Waiting Room Questions

“Happy Birthday!” Those were the first words that met my ear today. They came cautiously, spoken almost like a question. A question that was trying to apologize for its very existence. It did not make sense to me then, and it circles my mind now. I was standing then. I find myself sitting now.

I had walked in the building and entered the elevator an hour earlier. “What floor?” I asked the other occupant. “3, please,” came the reply. I was going to 4. They were never going to 4.

“Have you been tested for COVID-19 recently?” the gatekeeper asked.

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Waiting in Darkness, Waiting in Light

January 8, 2016, was a day I shall never forget. I received the news that the issues I was experiencing with my right knee would require a total knee replacement. My primary care physician assured me not to worry: “Everyone has knee replacements.” And so began my period of waiting in darkness. It would last for more than four years.

The first of what would be six procedures was scheduled for two weeks later. Infection set in just four days after my surgery. Oral antibiotics gave me a sense of waiting in light. How wrong I was! Eight weeks of

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Healing Through Waiting

Waiting.

Over more than half a century of delivering primary care, I was privileged to be present at moments of profound sorrow and unspeakable grief. Often, these moments came when communicating about a fatal prognosis during a house call after a death had occurred there—whether unexpected or expected, sudden or after a chronic illness.

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Siberia

The appointment with Dr. M. was over in record time, and I texted my husband, “On my way!” as I headed downstairs. Getting out was easier than in, what with the hand sanitizer, temperature check and exhaustive list of questions just inside the narrow entrance. The university hospital was a ninety-minute drive, but we didn’t mind. The leaves were turning, and Iowa City has Indian food and a world-class bookstore.

I walked across the courtyard to the parking ramp, peering down the rows of cars. No blue Subaru. My left foot hasn’t worked right since a fracture five years ago,

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Time to See

I’ve been waiting years, so long I don’t even know when it all started. 

I mean I know when I started wearing glasses. I was in first grade, and my teacher took my parents aside. “I think your daughter has a learning disability.” She probably used different words, this was 1968 after all. My parents weren’t convinced and sought out another explanation as to why I was having difficulty in school. Ultimately, they took me to an ophthalmologist who gave them an answer. Within a few months of wearing my new pink princess glasses, I was moved up a grade. 

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Storm Shelter

After his wife died, he changed his mind. “No ventilator,” he told me, shaking his head. “No ventilator.”

And so, I thought, now we wait. He had been prepared to wait for his wife to get better when it was she in the hospital alone. No visitors were allowed, so he talked to her by phone for hours each day, even when neither of them would speak, even when she couldn’t speak; he would listen to her breathing, willing it to ease, to settle into the pattern he knew so well from years by her side.

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Sitting Alone

I was one of two managers covering the hospital one quiet Sunday morning when my pager beeped.

“Cafeteria,” said the voice that answered my call.

 “Hi, this is the nursing manager.”

“A child’s alone down here.”

In the cafeteria I approached the bevy of workers huddled by the phone.

“The little girl’s over there,” one of them said, pointing.

A small child was sitting quietly at a table. She had a round face and light brown hair pulled back with a pink barrette, soft curls falling below her ears. There were no toys or food in front of her. 

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The Waiting Game

 סַבְלָנוּת. The first Hebrew word I learned when I spent the 1972-1973 academic year in Jerusalem was “savlanoot”—patience. I added the word to my Hebrew lexicon, but I never incorporated it into my daily life. I am not a patient person; whether standing in line at the grocery store or checking my mailbox for the results of my mammogram, waiting causes me angst and anger. When I want something, I want it now.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, however, waiting has become an integral part of my life. I must patiently await the November 3 election, hoping that my

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An Editor’s Invitation: Waiting

Dear Pulse readers,
We are waiting.
Waiting for an election that is very close–already happening in some states–but still feels far off.
Waiting for a pandemic to come under control.
Waiting for systemic racism to be fully acknowledged and met head-on.
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For Some Ills, There Is No Pill

Fatigue comes in many forms. Physical fatigue. Compassion fatigue. Emotional fatigue.

I should know about physical fatigue, the kind I experience when I realize that I can’t jog for more than three minutes without taking a break. Then I remember that I am overdue for my iron infusions. Way overdue. I blame my poor self-care on my recent move–in the midst of a pandemic–and how the circumstances were not exactly conducive to getting under the care of new physicians, despite being a physician myself.

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Moonshine

I wake when the sky begins to darken. As the sun buries itself beneath the horizon, the hospital beckons.

Nights bring a kind of calm. I find that wakefulness, while others sleep, grants me something sacred—time, untouched.

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Ennui

“There’s no hurry. Take your time,” the wife said patiently.

“Time, that’s all I have since I’ve retired,” the physician-husband said. “What do you have?”

“I’ve finally figured it out,” she replied. “What I’ve been feeling since the COVID-19 lockdown. It’s ennui.” She hadn’t used that word in many decades, probably since college French, nor even thought of it. “It just came to me,” she marveled.

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