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Asthma -- part 2       part 1 

Len Rely

For the next couple of days Dr. Sobol considered the possibility that he had mis- diagnosed Katherine's quick recovery through wishful thinking when it had actually been denial.  It was evidently somewhere between the two and she may even have recovered completely had she not seen Dr. Lang, who had nothing to do with this as far as Sobol knew except that he might have been present when she was brought in during the original attack.  Sobol did not know the man personally and had no reason to speak to him about the matter.


He scheduled another appointment for Katherine, which he hoped would be the last so they could find the problem quickly and get on with things.  It occurred to him just how much guesswork is involved in medicine on a daily basis and how many times he had seen the wrinkled brow of his colleagues simply weighing the odds of one vague symptom or another.


Kathy and her mother came in with a better demeanor than when last he saw them, a sign of the healing a couple of days can bring about.  She jumped unafraid onto the white sheet as Dr. Sobol checked her vital statistics.  He was doubtful, but after a time it

seemed certain that recovery was in effect, not denial.  He tried to unmask any possible remnant but there was none.


"Tell me about the dream again, Kathy." he said curiously.


She shrugged her shoulders.


"I don't remember it anymore." she stated, scratching her head.  "I know we talked about it, but everything else is just fading away."


"You don't see the needle?" he asked.  "You can't picture it in your mind?"


She shook her head, looking at the clock as if she had other places to go. "I'm not scared anymore." she said with confidence before he could even ask the question.


Dr. Sobol listened to her chest a second time through his stethoscope while she waited patiently staring at the ceiling.  His brow tensed as if to strengthen his hearing.  She

breathed slowly in and out about twenty times before the guesswork had been erased

enough to satisfy him.


"I am not reading any trace of asthma." he said with some amount of puzzlement.


"I can't make out the slightest flutter in the bronchials. I hesitate to draw a conclusion, but there's no reason to keep her here breathing for me for another hour just to establish the same.  There is technically no need to even prescribe something, but I want to hear from you in a week just to make sure."


Her mother nodded with a similar look of doubt.  Katherine jumped down and made a beeline for the door, giving a quick wave of farewell to Dr. Sobol as if he were an old flame she was no longer interested in.  Her mother followed her out as he stood there, scratching his chin in contemplation.




When he was calmly relieved at the end of the long workday and was tired of thinking about Katherine and his uncertainty, Dr. Sobol unbuttoned his white frock and gratefully seized a bag lunch from atop his paperwork as he stepped out.  He turned the key to the door and walked casually down the hallway like a man who had just cast aside his shackles.  He had an informal luncheon to attend with an intern that he was looking forward to talk with about nothing in particular.


He followed the maze-like series of corridors through the building, pleased to exchange a look with people just beginning their shift as he was ending his.

 

He had just passed the main desk on that floor when he abruptly stopped.  Someone's presence had caught his attention.  He turned slowly around, and there was an extremely tall man with hair like a lion's mane standing at the far end of the counter staring at him. Sobol continued on his way not wanting to look confused in front of any passers-by and thought no more about the matter.


"I'm going to be late if I don't hurry." he muttered, looking at his watch.


He turned briskly around a corner toward the elevators, and there Dr. Lang was  again! The long-haired man stood motionless in the middle of the hustle as if waiting for him.  Sobol darted into the stairwell instead and jogged down the steps.  His heart was beating too fast for everything to be normal.  When he reached the ground floor he broke into a run for the doors drawing some attention to himself.


"I'm so late!" he exclaimed, staring at his watch as if his eyes were glued to the dial.


He rushed for the glass doors to the outside world and reached for the handle when a hand suddenly came out of nowhere and clamped down on his own. Sobol was breathing heavily, trying to look professional.  Dr. Lang stood over him, the white frock

under that sweeping hair immaculate like a dressed corpse.


"Just what do you think you are doing." he stated in a gravelly tone that left no escape from fear.  "This is highly irregular."


"I'm late for an appointment." Sobol replied, sweat dripping from his forehead.


"I was referring to the girl." Lang responded coldly.


"The girl?"

 

"Eight years old, fair skin, blonde hair.  You know the one."

 

"My patient?" Sobol inquired.  "I'm just trying to cure her.  That is our duty is it not?"


"She was my patient first!" Lang said furiously.  "Do not presume to tell me what duty is you frightened irregularity.  Your lack of professionalism is not acceptable.  You will come with me, little boy, now and learn the difference between what I want and what will not be allowed to continue."




That evening, Kathy was playing innocently on the floor when the phone rang and her mother answered from the kitchen.


"This is Dr. Sobol." the voice came hesitantly through the line.  "I'm sorry to disturb you at this hour, Ma'am, but a serious mistake has been made on my part.  I have re-examined your daughter's test results and the problem is far more serious than I thought.

You must bring her in as soon as possible so she can see an asthma specialist.  I am sorry to bring such news after today, Ma'am.  I am so very sorry."

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