Friday, December 23, 2011

Dying Of The Old Guard

Millicent couldn't help but feel out of place. The sterile white sheets were anything but soft and downy. They rubbed against her feet like sand paper. She twisted herself into a ball and waited. The edges of her gown creased in the back exposing her derriere.

Millicent's histrionic nature plagued her from childhood to her mid seventies. Although she pictured herself waiting for death, more likely she would spend a few days in the hospital till the antibiotics eradicated the mucous in her lungs.

The nurse said that her personal physician would see her once she got settled on the floor. But it had been hours since she left the chaotic emergency department, and still no hide nor hair of Dr. Howard.

Milicent couldn't help but smile through her febrile haze. Dr. Howard was an "old fart" like herself. They had been together for decades. The graying of his hair reflected in the bowing of her spine. Of course he was probably in his fifties and she in her seventies, but that didn't stop Millicent from overestimating their equivalence.


Millicent dozed on and off. The much needed sleep was interrupted by occasional fits of barking cough. Each time she opened her eyes she glanced at the clock. Her IV dripped beside her bed, and beeped from time to time as if jealous of the silence.

The nurse came and went. Around midnight, she walked in and woke Millicent from a deep sleep.

Your doctor is at the nursing station. He will be in shortly.

Millicent sat and rearranged her hair. although she felt miserable, there was no reason to appear so to the handsome Doctor Howard. She glanced at the clock in the corner of the room and almost fell out of her bed. Midnight-why the heck was he rounding so late? Millicent briefly worried about poor Dr. Howard's wife before her reverie was interrupted by a knock at the door.

A young boy walked into the room wearing an over sized lab jacket and a stethoscope that twisted around his neck and likely got lost somewhere underneath his scrubs.

I'm Dr. Thomas. I will be taking care of you here at the hospital.

For a moment Millicent thought that she was still dreaming. She rubbed the sleep from her eyes and looked up at the young man questioningly.

There must be a mistake. Doctor Howard is my doctor!


Dr. Thomas sat at the bedside and quietly explained how Dr. Howard no longer came to the hospital. That instead, he use a group of physicians called hospitalists. Hospitalists were available twenty four hours a day to take care of people like herself. Times had changed and many physicians, like Dr. Howard, no longer felt able to see patients in the office and hospital.

Millicent couldn't believe her ears. After all those years.

So you will call Dr. Howard first thing in the morning?

By now Dr. Thomas was half way out the door. His beeper had gone off, and he looked like he was rushing out of the room to another emergency.

No, I will be gone in the morning. But one of my partners will come by tomorrow and he will call Dr. Howard.

As the door closed, Millicent found herself feeling very alone. The cough that had been a mere nuisance hours ago now exploded in her chest.

Being laid up in the hospital with pneumonia was bad enough.

But what really burned Millicent to the core,

was the feeling of abandonment.

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