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Walk a Mile in my Shoes
A play in four acts by Genevieve Yates.
Act 1: Emma’s consulting room
Act 2: Michael’s consulting room
Act 3: Waiting room / reception desk
Act 4: Emma’s consulting room (5 months later)
Setting: Sunshine Coast,Queensland
Place: GP practice
Time: Present Day
Stage sets: and props
Acts one and four – Emma’s consulting room, with desk, 3 chairs, computer and printer, writing pad, pen, sphygmomanometer (blood pressure measurer, not electronic), stethoscope, business type telephone which rings, photo in frame on desk. Optional: Examination bed, bookshelf, other equipment found in doctors’ consulting rooms.
Act two – Michael’s room – mirror image with door at opposite corner. Something distinctive (plant / toy box, picture) to differentiate different room. Same desk / computer / sphygmo etc. can be used.
Act three – Reception /waiting room. Doors in each corner leading to consulting rooms. Front counter and chairs, computer and printer, business type telephone which rings, post it note pad, pen, pot plants, magazines, toybox
Additional Props: Doctors bag/briefcase, coffee mug x1, chocolate cake, wheelie walker or walking frame, oral contraceptive pill packet, mobile phone, Bristol stool form guide, baby’s pram with “baby” (doll), small stuffed toy – bird (preferably blue in colour), “premature baby” doll for act 4
Cast list: (minimum) 8 adult females, 4 adult men. Larger cast can be used if preferred
Emma Roberts, doctor – Female 30s to 40s.
Michael Harris, doctor – Male mid 20s to early 40s
Bridget Redfern, receptionist – Female, late teens to early 30s
Jane Harris (Michael’s wife) – Female, mid 20s to late 30s
Paul Anderson (Bridget’s lover) – Male, late 30s to 50
1) Females 50+ (Mrs. Ryan, Mrs Harcourt, OW (older woman), Dorothy Smith and Beryl Jones)
2) Females 30s-40s (Anne Connor, Carol Langford, Marg Anderson, Eleanor Best, Mother)
3) Females late teens to early 20s (Jessica Delaney, Casey Lewis, Calista Fleming and Alison Best) (at least two actors – Calista and Alison not to be played by the same actor if Act 4 is included)
4) Males 40+ (Mr. Black, Dennis Langford, Morris Harcourt, Bill, Frank, Jim)
5) Three non age, non gender specific roles – patient A, B and C
6) Extras: Act 3. Additional patients in waiting room. Number of people/ age/ gender etc at director’s discretion.
The play can be performed as a one act play (Act one only) a three act play (Acts one, two and three) or the full four act play at the director’s discretion.
Act One: Emma’s consulting room
Emma walks in, carrying a bag, looking preoccupied and despondent. Soon after, Bridget rushes in, distressed.
Bridget: Oh Emma, you’re here at last, thank God! Merv Briggs has died and it’s my fault!
Emma: What on earth happened?
Bridget: Merv’s wife rang this morning saying that Merv had pains in his chest. She wanted to talk to you about it. I explained that you were starting late today but that I’d talk to Dr. Michael and get back to her. She seemed annoyed that she wasn’t put through immediately. I thought about interrupting Michael with the phone call but he’s been a bit stroppy this morning so I just wrote out a message for him.
Emma: Did he get the message?
Bridget: Well I wasn’t sure so I buzzed through to him about an hour later to ask if had returned Mrs. Brigg’s call. That’s when he told me that by the time he rang back it was too late…. That Merv had died and that I had done the wrong thing by not telling him immediately.
Emma: Oh no. Bridget, it sounds like it wouldn’t have made any difference anyway. Don’t be too hard on yourself. You’ve only worked here a week – it’s understandable that you are not yet fully across practice protocols. Has anyone rung Merv’s wife? Rosie’s a fragile creature – she must be going out of her mind!
Bridget: Not that I know of. Was I supposed to? Have I done something else wrong?
Emma: No, not at all. I’ll give her a call myself now. (on phone) Mrs. Briggs, Rosie, it’s Emma Roberts from Hillview General Practice. I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. Is there anything…. What loss? Well, Merv, of course, I heard what happened this morning…. No one told you?…. (hand over mouthpiece, sidebar to Bridget) The ambulance took Merv to Nambour hospital’s emergency department. Merv’s wife is in the waiting room. Apparently no one has told her that Merv didn’t make it…. What did you say Rosie? …. Oh that’s wonderful news…. I’m sorry to have frightened you…. No, I’m not sure how I came to be misinformed (looks pointedly at Bridget)…. Yes I will get to the bottom of it, I promise. Goodbye Rosie. (phone down). Merv’s not dead – he’s fine.
Bridget: Thank God! But Michael said….
Emma: Somehow, wires were crossed. Is it OK if we sort it out later Bridget? Ask Michael to come and see me at lunchtime. I’ve got to start seeing some patients; I’m running so late already. My appointment in Brisbane took longer than expected and I was held up by road works on the Bruce Highway driving back. (sighs)
Bridget: Are you OK? You look kinda stressed.
Emma: I’ve had a really difficult morning.
Bridget: Join the club. It can’t possibly have been worse than mine. I’ve had to handle the front desk all by myself becauseLorraine called in sick, Michael’s been in a bad mood and then I thought a patient had DIED because of ME. Talk about stressful!
Emma: It certainly sounds very stressful. Look I really have to see some patients. Could you send in Mr. Black please?
Bridget: Of course. By the way, Tewantin Gardens nursing home has called three times, Steve Butler from Pharmacy Central wants to talk to you and you have two admissions at Hinterland hospital to do today. Oh, and the drug rep who was bringing lunch has cancelled. (hands Emma a list)
(Bridget exits, Emma spends a few moments organising things on her desk and getting herself together. Mr Black knocks then enters)
Emma: Come in Mr. Black, I’m sorry to have kept you waiting.
Mr. Black: Doctors seem to think their time is more valuable than ours. It really is quite rude. (looks at his watch) I booked an appointment for 8:30 this morning. Two days ago, your receptionist rang me and said that you were coming in late today and that I would need to reschedule. I rebooked for 10:30 and I arrived at 10:24. I saw you walk into the surgery at 11:14 and it is now 11:20. Not only was your arrival tardy, but it was 6 minutes before you called me in. Needed a cup of coffee and a good sit down perhaps?
Emma: I’m again sorry for keeping you waiting but the delay was unavoidable.
Mr. Black: Hurrumph
Emma: So how can I help you today?
Mr. Black: I have brought you the record of my bowel movements, blood pressures and blood sugars for the past month. I know you told me that I wasn’t diabetic but I do like to keep an eye on my sugar readings, just in case it develops. My blood pressure has been a bit up and down but as you see (hands Emma a sheet of paper) the averages are pretty good…. I’ve calculated the mean and the median and written them down here. Another thing I wanted to talk to you about is about my hair loss. I have been noticing more strands than usual in my brush and I think it is thinning a bit more at the top (drops head to let Emma look). I was reading the patient information leaflet in the box of the new blood pressure pills you prescribed me and it mentioned alopecia, that’s hair loss, isn’t it? It did say it was a rare side effect but I really do think it should have been something I should have been warned about.
(Lights dimmed or blue light +/- busy music then lights up.)
Mr. Black: Well that’s sorted then. Now back to my bowels.
Emma: (sigh) Yes?
Mr. Black: I would firstly like to thank-you very much for that Bristol Stool Form Scale you gave me last visit. It has been incredibly useful.
Emma: I’m pleased it has helped.
Mr. Black: I’ve always had trouble charting my bowel motions. As you know, I’m prone to constipation so it is very important for me to keep an accurate record so that I can adjust my fibre intake accordingly. It has always been easy to document WHEN I pass the stool, but much more difficult to describe its CONSISTENCY..
Emma: I can see that it might have been hard (half smile).
Mr. Black: (oblivious to joke) Exactly. Until now my descriptors have been limited to hard, soft or runny. Grossly inadequate.
Emma: Certainly gross.
Mr. Black: But now I have this wonderful method of charting (holds up Bristol stool form guide). A numerical value is assigned to each faecal type – from 1 to 7 – in ascending order of liquidity. There are pictures and descriptions of each type (starts reading). Type 1 – separate hard lumps, like nuts. Type 2 – sausage shaped but lumpy.
Emma: You needn’t go on.
Mr. Black: And there are even child friendly descriptions. Corn on the cob, chicken nuggets, porridge, gravy….
Emma: Yes I am familiar with the chart.
Mr. Black: “Choose your poo,” it says to the kids, “choose your poo”! If only they had such a chart when I was boy. Parents must be falling over themselves to get their hands on one of these.
Emma: There hasn’t been a big rush, no.
Mr. Black: So who came up with this marvellous idea?
Emma: It was developed by doctors at a hospital inBristol,England I believe.
Mr. Black: What a coincidence, doctors fromBristol designing theBristol stool form…. oh wait a moment, yes I see, not a coincidence at all.
Emma: No, not a coincidence.
Mr. Black: Anyway, enough of the chit chat. Where was I? Oh yes, my bowel movements. As you can see (hands over sheet of paper), it has been a really good week for me. Two 4s, three 3s and a 2. I would have liked a few more 4s but I’m sure you’ll agree that I’ve definitely improved since I started the All Bran Challenge 26 days ago.
Emma: That’s great to hear, Mr Black.
Mr. Black: Well thank you doctor, I shall see you again soon – at the appointed time hopefully. (looks at watch) I hope that you are not going to charge me for a long appointment. Omitting pleasantries, we only spent 19 minutes and 10 seconds discussing medical matters. Your practice fee brochure clearly states that a long consult is one that is over 20 minutes in duration.
Emma: A standard consult fee will be fine, thanks. I will see you again soon I’m sure.
(Mr. Black exits and Emma looks at her computer screen.)
Emma: (groans) Jessica. On today of all days.
(Emma takes a big breath and goes to the doorway)
Emma: Jessica Delaney?…. Hi Jessica, come on in.
