Pain Relief Chapter 28

On Shabbos afternoon, everyone relaxes a bit. After Havdalah, Asher confronts Hindy about changes in her behavior, and states that they will go to Dr. Newman in the morning.

*   *   *

Dr. Newman was waiting for them in his office before hours. Asher had tracked him down the night before and begged him to give them a special appointment, that something was wrong with his wife and she needed to be seen to immediately. Well aware of Hindycondition, Dr. Newman realized this was going to be more like a family therapy session than a medical appointment.

He stood up from behind his desk and greeted them as they came in. “Mr. Fishman,” he said, cordially. “Mrs. Fishman.” He nodded in Hindy’s direction and invited them both to sit down. He had thought long and hard about how to approach this situation; it was clear that Hindy hadn’t told her husband about the last conversation she’d had with Dr. Newman’s office. He’d been shocked back then when she didn’t turn up again; if she had known her absence would clue him in to the problem, she’d have shown up the very next day.

“I’ll be honest with you,” he began. He could feel Mrs. Fishman glaring at him, but he kept going. “I am not at liberty to share the details of your wife’s condition without her consent.” Then he sat back and waited to see what would happen.

“Thank you, Doctor. I appreciate your discretion, but it’s fine. My wife agrees,” said Asher, confidently

“I’m sure she does, but I need to hear it from her. Mrs. Fishman?”

Trapped, she quickly examined her options. She could stonewall, flee, or give in. She still wasn’t worried. There was time.

“Of course,” she said lightly. “Anything.”

Dr. Newman passed some papers over to Asher, expecting Hindy to look along with him, but she sat back in her chair quietly. She could hear Dr. Newman explaining what each value meant, summing it up with the same urgency he’d had when they had spoken. “Your wife needs immediate care. It’s urgent.”

Asher was looking at her oddly. “Did you know about this?” he asked.

“A little, but you know me and doctors.”

“Yes, I do know. You are always attentive and you follow their instructions. What’s different now?”

“I don’t know. Asher, please, you have to stop judging me. I’ll do whatever you want me to do, but please I can’t keep defending myself. I have no strength for it.”

Dr. Newman stood up then and looked at his watch. “The ultrasound technician is just in now. She’s waiting for you. Then we can redo the blood tests.” He turned to Hindy. “The sooner we start, the sooner we’ll finish, and you’ll feel a lot better once we take care of this.”

“Thank you, Doctor. I appreciate your concern.” She followed him down the hallway deep in thought. Asher’s point had been a good one: since when did she fight with doctors? She always cooperated with them. She felt like there was another Hindy that had been inside of her all of this time, with a completely different set of values, that was making herself heard only now. Was this something that happened to other women her age, or was this just her?

“Hindy?” Asher’s voice cut into her thoughts. “I’ll wait out here, okay?”

“You don’t have to stay with me,” she said. “Go on to work.”

“No, I’ll stay. I want to stay. I’ll be right here when you’re done.”

She nearly did a double-take, wondering if Asher, too, had a doppelganger.  “Thank you,” she said, meaning it, suddenly touched. “I appreciate it.”

Once the tests were finished, they waited for Dr. Newman to see them again to discuss the results.

“So,” he said. “Based on the retests and the ultrasound, we can safely assume that there is some significant liver damage. As you can see,” he said, turning the paper upside down on his desk so they could see it. “You see where it says AST and ALT?”

They nodded.

“They measure the extent of inflammation in the liver. Healthy should be between five and forty.”

Asher looked up. “How can that be? It says here AST— 1250 and ALT — 946.”

“Yes, it does. Your wife is very ill.”

“But… how does it happen? Just out of the blue? Do you have old blood tests of hers to compare it to?” he asked.

“I do, as a matter of fact.” He pulled some papers out of her file. “See here? AST—26. ALT – 34. Perfect results.”

“So what’s changed?” said Asher. He looked at the date of the test. “This was only two years ago.” Hindy could see Asher’s fear. “What’s changed since then?”

“I don’t know. Nothing. Some things just happen.”

“Stick out your palm, Mrs. Fishman.”

“Why?” she asked, as she lay her palm on the table.

“Look at your hand and look at mine.” The difference was very noticeable; his hand a healthy pink and hers was tinged with yellow. “That’s jaundice.”

“What can we do?” said Asher.

“As I told your wife,” said Dr. Newman, “We’ll go step by step. We’ll start her on the regular protocol, and if all goes well, we’ll see results in a couple of weeks. But — and I cannot reiterate this enough — follow up is essential. We need to test you every week for the next few months. The tests are like signposts for us, telling us which way we need to go. Without close monitoring, Mrs. Fishman, unless you merit a miracle you will not get better. You will only get worse.”

To be continued . . .