The Donor Syndrome

by Thomas R. Willits


part 1 of 4

The pointy-nosed receptionist finished filing her nails and started applying an opaque-lavender polish when a man in a gray blazer strolled through the door. He held a faded and folded brochure with the words DONORS INCORPORATED printed across the front.

He fumbled it over in his hands as if he wasn’t sure he was in the right room or even in the right building, then simply tucked it neatly away in his coat pocket. He nudged his glasses back up onto the bridge of his nose and surveyed the waiting room, finding himself the only patronage and then eyed the check-in counter and the young lady seated behind it.

He scratched his face just under his chin where that same morning he had nicked himself shaving in about three places and coagulated blood had formed small, dark patches. He picked at these places nervously until they rubbed off, half-expecting them to start bleeding again — this time quite profusely. But to his surprise, they didn’t.

“May I help you?” the young receptionist asked.

She quickly put the nail polish back into her desk drawer, although he could undeniably smell the reminiscent odor from the ‘unofficial activities’ she had been engaged on. Her pleasant demeanor appeared genuine on the surface, but the gentlemen could see she’d rather be finishing her self-manicure than attending to the new visitor.

The man in the gray blazer cleared his throat uncomfortably and responded, “Yes, I’m here to see Dr. Rosenburg.”

“I see,” she responded in an all too-peppy voice. Her face appeared made up quite nicely with the best brands that makeup had to offer. Her brunette hair bounced with the words “Fresh Perm Hands Off”, and still had the shine and smell of the fashion salon to go along. In a word she was vogue. “May I have your name please?”

“Renford Upshaw III,” he replied at once. He wanted to get the check-in business over with so he could begin the waiting period that unavoidably came before he would be admitted to see the doctor.

At least then he could be doing something constructive, like reading a magazine or checking the stocks for his earnings and growth. Not that he had anything left to invest and most of what he had was unreachable for at least another ten years. “Is there a form I need to fill out or something?”

“Just one for now,” she said and handed him a clipboard. “You can have a seat and fill it out. I’ll let Dr. Rosenburg know you’re here. He’s finishing up with another patient as we speak.”

Renford nodded and took the clipboard. “Do you need my insurance card now?”

“No,” she answered. “Not at this time.”

He found a seat at the end in case anyone else came in while he was waiting. He didn’t like to sit next to other people at places like this. There were too many nosy people in the world with far too much assertiveness in their egos. Strangers were strangers, unless they were to become acquaintances by official or predetermined means.

He pulled the black Roller Ball free from the clip and started with his name at the top, last name first, then first, middle initial and so on. After he had filled in the personal information section he proceeded to Part B which contained all the really difficult questions.

When was your last checkup? Are you currently taking any prescriptions? List any diseases or illnesses you have suffered or contracted in the past year. List any relatives in your immediate family with histories of heart related illness or high blood pressure. Do you smoke? How often do you consume alcohol? Marijuana? Methamphetamines? Narcotics? Do you see a regular physician? Name of emergency contact and address.

The list went on for nearly a third of the page and Renford found himself contemplating leaving and rescheduling for another appointment. He had booked this visit two months in advance, and as the final days elapsed he couldn’t cancel it as he had predicted he would from the very beginning.

Three months ago when an acquaintance handed him a brochure he wouldn’t have dreamed of seeing himself in this place. But here he was, and as he finished filling out the last line on the page, he hadn’t left yet.

I’m in this to the end, he reasoned to himself. It can’t hurt to check it out.

At least he didn’t think so.

Easiest money I’ve ever made, his friend had told him. Strictly word of mouth, if you know what I mean. They don’t exactly advertise in the Yellow Pages.

The door swung open to the back room and out stepped a man in a white coat with a stethoscope. He was perhaps fifty or more. Renford couldn’t tell for sure, except that he had almost-white hair, which presumably had changed early in his life.

Some relief set in from the fact that he wasn’t about to be treated by some recent grad student from India or Pakistan. He preferred his doctors older and also American by birth. He had five credit-card accounts handled by associates from places like Nepal or Bangladesh. All of said accounts were unfortunately delinquent at this time but he had no intention of giving information to someone overseas or with whom he could only understand one or two words.

Doctors were no different, in his viewpoint. He pictured someone like Dick Van Dyke with an equally amusing charm. He only hoped what waited for him was anything close.

“Mister Upshaw?” he called.

Renford rose to his feet. “Yes, sir. That’s me.”

He met Rosenburg at the door and he handed over the clipboard.

“Right this way, please. We’re at the end of the hall.”

Rosenburg showed him to the door and let him inside. The center of the room had the iconic examination table with thin tissue paper lined down its back. He hated this part where he had to climb aboard and try not to slip off and fall on his hump. Where was the logic in this? Why put paper that slips and slides every which way before being examined when the patient probably wouldn’t survive the table-mounting escapade?

“Busy morning?” Renford asked.

Doctor Rosenburg smiled, “Average, I’d say. No more than usual. You can sit in the other stool if you like while we cover the bases. These tables aren’t much for comfort, I’m afraid.”

“Don’t mind if I do,” he said, pleased with the offer, and gave the examination table in the center a gloating smile. “Do you mind if I ask how long this usually takes? I’ve never been to one of these... I guess I don’t know what you’d even call it.”

“Not at all,” he answered frankly. “I won’t lie to you, Mr. Upshaw. The preliminaries are usually two to three hours. We do an examination, take blood samples, the usual predetermination steps as it were. There’s more paperwork later, in the event you’re a compatible donor, which must be read and signed. We’ll be looking at the better part of the morning at any rate.”

“I see.”

“You’ve listed Dr. Waters as your primary,” he went on. “Highly reputable doctor. But you haven’t had a checkup for over eighteen months?” Rosenburg’s eyes twitched upward curiously.

Renford had considered this as well and had nearly called the whole thing off because of it. But he had a feeling, a real inclinationhe could be persuasive enough to proceed. He was determined, after all. Success doesn’t come to you; you must go to it, as his Number Five saying went. He had four others equally as rhetorical.

“Yes, that’s true,” he answered. “January before last. But I haven’t been ill or experienced any out of the ordinary symptoms. No fatigue, weariness, dizziness, memory lapses. Nothing to warrant a visit, if you see what I’m driving at. My blood pressure’s right where it usually is. I’m one hundred percent.”

“Normally the gent with the stethoscope gives that kind of prognosis, unless you’ve got some medical degree I’m not aware of. Well then, let’s get on with it, shall we?”

Renford nodded with approval and they began the examination.

* * *


Proceed to part 2...

Copyright © 2008 by Thomas R. Willits

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