(Jessica enters and sits down)
Emma: So you have made it to the 12 week mark, congratulations.
Jessica: Thanks, yeah I’m like really excited. I can’t wait to have a baby too. ALL my all friends do. We are going to have play dates and like babysit for each other when we want a night out. And baby clothes are like so cute. We are going to like dress them in matching outfits and buy them those little Tshirts with the funny messages on them. You know, like “If you think I’m cute, you should see my Mum”. It’s gonna be totally awesome.
Emma: I’m glad you’ve got supportive friends. Jessica, when you were last in we were talking about what to do and what not to do when pregnant. Did you have a chance to read the handouts I gave you?
Jessica: Yep, and I’m taking my vitamin pill every day.
Emma: That’s great, Jess. How about alcohol?
Jessica: Well…. I’ve been pretty good, but I did have a few with the girls over the weekend. I’ll try to like say no next time.
Emma: Just remember that there is no safe drinking level in pregnancy. Have you managed to give up cigarettes yet?
Jessica: I’ve cut down heaps. I’m now only smoking about 15 a day. It’s like just SO hard.
Emma: Keep working at it Jess. Have you checked out the Quitline website?
Jessica: Nah, not yet. Emma, is pot safer than ciggies? I’m finding that if I smoke some weed each night, it helps keep me off the cigarettes.
Emma: Both marijuana and cigarettes are really bad news during pregnancy. Try to avoid both.
Jessica: I have managed to give up tea and coffee though. Well, I never did like coffee, but I always like had a cup of tea in the mornings.
Emma: A cup of tea each day is perfectly fine.
Jessica: But I read in those pamphlets you gave me that excessive caffeine is like harmful in pregnancy. So I gave up my cup of tea. I don’t want to harm my baby!!
Emma: That’s very noble, Jess. How about you work really hard on applying that to the alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana?
Jessica: I am trying.
Emma: (mutters) Yes, very. (brightly) So how are things going with Damon?
Jessica: Oh, OK. We’re thinking of going on a holiday toBali soon. Before the baby comes.
Emma: Bali is lovely. There are some precautions you need to take when travelling overseas when pregnant though.
Jessica: Yeah, well the trouble at the moment is that we haven’t got enough money. We are thinking of going to the bank to like get a loan but we need your help.
Emma: My help?
Jessica: Yeah, well you know the baby bonus is like $5000, right? Well, we’re going to get that in 6 months or so. We were hoping you could give us a letter that we could take to the bank saying I was pregnant and that the money was like coming. Then we could get a loan against the baby bonus money.
Emma: I don’t know that that is such a good idea.
Jessica: We want to go and like party before we have to look after a baby. We could buy a plasma TV or something with the money later on, but I really want to go toBali.
Emma: I don’t think I can do that for you Jess. If you want the money, you’ll have to try to get it some other way. (pause) So it sounds like Damon is more accepting of the pregnancy now?
Jessica: Sort of. We’ve moved in together but we’re keeping his address as his parents’ so our Centrelink money doesn’t go down. I’ll get like heaps more if I’m a single Mum. He wants a paternity test though. You do that like after the baby is born, don’t you?
Emma: In most cases.
Jessica: Said he didn’t want to be saddled with supporting someone else’s bastard kid. Not that he makes enough money to be supporting anyone’s kid. He’s been on the dole like since he left school. He can’t work ‘cause he’s got ADHD and anger issues.
Emma: Does he ever hurt you Jess?
Jessica: Nah, if he gets mad he just punches a wall and like drives off. He’s never laid a finger on me. Well, not like in anger…. he’s obviously laid more than a finger on me in other ways or I wouldn’t be like pregnant!
Emma: Does doing a paternity test worry you? Is there any chance the result could be…. well…. unexpected?
Jessica: Of course not! I haven’t like been with anyone else for over like 6 MONTHS!
Emma: Nothing to worry about then. Is there anything else you’d like to ask about today?
Jessica: Nope, it’s all good.
Emma: I’ll see you in a month then. Jessica…. I’d really like you think seriously about ways you can give this baby the best possible start in life. Just remember, pregnancy is a responsibility and privilege that shouldn’t be taken lightly. You are very lucky to be 12 weeks pregnant.
Jessica: Whatever. No need to like lay on the guilt trip. I’ll try harder for you Emma.
Emma: It’s not me you should be trying harder for, it is your unborn child.
Jessica: Yeah, yeah. OK, see you next month.
Emma: See you then. And remember you can come back sooner if you have any concerns or if you want to chat further.
(Jessica exits, Emma goes to the doorway)
Emma: (At doorway) Dennis Langford?
(Emma comes in with Dennis)
Emma: Hi Dennis, how are you feeling?
Dennis: The usual… I just came in for another script.
Emma: That’s fine, I can organise that for you. How are things going otherwise?
Dennis: OK I guess. I did want to talk to you about my cholesterol though.
Emma: Your cholesterol?
Dennis: Yeah, well as you know it tends to be a bit high. You told me last year that it wasn’t bad enough to need tablets but that I should improve my diet.
Emma: Yes, I remember.
Dennis: Well to be honest Emma, I didn’t do much about it at the time but I’ve now decided to make a really big effort.
Emma: You have?
Dennis: Yep. I’ve always loved my bacon and eggs but I’ve given them up completely and I’m eating organic low fat muesli and skim milk in the mornings. I don’t eat red meat at all now actually and have also given up cheese, chips, butter, biscuits and ice cream. I do miss them but I know how important having a good cholesterol level is.
Emma: Dennis, I don’t think such a huge change is required.
Dennis: But you said, last year, you said how important it was and what a difference changing my diet would make.
Emma: I know I made a fuss about your cholesterol last year. Cholesterol is an important long term risk factor for diseases such as heart attacks and strokes. But I don’t think it is something you need to be focusing on now. A lot has changed for you since last year.
Dennis: You mean the cancer.
Emma: Yes, I mean the cancer.
Dennis: You don’t think I need to worry about my cholesterol because the cancer is going to kill me soon anyway.
Emma: I’m sorry Dennis, but yes. We’ve talked about how the cancer is all through your bones and liver. We spoke about why the oncologist said that further chemo is pointless and that now we are focusing on controlling the pain. Have you got any further questions about all that?
Dennis: Nah, I understand…. So I can eat bacon and eggs?
Emma: Absolutely. Guilt free! (starts writing script *see explanatory note at end of play) So how is the current morphine dose controlling your pain?
Dennis: Mostly pretty well. I still wake up at night from the pain occasionally but I just take an extra dose of that liquid morphine and it settles down.
Emma: We’ll stay on the same dose for now then. Did Carol bring you in?
Dennis: Yes she’s in the waiting room.
Emma: See you next week then?
Dennis: No worries.
Emma: You know I’m happy to come and visit you at home if you prefer.
Dennis: I know, but I’d like to keep coming here for now. It’s usually the only time I get out of the house during the week!
Emma: Righto. See you soon.
Dennis: Thanks Emma…. for everything.
(Dennis exits, Michael pops his head into consulting room carrying coffee mug)
Michael: You wanted to see me?
Emma: Yes I did Michael, please come in.
Michael: What’s up?
Emma: Bridget was in quite a state this morning over the death of Merv Briggs.
Michael: Death? He didn’t die. He had a bit of reflux.
Emma: I know that…. now. Heartburn, not a heart attack. I found out when I rang Mrs. Briggs to offer my condolences. She burst through the emergency ward’s doors and ran to her husband’s bedside, only to find him sitting up in bed and eating sandwiches.
Michael: That’s hilarious!
Emma: Maybe to you, but not so funny for Mrs Briggs who thought the emergency doctors hadn’t told her that her beloved husband had died. Not so funny for Bridget who thought she was to blame for Merv’s death.
Michael: I suppose not. But still, bloody funny from where I’m sitting.
Emma: So why would Bridget think had he had died AND that she was to blame?
Michael: How should I…. oh.
Michael: But I was joking!
Emma: Go on.
Michael: Well, Bridget buzzed me to ask if I had called Merv. I said something like “By the time I rang back, it was too late…. he had already gone.” Merv had indeed gone – to hospital by ambulance. I must admit I did kinda suggest that he had “gone to a better place” rather than gone to Nambour, but strictly speaking I told the truth. (chuckles)
Emma: And the blame?
Michael: I was just informing her of practice protocol. I told her that in future, if a patient calls with chest pain, either transfer the call immediately to a doctor or tell the patient to ring an ambulance. I said that it looks bad if our patients die at home from a heart attack while waiting for a doctor to call back. Oh, yes, I see. Oops.
(knock at door)
Emma: Come in.
Bridget: (Bridget walks in carrying a cake) Sorry to interrupt, but Dorothy Smith dropped this in for Michael. (hands cake to Michael) She told me to tell you that it was her special recipe and that she appreciated all that you had done for her.
Michael: Fantastic, I’m starving. Haven’t had any lunch cause that bloody drug rep cancelled. (starts eating cake with gusto) Hey Bridgy, sorry about this morning. No hard feelings eh?
Bridget: I’m just glad that Merv is OK.
Michael: Mmmm…. Chocolate, my favourite. Not ALL women misunderstand me. Want some?
Emma: No thanks. Look Michael, this is not the first time your “humour” has been taken the wrong way by staff and patients. We’ve talked about this before. It’s great having a bit of a laugh at the office but you really should be careful, particularly with people who don’t know you well. Patients in particular can misinterpret things – most will take seriously what comes out of their doctor’s mouth.
Michael: Yes boss. Message received loud and clear. Relax, Emma. All’s well that ends well. (looks at watch) Lunch time’s over. I’d better get back to the coal mines. You’d better get a move on too – Mrs. Ryan has been sitting out in the waiting room for ages and she looks even more cranky than usual. No lunch break and you’re still running late – don’t you just love being a doctor?
(Michael exits. Emma sighs, taps a few things on her keyboard, straightens her hair / desk, takes a deep breath then dials phone)
Emma: (On phone) Hi sweetheart, it’s me. Just touching base. Sorry I didn’t call earlier. It’s been a crazy day. My appointment inBrisbane didn’t go so well. He told me…. no, this is not a conversation for voice mail, we can talk tonight. I’ll probably be pretty late home. Don’t forget to buy some milk. Love you. Bye.
