The day dragged even with plenty of patients and their individual complaints to work with. Justin did like his job – mostly. It was the patients he liked more than the job itself. The patients, even at their worst, were just dealing with symptoms and injuries they were unable to resolve, and usually through no fault of their own. Justin understood and respected that. Not everyone that worked in the clinic did though. And surprise, surprise it was the doctors more often than not doing the loudest complaining. The dirty little secret of the VA system was more often than not, the doctors worked there when they couldn’t get work anywhere else because of licensing violations or similar types of indiscretions. And it was usually those doctors that were the loudest and first to complain about their lot. Justin tried his hardest to put up with the garbage but there were days he really wished for a change of pace, maybe a new location, or open his own practice.
Justin walked down the hallway when he heard the yelling.
“The gaddanged morons, I’m so sick of dealing with you,” the voice rang through the clinic. “Don’t shush me, woman, tell them I want that young guy, what’s his name, Josh Dog or something.”
As Justin rounded the corner, Dr. Shareem came huffing almost right into him. “You!” he said, pointing at Justin. “Go shut him up, and tell those imbeciles in scheduling I don’t ever want to see him again.”
Justin walked up to the exam room door and pulled the chart where Dr. Shareem had violently shoved it. Leonard Kelly, Sgt. Justin smiled. Mr. Kelly was a pain to deal with but he wasn’t totally unreasonable. He was exactly what he looked like – a grizzled Army vet that had seen several tours in Vietnam and now those tours were catching up to him as he aged. Unfortunately, Mr. Kelly had a penchant for verbally abusing female nurses and doctors that looked foreign when he was in a foul mood, and that included Dr. Shareem. Justin prayed as he put his hand on the doorknob that Mr. Kelly had a chance to settle down.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Kelly,” Justin said, as he walked through the door. “What can I do for you today?”
Mr. Kelly harrumphed as Justin sat down on the clinic stool near the old man. He was wearing his Harley Davidson vest with the BACA patch on the back. His long white hair was pulled back into a stringy ponytail, and he proudly bore his Vietnam Veteran hat on his head.
“How are you today, Mrs. Kelly?” Justin said.
“Better if he’d just keep his voice down,” the robust woman said.
“I’ll speak how I like. That doctors got another think comin’ if he thinks I’m going through another knee replacement surgery.”
“Is that what Dr. Shareem said?” Justin said, as he perused Mr. Kelly’s chart.
“He’s been eating ibuprofen like it’s candy,” Mrs. Kelly said. “But he won’t take anything stronger.”
“Ibuprofen’s cheap and I can get huge bottles of it at the Costco,” he said, folding his arms. “I don’t have time to keep coming back up here every time I run out of one of those dinky bottles you guys give us.”
“I understand,” Justin said. “I’m just concerned that ibuprofen in high doses is toxic to your liver. Would hate to put you on a transplant list when we could have alleviated your pain some other way.”
Mr. Kelly ran his hand down his beard. “How long is this knee replacement gonna put me out?”
“Hmm, probably about 8-12 weeks if your physical therapy goes well,” Justin put his pen to his lips, “I’m not sure how far back-logged surgery is but I think if we can you into orthopedics and get it scheduled soon, you’ll probably have surgery right before Christmas and then be up and about for the spring riding season.”
Mrs. Kelly gave Justin a small, thankful smile.
“I’ll think about it,” he said.
“I’d really encourage you not to take so much ibuprofen,” he said, writing in the chart. “And I’d like to take some blood so we can make sure you’re not toxic right now.”
“Danged vampires,” Mr. Kelly grumbled.
“It’s not much. Maybe a vial,” Justin said. “In the meantime, might I suggest few things?”
“Yes,” Mrs. Kelly said.
“A bath with Epsom’s salts is a really good way of alleviating pain without drugs,” Justin said. “Pain creams can help but it’s not addressing the problem directly so don’t put too much long term faith in it. Icing it when you’re watching tv. And, um, losing some weight might help.”
“Humph,” Mr. Kelly said. “I won’t let you turn me into a rabbit. She likes to shove that stuff under my nose whenever you young guys suggest it and I ain’t eating it.”
“Doesn’t have to be anything super drastic,” Justin said. “Just leaner cuts of meats, more green stuff, cut back on the sweet stuff, less white bread and rice, and less alcohol.”
“That means one beer at night, rather than three or four,” Mrs. Kelly said.
“Easy for him to say,” Mr. Kelly said. “The first stiff wind that blows through here would blow him over.”
“He needs a good woman to fatten him up,” Mr. Kelly said. “You’re still wandering around single from the look of you.”
“Oh, leave him alone, you big softie,” Mrs. Kelly said. “These kids nowadays aren’t rushing to the alter like we were. I’m sure he’s just fine.”
“I’m telling you, son,” Mr. Kelly said pointing a callused finger at Justin. “Find yourself a good woman. And don’t let her get away if you can help it. There’s nothing like the care a woman can give you.”
“I believe you,” Justin said. “Can I get you agree to stop taking ibuprofen just until your test results come back? I’ll put a note in your chart that the nurse needs to call you as soon as the results come in.”
Mr. Kelly painfully hopped off the exam table and shook Justin’s hand. “Listen to what I’m telling you,” he said. “Get yourself a good woman.” He hobbled out of the room with his cane. Justin looked after him as he left and thought to himself, I‘m trying.
Homesite of author Whitney Sivill. I'm a mother of three, a wife and a student. In between, I write clean romances, fantasy tales, and mid-grade & young adult fiction. I might throw in the occasional fanfiction, too.