For the chronically ill there are a lot of visits to the hospital. Not just admissions, there are also visits to specialists in hospital outpatient clinics. I am very familiar with the Level 6 clinic at Auckland Hospital. I’ve been going there for years. Gastroenterology, General Surgery and Immunology all run their clinics from the same place, the pathology rooms are just down the hall. The neurology clinic happens just upstairs. On a regular rota I have been seeing all of them. And today, I went for what I hope will be the last time. I know I can’t expect it will be forever, but why not hope? So many of my wishes have come true lately, so many lucky things have been happening for me.
My immunologist is a quiet-spoken man. I’ve written about him before, he is a superhero, that kind of doctor who restores your faith in the medical system. After he invited me into his office he said in his measured voice “What’s been happening?”
“LIFE!” I enthused, “I’ve been busy living life!” His lips twisted in that lets-be-scientific way and he asked a different question, followed by some more. He looked at my file, shook his head and smiled. We discussed how strange (but welcome!) my remission is. He used a word not many doctors use: “miraculous”. And he used it without even a hint of tongue in cheek. He explained that they had searched high and low for an objective test that could unequivocally demonstrate the difference in my condition from before, to now. They just can’t explain it. I observed his wonder at my remission with mild surprise. I forget sometimes, what a different person I must seem to him, this new life fills me with joy, but I think the shock of the change is fading for me. Today, I’m wearing bright clothes, coordinating accessories and my face is fully made up. Even my nails are done, thanks to my new side job. The Rachel he met a bit more than a year ago sat slumped in the same chair, colourless, exhausted and nearly defeated.
“You were so symptomatic…” he reflected. “And look at you now!”
He agreed that I don’t need to attend clinic anymore. And that means no more Auckland City Hospital!!! I’ve never been so happy to farewell someone.
“Come back if you need us again, you may need to have another course every few years, but hopefully not,” he smiled. Then he stood and said “…well then- give me a hug!”. We hugged, patient and doctor. We hugged in that slightly awkward but full of feeling way, and I hoped that flowing through my arms he felt my gratitude. I stumbled over my words, something about wishing there was a way I could adequately…
“Just keep doing your good work” he said.
I grinned at him, waved, and walked out of that clinic. Past all the chairs where people less lucky than me sat, round shouldered, weighed down by their health burdens. Past reception, where my file would be handled for the last time. Through the foyer, past the best barista in Auckland, who has served me more coffees while I’ve been in my hospital nightie than in my street clothes.
By the time I reached the carpark lifts, my heart was already soaring.
The elevator doors opened “…going up?” asked the man in the lift.
“I believe I am” I smiled, stepping inside.