The department is in the bowels of the hospital. Appropriate, thinks Sanjay.
Sanjay is a character from my novel. I’ve let him out today for another hospital visit. There’ve been plenty of those in the last 18 months but today he’s got hope. He’s got hope the tests will be normal, and that he’ll be out of the door again before he loses the will to live.
As usual Sanjay passes the giant pebble on his way into the hospital. It is not a pebble so much as an expensive sculpture. Today it looks as if a dog has peed up against it.
This hospital is one of the very few in the country that does this special ultrasound scan, a fact which pleased Sanjay’s mother. “See, beta? Now they know you are special.”
Not so Sanjay’s father, who took it as proof that bloody doctors don’t know what they are bloody doing and are just using his son as guinea pig.
One thing puzzles Sanjay: what is this scan exactly? He always asks questions but he’s rarely any the wiser. The doctors either reply something like “We’re going to take pictures of your squidgy bits” and give a smile that suggests he’s a couple of rungs below the village idiot.
Or else they give him a jargon-filled spiel, sometimes accompanied by a scribbled diagram on the nearest scrap of paper that comes to hand.
Once it said TOMATOES MILK WINE DRY-CLEANING on the back.
“Oh God, beta. Suppose they give you needles with this scan?” says his mum.
Sanjay shrugs. He doesn’t mind needles, but he’s not too fond of tubes up the behind. He had that once, when he’d passed some bright red blood. Luckily the test turned out normal.
He trusts the doctor who referred him for today’s scan. Just like he trusted the doctor who told him his colonoscopy was normal.
But what if the doctor had been wrong? And what if it wasn’t just the beetroot?
Maybe the junior doctor had misread the result or had looked at someone else’s notes. Then Sanjay’s bowel cancer might go untreated, while someone else would get an abdomino-perineal resection that he didn’t need.
Abdomino-perineal resection: ‘complete surgical removal of the distal colon, rectum, and anal sphincter via simultaneous anterior abdominal and perineal incisions, resulting in a permanent colostomy’
a.k.a. ‘taking away some of your squidgy bits and popping your back passage onto your tummy’
Lots of people could be wrong a lot of the time, thinks Sanjay as he enters the revolving door. When you consider it, there are so many different ways of getting something wrong. But only one way (or at most a small handful of ways) to get it right.
Sanjay jabs the lift button and muses on his 36 years of life.