(Emma stares into space for a second or two then goes to doorway)
Emma: (From doorway) Mrs Ryan, please come in, I’m ready to see you now.
(Emma enters with Mrs. Ryan)
Mrs Ryan: I have been waiting for 46 minutes. You were running late last time too.
Emma: I’m sorry to have kept you waiting. Do you want to reschedule?
Mrs Ryan: No, I’m here now. (Brings out a list) My headaches are worse again – I think it might be my blood pressure. I’m getting funny wavy lines in my vision and I feel dizzy when I turn around quickly. My stomach has been bloating again and I’m getting pains low down in my groin most evenings after dinner. My right shoulder has been giving me curry and I’m getting pins and needles in my right foot. I’m worried about my shortness of breath – I’m coughing now too. Worst of all I feel so tired – I’ve got no energy at all. I also need a drivers’ licence medical certificate, three scripts, two referrals and a full skin check.
Emma: I don’t think we will be able to cover all of these concerns today. Which ones would you like addressed most urgently?
Mrs Ryan: Now don’t fob me off saying you haven’t got time. I waited 46 minutes and I intend getting my money’s worth.
Emma: But you are bulk billed. You don’t pay anything.
Mrs. Ryan: Don’t get smart with me. I’ve paid with my time. Time is money and I want my 46 minutes’ wait worth.
Emma: (sigh) Let’s start with your blood pressure. (applies cuff and starts to inflate it)
Mrs. Ryan: Ow, that hurts. Do you have to make it so tight?
Emma: (listening with stethoscope) Shhh….
(Lights dimmed or blue light +/- busy music during which Mrs Ryan exits and Bill, a tough old farmer, enters. Lights up to see Emma kneeling on floor, looking at Bill’s foot)
Emma: Why aren’t you wearing your hearing aids?
Emma: (pointing to ears) HEARING AIDS!
Bill: They’re a pain in the bum
Emma: (muttering) In that case you are probably wearing them in the wrong place
Emma: Never mind…. NEVER MIND! THIS IS A VERY NASTY INFECTION. YOU SHOULD HAVE COME IN EARLIER. I’VE TOLD YOU BEFORE THAT FOOT INFECTIONS ARE VERY DANGEROUS IN DIABETICS.
Bill: I haven’t got diabetes, Doc. Just a touch of sugar.
Emma: HAVE YOU BEEN TAKING YOUR MEDICATIONS?
Bill: Nah, I ran out a while ago but I’ve been feeling fine so I thought I’d give ‘em a miss.
Emma: IT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO TAKE THEM EVERY DAY, FEELING WELL OR NOT. BILL, I AM GOING TO HAVE TO SEND YOU TO HOSPITAL WITH THIS FOOT.
Bill: Hospital? No way! Can’t you just give me some tablets Doc?
Emma: IT IS FAR MORE SERIOUS THAN THAT. THERE IS GANGRENE IN TWO TOES AND A LARGE ABSCESS. I THINK YOU ARE LOOKING AT AMPUTATION.
Bill: Me ‘ole leg?
Emma: I DON’T THINK SO. YOU’LL PROBABLY LOSE A TOE OR TWO. HOPEFULLY NO MORE BUT THEY WON’T REALLY KNOW HOW BAD IT IS UNTIL THEY GET IN THERE.
Bill: Fair enough. You know best. Got 10 of ‘em. One or two less won’t be the end of the world. But I don’t want to go into hospital for just a coupla toes. Strewth. Who will milk me cows? Can’t you have a go at lopping ‘em off here today Doc?
Emma: THAT’S OUT OF MY RANGE OF EXPERTISE, BILL. THE SURGEONS ARE GOING TO HAVE TO TRY TO IMPROVE YOUR CIRCULATION TOO OR YOU’LL LOSE MORE THAN YOUR TOES.
Bill: Well how ‘bout we leave it a coupla weeks. Me son’s due to visit soon. He can keep an eye on things at home.
Emma: SORRY BILL. IT REALLY CAN’T WAIT. COME ALONG AND WE’LL ORGANISE TO GET YOU TO HOSPITAL.
(Emma and Bill (limping) exit and almost immediately Michael wanders into Emma’s room. Michael looks vague, is walking clumsily and acting strangely.**See explanatory note at end of play. Emma then enters and notices his strange behaviour.)
Emma: Michael, what’s going on?…. Are you OK?
Michael: I don’t feel well at all. It’s that cake, it has to be the cake. The silly old bitch has tried to poison me.
Emma: (closes door behind her and then picks up phone) Just calm down. You’re obviously in no state to work. (on phone) Bridget, could you reschedule the rest of Michael’s bookings for this afternoon. I’ll see any that are urgent, otherwise ask them to return tomorrow or next week…. I’ll explain later…. Thanks…. (puts phone down, turns to Michael) What are your symptoms?
Michael: About half an hour after I ate the cake I started to feel really strange – sleepy, dizzy, nauseous. It’s got worse and worse. My pulse is racing and my hands feel numb. I feel like I am going to vomit, my head’s pounding and the room’s spinning.
Emma: That certainly sounds suspicious. I’d better ring Dorothy and find out exactly what was in the cake.
(Emma looks up phone number on the computer and dials phone).
Emma: Hello Mrs. Smith, this is Emma Roberts from Hillview General Practice… Yes the weather is lovely today. The reason I am calling is that Dr Harris is feeling a little under the weather and was concerned that it might have had something to do with your cake….
Michael: You tried to kill me you stupid old hag!
Emma: (hand over receiver) Shh, pull yourself together for God’s sake and just sit quietly. (on phone) Sorry, Mrs. Smith. What were you saying?…. yes the cake you brought in at lunchtime…. yes, he ate quite a lot of it, nearly half? (looks to Michael for confirmation. Michael nods) …. Now calm down. It’s OK, no one is blaming you.
Michael: I am, give me that (reaches for phone clumsily, Emma prevents him getting it)
Emma: …. I don’t think he was expecting such a gift…. He asked you to bake him a hash cake?…. Last appointment?…. Are you sure he wasn’t pulling your leg? Sometimes it can be a little hard to work out if he is being serious or not. (glares at Michael) …. No, we won’t be reporting you to the police.… (Michael starts to stand as if to interject, Emma gestures for him to sit) …. Yes I’m sure he will be fine…. I’ll do that Mrs. Smith. Goodbye now.
(puts down phone).
Emma: So…. No recollection of saying that you would like to try one of her hash cakes when she told you she used them for pain relief from her arthritis?
Michael: No way, I didn’t ask her to supply me with drugs! I never touch the stuff.
Emma: Nothing come to mind at all? Nothing like “I could sure use some of those. Do you accept orders? Chocolate is my favourite.”
Michael: Maybe I said something like that as a joke.
Emma: A joke? Doesn’t sound funny to me.
Michael: Not ha ha, laugh out loud funny, no. But it can still be classified as a joke, an attempt to lighten the mood. She’d just told me she used illegal drugs…. a sweet little old lady. I was just trying to make her feel OK about it.
Emma: Worthy motives perhaps, but next time, let the other person in on the joke. I don’t want to have to talk to you about this again.
Michael: Hey, I’m the one who’s suffering here.
Emma: Yes I know, but you can understand why I’m not feeling overly sympathetic. Go and lie down in your consulting room and stay there. I’ll organise to get you home.
(Michael exits, Bridget enters)
Bridget: God he looks terrible! I’ve cancelled his appointments. What on earth’s going on?
Emma: Seems that the special herbs and spices in that chocolate cake were a little more potent than one usually finds in baked goods.
Emma: It was a hash cake. Marijuana. Michael’s stoned. He didn’t know it was spiked…. Turns out his sense of humour has got him in trouble again. Twice in the same day! I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
Bridget: I’d go with the laughter option. It’s terribly funny.
Emma: (picking up phone) I’ve got to call Jane and ask her to come in and pick Michael up.
Bridget: Michael’s wife?
Emma: (nods) She had a baby only 3 weeks ago. Poor thing is not going to be happy.
Bridget: Oh can I do it? After this morning’s experience and all….
Emma: Sure, be my guest.
Bridget: (on phone) This is Bridget Redfern from Hillview General Practice. Michael has become intoxicated from consuming marijuana at work and needs to be picked up and taken home…. Thank-you. See you soon. (puts phone down, turns to Emma) She says she’ll be right in.
Emma: Thanks Bridget. Could you send in Casey Lewis please?
(Bridget exits, a few moments later, Casey enters)
Emma: Thanks for coming back Casey. Still enjoying the Uni holidays?
Casey: Pretty much. It’s hard living with my parents again after being at college for 6 months though. They still treat me like a kid sometimes – “Where are you going? Who are you seeing? When will you be home?” When I’m living down inBrisbane, I can stay out all weekend without anyone fussing. It’s nice to have my meals cooked and clothes washed though. So why did you call me back in? Have you found something?
Emma: We have, I’m afraid. The swab that I took when I did your PAP smear last week shows that you have a sexually transmitted infection. Chlamydia.
Casey: (visibly relieved) Oh, just Chlamydia. I thought you were going to say that I’d caught something serious. Chlamydia’s nothing. I’ve had it before. You just take one tablet and it’s cured.
Emma: Chlamydia is treated with a single dose of antibiotic, yes, but it can be serious if left untreated. It can lead to infection and scarring of your fallopian tubes and ovaries, and can cause infertility.
Casey: Oh I don’t care about fertility. I’m not going to have kids anyway.
Emma: You’re only 19, Casey. You will probably change your mind when you get older and you’ll care about your fertility then, believe me.
