“Forty-two-year old male, chronic pain syndrome,” the chart reads.
I’m a third-year medical student doing an elective at a physical medicine and rehabilitation clinic, and this is my first time seeing Joe.
Sitting expectantly in the exam-room chair, he’s a gaunt man with a long face and dark tattoos down his arms. Wire-rimmed glasses, stringy ponytail, faded jeans and leather jacket complete the look.
“Nice to meet you,” I say. “I’m Angela, a medical student. I’m doing a couple of weeks here with Dr. Ross, the chief physician.”
“Thank you, doc. I’m Joe.” He smiles, dark eyes twinkling, and I glimpse yellow-stained teeth.
Probably from smoking, I think.
Joe starts talking, jiggling his leg nervously.
“My car was towed yesterday. And these past two weeks have been tough. I got kicked out of my apartment, had no money for the bus, so I had to walk here today, five miles, for my pain meds.”
He’s here for refills, I think wryly. Can I believe his story? Someone who’s walked five miles in this hot weather should look worse–especially if he’s in pain. Or am I passing judgment because of his greasy …