem with my macula.”
I turned to Jeremy and said, “It’s my macula with the issue, right?”
“I’m not sure,” he said, shrugging.
I pulled my phone out of my pocket and typed “macula” into the Google search bar, and it confirmed that yes, the word for that part of my eye is indeed the “macula,” the central focusing vision. Crisis averted.
I moved on: next, a checklist of symptoms: numbness (no), vision problems (yes), anxiety/depression (yes), heart problems (no), diabetes (no), surgeries (tonsils removed, age 4). Then I listed my family’s medical history: heart failure (maternal side), cataracts (maternal side), arthritis (paternal side), emphysema (maternal side), hypothyroidism (maternal side), anxiety/depression (both sides). Then just few more signatures, and I lifted my pen. I stood and walked to the counter, setting the clipboard on the counter.
“All done,” I said.
“Thank you,” the receptionist said, glancing up from her computer screen while continuing to tap her keyboard. “Dr. Patron will be with you shortly.”
I nodded and sat beside Jeremy again when Zeke coughed violently.
“Oh, no,” Jeremy said.
I turned and saw that Zeke had vomited on himself. Just then, a nurse called, “Elizabeth Grant?”
I stood, and looked at Jeremy. He said, “I’m going to run to the bathroom real quick. Are you okay going in by yourself?”
“Yeah, yeah, that’s fine,” I said, unsure but nodding vigorously.
“Text me if you need me,” he said, standing and putting his backpack on one shoulder while he held Zeke with the other arm, and walking out of the office, leaving the stroller in the corner.
I nodded and took a breath. “I can do this,” I thought to myself, “even if Jeremy isn’t in the room with me.”
“Elizabeth?” the nurse said, watching me.
“Yes,” I said, “That’s me.” She smiled and motioned with her arm down the hallway. “This way,” she said. She took off down the hall. Here we go, I thought, and I followed.
To Be Continued…
This post is part of my “Through A Mirror Dimly” series about a recent health issue I’ve been experiencing. I started telling this story during the season of Lent as a way to make sense of the ways that my own suffering teaches me about the suffering of Jesus Christ.
I also invite you to engage with your own suffering through this series: how does your personal pain illuminate the suffering of Jesus for you? And what can your pain teach you about the life of faith?
ALSO I will be concluding this series soon so I can resume telling my falling-in-love story. Just a few more posts to go until this will be complete (for now – though I think it’s probably turned into a book project by now, nearly 12,000 words into writing!). I’d love to hear what you thought of the series – comment away!