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Barbara Fisher

Barbara Fisher

Chapter XIX

First published by Avon Books

(a division of The Hearst Corporation)

© 1972 Barbara Fisher

Reprinted August, 2010

All rights reserved.
For information address
Ten Penny Players, Inc.
I was reading ON GROWTH & FORM by
d’Arcy Thompson. It’s a humanistic approach to
biology and relates to my drawings. I had it with
me at the hand clinic. Athelantis was called
inside as soon as his doctor arrived. His chart
had vanished. No one knew where it was.
Theoretically you’re not supposed to be treated
without the medical chart, but we were there only
for suture removal and Athelantis was creating
his usual disturbance so we were seen anyway.
The book was sitting on the examining table
along with all the winter clothing. The doctor
didn’t see it until he had removed the sutures and
we had talked about the new ophthalmological
developments. He made a grab for the book as
soon as it was revealed. It was the most impres-
sive transformation. From supercool squeaky-
clean doctor to grinning, sparkling male. The
book had been long out of print and he hadn’t
seen it for years. The book had changed his life
from architecture student to surgeon. He seemed
startled that I was reading it. I was amazed to
find a charming, sensitive man under the clinical
white. Without the pedestals and posing we
could really talk. Athelantis and I went back out-
side to wait for the clinic book and new appoint-
ment slip. I looked back inside. The doctor was
with another patient already, transposed back
behind his costume and mask.
When I, even for a minute, see the man
behind the title, I feel sort of guilty for the things
I’ve been writing. This passes very quickly. I
hardly ever have the opportunity of dealing with
the men. I remain embroiled in battle with the

