“Can you squeeze my fingers?”
I open my eyes to see a kindly face. I really don’t know what kindly actually means, but I know it’s an apt description.
“Can you squeeze harder?”
I suspect I can squeeze harder, but something tells me not to.
“Breath is even, pulse sixty beats per minute. Can you tell me what seems to be the matter?”
I open my mouth to tell her, but nothing comes out.
“No voice? Open your mouth please say ‘ahh.'”
She places a tongue depressor in my mouth and looks with a scope.
“Your vocal cords are clear. No nodules.”
She feels my throat and places her stethoscope on my back.
“Breathe in… And out. Again. Hold it please… Lungs sound clear.
She stands, looks at my chart and announces, “please excuse me for a moment.”
She slides the glass door closed, but I can hear her talking on a phone. My hearing is perfect.
“Can I get a psych consult? Ten minutes? Okay, thanks.”
She opens the door and looks at me with what I assume is compassion. Perhaps it’s concern.
“I’ve asked another doctor to come take a look at you. He’ll be here in about ten minutes. Do you want me to wait with you?”
I shake my head in a declarative negative. The non-verbal communication is an interesting concept. Even though I can’t speak, I can still convey information.
“Okay, I’ll be back in about ten minutes.” She places a device in my hand. “Press that button if you need help.”
* * *
“Put these pictures in the proper order.”
I adjust the images of a baby, a child and an adult into an order of youngest to oldest.
“Very good. One more test, please stack these blocks as high as high as you can.”
I use both hands and stack colored wooden blocks. Some of the blocks are damaged and I’m forced to rotate them to minimize that effect on the tower. After I run out of blocks, I raise my eyebrows. A question, perhaps?
The man smiles and gathers the wooden blocks. He places all his items in the duffel bag he had brought them in. “That’s it. I’ll let your doctor know what I found.”
He stepped out and closed the door. My doctor waited patiently for his report.
“There doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with him mentally. Are you sure you’ve ruled out physical problems?
“He’s presenting with an inability to speak with no laryngitis. No head trauma. He indicated he wasn’t injured or anything.”
“Hmmm. Should we get tech down here?”
“If we do and there’s nothing wrong, we fail this test.”
“You’re the lead physician, it’s your call.”
I can hear her pressing buttons on a keypad on the wall.
* * *
“Let’s see what we have here.”
A man waives a device over my shoulders. Suddenly, I can’t move.
“Looks good so far.”
I don’t know what’s happening. My paralysis is scaring me. I try to look to the three people in my room, but my body is immobile.
“This isn’t right.”
He presses a few buttons on his device and my vision and hearing fade.
* * *
I open my eyes to see a kindly face. I really don’t know what kindly actually means, but I know it’s an apt description. There are two other people in the room but I focus on the woman speaking to me.
“My name is Doctor Martinez. Can you tell me what’s going on?”
I open my mouth to tell her and everyone leans in to hear my response.
“Yeah. I’m having abdominal pain. It started a few days ago after visiting a sushi restaurant. I think it might be food poisoning.”
The three look at each other and the two males leave the room, but they still watch from the other side of the glass.
I turn my attention back to Doctor Martinez. “What do you think, Doc?”
“Go ahead and lie back. Lift your shirt and I’ll take a look at your abdomen.”
As she softly touches my exposed skin, the two men turn to leave. I watch them depart and notice writing on one of their jackets:
Boston Teaching Hospital Automaton Technician Services.