After years of ignoring the cough that rears its head ever so often, I finally saw a respiratory specialist today. My GP was stern about getting it checked out.

I was a few minutes early to the clinic. I was almost immediately impressed by the teamwork of the two ladies at reception, both in how they’d organised themselves and their workload, and how they coordinated phones and patients with finesse.  I had forgotten to take my referral document, and within minutes she had ensured a copy was on her records with a quick, warm, and persuasive phone call. Every patient was seen to with surgical precision, all while the phones kept constantly ringing. They both had a sense of humor, and the banter was hilariously entertaining even though I pretended to be buried in my phone.

My specialist was late – the explanation was printed at eye level “all doctors work at the hospital and are on call so they may be delayed or may take a call when they’re with you” – so for a while I became the only person in the waiting room with them.  The door burst open, and a lady with a voice like a foghorn, muted a little by the mask she was wearing, filled the room. She dropped the bags she was carrying on the floor, ripped off her mask, adn demanded to know where the pyschologist’s practice next door had gone.

The older lady at reception, K, calmly responded that they’d moved years ago. No she didn’t know where to. No there was no forwarding address. No  she had not told any of her patients either, based on the number of people who had come in the last year asking for her. Yes it was too bad that she’d moved. Yes, she must have been a really a good pysch.  Foghorn kept going for a while, calling someone to ask if they remembered the pysch’s last name. The lady she’d called clearly had a lot, and enough of Foghorn too, and you could hear it in her voice coming through the speakerphone.

This went on for a while, until K, dropped her voice and called attention to the fact that there were patients in the room behind Foghorn, and could she keep her voice down please? Plenty of apologetic noises later, Foghorn finally figured that she was going to have to do her own investigation to get the help she needed, and left as noisily as she had entered.

The three of us burst into laughter when the door closed. And in laughter, a small moment of connection at a human level. They told me how the incessant phone calls and the sometimes challenging patients made the day go by faster, kept them out of sin (the chocolate bars in the hard-to-get-to-drawer) and gave them stories to tell each other.

A small moment of human connection that they included me in.

Ah, and the specialist was one of the best explainers I’ve come across in a long time. I understand some of the possible causes for my cough, and more importantly, an aspect of my own physiology that I am starting to see in new light (or should I say hear with a new sound?)