Waiting Rooms

My dad, an ob-gyn, hated to be late. If traveling, he insisted on arriving at airports hours early, in the days before TSA screenings necessitated it, resulting in long waits in boarding areas. I’d sigh and fidget in protest. Now, I’ve learned it’s wise to allow time for the unexpected.

Dad ran his office like clockwork. “Don’t be late for a doctor appointment,” he emphasized. “It throws their whole schedule off and keeps others waiting.” Yet he always made time to talk with his patients, to listen to their concerns, to help them through a rough patch.

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Wishing I Were Still Waiting

The fountain, meant to evoke a spa-like environment in the waiting room, tinkled loudly enough to be distracting. Still, I persevered with my reading, the downtime a welcome postwork/precommute break while I waited for my annual gynecologist appointment. As an extra treat, I had plans to meet my brother afterward for coffee.

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The Body Keeps the Time

Have ever felt that sense of unease on a cellular level? Like something is amiss. Like nothing feels quite right in a visceral way. That feeling sneaks up on me at certain points it the year. Like when it is time to transition back to school. Or, deep in winter. Or, the anniversary of a difficult event.

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The Clock Can Keep Ticking!

I was out of this clinic for almost four months.

When I came back, I realized that everyone was unsettled and upset. Apparently, this clinic was closing, another one was opening in the same space, and many of the staff were leaving. There was one recurring theme amongst the worried staff and providers, as time ticked on, relentlessly, towards D-Day. What will happen to all these patients who will fall through the cracks?

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Precious Minutes

He has sharp right abdominal pain.

The pain comes and goes. It started as dull and general, but he feels it’s now concentrated on his right side. He had a similar pain a year ago, he adds. It’s worse now, so he came to the hospital.

He has a cough due to COVID.

The cough has been going on for a couple months. He had COVID in November, and it resolved. But he got COVID again in February and since then has had this lingering cough. He’s vaccinated and boosted.

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A New Life Clock Begins

10:15 a.m.

We return from a routine morning on the dock—me with a good book and an empty coffee cup, my husband refreshed from a 1-mile swim—and trek up our steep driveway.

10:20 a.m.

My husband emerges from the bathroom. “I don’t feel right.” An unlikely admission from him. He walks to a chair in the living room. I tick off signs and symptoms: chest tightness, shortness of breath, sweating, mid-thoracic back pain, shallow pulse.

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Count Down

Back in May, after two doctor visits, a scan, X-rays and a foot MRI, it was determined that the excruciating pain beneath my left ankle was due to two cysts pressing against a nerve. My orthopedist set me up for an operation the following week to remove them.

Anesthesia would be required, so the surgery would take place in the outpatient section of a nearby hospital. The operation was scheduled for 3:30 p.m., and I was told to be there at 2 for the prep work.

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How Much Longer, and Why Are Gramma’s Ankles So Dark?

I am twelve, sitting with ankles crossed, hands in my lap. Sitting quietly as I have been taught. We are visiting my grandmother. I stare at the mantle clock, brain ticking off seconds, watching the slow-moving minute hand creep toward 12 noon.

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Why Good Doctors Are Often Late

I am one of millions of Americans with wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a potentially blinding degenerative eye disease. I was diagnosed more than five years ago and, thanks to careful monitoring and treatment, still have 20/25 vision in both eyes. I receive my treatment at a huge Retina Clinic nestled within a vast academic medical center. The Retina Clinic is frequently disrupted by add-ons and emergencies. Delays are common. I don’t complain because I, myself, have caused disruptions and delays.

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The Ticking of Time

To celebrate my sixth birthday, my family and I traveled to Niagara Falls. Just before returning home, they gave me my present—my first grown-up watch. Although a simple piece of jewelry with its round face, black hands, and silver stretch band, I embraced it as if it were a rare gem.

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September More Voices: Watching the Clock

Dear Pulse readers,

“My only enemy is time,” Charlie Chaplin once said. He was probably referring to the aging process, but he might just as well have been talking about the medical visit.

For me, the hardest part of being a doctor is time.

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