Casey: Middle aged woman always tell me that. (Emma visibly winces) They don’t know me. I have my career all planned out. I’m going into advertising – it’s the perfect blend of creative and corporate. Kids are not on the agenda. Look I know I’m pretty slack when it comes to using condoms and I really should be more careful. I’m very good with the pill though – I bluetack it to my college room door so that I remember to take it when I leave each morning. It’s a bit trickier when I end up sleeping in someone else’s room but I carry a back up packet in my bag – look (gets pill box out of her bag) – and, touch wood, no stuff ups yet.
(Lights dimmed or blue light +/- busy music during which Casey exits and Mr and Mrs Harcourt enter. Lights up)
Mrs Harcourt: I’m not surprised his cholesterol is up. He spends all day on the couch watching television and eats lots of chips and chocolate. I told him that he needs to exercise but the furthest he goes is to the toilet and back. He doesn’t listen to me at all.
Emma: Let’s check your blood pressure, Morris.
(As Emma is measuring Morris’ BP, Mrs Harcourt stands up and wanders around the room. She picks up a framed photo of Emma and her husband)
Emma: It’s a bit up today, Morris. 160 over 95.
Morris Harcourt: Yours would be up too if you had to live with her nagging, day in day out.
Mrs Harcourt: Don’t be ridiculous, Morris. (to Emma) So are we going to hear the pitter patter of tiny feet soon? You’ve been married what…. 3 years now?
Emma: (brusquely) Four.
Mrs Harcourt: Better get a move on. You don’t want to leave it too late….tick tock…. Of course we don’t want to lose you as our doctor, but you girls nowadays can do it all, can’t you? Motherhood and career. In my day, a woman….
Emma: (with gritted teeth) Thank-you for your opinion. Let’s get back to Morris.
Mrs Harcourt: I’m only trying to help dear. I’m often reading stories about career women putting off having kids and then finding out they can’t when they eventually get around to trying. I don’t want that to happen to you.
Emma: (more firmly) As I said, thanks for your opinion. I’m fully aware of the statistics. I really think we should focus on Morris’ problems right now.
Morris Harcourt: All she does is focus on my problems. It is a rare relief for me when she is bossing around someone else.
Mrs Harcourt: Well if you just looked after yourself better, I wouldn’t have to keep telling you what you should be doing.
Morris Harcourt: I’d be a lot better if you LET me look after myself. A man has his needs.
Mrs Harcourt: What nonsense are you on about now? Not the Viagra thing again. I thought we’d settled that.
Emma: The Viagra thing?
Mrs Harcourt: Morris wants to try Viagra. He thinks it will make him young again in the bedroom. I told him that we are too old for that carry on and anyway, his heart is too weak, isn’t it doctor?
Emma: It’s a difficult topic and I’m glad we’re talking about it. I don’t think there are any physical reasons why Morris can’t try Viagra but there are….
Mrs Harcourt: No physical reasons? Look at him – he’s fat, unfit and old. A walking heart attack. I refuse to have him drop dead when we are in the middle of….
Morris Harcourt: Shut up and let the doctor finish, will you woman!
Emma: As I was saying, there are other factors to consider. I believe that the decision to try Viagra should be a decision for the couple, not just the man. A decision both have to be happy with.
Mrs. Harcourt: That’s easy then. No Viagra.
Morris Harcourt: Thanks a lot, Doc. Whose side are you on anyway?
Emma: Look, I’ll give you some information to take home and read. How about we talk about this again next time?
Mrs. Harcourt: I don’t think there will be much to discuss. I have a vote and I vote no.
Morris Harcourt: Maybe I’ll remove your voting powers by finding someone else… someone who will vote in my best interest.
Mrs. Harcourt: Don’t be ridiculous Morris. Who on earth would want to be saddled with looking after you? Even if there was someone out there, you’re too darn lazy to get off the couch to look for her.
Morris Harcourt: She’s right you know. The sad thing is, she’s absolutely right. See you next time, Doc.
(The Harcourts exit, Emma types furiously on the computer, a few moments later Bridget enters)
Bridget: Michael’s wife still hasn’t arrived. It’s been an hour. Michael wandered out of his consulting room and was found by a patient lying facedown on the bathroom floor. His shirt was unbuttoned and he was muttering paranoid nonsense. He’s back in his room now but I don’t like my chances of keeping him there. Oh, I took a picture of him on the bathroom floor (show’s Emma her mobile phone). That will be one for the Christmas party.
Emma: (picking up phone) I’ll call his wife myself…. Jane, is that you? It’s Emma here, from the surgery. We thought you’d be here by now, to pick up Michael. He’s in pretty bad shape…. yes that was our new receptionist, Bridget…. no, it’s not one of Michael’s pranks…. yes he did ingest marijuana, though not deliberately…. It’s a long story…. Great, thanks, we’ll see you soon.
Bridget: I’ll keep an eye on him until she arrives. Cheer up, you’re nearly there, only 4 more to go for the day. Alison Best is next. She was booked in with Michael but didn’t want to reschedule. She said it was “super urgent”. Oh, I almost forgot. The lab just rang to say they were faxing though important results. Here they are (hands Emma piece of paper) – on Eleanor Best. Michael saw her this morning. That’s Alison’s Mum isn’t it? Do you want me to send Alison in?
Emma: (looking intently at results) Umm…. Yeah sure. Bridget, I need you to ring Eleanor Best immediately and get her to come into the surgery as soon as she can…. This afternoon. If you can’t get hold of her, please let me know.
Bridget: Sure, will do Emma.
(Bridget exits, a few moments later, Alison enters carrying a stack of computer print outs)
Alison: I’ve got a phaeochromocytoma (triumphantly)
Emma: Hello Alison. Take a seat.
Alison: It all fits. I’ve worked it out. Dr. Google is going to put you out of business soon I reckon.
Emma: There’s more to medicine than…
Alison: I typed in all my symptoms and I found the diagnosis. How come I have been to three doctors in the past six months and no one has tested me for a phaeochromo..thingo
Emma: It’s a very rare diagnosis and….
Alison: .Yep, I know it’s rare…. (looks at printouts) 2 in 100,000. I always knew I was special. See, I have all the symptoms. (reading out from printouts) “Elevated heart rate, elevated blood pressure, palpitations, anxiety, diaphoresis” (stumbles over this word)
Alison: Yeah that means getting sweaty, right? (Emma nods) “Headaches, fatigue, pallor” – My Mum says sometimes the colour drains right out of me, “weight loss” – well maybe not weight loss, but that’s only cause I’m on the pill and that makes you gain weight.
Emma: (looking at Alison’s computer records) You mentioned high blood pressure and elevated heart rate. Your blood pressure and pulse have always been normal. We’ve measured them several times.
Alison: That doesn’t mean anything. The blood pressure and pulse can go up and down at various times. It says it right here. (reading from printouts) “The blood pressure elevations can be episodic making it more difficult to detect.” Sometimes my heart beats really fast and I can hear the blood pounding in my ears. That will be when my blood pressure goes up for sure. I’ll explain it to you. There is a release of hormones from….
Emma: I know what a phaeochromocytoma does Alison.
Alison: Then you’ll know how serious it is and why I need to have the special tests for it right away. I could die!
Emma: I don’t think you have phaeochromocytoma Alison.
Alison: You don’t know that for sure, do you?
Emma: No I don’t, but I think it’s highly unlikely.
Alison: It says here that they are often missed. It says (reading from printouts) “It often goes undiagnosed until autopsy; therefore patients might wisely choose to take steps to provide a physician with important clues.” I’ve given you the clues! I need the test, now! I am not going to wait until I’m dead!!
Emma: OK, OK, we’ll do the test. You will need to collect a special bottle from pathology and collect all of your urine in it over a 24 hour period.
Alison: I know all about it. It says right here that…
Emma: I’ll do you the form now (starts writing form) and we’ll see you back for the results in about a week.
Alison: Oh and I’ll need a medical certificate for Centrelink. I can’t be off looking for work while all of this is going on. It’s very stressful you know. And when I get diagnosed I’ll need heaps of time to get the operation and everything. (Emma sighs and starts writing a Centrelink Certificate). If the test is negative, I must have (shuffles through printouts and then starts reading) “postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome”. The symptoms match mine really well. It causes (reads from printouts) “lightheadedness, dizziness, fatigue, headache, nausea, bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, muscle weakness, shortness of breath, chest pain, cold fingers, visual changes”…. I have ALL of these. I will need a tilt table test to confirm it of course.
Emma: Let’s just take it one step at time, shall we? So as I said, results will be back in a week. Perhaps you would like to make an appointment with Dr. Harris. I’m sure he’ll be feeling well again by then and would be happy to help you out. (gives Alison her Centrelink Certificate)
Alison: (Alison looks at her Certificate) FYI, I’ve changed the spelling of my name. By Deed pol. It’s now A, double L, Y, S, U, O, N, Q. The Q is silent. The old way was just too boring.
(Emma modifies the Centrelink Certificate)
Emma: That’s an interesting spelling.
Alison: (proudly) It’s unique. Just like me.
Emma: You certainly are that. Please let Bridget know on the way out and she will update your details on our computer.
Alison: OK then. Thanks for seeing me today. I know you squeezed me in but as you can see, it was pretty urgent.
(Alison exits. Bridget pops her head through the doorway.)
Bridget: Eleanor Best is in the waiting room.
Emma: Geez that was quick.
Bridget: You asked, I delivered…. Service with a smile. As luck would have it, she was just down the road and came straight here.
Emma: Thanks Bridget. Send her in please. Oh, and can you ask Alison to hang around for a little while. Her Mum might appreciate her being there when she comes out..
Bridget: Will do.
(Bridget exits. Eleanor enters.)
Emma: Hi Eleanor, thanks for coming in so quickly
Eleanor: It was quite convenient actually. I had just finished buying a few groceries at the IGA when Bridget rang my mobile. Is this about Alison? What does she think is wrong with her now? That daughter of mine is so self absorbed. Thinks everyone should be at her beck and call. Doesn’t lift a finger around the house. Spends all her time on that damn Internet.
Emma: No this is not about Alison.
Eleanor: So it must be about the referral to my osteopath? Michael said he couldn’t do it. Some guff about Medicare rules but I knew you’d be able to sort it out for me.
