Monday, May 17, 2010

Pick-Up at Pathology

Sloan-Kettering requested to examine my glass pathology slides; today I went to pick them up from Robert Wood Johnson.

RWJ was just ranked one of America's Best Hospitals 3 years in a row by US News & World Report - so you can understand my bewilderment when the woman at the "Information Desk" said that she had never heard of "pathology" before, and asked me to describe what they do. After my very precise explanation that went something like: "they look at cancer cells and stuff like that", the woman kindly replied, "maybe you should call someone; I've never heard of that department before."

After wandering around the hospital grounds for a while, trying to figure out where my slides were, I saw a new woman sitting behind the "Information Desk" who was wearing an official name tag that inspired confidence. After her very professional reply to my inquiry, I came to realize that the woman whom I had initially asked about pathology wasn't even an employee! She was just a "joe schmoe" standing in the general "Information Desk" area, and was trying the best she could to be helpful when I asked her for directions. My faith in RWJ restored, I set off for the "Tower Elevators" and quickly realized that pathology isn't an easy department to find.

Clearly lost, I asked one orderly for assistance, who told me to "take a left when you see the people with microscopes". Perhaps it's the symbolic English teacher in me, but I was expecting to find a clearly marked sign PATHOLOGY THIS WAY hanging over either 1. a large black and white photo depicting a row of scientists on the brink of discovery, or 2. a bronze sculpture of a scientist bent over a microscope hard at work....but no, after several twists and turns I came to a place where there were literally dozens of real-life people in lab coats bending over microscopes; at which point I turned left.

Triumphant, I finally found the pathology department and signed for the unmarked, nondescript padded manila envelop that contained seven glass slides encased in two small plastic containers. As I walked slowly back to my car, I began considering the significance of what I was actually carrying in my hand; I was carrying the answers to my illness. I suddenly felt very humble - my fate had come down to this, a series of purple stained blobs suspended between two thin layers of glass. However, be that as it may, I refuse to allow these little stained slides to color my entire world.

"In my room the world is beyond my understanding; but when I walk I see that it consists of three or four hills and a cloud." - Wallace Stevens

1 comment:

  1. Good post. Thanks for the update! (and I'm glad the person who didn't know pathology even existed wasn't an employee.)