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The receptionist marked our names as present and thrust a clipboard with a form attached at each of us, along with a cheap ballpoint pen bearing the imprint of some pharmaceutical supplier. "Have a seat and fill these out," she instructed, tersely. "You can give them to the nurse when she calls you in."

"Thank you." What was her problem? I thought doctorís receptionists were suppose to be polite and caring, not rude.

We found seats on opposite sides of a magazine-laden coffee table amid the swollen ankles and frequent coughs of fellow patients in the otherwise quiet waiting room.

I began filling out the questionnaire—name, address, phone number, date of birth, employer information, current medical conditions and medicines. Listing a history of my illnesses, allergies and medications was next to impossible to do, so I left it incomplete with the words: "donít remember more." I did, however, take joy in entering the name and group number from my employee insurance card. Thank you, God and the Ford store!

We waited and watched as, one by one, the patients followed nurses into the hallway of the doctorís office, and watched again, one by one, as they returned. Before long, we and an elderly lady and her knitting were the only ones remaining, undoubtedly the last appointments of the day.

"Mike?" The nurse smiled, glancing back and forth between us.

Mike rose from his chair, giving me a look over his shoulder as he turned to follow her.

"Goody," I thought. "Now he can tell me what the doctor is like before I have to go in." But it didnít work that way—within a few minutes the smiling nurse returned. My time had come.

She took the clipboard and pen, then led me into a small room and closed the door. "Sit up here," she said, patting the fresh paper cover on the bulky exam table. After taking my blood pressure and pulse, she verified some of the information on my questionnaire. With me still sitting on the table, she headed for the door, then turned and asked, "You okay there?"

"Iím fine." No, I wasnít. I was clammy-handed nervous—anxious about what the doctor was like, and if Mike would remain free of insulin trouble until I got out of there.

"The doctor will be in to see you in a few minutes." She left, closing the door behind her.

I took the opportunity to survey the exam room—the medical degrees on the wall that specified Internal Medicine, a calendar from a funeral home, an oversized full-color illustration of the human cardiovascular system and a calming photograph of a sailboat on water, exquisitely matted and framed.

Studying the wall dťcor quickly gave way to mild claustrophobia. Never physically comfortable in closed rooms, I could feel my cheeks beginning to burn, my heart beginning to race, my forehead wet with perspiration. Just as I wiped the sweat from my brow on the sleeve of my shirt, the door swung open. Thank God, some air at last!

"Hello, Helen." A middle-aged man in a white doctorís coat reached out his hand to shake mine. His smile was thin, his hair a bit sparse, and glasses rimless. He stood before me, reading from a manila file folder open in his left hand.

"Hello, Doctor." I managed to return his greeting, withdrawing my cold damp hand from his grasp.

"I noticed your blood pressure was a little high when the nurse took it today," he said, setting the file folder down to remove a large blue arm cuff and tube from its holder next to a gage on the wall. "Letís check it again and see what we get." He wound the cuff around my arm, inserted the stethoscope beneath it, hooked the ear pieces into his ears and began pumping air into the cuff.

I remained silent, purposely slowing my breaths and trying to relax every muscle of my body in an attempt to lower my blood pressure.


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