Emma: Referral? No this is about the blood tests you had done this morning. Michael was worried and had them sent off urgently.
Eleanor: And you have the results already? That’s really good service.
Emma: Just preliminary results so far but they look really worrying. It’s not good news I’m afraid.
Eleanor: What do they show?
Emma: As I said, we don’t have the full results yet, Eleanor, but we do know that your white cells are extremely high, 140, over ten times what they should be. Most of these are immature and abnormal looking cells. Also, your platelets are dangerously low at 20. This is why you are bruising and bleeding so easily.
Eleanor: So what’s caused this?
Emma: Based on these findings and the fact that your blood count was totally normal 6 weeks ago, it appears you have some kind of acute leukaemia.
Eleanor: Cute leukaemia? Thanks for trying to break the news to me gently, Emma, but I’m not stupid – I know there is no such thing as cute leukaemia – they are all nasty.
Emma: Not cute, Acute. This means it has come on quickly. I’m going to ring Nambour hospital now and try to organise for you to be admitted today.
Eleanor: Nambour hospital? Today? I must be sick if I can get admitted to a public hospital so quickly. I’ve been on a waiting list for a colonoscopy for 2 years! I don’t suppose they can do one for me while I’m in there?
(Lights dimmed or blue light +/- busy music during which Eleanor exits. Lights up to see Emma alone, tapping on her computer. Bridget enters.)
Bridget: Another late finish eh? At least you got to start late today. I’ve been here since 8am. I’m off home now. Just a couple of messages (gets out piece of paper) Annie Smithers has another migraine – wonders if you can do a house call this evening and Comfie Care called to say Mr Denner has a fever and is confused. I’ve switched the after hours phone over to yours. I know it is Michael’s turn to be on call, but I don’t think he is in any fit state. Oh and don’t forget those two hospital admissions – they are waiting on the ward for you. See you tomorrow!
Emma: Goodbye Bridget, see you tomorrow.
(Bridget exits. Emma stares into space for a few seconds then dials a number on the phone.)
Emma: (on phone) Hi Mum…. Yes I’m just finishing up some paperwork and then I have to do two hospital admissions, a house call and see a nursing home patient…. Yes I know it is late…. Yes Mum, I know you worry about me…. It’s been an unusual day, but then every day brings surprises in General Practice…. Yes I had my appointment this morning…. The curette results from the miscarriage were rather unusual…. It’s cancer, Mum, endometrial cancer…. The lining of my uterus…. Rather unusual in my age group…. Please don’t cry Mum…. They’ve found it early, doesn’t look like it’s spread anywhere…. Almost certainly cured by an operation…. A hysterectomy Mum…. They have to take it out…. That’s right, no kids…. No I haven’t told Shaun yet. I’ll have to tell him tonight I know…. He wants kids SO badly Mum…. He’s not interested in adoption or fostering, we’ve been through all that before when we had so much trouble getting pregnant. I’m afraid that…. that…. I’ve got to get going Mum…. I’ll talk to you tomorrow…. Thanks Mum, I love you too.
(Puts phone down. Few seconds of silence then lights down)
End of Act 1.
Act 2: Michael’s consulting room
(Lights up to see Michael on the phone)
Michael: Jane, sweetheart, I’m sorry…. I didn’t mean it my love. Don’t cry. It was a joke. Yes of course you’re still beautiful…. I know it’s hard. It’s hard for both of us…. Yes I know you are the one at home with her all day but it’s not easy for me either – trying to work all day after broken sleep…. I DO wake up when she cries…. There’s no point me getting up too, I haven’t got breasts. You’re the meals on heels…. Aw, lighten up Janey. Meals on heels – it’s pretty funny, you must admit. How about “You’re the fountain for youth”…. Still not laughing? Where has your sense of humour gone?….. We’re both tired, Jane. At least you can nap during the day…. (holds phone away from ear for a second)… No I am not trying to argue with you…. Please stop crying…. It’s normal to feel sad. It’s just your hormones. You’ll cheer up soon…. Your Mum?…. You’ve asked her to stay with us for a whole month? Surely it doesn’t take 3 adults to look after a 4kg baby…. I DO help out when I can…. She’s arriving today?…. So when were you planning to tell me?…. It’s not that I hate your mother, it just works better if we limit our contact…to maybe an hour or two, a couple of times a year. I really don’t think I can cope with her living with us for a month…. I’M welcome to stay elsewhere? Jane, come on, be serious now. You can’t kick me out of my own house…. Oh I see, you’re not kicking me out, I can either choose to stay with you AND your mother, or seek alternative accommodation for the duration of her stay. What kind of a choice is that?…. Don’t cry, sweetheart…. It’ll be OK…. Look I’ve got to go. Emma’s coming in late today. I’m here by myself…. I’ll see you tonight…. Yes I promise…. I’ll be on my best behaviour for your Mum – a model son-in-law. Bye for now. Give Jasmine a kiss from her Dad.
(Opens door and calls patient in)
Michael: Anne, Anne Connor…. come in.
(Anne comes in and sits, slumped and despondent, on the chair)
Michael: Hi Anne, I’m Michael Harris. What can I….
(Interrupted by Anne sobbing loudly)
Michael: What’s the matter exactly?
(Phone rings, Michael answers)
Michael: (a little impatiently) What is it?…. No I don’t think I need to talk to her. Tell her to call back later when Emma gets in.
(hangs up phone)
Michael: Sorry, Anne. So, what’s troubling you?
Michael: Now come on, something is the matter.
Anne: Nothing in particular.
Michael: Then why are you crying?
Anne: I don’t know. It just happens.
Michael: Existential despair? Hormones?
Anne: (shrugs) Both? I’m not sure.
Michael: So, you’re feeling sad in general. Do you want to talk about it?
Michael: (relieved) Good, I mean, that’s fine. Perhaps you would like to….
Anne: I hate my life. I shouldn’t hate it…. I have two healthy kids, a loving husband, a comfortable home, no money worries…. Everything a girl is supposed to want out of life. But I’m miserable. I wake up each morning with a sinking feeling.
Last weekend we were down atNoosaRiverwatching the sun set. It was really beautiful and should have been peaceful and relaxing but all I could think was “Thank God another day has finished,” a thought closely followed by “but the bloody sun is going to rise tomorrow morning and I will have to go through the motions again…. and again…. and again.” I wanted to scream, “Stop world, I want to get off!”
My husband said I am feeling low because I must be bored being at home with the kids all day. He suggested that I might want to look for some part time work. I can’t think of anything worse. There is no WAY I would have the energy to have a job AND be a mum. I can barely cope with what I have to do now.
Michael: Excuse me for a moment, Anne.
(Michael answers phone)
Michael: (more impatiently) Yes Bridget, what it is now?…. no…. yes…. sure.
(hangs up phone)
Anne: I hit a really low point yesterday. I told my 3 year old daughter the Wiggles were dead. You see, she keeps begging to watch her Wiggles’ DVDs over and over and over. They drive me crazy with their stupid grins, annoying songs and silly coloured shirts…. always so bloody cheerful and moralising. I tried hiding the DVD but that didn’t work so I told her that they died in a car accident. I made up some story about how they were driving in their big red car, you know, like the song (hums a couple of bars of the Wiggles “Big Red Car” song) and that they were hit by an even bigger red truck and all killed. I didn’t really think it through, I admit. I expect she’ll either find they haven’t died and/or work out that even if they are dead, she can still see them on DVD. I feel terrible about it but I bought myself a little Wiggles-free time at least.
Michael: So you DID want to talk about it. Look I have to ask, are you suicidal?
Michael: I’m so sorry about this, Anne.
( Michael answers phone)
Michael: (very impatiently) Yes?…. Have you looked in the second drawer…. I can’t sort it out now. Look I’m really busy here at the moment Bridget. I’m the only doctor on and I’ll never get through all the patients you have booked in for me if you keep interrupting.
(hangs up phone. Michael looks distracted)
Anne: I have thought of it now and then.
Michael: (distracted) That’s good…. (Anne looks shocked, Michael notices)…. Sorry, what were saying? Thought of what now and then?
Michael: But do you think you are at risk of actually doing it? Have you got a plan?
Anne: Nah, I wouldn’t actually do it. I couldn’t do that to my kids. I couldn’t bear to harm them in any way.
Michael: (with great relief) That’s great. I’m really pleased to hear that.
I see here (looking at computer) that you are on antidepressant tablets…. Wow, that’s a high dose. Look, counselling isn’t my thing. We all have things we are good at. For example, I’m good at cycling and running but rubbish at swimming. So I do better at triathlon if I team up with a good swimmer. Play as a team, win as a team. No one is good at everything. Do you know what I mean?
Anne: (looking confused) Not a clue.
Michael: Well you see although we’re both GPs, Dr. Roberts and I have different areas of expertise. I’m really good at removing skin lesions from people’s faces for example and Dr. Roberts is really good at the psychological and women’s stuff – the tears and smears. Do you follow?
Anne: Sort of.
Michael: So I think it’s best if you come back later this week and see Emma, Dr. Roberts. She’s much better than me at this counselling stuff.
Anne: But she’s so hard to get in to see.
Michael: Yeah, that’s the problem when you are so good at your job and all your patients like you so much…. (realises what he is inferring) Not that patients don’t like me. I just try to cure them so they don’t need to keep coming back. Not a good business strategy really (laughs). Not that Dr. Roberts doesn’t try to cure people…. she does. She just seems to have a lot of the incurables…. (Anne starts crying again) No, not you. I’m sure you’re going to be just fine. Look, go out to reception and get Bridget to make you an appointment with Dr. Roberts.
( Anne exits. Michael goes to his doorway)
Michael: Patient A please? (insert appropriate name depending on age and gender of actor playing patient A)
(After calling patient A, notices a note stuck to the door or doorframe and takes it down and reads it. Patient A enters – red nose and carrying tissues)
Michael: Please excuse me I have to make a quick call.
Patient A: No worries.
