My worst nightmare is visiting a hospital. Even if it is about a minor sprain, the thought makes me sweat. Part of it is the tense waiting area. But a large part of it stems from the fact that I didn’t have to visit a doctor for a greater part of my life. Dad being a doctor, I seldom lingered around in the waiting area or dealt with prognosis based on monetary considerations. So now the exercise of waiting while a loved one is in the throes of physical discomfort, is distressing.
The waiting area can be a strange place where people avoid eye contact and cling to their own anguish. There are those who pace away in the corridor. There are those who look vacuously at the television monitor. And there are those who shuffle feet and indulge in inane chattering with whoever is accompanying them. Regardless, hospital visits are an inescapable nemesis. We can be perfectly healthy and suddenly a root canal comes to bite us. Or the mandatory sight checks.
How I wish modern science could ease the anxiety by simply making us wear a relaxing cap, the moment we step in the sterile sepulchral precincts. Now I know why my father was a popular practitioner even though he lacked FRCPXYZ, Edinburgh. It was the knack of making his patients smile in the gravest of situations. He would not shy away from holding hands, patting on the back or indulging in a casual chat to lighten up the mood.
It is a common phobia, this fear of the ‘white coat’ called ‘Iatrophobia’. Sometimes I wonder if macho men who participate in Khatron Ke Khiladi and brush lips with hissing cobras, or chew creepy tarantulas, feel the same way I do.
So I tried alternate therapies to lighten up when a minor irritant necessitated a trip to the doctor. “Please wait, the doctor is on the way,” said the nurse. The doctor was on his freakin way for more than an hour.
Meanwhile, I tried watching the comedy show running on the small television. Didn’t work. I tried listening to the soft music playing in the background. Why in the name of Honey-freakin-Singh didn’t I feel better? I strolled in the canteen and ordered a chocolate muffin. Couldn’t finish the damn thing. So I did what everyone else was doing. I fiddled with my phone. Perhaps Mark-freakin-Zukerberg would make me feel better. Nope. In that moment, I wanted to strangle the friend who tagged me in a funny picture.
Somehow, all the bonhomie of chatting with strangers, sharing pictures of what I ate in the morning disappeared. In that moment, I didn’t want to know who needed blood transfusion or who suffered from indigestion. Funny, because I connect with virtual strangers on social media all the time. So why wasn’t I able to talk to the lady sitting next to me? Ask her, how she twisted her ankle? Perhaps I should have asked her if she wanted coffee from the canteen?
Beneath all my socializing skills, lies a space where chat messages, jokes and vacation pictures become superficial. And in those reclusive moments, that space is for my immediate family.
‘All good. Nothing to worry says the doctor,’ I text message my husband and copy it to my son. ‘Follow up visit, next week.’
No, not again.