Friday, April 14, 2006


As I was refilling my cup at the fountain drink stand, I felt that strange undeniable sensation of being watched. Sure enough, I look up and there's a guy about 5 feet away staring at me. I kind of shrugged internally and went back to refilling my cup, focusing on not overfilling it with Diet Coke.

Being an Asian living in this country means I've gotten used to having people stare at me. For the past 20-odd years, I've been a social curiosity to the local denizens of the various towns where I've lived. Inhabiting sparcely populated and not-very-cosmopolitan places like Kansas, South Carolina, and Georgia over the past two decades probably only exacerbated things.

I'm digressing.

Anyway, I pay no attention to this guy and go back to filling my drink, when he walks up a little closer.

"Aren't you my doctor?"

I furrow my brow a bit and look up at this guy. "Um... maybe," I reply.

I've must have interacted with hundreds of patients since I've moved to New Orleans. Odds are in favor that I've taken care of this guy in the past. But trying to recognize patients outside of the hospital is a bit of a challenge. For one, people look different when they're healthy.

Think of the last time you were sick: your hair was a mess, you moped around the house in baggy comfort clothes, and you probably looked like shit. That's how everybody I meet in the hospital look like. So trying to recognize people out of the hospital is the equivalent of trying to recognize someone after they've had one of those "Extreme Makeovers".

This guy sees me struggling to place him in my memory. "Yeah! I think you are my doctor! Remember me? John Doe?"

The name sounds familiar. As my mind races around, JD pulls up his shirt to reveal a wicked midline scar, "Remember me? You had to go into my belly two times to fix me!"

And instantaneously, it all comes back to me in a flood of memories. The 6 weeks he spent in the hospital under my care. The 2 weeks he spent in the ICU on the ventilator in critical condition. The agonizing 8 hour and 7 hour operations. The repeat infections. The hours spent by his bedside changing his wounds and all the bedside procedures. And all the time I spent trying to convince him that he wasn't going to die.

And here he was, standing in front of me, with that goofy look on his face and his belly exposed, showing off that crazy scar that I made.

JD's eyes meet mine and he realizes that I remember him.

"You were right doc," he says, a slow grin growing across his face, "I didn't die."