Michael: (dials phone) Hello this is Michael Harris from Hillview General Practice and you are?.… Merv’s neighbour eh?…. They’ve just gone to hospital by ambulance?…. Indigestion they reckon? No worries. Please tell Mrs. Briggs that I called when you next see her. (puts phone down) Sorry about that. Now what I can I do for you today?
Patient A: I’ve got a runny nose and sort throat. I know antibiotics are no good. I just need a medical certificate for work.
Michael: Thank goodness.
(Patient A looks puzzled and suspicious)
Michael: Thank goodness it isn’t serious. So no high fevers? (patient shakes his head) No stiff neck? (patient shakes his head) No vomiting, diarrhoea or rash? (patient shakes his head). Great. (Scribbles on pad) Here’s your certificate. I’ve given you three days off. Come back and see me if you are still sick then. In the meantime – rest, fluids, Panadol…. you know the drill.
Patient A: That’s all then?
Michael: Yep, you’re done. Go home to bed and take it easy.
(Patient A exits, Michael goes to doorway)
Michael: Mrs Eleanor Best?
(Michael enters with Mrs. Best)
Eleanor: Hi, I’m Eleanor. Thanks for squeezing me in. I won’t take up much of your time. I just need a referral.
Michael: Sure Eleanor. Who do need me to refer you to?
Eleanor: My osteopath. He told me that if I get a special referral from a GP, Medicare will pay most of the cost of my visits. My back goes out regularly and the osteopath helps fix it for me. It gets very expensive.
Michael: Eleanor, what you asking for is not a simple referral. What your osteopath was referring to was a program called “enhanced primary care” or EPC. To be eligible for this program you need to have a chronic disease which requires complex care needs. Like diabetes for instance. Having a sore back now and then does not qualify.
Eleanor: It’s more than just a sore back. The osteopath said that my X-ray was abnormal.
Michael: Yes I have the X-ray report here. I think those abnormal findings to which he was referring were red herrings.
Eleanor: (concerned) Red herrings – are they serious?
Michael: No, no. Red herrings…. Findings that are incidental, irrelevant. .There is nothing on the X-ray that demonstrates a cause for your backache. I’m sorry but you simply don’t qualify for the EPC program. You don’t have a chronic complex disease.
Eleanor: But I have lots of health problems. I have to come to the doctor all the time.
Michael: Be that as it may, coming often does not make you eligible. It’s not like a frequent flyer program – there are no loyalty points given for just turning up.
Eleanor: But I HAVE got a proper disease; diagnosed by the specialist I saw last year.
Michael: (Looking at computer). What disease is that?
Eleanor: Hypo-connor-diss (stumbles over word)…. Something like that.
Michael: Ah, yes I’ve found the specialist’s letter. He thought you had hypochondriasis.
Eleanor: Yeah, yeah, that’s it. He didn’t really explain what it was though.
Michael: It means he thought you were a hypochondriac.
Eleanor: Which is what exactly?
Michael: It means…. How can I put this delicately?…. It means that he thinks that your problems are all in your head.
Eleanor: Well I do get lots of headaches but I think there is much more to my health problems than that. So this hypo-connor-diss disease doesn’t count for the EP thingo?
Michael: No it doesn’t.
Eleanor: Even though it was diagnosed by a specialist, not JUST a GP?
Michael: (grits teeth) I’m afraid not.
Eleanor: So I can’t get a referral for cheap osteopath visits?
Michael: No I’m sorry Eleanor. Medicare’s rules are very specific. You’re just not sick enough – which is a good thing!
Eleanor: OK, fair enough. It’s not your fault that Medicare has stupid rules. Can you have a quick look at my rash while I’m here?
Michael: Well this was supposed to be a brief fit-in appointment for a referral, but OK, let’s have a quick look.
Eleanor: (pulls up her trouser leg to reveal lots of little red dots) It’s been there for a week. Not itchy or painful but it is spreading.
Michael: Wow, that’s a very interesting rash. Have you had any other new symptoms recently Eleanor?
Eleanor: Well I have got quite a lot of bruises at the moment but I don’t remember bumping myself. I had a nosebleed yesterday which is unusual – I don’t think I’ve had one of those since I was a kid. Oh, and my gums have been bleeding a bit when I’ve brushed my teeth in the past few days.
Michael: Eleanor, this could be very serious. Why didn’t you tell me all this earlier?
Eleanor: You didn’t ask. I’m always telling doctors things that are wrong with me and no one ever seems to pay much notice.
Michael: Well, I’d like to take some urgent blood tests now. Is that OK with you?
Eleanor: Sure, that’s fine. I had blood tests about 6 weeks ago and they were normal, as usual, but I don’t mind doing more if you think we should.
Michael: I do. I’ll just go and get the blood collection equipment now. Back in a sec
(Michael exits. Lights dimmed or blue light +/- busy music. Lights up. Michael standing at the doorway, holding mug and remnants of cake and ushering Marg into his room)
Michael: Excuse the mess, I’ve been eating on the run. (puts mug and cake on the back corner of his desktop). Now what can I do for you today Marg?
Marg: I’m here for a repeat script of my contraceptive pill. Oh and I think I am due for my PAP smear. Can you check? I hate the darn things. At least it is only once every two years.
Michael: Spare a thought for Mrs. Papanikolaou.
Marg: Mrs. Who?
Michael: Mrs. Papanikolaou – the wife of the inventor of the PAP smear, Dr. Georgios Papanikolaou. He used her as a guinea pig to perfect the technique. He reportedly did over 300 PAP smears on her in under a year.
Marg: Oh my God, that’s terrible! Surely that is above and beyond anyone’s definition of reasonable wifely duties.
Michael: I reckon. Marg, you are a couple of months overdue for your smear. We could do it today but I think you would be far more comfortable getting it done with a female doctor.
Marg: I don’t mind who does it. I’m here now, may as well get it over with. (starts unzipping or undoing buttons)
Michael: Just hang off the undressing for a second. You see, I’m not very experienced at doing PAP smears, unlike Dr Papanikolaou. I would hate to make it any more unpleasant than it needs to be.
Marg: OK, sure. I’ll rebook with Dr. Roberts. (re-zips / re-buttons)
Michael: (Writes/prints script) Here’s your script. See you next time. Well not next time, because you will come back and get your PAP done with Dr. Roberts, but sometime after that perhaps?
Marg: We’ll see.
(Michael ushers out Marg)
Michael: (In doorway) Beryl Jones.
(Beryl is old, crippled and short of breath. Uses walking frame or wheelie walker. Takes a long time to walk across stage to reach the chair.)
Michael: So how have things been going Beryl?
Beryl: I don’t like to complain doctor, but I’ve had enough. My body constantly aches all over. It hurts so bad that sometimes I cannot even crawl out of bed. Those painkillers you gave me make me dopey and constipated, and don’t even fix the pain. My heart is failing, I can barely catch my breath, my eyesight is going and I can’t hear the radio properly anymore. Yesterday I had to get my two darling cats put down because I can’t look after them anymore and no one wanted to give them a new home.
Michael: (with empathy) That must have been a really difficult decision. Sounds like you did what you thought was the most humane to do.
Beryl: It all seems wrong. They were not that old and they were healthy but the vet could just put them to sleep on my request. Why can’t someone put me to sleep for humane reasons? I’m 84 years old and I’m ready to die. I’m not depressed or crazy…. I just want to be at peace at last. Can you help me?
Michael: I can’t help you end your life Beryl. It is against the law.
Beryl: Why does our society treat our pets with more dignity than our fellow humans? It’s just not fair.
Michael: (with empathy) You’re right, Beryl. It’s not fair. I’m so sorry.
(Lights dimmed or blue light +/- busy music during which Beryl exits and Frank enters. Lights up. Michael is giggly and mildly intoxicated)
Frank: While I am here, I was wondering if you could examine my prostate. My Dad died of prostate cancer and I have been advised to get the blood test and examination every year. I get my blood test done religiously but I’m little less diligent with the examination. It’s just so embarrassing.
Michael: For you AND me mate, for you AND me. Especially so soon after eating rich, moist chocolate cake.
Michael: I chose the unhealthy lunch option today Frank. Home made chocolate cake…. death by chocolate. I can still taste it on my fingers (starts licking) Mmmm….
Frank: So my prostate exam?
Michael: (Leaning towards Frank) Let me share something with you buddy. See these fingers (holds up hand). Stubby…. Terrible for feeling prostates. Short – so they have trouble reaching to the top of the gland. Fat – so they hurt like buggery going in. (fits of giggles) Sorry…. Terrible pun, terrible pun.
Frank: Are you alright?
Michael: Never better my friend, never better. Now, the beautiful doctor Emma Roberts has been blessed with lovely long slender fingers. Wonderful for playing piano and marvellous for feeling prostates. My considered medical advice is – go and ask Dr. Emma to stick her finger up your bum. (fit of giggles)
Frank: (looking very concerned) Whatever you say, Doctor. Goodbye now. (exits room quickly)
(Michael walks around his room behaving strangely for a short time, then goes over to the left over cake on his desk, picks it up and looks hard at it then sniffs it, puts it back down and then exits. Lights dimmed or blue light +/- busy music. Lights up to find Michael with his shirt off or open, dishevelled, curled up in the foetal position – rocking and muttering. Jane enters with the pram)
Jane: What the hell have you done now?
Michael: Janey…. Sweetheart… Thank God you’re here! I’ve been poisoned. I feel terrible. Take me home my darling; rescue me from this hellhole.
Jane: I can’t take you home in this state. Mum has only just arrived. What on earth will she think?
Michael: You’re right. I’ve been poisoned by one spiteful old hag today and I can’t possibly face another. Let’s escape in this magic pram then my princess, away from those who wish to harm us. I’ll travel to the ends of the earth with you! We will be free! (grabs her and starts trying to waltz)
Jane: I can’t handle this right now Michael. It’s just one thing after another at the moment. I’m going to drop you at Kevin’s and let him sort you out. I’ll tell my mother….Oh I don’t know…. Something. This is just too much Michael. I feel so humiliated. You’d better behave yourself in front of the patients and staff as we walk out or else I’ll…. I’ll…. Oh c’mon…. Let’s go…. NOW!