My stomach was in turmoil. I was in a flap

about the next day’s neurological appointment—
partly at what the doctor would say; partly
because the neuro department is so unbelievably
depressing. I’d been in contact with two other
hospitals about future appointments and possible
changeover. I felt better about those options.
But I knew that we would have to deal with this
hospital first.
We arrived at the clinic at twelve-thirty.
Ernie was waiting for us. I hadn’t wanted to go
alone and he had come in from the office to be
with me. The hospital still hadn’t located
Athelantis’s chart. They also couldn’t locate the
neurosurgeon who was supposed to see us. Two
and a half hours later they found both.
While waiting for the arrival, one of the moth-
ers that we had met in orthopedics came for an
appointment with her child. She was the young
Puerto Rican mother who had been told that her
child was retarded even before all the tests were
evaluated. That was in February. This was
December. The first neurological appointment she
had been given. “Why am I here?” she asked.
“What do they do here?” No one had bothered to
tell her. We talked about the neuro department
and she was called before us and left earlier.
The casebook arrived before the neurosur-
geon. He came soon after and we went into one of
the examining rooms. He had grayed over since
the last time we had seen him. But he wasn’t as
frosty. He kept looking at Athelantis and asking
us questions about his development and behavior.
He didn’t actually get too close to Athelantis,
however, because my son was too quick for him.
The doctor and Athelantis sort of circled each
other, pacing the room. Finally I suggested Ernie
and I hold him while the doctor checked his eyes.
The whole examination took about ten minutes.
He measured his head and looked into his eyes.
Athelantis wouldn’t allow his knees to be tapped
for reflexes or any other acts of familiarity.
The doctor then went over what we already
had learned from the eye people; the disc in the
right eye showed white which meant it wasn’t
functioning: the disc in the left eye was normal in
color but a little distended which meant there
was pressure somewhere.
They wanted Athelantis admitted as soon as
there was a bed for tests and observation. What
tests, I asked. The doctor couldn’t tell me. That
would be determined by what they discovered in
the first x-rays they took and the initial tests.
How long would he have to be hospitalized I
asked. A week. And then, if they thought it nec-
essary, they would operate while he was in hospi-
He hadn’t said anything new, nothing we
hadn’t been expecting. But I hated to hear it.
Exit Christmas.
We went home feeling very morbid. He’d be
admitted within a day or two. He didn’t look as
though there was increased pressure; he didn’t
behave as though in pain. He seemed perfectly
happy and normal now that we were no longer at
the hospital. As soon as we were above ground he
headed right for the pizza stand. I couldn’t go
with him. I felt too wretched. Ernie stayed with
him and I went home to walk the dog and renew
our antibiotic prescription. The evening passed
miserably, I started cooking. Bread, Danish,
cookies. I couldn’t eat, but I kept right on knead-
ing and rolling. I wasn’t able to type or sit at the
drawing board. I worked on a tapestry. I was
reduced to such an all-time low that I wasn’t even
able to read a mystery. I couldn’t concentrate on
my words. The tapestry worked for me. It was
all blocked in and I just had to keep my silk
beeswaxed and the rows even.
The veterinarian called. A new one for us. A
friend of a friend, he’d been in California and had
only just started treating all our animals.
Boutique had ruptured an artery in her ear. he
had had to take her to his hospital in Brooklyn
and drain, lance, and suture the ear. He brought
her home. Her headdress was very exotic. She
was simply woebegone and testy. The other cats
hissed and ran from her.
I couldn’t rest. Every time the phone rang,
and it rang all the time with friends and family
wanting to be brought up to date, I thought I’d
hear the hospital admitting office telling us it was
time to bring him in.
Since we didn’t want him to miss out on all
the aspects of Christmas, Athelantis and Ernie
went hunting for a tree. We’d decorate it before
he left and have Christmas waiting form him
when he returned. They spent all morning going
from stand to stand. Athelantis was not
impressed by the expedition. Every time a tree
was hauled out for his inspection he’d shriek and
run from it. He did enjoy being outside, however.
They found one finally and dragged it home. We
set it up, stuck it in water, and waited for the
branches to drop so we could decorate it. It was
Friday afternoon. The phone rang. The neuro-
surgeon was calling. He had spoken to the neuro-
ophthalmologist and now they had doubts that
the pressure was neurological. They felt they
were acting too hastily and didn’t want to hospi-
talize him for tests. The eye people wanted to
see him in two weeks in the eye clinic and reeval-
uate. The neuro people would see him after.
I hadn’t expected that. I’d hoped for it, but I
hadn’t realistically been expecting a reprieve.
The doctor and I sort of blathered at each other. I
decided to tell him that I wanted out of the clinic.
Why not? It had to be said sooner or later any-
way and telephones are easier than physical con-
frontations. I said could we transfer and become
private patients. He said probably not. The
neuro-ophthalmologist didn’t see people privately;
neither did the neuro people. He would recom-
mend a neurosurgeon to us, however, if that
became necessary. I also told him we were think-
ing of switching orthopedic procedures to another
hospital also, to one closer to us where the hospi-
talization periods were shorter. He said, you’re
right. If you were a private patient, the hospital-
izations would be shorter. All of which raised
many questions.
Did their doctors not take private patients
because they were so dedicated that they are
happy working for set fees, being overworked
because the clinics were so full and they are
understaffed? Or did they not take private
patients because some of the things they did were
experimental and they didn’t want to risk such
procedures on private clients? Was the hospital-
ization period longer because they were doing
experiments and things that they wouldn’t do on
a private patient in addition to the normal proce-
dures that should have required shorter hospital-
ization? Did they presuppose that if you’re a clin-
ic patient your child should stay in the hospital
longer because you wouldn’t or couldn’t take care
of him properly at home?
I am realistic about my paranoia. I know I’m
suspicious. But too often my worst instincts are
readily confirmed. I don’t like finding out that
they know as little or less than I do about my own
kid. He’s got too many years ahead of him to be
botched up by their indecision.
What was next? Christmas. That was the
only certainty. My psychosomatic symptoms
cleared up . . . my headache vanished; my right
big toe moved back into place and the swelling
went down; the nausea cleared up. Ernest and I
both developed colds. Athelantis continued as
before, ignoring it all, busily outfoxing everybody.

(To be continued)