“Ernestine” and the retinologist…

“Hello! Is this G?” grated the voice, instantly recognizable as “Ernestine’s”. “Dr. Blindside wants you in the office on Monday morning at 8am sharp.” She neglected to ask if I could get someone to drive me to this ‘instant’ appointment. This call came in late last Friday afternoon. If I got on the blower right away, maybe, just maybe, I would find someone to drive me to see Dr. Blindside. I knew Rumpole had to be in court on Monday morning, representing one sort of reprobate or another on a matter of LIFE and DEATH. Okay, maybe, not so important, but you’d think his clients all assumed they might lose their freedom, reputations, or life savings if his measured, dulcet tones might not ring out in a courtroon on their behalf. Besides which I did like to eat meals other than of the customary feasts of baking powder biscuits that had sustained us during his law school years, so I had to find some one else to drive me to this appointment.

Bless her little red socks, but Our Lady of Perpetual Crisis, recognizing a potential crisis when she heard the gory details, came to my rescue, and offered to schauffeur me to hear what Dr. Blindside had to impart. I told her I dreaded the appointment, in case he might tell me that the last tests proved that no amount of putting a lens into my left eye might restore vision  to that eye, and hence a sense of depth to my vision. “Chins up, kiddo” OLPC advised, “I can deal with it. Don’t assume the worst.”

On Monday morning, she stumbled to my studio door, yawning and half awake, eager to hit the road and the morning taffic jam. We listened to a Rock Radio station on the trip, just loud enough to keep us both from falling asleep in the front seats of her snappy Toyota. OLPC had worked overtime on her shift at the hospital last night, and filled me in on the shoddy state of the healthcare system from her vantage point as we drove to the appointment. Her reportage doesn’t entirely fill me with great confidence in the current medical system in Canada. And added to my recent experiences as health care consumer, and first hand views of the lack of good housekeeping in the starship hospital in our province, I was filled with distinct unease at a possible new operation on my eye. So, I kept falling asleep on the drive.

After we fed the voracious maw of the parking meter near the medical building, and braved the guillotine doors of the building’s elevator, we arrived safe and on time in the waiting room of the retinologist’s office. At 8:15 am, the place was packed with people blindly peering at out of date magazines, whenever they were not swabbing their sensitive drop-laden eyes. “Ernestine” screeched a fingers-scraping-down-chalkboard “hello”, and waved us to chairs on opposite sides of the room. OLPC settled down with a dog-eared “House Beautiful” and I slumped down to wait my turn to be summoned into the “sanctum sanctorum” where Dr Blindside would minister to me, terse “Oh Yes”, “looks goods”, “see you whenevers”.

Patient after patient groped their way into the examining room, from within which Dr Blindside shouted his observations of their condition, loud enough for the rest of us waiting outside to be able to compare our paltry problems with more weighty ones. He’d yell out to “Ernestine” instructions to set up operation dates at various hospitals, order tests or let a particular patient, as well as the rest of us waiting on the assembly line, know he or she was freed for 6 months or a year.

OLPC shot me disapproving glances from her perch across the room. At least, they may have been disapproving glances, knowing her as I do, despite the fact I could not see  her facial expression at all clearly. In the background “Ernestine” fielded  numerous phone calls, her officious voice scraping away, sounding quite efficient.  She sure is a good receptionist, I mused, maybe she could do with voice lessons so she’d sound more like a CBC Radio woman announcer, rather than a woman on a chicken-plucking assembly line, or maybe even like one of those silly kids who sucked air from a filled balloon and talked with goofy high-pitched voices.

“Mrs. G Stepford” intoned Dr. Blindside. Ah, finally, I thought  to myself as the previous patient apologetically squeezed by me and lined up for some rousing chatter from Ernestine at the counter.

“Sit”, Dr Blindside commanded.  I sat, I stayed, like a good dog, er, patient. He dropped some stuff in my eye that caused me to see purple where there was black in the room. It was quite unexpectedly pretty. “Prop your chin in this” he ordered as he shoved the looking-in-the-eye-apparatus against my ample breast. Being somewhat amply endowed in the “poitrine” I couldn’t fit my chin in the chinrest. Momentarily looking somewhat askance at my chest protuberance, he raised the gizmo a few degrees, looking put out by the time this had taken him. What, large breasts interfering with the smooth clockworks of his medical practice? Tough, I was thinking.

