The Mind Reader (2015)
Every day Chara tried to live up to her grandmother’s last words. “You have a beautiful God-given gift. Use it to the best of your ability to help others.”
Even in her dying moments, Chara’s grandmother thought of the one grandchild she treated more like her own daughter than a grandchild.
It wasn’t even seven in the morning and she was looking over her list of patients she had for the day. Most of them were there on her last day of work, two days prior.
Those patients admitted on her days off were Anita Kendricks, Anthony L. Petruzzi and Ted Langley.
“Ted Langley,” she uttered to herself. A nurse, just passing from behind the nurse’s station into the corridor answered her unasked question, “Yes, that’s THE Ted Langley, multi-millionaire who’s been all over the news lately. Messy divorce. Bankruptcy.”
“It says here he’s being observed for a possible heart condition,” Chara said.
“Is it any wonder?” the other nurse asked. Chara would have answered but she was quickly out of earshot.
Taking a deep breath and silently reciting a positive affirmation to get her through her shift, she strode off to make her rounds. She chose to see her new patients first.
“Good morning, Mrs. Kendricks,” she said as she entered the first room.
“Yes dear?” The patient’s said, her voice barely audible. Clearly, she was in pain.
“Your chart says you’re here for unexplained stomach pains.”
“That’s right, my dear.”
After that, she could hear Mrs. Kendricks think, “I keep asking the doctors whether I could be sensitive to gluten, but they do nothing but scoff at me.”
Mrs. Kendricks slight moan woke Chara from her pensive reverie. “I see here,” she said to her patient, “they’ve run nearly an entire battery of tests and they’re all showing that everything is normal.”
The middle-aged patient sighed, “Yes, they have.”
Even though she didn’t say anything more, Chara read what was left unspoken. She resented that the doctors suggested her pain had a psychosomatic cause.
After Chara took her patient’s pulse, and blood pressure and a few other routine duties, she decided to direct her comment to this line of thinking. “Right about now, you’re probably thinking how to get these blessed doctors to stop thinking it’s all in your head.”
Anita jolted up. “It’s like you read my mind,” she said. “How did you know that?”
“I’ve been working here for a while,” Chara said, casually, shrugging off the mind-reading comment. “Besides, it’s what I would be thinking if I were in your place. The moment the average doctor doesn’t understand a problem and can’t offer an easy solution they like to say it’s all in the patient’s head.” She paused a beat, smiled and leaned in closely to her patient. “Between you and me,” she whispered. Chara looked around the room for effect, an exaggerated way of making her point, “it gets them off the hook for saying those three little words.”
“What are they, my dear?” her patient asked.
“I don’t know.”
Mrs. Kendricks broke into laughter then immediately caught her stomach. “Sorry, but it was too good of a line not to use.”
“I’m grateful for the humor, honey,” she said.
Chara paused as she wrote a few things on the chart. She looked up from her writing and squarely in her patient’s green eyes. Eyes that begged her to help ease the pain. More often than not they’re wrong.”
The nurse asked a few questions about the nature of the pains, apologizing for the need for her to repeat information she had already told her doctors. But Chara wanted to discover if the woman was holding vital information back. Was she telling the doctors about the true extent of her pain?
Sometimes patients did this, she discovered, not so much because they intend to intentionally withhold information, but because many times they can’t explain how they feel.
This is where Chara felt she excelled. She could take the spoken and the unspoken complaints and recite them back to the patient. The patient, in turn, was normally thankful someone had finally understood what they had been saying. It was then just a matter of informing the doctor of the problem in terms he or she could understand.
After going through this routine with Mrs. Kendricks, Chara looked over the chart, just as a formality, then suggested, “Maybe it’s time we re-visited the possibility of gluten intolerance or celiac disease, especially since the doctors aren’t coming up with any better alternative.”
“They’re pretty adamant,” Mrs. Kendricks said, “that I was foolish for even thinking it.”
“Let me try to persuade them,” Chara offered. “As a nurse, I can’t diagnose, but it’s within my rights to make suggestions.” She paused a beat as she went through the motions of appearing to make a several more notes on the patient’s chart. “Of course, the doctors are well within their rights to ignore me as well.”
Mrs. Kendricks face lit up and she easily revealed her thoughts to Chara. “I would laugh if it didn’t hurt so much when I did.”
“But, I seem to have a knack for suggesting possible solutions. I’m not bragging, mind you,” Chara said, “but sometimes the attending doctors listen to me just because I’ve been right so often.”
“Bless you, my child,” Mrs. Kendricks said, “All I ask is to be tested for it. If it turns out I’m not, I’ll accept that. I just want to leave no stone unturned, if you can understand that.”
“Of course I understand that,” Chara said, softly. “If I were in your position I would demand the very same thing. Don’t be ashamed of voicing your opinion with a doctor. My grandmother taught me one thing long ago. Even though they may wield the knowledge, the doctors work for you. Don’t allow them to intimidate you. If you’re not satisfied with the service they’re delivering tell them so.”
She squeezed Mrs. Kendricks’ hand. “If it turns out it’s not celiac disease then you’ll have peace of mind and, at the very least, we’ve at least positively eliminated one more possible cause.”
Chara excused herself with the instruction to call her whenever she needed anything. “That’s what I’m here for,” she said. “Even if you just need to talk to someone. Call me. I always make time to talk to patients about anything and everything. In the meantime, I’ll try to find a doctor around here who I can talk to. We might as well make good use of the time we have you as a ‘captive audience’ and see if we can’t get you tested right away.”
The last remark put a smile on her patient’s face. “Thank you again.”
As Chara left the room, she heard the patient’s thoughts. “It’s about time somebody listens to me.”