The thing is, I knew it couldn’t be Thai food, because I’ve always loved Thai food. I grew up on it. Tom Yom soup was like breast milk to me. But something was wrong. Definitely wrong.

Tom yam kung maenam

Nope, it’s not the Tom yam kung maenam.

I didn’t want to make an appointment with Dr. Johnson for obvious reasons. God, how I hated that he was the only damn doctor in our village. But with each passing day, and each wrenching stomachache I got closer and closer to making an appointment. I mean, my pants barely fit with all the bloating. And things usually didn’t smell that bad, if you know what I mean.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking now, because you can be really judgmental. You don’t mean it, but you are. So no, I’ll just tell you, no, I couldn’t go to a neighboring village. It would’ve required renting a car and that’s too much power to give one man. Dr. Johnson could not make me rent a car. I mean, it’s been years since it happened and we’re both adults and he’s a professional and has taken the Hippocratic Oath and everything.

Of course while I was waiting for him in that ugly little examination room – he could decorate it you know, warm it up a little – I went back in time in my head. I couldn’t help it. We hadn’t seen each other since that stupid judge made her verdict and frankly, avoidance was the best for both of us. It’s not easy in this village, you know. I have to make sure to go out and do my shopping when he’s work, which is most of the time. That was part of the problem, of course.

Dr. Johnson and his work. He thinks it’s so important. He always has to be on call. I mean, he has zero boundaries. None. He was there for anyone, everyone, all the time. Except me of course. He wasn’t there for me.

So get this, at first he tries to avoid me. He sends in his nurse instead. That woman. So ridiculously loyal. I mean, sometimes you have to make decisions for yourself, but I bet that’s not something she does often. Yes, Dr. Johnson. Of course, Dr. Johnson. It’s enough to make you sick.

I tell her about what’s bothering me and she’s polite enough and so am I because I’m not going to let her get the best of me, you know? She listens for a while and then stops me, stops me, right in the middle as I’m describing my latest, ahem, evacuation. Then she leaves.

Take this, she says, after coming back into that freezing grey room. Of course, I want to know what it is, because you need to know what you’re taking. You can’t just trust medical people because they’re all in it for the money. Or most of them are. Everyone is trying to rip you off all the time. So I ask her what it is and she tells me it’s a urea breath test.

A what? I mean, have you ever heard of such a thing? She tells me to drink it, this urea, and that it’s going to help with the diagnosis. Well, I thought. It’d be nice if you told me what you think the diagnosis is going to be. Then she said, that’s for Dr. Johnson to decide. Oh, of course it is.

I drink it. I mean, what else am I going to do? The stomachaches were getting unbearable. Then I wait. Keep in mind, that I’m still wearing one of those terrible gowns. It’s so sheer. My nipples are showing straight through. Something Dr. Johnson may like, I’m sure.

Then, then! He comes into the room. He barely looks at me. He tells me to exhale and then nods as if my breath tells him everything he needs to know. He starts talking gibberish and says something about isotope-labelled carbon dioxide in my exhaled breath. He thinks everyone is a medical expert.

It’s a peptic ulcer, he tells me, then promptly leaves the room. Unbelievable. I sat there and waited, but he never came back.

After reading your comments, I went on to write a second installment, Diagnosis #2.

Inspired by yeahwrite.me, Speakeasy #146.

35 thoughts on “Diagnosis

  1. I want that soup! I connected personally to the post since I love Thai food and then I also related because recently my baby was diagnosed with reflux so he had to do a barium swallow….I mean, his situation is different but it helped me picture the event. And I had to laugh at the nipple part.

  2. I hope the nurse came back at least to give her a prescription or something 😉 I like the vague hints at the history between the patient and doctor. Makes me wonder what exactly happened between them. Great story!

  3. I love the history between doctor and patient and Dr. Johnson’s behavior. Great details. I assumed there was some sort of relationship thing in the past that they were both trying to deal with. Very good story!

  4. Great details in building the final frustration. Sometimes I wonder if a Doctor’s pay has become an hourly wage with a production quota to reach by the end of the day.

    • Thanks, Peggy! Yes, there are so many frustrations to be found in our health care system, for both patients and physicians. Sigh. If only it were about health, not money.

  5. Stomach ache is a terrible thing to endure. I think when we go to work we all do it for money,but at the same time we do what’s best for the patient or anyone we serve,such as students etc. By the way medicine is not my profession.
    I loved reading your story,I’ve had stomach issues in the past,I dreaded going to the doctor,I knew what I was doing wrong,I ate too many hot chillies.
    I am Ranu. I’ve entered a few Speak Easy contests. I love reading every one’s stories. It’s amazing how same prompts can result in entirely different stories.

  6. Oh I love Thai food and seriously I wasn’t hoping a diagnosis of ulcer in the middle of Thai food dreams and water in my mouth 😛 The story is beautifully written in a light style and ending was so poignant. Love it.

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