Are We Done Here?

“I don’t remember things,” said Joe Gardner gruffly. “It’s simple as that. Are we done here?”

Catherine Walker tightened her grip on the mechanical pencil she was using to take notes. They’d been at this for forty five minutes. This man was clearly suffering and she’d be damned if she was going to let him stonewall her. Part of being a doctor is not letting patients push you around, as her med school professor used to say.

“You remember how to drive a car because you drove here today. And you remember how to use a cell phone because you called to say you’d be a little bit late. Isn’t that right, Joe?” she asked.

“Sure,” said Gardner “but ask me what you said to me when I came in. Ask me what I had for breakfast this morning. No clue. Are we done here?”

Catherine glanced at Joe’s medical records, desperately searching for some way to connect with him. Gardner was a 52 year old retired auto worker from Detroit, currently living in an assisted living facility near Catherine’s San Diego office. He’d moved here to be closer to his daughter after his wife died.

At age 17 he’d been in an automobile accident that caused serious damage to his brain, specifically the hippocampus and surrounding cortices. He was diagnosed at the University of Michigan medical center with anterograde amnesia which prevents the brain from storing short term memories. Patients with this condition were able to remember specific tasks and functions but, like Joe, had no recollection of things that happened moments ago.

“I guess we’re done for today” said Catherine with a sigh. “The way you’ve dealt with this problem –“

Gardner’s eyes flashed with anger. “Who said it was a problem lady? It’s one of the best things that ever happened to me!”

“What do you mean?” asked Catherine.

“It forced me to notice things. It forced me to live life. I started writing things down to help me remember. Like my little girl’s diary when she was a kid. The more I did, the more I wanted to do. Stories, songs, plays, poetry for crying out loud! Imagine a lug like me writing poetry! No one ever told me I could do that!”

Gardner was out of his chair pacing about the room. The anger had given way to searing intensity that Catherine wanted to look away from but couldn’t. He focused on a poster of children jumping on a trampoline with the caption “It’s great to live in the moment!”

“Huh…” he snorted. “I got no choice!”

Catherine struggled for words. “Joe, do you remember why you came in here today?”

Gardner took a long pause. “No,” he finally said. “I have to confess, I don’t. I don’t remember things. It’s simple as that. I hope I haven’t wasted your time. We’re done here.”

He left, closing the door softly behind him.

Are We Done Here?

rmedlin

Joined January 2008

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Artist's Description

A doctor ties to treat a man with amnesia.

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