She laid on the slightly padded exam table with her right ankle under her left knee staring at the ceiling and wondering what the doctor would say when he came in the room. Her eyes moved to the window where blue pastel curtains hung open revealing a cloud-covered sun. The clouds dulled the morning light, much like fear dulled her senses. Her body felt like it was protected by a shell of numbness, subduing her feelings of terror, and stopping her from going into hysterics. She had seen the x-rays, when the x-ray technician had looked at them in the exam room, and knew another lengthy surgery would have to be done. The last one had taken twelve hours, how long this one would take she didn’t know, and didn’t want to know.
She tried to relax, to make her mind go blank by concentrating on the piped in music coming from somewhere in the room. But her thoughts kept reliving the past year and a half of agony, threatening to shatter the shell. She noticed a ringing in her ears that grew louder and louder by the second, she felt like serpents were twisting the life out of her throat. Her palms became cold and sweaty as anxiety escalated to panic. Calm down Camille, she thought willing herself to breathe slowly and deeply. Gradually the serpents constricting her airway relaxed and, her breathing became easier.
Dr. Faust would be walking in any minute, and Cammy felt to go into hysterics in front of him would be a disaster. He wasn’t a very understanding man and already thought she was a weakling because of her complaints about pain. She knew he thought she should just bear it without complaints or expectations from him to help ease it. Any show of unstable emotion, from her, would probably only enforce Dr. Faust’s impression of her as a weakling, and Cammy couldn’t handle any criticism, or even a disapproving look at this point.
Cammy heard someone outside the exam room door. Suddenly Dr. Faust burst in emitting an air of arrogance that would have intimidated a murderer on death row. She immediately sat up on the edge of the exam table.
“There is a reason for your pain,” he announced as if telling her the time of day.
A couple of medical residents also followed him into the room, walked quietly to a corner, and proceeded to watch and listen to the great Dr. Faust like two adoring fans.
“This is an osteotomy of the pelvis,” he said as he hung her x-rays over a square light on the wall.
“There is a nonunion here at the pubic ramus, and the plate I put in to stabilize the bones has broken. The bone must not of healed in this area, and when you started to put weight on that leg, the plate couldn’t withstand the pressure and broke. I couldn’t see that area on the x-ray before because it’s covered by the plate.” He stated as if talking to himself, or the residents, or maybe even her, but his gaze remained on the x-ray over the light.
Cammy tried to concentrate on what he was saying. She was a registered nurse and understood medical jargon, but the words hit her like a heavyweight’s right hook. She stared at the x-rays and tried to make sense of what the doctor had said. Something had gone wrong in the healing process. The place in her groin where he had cut the bone had not healed, and the metal plate he had screwed into the bone to stabilize it during healing, was also broken. So now she had broken metal and bone moving around in her body, causing excruciating pain, and filling her with anxiety at the thought of what she would have to go through to make it better.
“Will you lay down so I can examine your incision?” Dr. Faust asked with some compassion in his voice. Maybe he really did regret having treated her so badly, Cammy thought to herself, he hadn’t believed her when she complained about severe pain, but the proof was in front of him now, and he had no choice but to believe her. She had some difficulty lifting her left leg upon the table because of the piercing pain in her groin. So she grabbed her knee with her hands and lifted it on the table with her arms. Dr. Faust stood next to the table watching her. As she laid down she could feel the aching in her groin ease up and was grateful to him for having her lay down, even if he hadn’t helped her into the position. It quickly became painful for her to sit because most of her weight rested on her pelvic and standing presented the same problem. Laying was the most comfortable, since most of her weight could be taken off her pelvic, but even that position didn’t suppress all the pain all the time, and she couldn’t just lay down anywhere she went, or anytime she needed to.
Cammy pulled down the elastic waist of the gray polyester shorts she had donned for the x-ray and exam to expose her abdomen. Dr. Faust bent over her and touched the scar that remained from the first surgery. It was dark red and extended from between her legs, up around the left hip, and back down to the middle of her left buttocks.
“I’ll have to go in and take out the broken plate, do more bone grafts, and replace the plate. I’ll try to go in just in front this time,” Dr. Faust remarked as if Cammy should be happy about him only cutting her ten inches instead of twenty.
