The enormous high-ceiling waiting room, the size of a small city bus terminal, echoed with low-pitch conversation carried on by patients and family. Daylight shone through a vast skylight. At 1:00 pm, only half the seats were filled. Fine art and plants decorated the room. Occasionally, one of several hall nurses called out a patient’s name.
My wife, Belinda, and I positioned ourselves at the surgery area in the rear to listen for my name. “When can I see the doctor, please? I scheduled surgery for a lesion on my left knee,” I told the volunteer in order to keep abreast of appointments. Her job was to usher patients called to their respective consulting and surgery rooms.
The nicely outfitted middle-aged woman studied my appointment receipt and replied, “Your turn is number eight; soon, I am sure.”
SOLCA, Cuenca, Ecuador’s cancer center, required that I have someone to accompany me for biopsy surgery. When we had arrived, we happily learned that the initial charge was only $30. We would pay when leaving.
Belinda speaks Spanish well and comprehends it better than me. Her presence would also ensure the safety of my personal property, another item on the handout with instructions for surgery day.
Ten minutes into our wait, a surgical nurse emerged from the hallway and called out my name. “You will be next,” she said after looking at my appointment receipt.
“Thank you,” I replied. I sat with Belinda and told her how much I appreciated her support. My previous visit two weeks before had presented communication challenges. Anxiety created by missed information and instructions to set up surgery would surely be compounded today.
Once called by the nurse, I entered a green-painted surgery room. Belinda stood outside in the dark hallway with patients waiting their turns. My surgical nurse, the fast talker from my initial consultation, handed over a blue back-tied gown, paper booties and cap. She indicated a curtained alcove to changed into these items. “You may give your valuables to your wife,” she emphasized.
“Muchas gracias, senora,” I said. A quick check revealed only my leather belt. I passed it through the door to Belinda.
The young surgeon and I greeted one another while I sat on the surgery table. “This isn’t the same surgeon I met on my first visit,” I thought.
“Doctor, por favor, am I dressed properly? Or do I take off my pants.”
He smiled at my confusion. “Yes, please do. And, then, lay down with your head in this direction,” he indicated with youthful zeal. He and the nurse engaged in friendly banter while getting ready.
At the table, the nurse asked while tugging at a cord around your neck, “What is this?”
I forgot! It was my traveller’s wallet which contained cash, bus pass and a copy of my “cedula,” the national ID, things I should have given Belinda. I shuffled over in my booties to the alcove to store them in my pants.
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