(Jane and Michael exit)
End of Act 2.
Act 3: Reception
(Phone is ringing as Bridget arrives at work and continues ringing as she juggles the calls)
Bridget: (on phone) Good morning, Hillview General Practice, could I put you on hold for a moment please?
Bridget: (on phone) Good morning, Hillview General Practice, could I put you on hold for a moment please?
Bridget: (on phone) Good morning, Hillview General Practice, Bridget speaking…. You’re a nurse at Tewantin Gardens nursing home?…. I’m not sure why Dr. Roberts is not answering her mobile. She’s starting late today. I’ll let her know you called when she get in.
(Alison Best enters at some point during these phone calls and stands impatiently at the counter)
Bridget: (on phone) Good morning, Hillview General Practice, could I put you on hold for a moment please?
Bridget: (on phone) Sorry to keep you waiting, Bridget speaking, how can I help you?…. (checking computer)_ Yes, Dr. Harris has a free appointment at 11:30am…. good, we’ll see you then. (enters into computer).
Bridget: (on phone) Sorry to keep you waiting. Bridget speaking, how can I help you?…. From which drug company did you say?…. (checking computer) Yes, we have you booked in for a lunchtime visit today…. You’re not able to come?…. I’ll tell the doctors. (making note on notepad) Thanks for letting us know.
(During this phone call Michael walks in, looking distracted. Bridget waves, Michael does not see her and doesn’t respond. He walks into his consulting room)
Bridget: (on phone) Sorry to keep you waiting, Bridget speaking, how can I help you?…. Hello?…. Anyone there?
Bridget: (to Alison) Can I help you?
Alison: I need to see a doctor as soon as possible.
Bridget: We’re pretty heavily booked. Does it need to be today?
Alison: Most definitely. I may have a life threatening disease.
Bridget: Why do you think that?
Alison: I read all about it on the Internet. I need to organise urgent testing.
Bridget: (sceptically) Mmmm…. (checks computer/appt book) Well I can fit you in with Dr. Harris at 10:45.
Alison: I’d prefer to see Dr. Emma. (phone rings)
Bridget: Excuse me for a moment. (on phone) Good morning, Hillview General Practice, Bridget speaking…. Oh Hi Lorraine…. You can’t make it in today?…. Sounds nasty, but how am I going to run the front desk all by myself? I’m still trying to work out how this place runs and I get very confused about some of the billing…. OK, I’ll give it my best shot. (phone rings) There is another call, I’d better go.
Bridget: (on phone) Good morning, Hillview General Practice, Bridget speaking…. Oh hello Roger. I’m sorry, Dr. Roberts has no available appointments today. She is booked up until next Tuesday…. Oh dear that sounds painful. Yes, I can fit you in with Dr. Harris today at 1:30. See you then. (hangs up phone and enters into appt book/computer)
Bridget: (To Alison) I’m sorry but there are no available appointments with Dr. Roberts today. If you want to be seen today it will have to be Dr. Harris.
Alison: That’s OK, but I can’t do 10:45. I have a leg wax booked. Anything earlier – like in the next hour?
Bridget: Nothing earlier. How about 1:45?
Alison: Can’t do 1:45 either. I’m going to lunch with my friend.
Bridget: (getting increasingly annoyed) How about 3:30?
Alison: I suppose I can wait until then. You absolutely sure I can’t see a doctor now – it will only be quick.
Bridget: No chance. Your name?
Alison: Alison, Alison Best.
Bridget: We’ll see you at 3:30pm Alison.
Alison: Thanks. See ya later.
(Alison exits. Bridget looks around the office to ensure it is empty then picks up the phone and dials)
Bridget: Paul, it’s me, Bridget. I need to talk to you. (phone starts ringing) Could you give me a call back when you get this message? Thanks. I love you.
Bridget: Good morning, Hillview General Practice, Bridget speaking…. Dr. Roberts is not here at the moment…. One hospital admission today, I’ll tell her when she gets in…. Thank-you. (makes note)
(during this phone call, Anne walks in and up to the front counter)
Bridget: (looking up) Anne Connor is it? (Anne nods) Please sit down; Dr. Harris will be in with you soon. (phone rings)
Bridget: Good morning, Hillview General Practice, Bridget speaking…. Let me have a look at the appointment book…. (starts looking)
Michael: Anne, Anne Connor…. Come in.
(Anne gets up and goes into Michael’s room)
Bridget: (while Anne is walking) Yes, there is an appointment tomorrow morning with Dr Harris…. 10am OK?…. What name was that? (phone rings again as soon as receiver is placed)
Bridget: (on phone while trying to scribble appt) Good morning, Hillview General Practice, Bridget speaking…. She is not expected in until about 10:30. I intend to give her the message when she comes in…. Yes, Dr. Michael Harris is here at the moment…. OK, I’ll ask him. I’ll just put you on hold for a moment.
(patient A and OW (older woman) enter the waiting room at while Bridget is on the phone. Bridget acknowledges them with a nod / hand gesture)
Bridget: (buzzes through to Michael) I’m sorry to bother you, Michael but the nurse from Tewantin Gardens is on the line. This is the second time she has rung this morning. She seems worried about one of Emma’s patients, Les Jones, who has an infected ulcer on his leg. Would you like to speak to her about it?…. OK,. I’ll do that…. (switches phone back to the outside line) Hello Joan, I’ve spoken to Dr. Harris. He is tied up at the moment and not able to take your call. He suggested that you call back and talk to Dr. Roberts when she comes in…. Yes I understand that you are worried about Les…. I’m sorry, I did my best…. Yes I will talk to her as soon as she comes in…. Goodbye. (hangs up phone; makes note on notepad)
(during the above, Calista enters and goes to reception desk and Eleanor enters the waiting room and sits down)
Calista: Hi, I’ve just come in to pick up a referral letter to Dr. Woolsey. Dr Harris said he would leave it at the front counter for me.
Bridget: And your name is?
Calista: Calista…. Calista Fleming.
Bridget: (rummages around quickly) I can’t see it. Take a seat and I’ll take a good look for you.
(Calista goes and sits down next to OW)
OW: So you are going to see Dr Woolsey eh?
Calista: (picks up magazine) Hmmm. (turns away from OW)
OW: (looks Calista up and down). Boob job?
Calista: Excuse me!!!
OW: Nothing to be embarrassed about dearie. I can see why you would want to get a little…. ahem…. assistance.
(Calista pulls her jacket tightly around her.)
OW: I saw him once to discuss surgery. Of course, I had the opposite problem…. too much material. I wanted them cut down to a decent size. I was told that Dr. Woolsey was the one to see – the top breast surgeon on theSunshineCoast.
Calista: And did you have the surgery?
OW: Oh I had the surgery alright but Dr. Woolsey didn’t do it.
Calista: Why not?
OW: I didn’t like the look of him.
Calista: The look of him? Surely appearance is not a good thing to base your choice of surgeon on? If he is good at his job, who cares what he looks like?
OW: He looked like he was barely out of high school. Perhaps he was some brilliant Doogie Houser type of doctor, but I did not want to put my bosom’s future in someone younger than my son! I wanted a surgeon who didn’t have to pay an age excess on his car insurance.
(Phone rings and action shifts back to reception desk. Calista and OW continue to talk animatedly but silently – mime)
Bridget: (on phone) Good morning, Hillview General Practice, Bridget speaking…. He asked you to phone in?…. He’s pretty busy at the moment, do you think you could call back later?…. OK, I’ll buzz through and ask him. I’ll just put you on hold (buzzes through to Michael) I’m sorry to bother you again Michael…. Mrs. Butters has rung in for her results. She said that you would talk to her about them over the phone. Would you like to talk to her now about them?…. Shall I get her to make an appointment?…. Thanks. (switches phone back to the outside line) Mrs. Butters? I talked to Dr. Harris, he is not able to speak to you at the moment. He asked me to ask you to make an appointment…. No I don’t think that means that there is something terrible in your results…. No I can’t look at them myself I haven’t got access and I wouldn’t know how to interpret them…. No I can’t say for sure that the results are OK, I’m just saying that Michael is too busy to talk about them now…. Yes I understand it would only take a few seconds to say “They’re normal” and put your mind at ease…. No I really can’t interrupt him again about them…. The best I can do is organise an appointment later today for you to discuss them face to face…. I know it is quite a drive for you…. OK I’ll talk to him again when he is not so busy and call you back later. Goodbye for now. (Hangs up phone while making note and action shifts back to OW and Calista. Bridget starts searching for Calista’s referral letter)
Calista: Oh my God, really?
OW: So that’s why you should try Dr. Perkins. As I said, he did mine and as you can see, (juts her chest out proudly) he did a top job.
Bridget: Sorry to interrupt again Michael but Calista Fleming has come in to pick up the referral letter to Dr. Woolsey and I can’t seem to find it anywhere…. I have looked there…
(Calista walks up to the desk and tries to attract Bridget’s attention)
Bridget: Just hang on for a moment Michael.
Calista: I think I would like to go to someone else.
Bridget: Michael, Calista has changed her mind about the referral. Wants to go to someone different…. Yes of course, I’m sorry Michael. (hangs up phone, looks annoyed at Calista) You’ll need to make an appointment to discuss it…. How about tomorrow at 3?
Calista: That’s fine. I’ll come back then.
(Calista exits. Bridget hurriedly notes Calista’s appt and then dials a phone number)
Bridget: (on phone, turning her back to patients in room and whispering loudly) Paul, it’s me again. Why aren’t you answering your phone? I really need to talk to you. .(Patient C walks up to the desk, Bridget goes back into secretarial mode) Could you please ring the surgery at your first possible convenience as the matter is quite urgent. Thank you. (hangs up phone). Good morning, how can I help you?
