Always many reasons to be thankful

Published 9:33 pm Wednesday, April 15, 2015

I recognized the number on my cell. I wondered why my doctor’s office was calling me. I had just been to his office and the MRI revealed problems with the L4 and L5 vertebrae in my lower back. I had already sought the advice of a back expert at UAB in Birmingham. I did not wonder for long why the doctor was calling.

The doctor said, “I want you to get another test. The MRI vaguely shows a goiter on your neck. I need some more tests.” I was not unduly concerned. I dutifully went back to the hospital in Selma for further tests. When the doctor received the test results, he asked me to come in. I was a little more concerned but I thought back to the time when my son, Kindaka, had a lump on his neck. I recalled how scared I was for him. I even wrote a Sketches about the experience which brought him much unwanted attention. I also recalled that the lump on Kindaka’s neck was benign and my fears were for naught. The doctor showed me the outline of the goiter on the MRI. He said that I should get expert medical treatment. Somehow I still was not really concerned. It took me more than a month to make it to the doctor in Birmingham but I was thankful for so many things.

When I went into the doctor’s office at Kirkland Clinic, I walked past a man in the hall-like area. He spoke to me in a rhythm of recognition. He eventually used the words “Senator Sanders.” I concluded that he recognized me from my service in the Alabama State Senate. I tried to respond in a rhythm of recognition but my greetings were off.

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The doctor’s assistant placed me in an examination room and asked me a series of questions. Within a few minutes the doctor came in. He was the same man who had spoken to me in the hallway. He asked me about my wife, Rose, by name and my son, Kindaka, by name. I wondered how he knew my family.

It turned out that he was the same doctor who had treated Kindaka back in the nineties. I was impressed that he not only remembered his patient, Kindaka, but he also remembered me and my wife from 20 or so years ago. I was thankful for so many things.

The doctor wanted to know the following: whether I could feel the lump along my throat — I could not; whether I had trouble swallowing — I did not; whether I had any other symptoms — I did not.

He felt the left side of my neck but could not detect the goiter with his hands. I had taken x-rays in addition to those I brought from Selma. He said the goiter was small and over half the population develops goiters which are usually benign. However, he still had me do a blood test. I thought that was the end of the matter. I was thankful for so many things.

Weeks later, I was contacted by the doctor’s office concerning an appointment for an ultra sound. It was set for a Thursday, which is a meeting day for the Alabama Legislature. I tried to change the appointment to Friday but was informed that the ultra sound department is closed on Fridays.

There were no openings for another appointment in the near future. Then I learned of a “same day schedule procedure.” I would have to call at 8 a.m. and they would try to work me in. I decided to do the ultrasound the very next day if it was at all possible.

Last Tuesday, I arose at 4 a.m., handled various matters and left at 6 a.m. for Birmingham. By 7:45 a.m. I was sitting in the fifth floor waiting room of the Kirkland Clinic. I promptly called at 8:01 a.m. They took my cell number with the stated intention of getting back to me. I was hoping to make the following meetings: Alabama Legislative Black Caucus at 11 a.m.; Senate Democratic Caucus at 12:30 p.m.; and Senate Session at 2 p.m. If I could not make the first two meetings, I was determined to make the 2 p.m. Senate session.

Some time passed without a return call. A friend of mine urged me to “call somebody who could call somebody” to make sure I received an appointment quickly. I declined. I knew that I would get an appointment. The scheduler eventually called and I rushed down to the fourth floor. Within a short time frame, all the persons in the ultrasound area of the waiting room had been served. I was thankful for so many things.

I went in for the ultrasound. I was soon informed that I had two goiters, one on each side of my thyroid. I became more concerned. They recommended that I go ahead and have biopsies on each lump. I was even more concerned. I wanted to know what was it about the ultra sound report that stimulated the biopsies.

I was told that there was nothing in particular but each lump was of a size that a biopsy could be successfully performed. It would require six needles to penetrate each goiter. I completed the biopsies and made it to Montgomery by 11:30 a.m. I was directed to check with the doctor in a couple of days if they had not called me.

On Friday morning, I called to get my results. I was informed that a nurse would get back to me. Hours went by without a word. My concern increased by the minute. Then a call came. By then I was on pins and needles. The nurse said that the tests had been reviewed. Then she said the goiters were benign. She also said that I should be checked again in a year. I was so thankful for so many things.

“When you have your health, you have everything,” said the old folks. Our health is intimately intertwined in our work. I am so thankful for our work.