B entered the exam room wearing thick-rimmed glasses, tattered pants and a polo shirt. He clutched a duffel bag of clothes in one hand and bags of hot cheetos and ready-to-heat ramen in the other. The physician, an intern, could not speak Mandarin, so a medical translator was used, via phone.
“What brings you here today, B?”
醫生，我看不到有時候，我氣短。Doctor, I cannot see sometimes, and I have shortness of breath.
“Have you been taking your diabetes medication? Your blood sugar level should not be this high.”
The intern told B about the consequences of not taking his medication: vision problems, cardiovascular issues and sometimes death.
Moments of silence. Then:
我家幾個星期沒有讓我抱著我的孫女，我不服用我的糖尿病藥物，因為我沒有找到理由去生活。My family has not let me hold my granddaughter in weeks. I don’t take my diabetes medication because I don’t find a reason to live.
B went on to explain that he had not been able to hold or see his granddaughter, who was born two months ago. A previous diagnosis of cancer had made his family afraid.
我沒有理由生活。I have no reason to live.
B said his family made him to sleep in the hallway of his home and in local homeless shelters. He depended on the microwaves of local churches and business offices, oftentimes re-heating unhealthy, junk food for lunch and dinner. B recalled coming back to an air mattress in a house that was once a home, now to be avoided by his family like an infectious plague. He cried.
請不要告訴我的家人。Please don’t tell my family.
The young physician tried to explain that B’s chemotherapy treatment had made the cancer go away, but B was insistent that his doctor not speak to his family.
他們不明白。They will not understand.
The intern called his supervising physician, who insisted that they try to talk with his family. And then the supervisor rushed off to another meeting.
Sensing B’s discomfort, the intern held B’s hand.
“We don’t have to talk to your family this time, but we are here for you. If you need anything, please let us know.”
After picking up his duffel bag, B promised to go to the pharmacy, take his diabetes medication, and be at his next appointment three months from now. Then he paused one last time.
謝謝你，醫生。Thank you, doctor.