The waiting area of the renal clinic section of Royal Melbourne Hospital, is crowded on a Wednesday afternoon. They are all large and in their mid 4os it would seem. One lady sits with her husband and she smiles at me as I walk past to get to the administrative desk that is incredibly high to my less than 5ft stature. The desk comes to just below my chin. I , for the first time, have my appointment letter to hand to the lady. It is with a proud little flourish that I pull it out of my A4 plastic purple document pocket. I keep all my super fun kidney disease stuff in it.
‘Take a seat. The lady says typing my info into the computer. I had decided to come alone this time so as to have time to think and be grown up. There was no point my partner and I both being here under the harsh flureascent lights, watching people who all looked rather worn. It is enough for me to just know he would be here if I wanted him to be. Sometimes I swear I can feel him going about his business at work, quietly loving me and thinking of me fondly. It is what keeps me going sometimes. At other times I just want him around but not around. Usually when he is around.
But, I digress. I sit in one of the padded faded red chairs to wait. The chairs are in rows of 5. Behind me and to m left is a woman in full black burka talking quietly on her mobile. She is the only other person, like me, who has come alone. I smile at her as I open my fun size cherry ripe. I would have offered her some if it had been full sized.
I was happy to sit and wait alone because it meant I could read my book. I never understand how people can rely on the reading material in hospital waiting rooms. The selection is always so uncool.; old Womens Weeklys and car magazines. And The Herald Sun! spew in my mouth, so unappealing it is to me. There is a television of course but I find staring at the insipid trash of day time T.V, even more depressing than the reason I am in the hospital waiting room in the first place. I get out my Alan De Botton book and read happily.
I like my kidney specialist a great deal. Jeanie is smart, competent and engaging. She also gets me and finds me funny. Making a doctor laugh is something I take great pleasure in. It is totally a power back getting method. Not power over them but power of my situation.
It is with a start that I look up when my name is called by a male voice. He has my file in his hands and is gesturing to an open door. One of the consultation rooms. I get up and gather my things, clutching them to my chest as I walk to the room. I take a seat the one furtherist away from him.
‘I can see you better if you sit here.’ He says kindly.
I move to the chair clser to his desk. I am struck with a bit of a panic. Where is Jeanie? I wonder. My whole unworried attitude had been based around this understanding. I felt guilty and this made me more stressed and I was almost crying.
‘Where is the other doctor?’ I asked, forgetting her name in my panic.
‘What other doctor?’ He asked.
‘She is blonde.’ I answer.
‘Oh , we just call who comes up next on the list.’ He explained.
This was not in keeping with what Jeanie had told me in our first couple of meetings. ‘Would you be happy to keep seeing me? She had asked. I had been happy to say yes. So this admittedly kind man was making me feel awful. He seemed so nice but I could not be bothered having to rehash stuff already made clear with Jeanie. I could not tell this kindly man how my sex drive was still null and void and how worried I am that I would never be the sex kitten I once was.
I also feel like a spoilt brat making such a fuss. But he was so fine with it and left to see about the blonde doctor.
He came back and smiled at me. ‘ my bad luck, today.’ He said. ‘ I wont be seeing you today.’
‘I am so sorry.’ I said, getting up to go back to the chairs in the waiting area.
‘I totally understand.’ He said.
His understanding made me feel even more treacherous. If I had been him I would have been gutted that me did not want his medical expertise, but required anothers.
I am almost immediately called by the familiar voice of Jeanie. I walk into her consulting room and see another lady I remember from last time.
‘Do you remember Donna?’ Jeanie asked. ‘She will sit in if you do not mind.’
‘Yes, I remember and yes it’s fine.’ I say. Growing up and frequenting the Royal Childrens’ Hospital taught me not to mind students sitting in on my appointments. Young and clever people with clip boards and a pen posed in their hand. Watching intently . This may have something to do with my sometimes overwhelming need for attention. I got so much attention being a medical riddle.
Donna is a doctor who wishes to specialize in Kidney function.
She is dressed all in black and has straight blonde hair and wears frameless glasses on her nose.
I sit on the examination bed and watch the two women discuss my latest test results.
‘Vitamin D testing?’
I do not see there being a point to it.
Why is that?
In order to get a half good reading I would need a bone tissue test and it is not something that is worth the hassle. The results would not be accurate.
The bone disease is an issue.
Yes but not enough of one to require such a test.
My head starts to hurt. I have vitamin D something and a bone disease. I feel my self start to panic. The two women continue to discuss me in cool tones. They are respectful and I am freaking out silently as I sit on that examination bed, staring at the metal stack of shelves filled with thick binders and document compendiums.
I wait for a lull in conversation.
‘So, should I be in the sun more or less?’
‘It does not matter.’ Jeanie answers.
‘I have a bone disease?’ I say in despair.
‘Yes but listen, do not panic. It is not something separate from your kidney failure. It is something that falls under the umbrella of side affects of kidney failure. There are ways to strengthen your bones.’
‘Can I interject here.’ Donna says leaning forward in her chair towards me. ‘You can skip rope. It is a great way to make all your weight land on the ground and this strengthens your bone density.’
‘Just do not fall over and hurt yourself.’ Jeanie says emphatically. ‘We cannot have you falling over and breaking a bone.’
How is your pill taking going?’ Donna asks me.
‘Good! I exclaim proudly. ‘I just use a mouthful of soda and the bubbles disguise the pill completely and it just slips down my throat as if all I swallowed was delicious fizziness.’
‘The two doctors laugh in a sincere but professionally amused way.
‘Jess, you do make us laugh.’ Jeanie says as she turns her attention back to the computer.
‘There was some contamination in your mid stream urine sample.’ She says. ‘Did you have some trouble?’
Shit I had thought I had nailed that little chore, even though I do recall getting wee all over my hand.
‘Ummm.’ I reply.
‘What you can do is wipe from front to back and place a tampon in.’
I interrupt there with.’ I have never inserted a tampon in my life.’ On account on never having menstruated.’
The thought of inserting a tampon made me shudder. How did girls do that?!
‘Ok what you can do is use your fingers to gently spread the labia lips and pee before capturing the middle part in the plastic jar.’
Donna interjects with another suggestion.
‘Another way is simply wait till you have a shower so you have cleaned everything and can simply collect the midstream urin sample while half way through your shower.’
I liked that idea better than the parting my labia open wider with my fingertips. Even if it meant essentially, peeing in the shower.
‘Did you get the information for the dialysis information sessions?’
‘Yes.’ I reply.
‘Jess, it is so important that you go.’
I know, I will. I am just not very excited about it is all.’
‘And any surgeon appointments?’
‘Yes, 14th of November. I sure hope Mandy can play successfully Jess internal organ tetris.’
‘Mandy is an excellent surgeon.’ Jeanie tells me.
The appointment concludes and I am shown out the door and given a sheet of paper to hand to the secretary at the desk.
My next appointment is made and another form telling me to get another blood test and another urine sample within the month.
It is strange that I feel so at home here within the confines of a hospital. It worries me that I do not feel stifled or put apon by being made to come here. People here all have a purpose and a roll to perform. And yet, I spend the next few hours sitting in the park near my house, reading and enjoying the cool breeze on my legs.