I have a mystery ailment. Every once in a while I will get up, look in the bathroom mirror, and see that my right cheek has swollen to make me look battered – or slightly more battered than usual.
‘Perhaps it’s stress related.’ Maude does her best to be sympathetic. I pointed out that if stress were at the root of it, then it would be a permanent fixture.
‘Oh, is it not?’ Maude doesn’t actually look at me much these days.
The doctor was sympathetic, typed a great deal and looked perplexed, but didn’t actually have an inkling as to what the problem was.
‘Perhaps you should try the dentist – it is near your teeth.’
Heartened by such thorough attention to my ballooning face, I made my exit through the guard of honour of coughing pensioners in the surgery waiting room. The dentist referred me on to the Dental Hospital in the centre of town. in the waiting room some had similar swellings to my own and some had teeth so protrusive it was hard not to look at them. It was also hard to imagine what on earth an x-ray could reveal that wasn’t on show to the world.
My turn came and I realised that I was being shown into a room full of students, who were about to observe my x-ray experience. Apparently I had signed a form which included my consent to this. They all looked very young and slightly bogus in their white coat & trainer ensembles.
The qualified radiologist smiled at me and nodded towards her acolytes.
‘We’ve got company this morning.’
The radiologist trainer was one of the smallest women I have ever met. The x-ray machine was vertical and designed to work as the patient stood.
The tiny woman turned to her students:
‘Hey, we’ve got a big one here! How’s little me going to manage?’
The radiology expert then rummaged in a low level cupboard and produced a footstool.
‘Be ready for every eventually when x-raying.’
It struck me that a resourceful boy scout could perform x-rays if this is the level of expertise required.
I tried to smile as the little woman teetered on her footstool and raised the height of the machine to its limit. I stepped forward and the top of my head still hit the frame, just.
‘I could stoop ever so slightly’, I offered.
‘No, I’m sorry sir. Stooping would affect your posture and impair the x-ray.' She then turned to the students to reiterate this last point: 'Stooping, not good'.
The room fell quiet for a moment as the students made zero useful suggestions and the little woman’s brain whirred as her resourcefulness was tested once more. I then saw her expression brighten as an idea struck her. She lowered the apparatus to the level of my groin. I was perplexed by this and thought I caught a titter from one of the male students.
‘One sec!’ The radiologist darted from the room with some purpose.
I stepped away from the x-ray machine and briefly put my hands in my pockets to try and look relaxed and unembarrassed. I thought better of this and took my hands out – only to send a pound coin skidding across the buffed floor. One of the students trapped it under his trainer and offered it back to me in silence. I thanked him and he nodded slightly. I guessed that the ‘communication with patients’ module was later in their course.
It was then that the silence was challenged by a regular squeak in the corridor. The squeak drew closer. The double doors then flew open and the tiny radiologist entered the room with an expression of triumph and a battered wheelchair.