Henry is a good man. Back in the day he was a newspaper man. He ran the presses and brought the daily news to his hometown. With retirement and the onset of old age came a new routine. One that kept him very busy.
Last Tuesday Henry went to the local walk in clinic. He had a battle opening a new can of coffee and the jagged tin rim won.
With a bleeding finger and an old handkerchief tied around the wound, Henry stood before the desk of the receptionist, a young girl who wore the standard clinic uniform with her name “Cleo” embroidered over the “Minute Clinic” logo.
Cleo was early twenties, helpful to a point but anxious to get back to her computer screen which held her attention with fascination.
“What brings you here today?”
And so the check-in process began. Name: tap tap tap on the keyboard. Insurance cards: stroll on over to get the copies made. Forms: six sheets of medical history and HIPAA consent.
Henry walked away from the desk with a clipboard, pen, and his medicare and supplemental ID cards.
He turned back to Cleo. “How long is the wait?” Henry asked anxiously.
Cleo shrugged. “There are six people ahead of you. The doctor should be able to see you in…I would guess about an hour…or so.”
Henry calculated the waiting, examination, and treatment time in his head. He looked down at the blood soaked handkerchief and he panicked. No choice.
“Miss” he pleaded. “Is there any way we could speed this along? I have to be in my car by noon to make it.”
Cleo looked up from her screen with curiosity. “Make what?”
What could this old guy have to do that is so important and can’t wait? She thought.
“I have lunch with my wife today.”
Cleo shot back. “I guess you’ll have to call your wife and let her know you’ll be late.”
Henry turned and took four steps back to the reception desk and faced Cleo.
In a hushed voice he confided “My wife can’t answer the phone, she’s at Brentwood in the Memory Care Unit. You see, she is in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s.”
Henry’s eyes were pleading. “Please see what you can do.”
Cleo lowered her voice and said firmly, “Mr. Green, there are other patients who have been waiting. I’m sure your wife won’t be upset if you’re a little late today.”
Henry responded to Cleo with a firm tone of voice to match hers. “Oh Miss, you don’t understand. My wife hasn’t recognized me in ten years. She lost her ability to speak five years ago. And for two years now, she is completely unresponsive.”
Cleo was truly stumped. “With all due respect Mr. Green, you still have lunch every day with your wife, even though she doesn’t know who you are?”
He smiled and said to Cleo “You are right. My wife may not know me, and she won’t know if I am there at lunch time, but I know my wife, and after sixty-eight years, I would very much like to have lunch with her every day.”
Cleo tapped upon her keyboard and coaxed a gift from it. Within seconds, the nurse came out. “Mr. Green, the doctor will see you now.”
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