The Healing Horse, Ch. 23, Scene 9: Spine and Gate

The scene continues the description of how humiliating medical examinations were for kids with disabilities.

Scene 9: Spine and Gate

“Walk back and forth so we can observe your gate,” Dr. Lambert said without any preliminaries. In spite of his size, his voice was high and reedy. He waved the long wooden pointer from side to side, as if indicating the path she should follow.

She looked at Mrs. Pinzetti and the other white coats. No one smiled, winked, or nodded. No one offered any reassurance or compassion. They stared back as if she were a thing, not a person. She stepped into the center of the room and slowly walked back and forth between the two groups of experts.

She tried not to flinch when Dr. Lambert tapped her back and legs with the pointer as part of his commentary to the other specialists. He told her to face away from him, and then to bend over and touch her toes. He needed to check her spine. Blushing as the gown fell open, she wondered if the white coats were smirking among themselves. She flinched, as he felt her vertebrae with his icy hands.

He told her to stand straight and walk up and down one of the flights of stationary stairs that stood against the wall. She reached behind her back to close the gaping gown.

“Leave your gown open, so we can see how your spine works as you move. It needs to be open,” he commanded, as he tapped her spine with the pointer again.

He continued tapping her back and commenting, as she trudged up and then backed down the stairs.

The ringing sound of the wooden pointer landing on the concrete caused her to pause and look over her shoulder. It had slipped from Dr. Lambert’s grasp and fallen to the floor. When he bent over to pick it up, he staggered forward, and for a moment he grabbed her left calf, trying to keep his balance.

“Excuse me,” he said to the other white coats. “My blood pressure is so high I almost pass out if I bend over.”

Clinging to the stairs with her strong right hand, Kitten looked over her shoulder at his purple face. He looked as if he might die. She looked to the other experts for help, but they all gave her the robot stare. With compassion filling her heart and empowering her body, she leapt down from the stairs and retrieved the pointer from the floor.

“Dr. Lambert, please let me help you,” she said. He accepted the pointer from her, and his face returned to its normal gray color. He did not thank her. She returned to the steps.

“Climb onto the table and lie on your back,” he said, without recognizing her kindness or his own weakness. “I want to check your hamstrings and heel cords.”

She limped up the stepladder to the table without bothering to keep the back of the gown closed. As she lay down, she tried to make eye contact, but he kept his eyes down on her calves and ankles. She felt as if her mind were leaving her body.

When he looked up, he looked not at Karen but into the crowd of white coats that surrounded her. Speaking in a composed, expressionless tone of voice, he uttered medical statements, using long words she had heard before but only vaguely understood.

Original text ©2022 by Karen Lynn-Chlup. All rights reserved.

One comment on “The Healing Horse, Ch. 23, Scene 9: Spine and Gate
  1. Sean Dineen says:

    This is the embodiment of “business like” thinking designed to break down the natural bond between doctor and patient.

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