A piece of my day

 By Surafel K Gebreselassie

Spring of 2009,

“Where are you from?”

That was the first thing she wanted to know when she saw me first. She drove hundreds of miles with stacks of her medical records all properly filed year by year in many binders. That is one of the questions I often get with many patients surprised to see someone like me in one of the top hospitals in the world.

Have you seen Coming to America?

“Yes I did,” she answered and followed, “that’s Eddie Murphy, who was the other guy?”

Arsenio Hall, he is actually from Cleveland.

“That sounds about right,” she said.

I am a prince. I came from Africa, nobody bows down for me.

“For real, you are a prince?”

She started laughing when she realized that I was joking.

“Do you think I am Bipolar?”

Well, I don’t know but it’s stated in your records.

“Oh, you have seen all my records?”

The one faxed by your primary care physician.

“This is all for you, the red binder is after I had the surgery but the rest is all before the surgery,” she said handing me all three thick binders.

“He thinks I am Bipolar. He is Bipolar too. Are you Bipolar?”

If you say so, I said and started shuffling through the notes.

“Are you going to help me? You know that I drove all these miles by myself.”

Yes, I am going to help you, let me go through the charts first.

“So when did you come here?”

The early part of 2000, it was the beginning of spring, it was beautiful.

“When was the last time you went home?”

Do you know what a creatinine is? I answered back with a question.

“No I don’t but they told me it is high,” she said. “I know it is related to the kidneys,” she followed.

That is correct. Creatinine is a product of our muscles and is only filtered out of the body by the kidneys. It is a surrogate marker for low kidney function. In other words when kidneys fail the creatinine level goes up in the blood.

“Oh, I see. How about BUN? They said it is also high.”

That is also correct. BUN is also a blood test that we check to evaluate the function of the kidneys. It is not as accurate as the creatinine but if it is high it could suggest kidney failure.

“Thank you, doctor. Nobody has explained to me like this before. I have questions for you.” She opened her purse looking for a piece of paper.

“Where did you say you are from?”


“I remember now. You see my memory is not good. You know I used to be a ballerina dancer. I was young and beautiful. Not today.”

“When was the last time you went home?” she asked me again still searching for the piece of paper that she had all her questions written on.

It has been a long time.

“You miss it, don’t you? I can see that.”

I do.

“Oh yes. Here it is.” She was relieved to find the paper but her hands were shaking. She started to sweat profusely.

“Son, check my sugar I am not feeling well.”

You are diabetic.

“Yes I am.”

 Did you take your insulin today?

“I take it every morning.”

Did you eat breakfast?

“I thought you may need blood work first?”

I run to grab a can of apple juice.

“I like you, you are a good man,” she said after she drank the juice.

About Tenayistilign

I am a physician trained at Jimma Institute of Health Sciences ( now Jimma University, in Jimma, Ethiopia) and Wayne State University ( Detroit, MI, USA). I teach and practice General Nephrology/Hypertension and Kidney Transplantation in the USA.
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