Tuesday, October 4, 2016

House Call #SOL16

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Last night, shortly before 8:00 p.m. and fifteen minutes after I arrived home from work, my doorbell rang. Normally such unannounced visitors signal a solicitation from a neighborhood boy scout or student athlete raising money for team jerseys or equipment.

Imagine my surprise when I saw my GYN through the sidelight, especially since I'd already changed into my loungewear, baggy pants with a book and eyeglasses motif.

The doctor who makes house calls harkens to a bygone era before managed care and other artifacts of modern medicine. And even though Dr. Michael Jones lives in my neighborhood, even though his daughter Jocelyn is one of my exceptional former students, even though Dr. Jones and I have had many informal conversations, I never expected him to visit my home in a professional capacity. Yet there he stood in blue scrubs, having taken a slight detour before going home after delivering four babies during the day.

Only recently did I begin receiving treatment from Dr. Jones, and I've only been in his office one time. During that initial meeting we discussed the results of an ultrasound and biopsy I had a few weeks ago, necessary tests for a problem that manifested itself shortly before school started and that my primary care physician recommended.

Last week I had a second ultrasound. It's the results from this latest procedure Dr. Jones came to my home to discuss.

Tomorrow I will have a more through type of biopsy and exam that will give Dr. Jones a look into my inner being to see why I have a fat womb that now more closely resembles an amoeba than a uterus. These, of course, are my characterizations. Sadly, Dr. Jones said I can't blame my fat butt on my fat uterus as there is no causal relationship between the two.

I'd be lying if I said I'm not a little afraid that I won't "pass" my test tomorrow. I've never been as proficient in biology as I am in English and speech, and I don't have any way to cram for this test. I'll have to "wing it," as we say in teaching.

Last night I awoke at 2:00 a.m. and thought about life and losing life. I've always been keenly aware of the temporality of life since my father died at 39. Last spring I read Paul Kalanithi's haunting memoir When Breath Becomes Air. Sometimes books find us and speak to us when we need them most. I've wondered if Kalanithi's story is such a book, but I don't know yet.

Both during my office visit with Dr. Jones and his house call, we talked about life and the value of doing all we can in our time to make a contribution to the moment. We shared our mutual belief that the brief lives we live require us to do our best to make meaningful choices.

We live in a moment but "human knowledge is never contained in one person. It grows from the relationships we create between each other and the world, and still it is never complete," Kalanithi reminds us.

Regardless of what tomorrow brings, I'll face my own mortality again. For now all I can do is remember "the physician's duty is not to stave off death or return the patients to their old lives, but to...work until they can stand back up and face, and make sense of, their own existence" (Kalanithi). This moment allows me to recalibrate and reflect.