He glanced through the magnifier, then stood up and poked at my eye as he looked deep into its blind depth with his hand-held ocular device. “Hm, hmm, er” he said, “we’ll get you back as much eyesight as possible.”

“What is it you were operated on for anyway?” he asked as he whipped around to riffle through the chart.

“Pre-retinal membrane,” I offered modestly.

“Oh yes! I remember now!” he shouted. “You’re the one with the infections. Well, that will set you back a bit. BUT DON’T YOU WORRY, WE’LL FIX YOU RIGHT UP” he yelled for all and sundry to hear, probably even the “hearing challenged people” next door at the ENTs office. “ERNESTINE” he yelled, “SET MRS STEPFORD UP FOR AN OPERATION DATE AT MOUNT ST. MARY’S NEXT WEEK.” Then he walked out and called out,”Mr Lim, come in now.”

I scrambled to grab my purse and get out of the way of Mr. Lim, the next patient, and squeezed by Dr Blindside, bidding him a quiet goodbye. “Ernestine” squawked, “I’ll call you tomorrow and let you know what time you have to be at the hospital”. At that summary dismissal, I grabbed my jacket and motioned at OLPC to get the heck out of there.

Going down the elevator, OLPC was irate. “That man has the bed-side manner of a slug. He obviously couldn’t care less for patient privacy or confidentiality.”

I was rattled and annoyed, as is the usual case after leaving Dr Blindside’s office. “You can imagine I’m not exactly thrilled and confident to undergo his knife.  Besides which, he poked at my eye in a careless fashion.”

On the drive home. I blinked my teary sore eye, and tried to keep it closed against the light of a sunny fall morning. OLPC yawned and said she could hardly wait to drop me off at my house, go home and hit her bed. I hugged her in thanks as she dropped me off, and announced I too would retreat into sleep to forget this morning’s divertissement with “Ernestine” and Dr. Blindside.

“I’ll phone you in the afternoon,” OLPC said. “I hope your eye settles down.”

Today, my eye is bloodshot and very sore.  “Ernestine” has recently called and reminded me in her inimitable voice that I am to do a ten hour fast next Monday night.  Oh, boy.  I can hardly wait.

6 Responses to ““Ernestine” and the retinologist…”

  1. the individual voice Says:

    POOR YOU! So I take it yelling out patient diagnoses is not typical of the Canadian socialized health system? I will tell you what was worse: going to a gynecological clinic in New York City as a young woman. It had the same method of public diagnoses. Totally humiliating.

  2. AnthonyNorth Says:

    As ex-British forces, I can tell you patient confidentiality can often be non-existant. Regimented examinations in line are a thing to behold. And as for efficiency, I remember my first child was born in a forces hospital. Above my wife’s bed was a note:
    DEPENDANT OF … followed by MY rank, name and number.
    She felt so welcome.

  3. Trish Scott Says:

    One of the things I love about the internet is that it is so easy to find the divine within each other without the distraction of bodies and real life interactions. I so easily find you divine and it annoys me that your Doc so ruthlessly avoids finding that. One can only hope his surgical technique lives up to his god like self image.

  4. suburbanlife Says:

    tiv – yep having one’s gynaecological condition shouted about is definitely far worse- “DON’T YOU WORRY, YOUR VAGINA LOOKS JUST FINE! ” would have a gal crawling out of an examination with a slightly red face, eh” G

    AnthonyNorth – you are so right, the joys of motherhood are definitely not lauded by a label of “Dependent of…..” above the lying in bed. That is a definite downer! G

    Trish – one either chooses to laugh or cry about such things. It’s easy to laugh when one is greeted by a sweetheart such as “Ernestine” – her voice is a bit like Madeleine Kahn’ crossed with Betty Boop’s. I find it hard to keep a straight face in that office. But otherwise she’s nice. I do have a bit of a hate on for Dr. Blindside these days, and need to get past this. 🙂 G

  5. ybonesy Says:

    I could “picture” (hear?) Ernestine’s scratchy voice. A life-long smoker, perhaps?

    I hope Dr. Blindside is a good surgeon. He seemed very confident that he’s going to help you out here. He reminded me of an old-fashioned doctor in an old-fashioned doctor’s office. Nothing new-fangled there.

    OLPC sounds like my friend Patty, who I can count on for anything. Those are great friends to have.

  6. Deborah Barlow Says:

    G, This ordeal is downright harrowing. I am full of hope for a good outcome. Bless you.

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