Cammy looked up at his face to see if there were any signs he was unsure or skeptical of over the success of the results of another surgery, but she found none. His blue eyes and handsome face looked relaxed enough: no worry or concern creased the wrinkles at the corners of his eyes, or on his forehead. His thick gray hair was a mess as usual, and even though it didn’t hang over his ears or collar, the strands went every which way without any order, like a salt and pepper wicker basket. She noticed he hands were large as he took them off her abdomen and pulled the shorts she wore over the scar.
“Will it be as bad this time?” Cammy asked, knowing what he would know what she meant.
“You shouldn’t have such a long incision,” Dr. Faust answered, completely avoiding the real question.
She knew his calculated evasion meant he didn’t have any idea how much pain she would be in after the surgery. But pressing him for an answer would only make him mad, and he might start calling her demeaning names as he had in the past when his anger got out of control. So she just sat quietly trying to suppress the panic again mounting inside her chest.
“I’ll go see when Dave can schedule you. And you better go back on your crutches, I don’t want that bone moving anymore than it already has. You can get dressed.” Dr. Faust told her as he left the room with his two adoring fans following close behind.
Cammy could hear his muffled voice arranging the surgery as she rolled off the table and walked over to the chair where her jeans were draped. She picked up her jeans, pulled the shorts down over her buttocks, then sat in the chair to finish taking them off. She then put her legs in her jeans, left one first, and stood to pull her pants up over her hips. Everything in life had become so complicated since the surgery, even putting on her pants, and now she had to go through the whole thing again. She hoped it would be soon, the sooner it was the less time she would have feel how she would rather be dead than go through it again.
Cammy heard a couple of sharp raps on the door and hurried to zip up her jeans.
“Come in,” she replied more loudly than necessary.
“Your set up for next Tuesday,” Dr. Faust stated after opening the door and stepping just inside the room.
“Could I have something for pain,” Cammy asked timidly, while following him out of the room.
“Yes. I guess I can give you something. Write her a prescription for codeine Dave,” he said to his assistant who stood behind a small white counter across from the exam rooms.
She was relieved he had prescribed the pain pills for her, he seldom gave her even mild narcotics like codeine, no matter how much pain she was in. Cammy didn’t even know if they would decrease the pain much, but any narcotic was better than just the aspirin she had been taking.
Dave was writing out the prescription when Cammy approached the white counter. He was tall and rather heavyset with dark brown hair and olive skin. He lifted his head which had been bent over the prescription pad and Cammy noticed he looked frustrated and uncomfortable. Creases marred his wide forehead and the narrow space between his brown eyes. His movements were quick and uncoordinated as he flipped through a couple of appointment books that lay on the counter in front of him.
“Today is Thursday. That doesn’t give me much time to get this set up with the hospital.” Dave said quickly, his voice reflecting the anxiety he felt at having to arrange things so hurriedly.
“ I know it is kind of short notice. You think you can do it?”
Cammy’s voice shook as she asked Dave the question. Her composure was draining away fast, everything was so overwhelming. She tried to concentrate on the task at hand, block everything else from her mind, all she needed now was the prescription.
“I’ll call the hospital and try to get things ready there,” Dave replied, as he gave her a small white piece of paper.
Cammy just wanted to leave, to escape the tense atmosphere. She assumed all the office staff knew of the failed surgery, for she could feel their condescending gazes upon her. Every time she would look directly at the chubby redhead behind the counter with Dave, or the middle aged woman at the front desk, their eyes would look away leaving her feeling uncomfortable. She quickly turned to leave, but as she stepped down on her left leg the bone moved in her groin and the shock of intense pain caused her to quickly draw in a breath, and muffle a groan. The second step was a little less painful as Cammy’s body adjusted to the movement, or to the penetrating dull ache, she wasn’t quite sure which. Cammy again turned to leave, limping slowly through the patient filled waiting area, and out the glass exit door.
It was cold, for this late in March, and she hugger her coat a little closer to her body. A continuous stream of gray clouds swept past the sun allowing only brief patches of light to peak out as one cloud ended and another began. The movement of a gray squirrel caught her attention while she limped down the sidewalk that led to her car. It ran up a small, leafless tree and perched on a branch about halfway up to munch on a nut it held in its front paws. Cammy’s expression relaxed and the corners of her mouth lifted in a tiny smile as she stood watching the busy rodent and remembering a happier time, when there was no pain, no anxiety, and no fear. Seconds later a car passed by scaring the squirrel and the pleasant memories away.