Hushed

The patient’s voice is so soft it’s hard to believe he’s not pulling some sort of joke. The voice or the lack of one doesn’t change the doctor’s regular speech pattern. He wants to know what medications the patient takes. The patient responds slowly and softly, indicating he doesn’t know the dose of the pill he takes. The doctor gazes down at the chart at the list of medications and asks the patient how the drugs got in the chart.
“I remembered them.” The doctor shakes his head in agreement but he’s not convinced the patient is lacking more than a voice. He asks the medical student to get a mini- mental form, then asks the patient whether he knows where he is and what the date is. Satisfied somewhat the doctor questions the man about why he takes two pills per day. The pale man responds he had the sensation he was wearing long gloves on his forearms so he stopped increasing the dosage.
With two pills per day, the doctor can’t say whether a patient would experience any relief from symptoms. He’s irritated. It’s been six months since the patient’s last visit and he still can’t determine whether the man is benefiting from the drugs. The doctor writes out a drug schedule, increasing half a pill every three days until the man takes up to two tablets three times per day. It’s an outline, or a staircase the patient can go up and down on. The physician clarifies he wants the patient on a larger dose to determine whether levodopa is helping the symptoms or not. Signs of illness appear a little worse.
The man’s noticed a slight drool from the side of his mouth, his facial expression seldom changes and his blood pressure is quite low. So low, the clinician worries an increased dose of levodopa will send it plummeting; he writes a prescription for florinef, which will keep blood volume high so the slight man won’t faint when he stands up. Another worrisome symptom is anemia; patients with Shy- Drager Syndrome frequently are anemic. A stool softener, I notice in the chart, another sign of autonomic nervous system involvement.
We watch the slender man walk down the hallway. Is it the cell phone hooked to the belt that makes his left arm jut out? He breaks the turn in fractions rather than gliding through it. The forward head and rounded back catch in the doctor’s teeth. He will recommend physical and speech therapy and will see him again in six months.

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