Dr. Mindell, tall, slender, well-composed, did not behave like a normal orthopedic Surgeon. The one’s I had met before were all too high and mighty to be human, to look you in the eyes as if you were an equal. They were accustomed to everyone idolizing them and took it for granted they were Gods. I did notice that when he made rounds, he carried a little bit of that remote untouchable aura, probably for the sake of his entourage, but when he arrived in my room, he did not stand at the farthest corner nor at the foot of my bed like other physicians. he came right up beside me and leaned against the mattress as he taught his students about the rare condition being treated. Rare condition or not, in the presence of Dr. Mindell, I still felt like a human being, instead of a “case”.
Even though’ he hacked away a large part of my body over several years of surgery to save my life, I don’t necessarily think of him as my protector for the reason of his medical expertise. Just one incident clings to my memory making me grateful for his existence.
After many weeks languishing in the hospital bed, I became well enough to be placed in a wheel-chair instead of a gurney to be transported to other departments for tests or treatments. One day, after a long wait in the radiology dept. a staff-person wheeled me in for a set of x-rays. And when all the required pictures had been taken, I was wheeled back and parted in the long empty hallway.
“Aren’t you taking me back to my room?” I asked.
“No.” I was told, “Someone else will take you up shortly.”
I sat there in the cold corridor until my butt became numb and the pain in my legs screamed for release. At which point, I unlatched the lock on the wheels and began to impel myself toward the main hallway. My arms were weak from having been abed for so long. The chair, at least a hundred years old, was made of wood, with a very high backrest and huge wheels. It was very unwieldy to operate, but, struggling mightily, my determination drove me further and further away from Radiology. It surprised me that no paid any attention to me. Dressed only in a short backless gown with hair splayed about my head, it was obvious I was a patient making her way alone in the busy hallways. Visitors passed me by giving wide berth. Hospital personnel bustled by sometimes blindly brushed up against me
as they passed.
I grew resentful. Not only had I been forgotten, left to rot in the drafty bowels of the Hospital basement, but I was for all purposes, invisible to the very people employed to watch after my health. What if something should happen to me? I would be ignored. Fearful of my invisibility, I strained harder to reach my goal; the huge main elevator that could take me up the many floors to my room. By the time I arrived, I was weak, cold and perspiring profusely. The hospital, as ancient as my wheelchair had an old-fashioned elevator. Every time I had been taken to it by a staffperson, they had hurriedly forced the wheelchair through the open doors racing against time to get me inside, before the doors clenched shut.
There were no safety features as there are today, no magic eye to bounce the elevator door back open should someone or something attempt to pass through while it closed. So, when the doors opened, people traipsed in as I struggled to wheel my cumbersome chair through. Needless to say, the doors clamped shut on me just as I pulled my arms out of the way. I looked at the people inside, who would not meet my eyes. It didn’t occur to me that this was serious, until the floor raised up beneath me and the wheelchair tilted precariously.
Not able to move my lower body in any way to save myself, I sat there helpless, as the chair began to crunch. The only view I had at this point was the ceiling. My last thought was, “after being heroically saved from the bone cancer and surviving, I am going to go by way of an elevator! Oh, well!” There was nothing I could do. I just resigned myself to my fate as I awaited my demise.
Just then, Dr. Mindell scooped me up in his big arms and carried me down the hall and placed me on the nearest gurney and personally returned me to my room. I don’t know what happened to the wheelchair or the people in the elevator. At the time I was too tired and sick to even care. I was just glad that my protector, my body guard was there to save me.