I was nearly defeated yesterday.
After nearly four and a half hours of waiting and calming down my nerves, I was finally called to step inside the consultation room where my new doctor would conduct her follow-up. Pleasantries were exchanged and a few niceties, she then proceeded to ask me, “Would you like to know your CD4 count?”
Of course, who wouldn’t want to know? Would I subject to a round of extraction that inevitably led to an obvious hematoma just to pass off my number?
I nodded silently. So she looked at my CD4 baseline written on the paper stacked in my medical folder and then pulled down afterwards the result paper folded neatly in thirds.
“Ok,” she said as a matter of factly, as if she wanted me to tell something really important and also wanted to ask what have I been up to for the longest time that I haven’t been around.
“Are you stressed? What’s your work?”
So I told her my job in one word and she was quite impressed as her lips drew a thin line from side to side. It was a fleeting smile though because the figure in the paper seemed more important.
“Ingatan mo ang sarili mo ha. Bumaba ang CD4 mo.”
Then she showed me the bottom part of the paper and encircled the number. As soon as I come round after the number glared at my face for a good ten seconds, I slipped into listlessness as I was plastered on my seat. I tried hard to listen to the doctor while she tells me what I should do and ask me more about my work. This while I wrestle the rumbling of my own demons victorious.
All I can hear as she try to speak and write were prophylaxis, another CD4 count on July, and Cotri. The rest were distant murmurs as I stare blankly at the wall asking whoever Supreme Being is hearing me if there was something wrong with me, or the meds, or the whole treatment. “And I thought ARV works wonder?” I asked myself.
I was about to give up when I finally picked up my jaded optimism and entertained an ounce of doubt. As the doctor scribbles her way onto the paper, I was looking at the medical result rotated 90 degrees from me that I was reading in reverse.
I noticed a blunder: “20/M.” It was the age. I’m not 20. Underneath that, the birthday: “**/**/90” I wasn’t born on that month. Neither was I born in 90s. Those two errors, the age and the birthdate, were enough.
“Doc, result ko po ba ‘yan kasi mali po yung age and birthdate?”
At first she was up on defense and said yes, that was mine. But when I insisted that she move her arms a bit so that we could see if the patient code on the paper her arms was covering really matched with my code, there goes the brouhaha.
Fastforward. It wasn’t my result. She was apologizing for the honest mistake committed and went outside to ask the nurse where my result is. She left. In those few minutes that I was alone in the room, my hope was renewed. It was a time I savored because after all I wouldn’t be in that situation if I did not side with my disbelief. She came back with my result and everything turned upside down.
“Buti na lang napansin mo. Ayan, tumaas count mo. Pasensya na talaga.”
I wouldn’t go finger pointing. It's no use to berate her or at the very least sneer a snide remark because knowing the real result, a favourable result that is, was enough vindication. There’s no point staging a scene. Doctors do make mistake. Though they should be least of the people and professionals making one, they’re not insulated from it.
Initially too, I should have seen my MD at lunchtime but even before noon, the nurse already informed me to come back again at three in the afternoon because she was busy with immunization.
“Babalik na lang daw siya ng three. Hindi na siya magla-lunch. Pupunta na siya dito kaagad.”
It’s really useless to act up and prove to them how traumatic it was to me to be informed that my count tremendously dropped, that as if the whole medication routine has gone awry despite the personal effort of religiously drinking the pills, rescuing myself all year round, and prayers lifted. There’s no point to blow off my head because the mere thought that she hasn’t eaten yet just to assist the patients was enough to trigger my soft side.
I left PGH at sundown, while revisiting what happened inside that room: Doctors and nurses aren’t infallible as well. They commit mistakes. They shouldn't but they do. They get stressed out and wade through a deep ocean of human angst just to get their work done.
And, they skip lunch too.
Taft Avenue was cooler at dusk. I headed home after I finally downed my book and my playlist of fifteen songs looped to around five or six times while I was waiting. As I wolf down a burger before riding home, I remembered the doctor and nurse. They might still be there. In the hospital. While I fill my tummy. They're still there. Working. Curing. Saving lives. On an overtime.
As for what my count is now, I’m not keen in sharing. But it was a sigh of relief.