Patient C: I’m here to see the doctor. Patient C. (insert appropriate name depending on age and gender of actor playing patient C)
Bridget: Thank you (Patient C), please take a seat. Dr. Harris will be with you as soon as he can.
Bridget: Good morning, Hillview General Practice, Bridget speaking…. Merv Briggs?…. Chest pain?…. I’m sorry, Dr. Roberts is not here at present…. (looks anxiously at Michael’s consulting room door, deliberating)…. Dr. Michael Harris is on but he’s not taking phone calls…. I’m sorry, I can’t interrupt him…. I will get him to call back as soon as he can. Your number is?…. I’ll give him the message. (hangs up phone)
(Bridget writes message on post it note and sticks it on Michael’s door or doorframe.).
(Lights dimmed or blue light +/- busy music. Patients in waiting room exit. Lights up – two different patients in the waiting room plus Mr Black)
Bridget: (on phone) No, I can’t book in your car for a service. I think you have the wrong number, this is a doctor’s surgery, not an automechanic’s…. (laughs) Yes I can book YOU in for a check up…. 50000km is it? Not sure about the grease and oil change though…. No worries. Goodbye. (hangs up phone)
(Bridget looks around – waiting room is quiet, no one looking at her. She then dials a phone number)
Bridget: (on phone, whispering loudly) It’s Bridget. Don’t ignore me sweetheart. Please please call me back. (hangs up phone)
(Looks at Michael’s door then picks up phone and buzzes through to Michael)
Bridget: (on phone) I’m sorry to bother you Michael. I just wanted to check that you got my note about Mr. Briggs having chest pain…. You have rung, great…. WHAT! …. Of course I should have…. Oh I’m SO sorry! (hangs up phone. Bridget looks very upset and worried)
(Mr Black who has been sitting in the waiting room and looking at his watch impatiently, approaches the desk. Bridget answers Mr Black’s questions distractedly, obviously preoccupied)
Mr Black: Has Dr. Roberts arrived yet?
Bridget: No, not yet.
Mr Black: Why not?
Bridget: I have no idea.
Mr Black: She is very late. My appointment was for 10:30am.
Bridget: Yes it was.
Mr Black: (looking at his watch) It is now 11:13.
Bridget: Yes it is.
Mr Black: How much longer will I have to wait?
Bridget: I have no idea.
Mr Black: Could you give her a call and find out where she is?
Bridget: I suppose so. (makes no move to pick up phone)
Mr Black: Well are you going to?
Bridget: Going to what?…. Oh here she is….
Mr Black: About time!
(Emma walks in hurriedly carrying a bag, nods or waves to Bridget and goes into her consulting room. Bridget follows her)
(Lights dimmed or blue light +/- busy music, lights up. Dennis and his wife Carol, Mrs Ryan, Jessica and two other patients in waiting room. Bridget behind desk. Mr Black walks out of Emma’s room and to the front counter. Emma appears in her doorway after a couple of seconds.)
Emma: Jessica Delaney?
(Jessica follows Emma into her room)
Bridget: How would you like to pay for today’s appointment Mr. Black?
Mr Black: I always pay by credit card. (hands over card). Is that not written in my file? Are you new here?
Bridget: I’ve been here a week. So it was a long consult today?
Mr Black: It most certainly was not.
Bridget: You seemed to be in there for quite a while.
Mr Black: We only spent 19 minutes and 10 seconds discussing medical matters. It was a standard length consult, as confirmed by Dr. Roberts.
Bridget: (looking at the computer screen) Ah yes, the item number has come though now. Item 23, a standard consult. That’ll be $55 please. You will get $33.55 back on Medicare.
Mr Black: Yes, yes, I know all that. This is not my first visit to the surgery.
Bridget: Would you like to make another appointment with Dr. Roberts?
Mr Black: Next Monday morning, as early as possible please. Far less chance of her running late if my appointment is first thing.
Bridget: How does 8am suit you?
Mr Black: It will be fine. Thank-you.
Bridget: We’ll see you then. (typing in details of new appointment into computer)
(Mr. Black exits. Mrs. Ryan who has been sitting in the waiting room, goes to the front counter)
Mrs Ryan: Am I the next to be seen?
Bridget: I’m sorry…. You are?
Mrs Ryan: Deidre Ryan; I have an appointment with Dr. Roberts.
Bridget: No Deidre, there are one or two before you.
Mrs Ryan: MRS Ryan to you young lady. Didn’t your mother tell you to always address your elders by their surnames unless invited to do otherwise?
Bridget: I’m sorry Mrs. Ryan.
Mrs Ryan: Just remember to be respectful and it will stand you in good stead always.
Bridget: I’ll try to do so Mrs. Ryan.
Mrs Ryan: Good. So Dr. Roberts is running late again today?
Bridget: She is running a little late, but I’m sure she will be with you as soon as she can.
Mrs Ryan: Mmm…
(Mrs. Ryan sits back down. Phone rings. Bridget answers)
Bridget: Good afternoon, Hillview General Practice, Bridget speaking…. Yes I can do that for you…. How about 4:30 tomorrow?…. (continues speaking but silently as attention shifts to waiting room entrance where a mother is standing, looking off stage)
Mother: (sing-song cheery voice getting increasingly frustrated) Now come on sweetheart, you can’t sit outside all by yourself. We need to go in and see the doctor…. I know you don’t like needles but you’re a big boy now and big boys have to be brave and get their needles…. Because otherwise you can’t go to school next year…. Yes you do want to go to school, and Mummy really wants you to go to school too…. I’m sure Michael will give you a sticker….
Mrs Ryan: (to patient sitting near her) Referring to the doctor as Michael instead of Dr. Harris when talking to your child! Unbelievable. No wonder kids are so disobedient and disrespectful nowadays.
Mother: You do like stickers…. And I will buy you an ice cream from the shop…. Yes, any one you want…. And a McHappy meal?…. OK, an ice cream and a trip to McDonalds…. No, you can’t get a puppy as well. You’re having an immunisation, not donating a kidney…. Well come on then…. Seamus, I’m going to count to three and if you are not through this door I am going to get very angry…. 1…. 2…. 3…. Seamus! Come here at once…. Don’t you dare run away from me…. (under her breath) The little shit…. (yelling) Seamus, Seamus! (storms out of the surgery)
Mrs Ryan: (to Dennis’ wife, Carol, who is sitting near her) Mark my words. That kid will be labelled with ADHD within two years and then drugged out of his head with Ritalin. All that bribing and giving kids choices…. it’s ruining our youth.
Carol: I have to agree, Deidre. The trouble is, by and large the wrong people are the ones having most of the kids. There seems to be an inverse relationship between IQ and family size. Darwinism in reverse. Survival of the dumbest. Someone should put a little chlorine in the gene pool. Speaking of which….
(Jessica comes out of Emma’s room and goes to the reception desk. Emma appears in the doorway)
Carol: Hello Jessica dear. How are you? Your mother told me the exciting news of your pregnancy.
Emma: Dennis Langford?
(Emma and Dennis enter Emma’s room)
Jessica: (turning to Carol) Oh Hi Carol.
Mrs Ryan: (mutters) Carol! Do any of today’s youth address their elders appropriately?
Jessica: Yeah, it’s like so great. I can’t believe I’m going to like be a Mum in a few months.
Mrs Ryan: (mutters) Heaven help us.
Carol: Yes we are all surprised by your exciting news.
Jessica: Did you know you get like $5000 JUST to have a baby? $5000 for free! Why WOULDN’T anyone do it?
Carol: Indeed. Peter Costello has a lot to answer for.
Jessica: Who? My boyfriend’s name is Damon. Why do people always like question who my baby’s father is? I’ve been faithful to Damon for like 6 months! And I’ve never slept with anyone called Peter Costello.
Mrs Ryan: (mutters) It’s even worse than I thought.
Jessica: (to Mrs Ryan) What’s your problem, old lady?
Bridget: Please sign here Jessica. (hands her a bulk bill form)
(Mrs Ryan goes to stand up but Carol gently restrains her)
Carol: There’s no point, Deidre. Trust me.
Bridget: Do you want to make another appointment now?
Jessica: Nah, I’m planning to go toBali soon so I’ll like wait until that’s sorted.
Bridget: OK. Jessica. See you next time.
Carol: Goodbye Jessica. Say hello to your Mum for me.
Jessica: Yeah, sure, no worries.
(Jessica turns to leave and bumps into Dorothy Smith – a sweet-looking grandmother type – who is walking in carrying a chocolate cake, nearly sending her flying)
Jessica: (angrily) Hey, watch where we’re you’re going. You could have hurt my baby…. I’m pregnant you know (puts hand on abdomen)
Dorothy: Oh I’m sorry. I didn’t see you there.
Jessica: (angrily) Maybe you should get your eyesight tested.
(Jessica exits. Mrs Ryan and Carol continue to talk and gesture animatedly but silently – mime. Dorothy looks confused and shocked for a moment then recovers and walks to reception desk)
Dorothy: Hello, my dear. I’m Dorothy Smith. I haven’t seen you here before. Are you new?
Bridget: Yes I only started a week ago. I’m Bridget. Have you got an appointment Mrs. Smith? I don’t see your name here anywhere.
Dorothy: No no dear, this is purely a social call. I just came in to drop off this cake for Dr. Harris. Such a lovely boy. So understanding and kind.
Bridget: (sceptical) Dr. Harris? Dr Michael Harris?
Dorothy: Yes, Dr. Michael. He looks after me so well. I brought in this cake as a token of my appreciation.
(Bridget takes cake)
Bridget: Well thank-you Mrs. Smith. I’ll see that Dr. Harris gets it.
Dorothy: Make sure you tell him that it is my very special recipe (winks) and I’ve made it in chocolate especially for him.
Bridget: (oblivious to the significance) No worries, will do. Thanks again.
(Dorothy exits. Dennis comes out of Emma’s room, leaving door ajar and goes to reception desk where he is joined by his wife. )
Bridget: Finished for today then? (Dennis nods). I’ll just get the voucher ready for you to sign.
(Michael comes out of his room carrying a mug and knocks on ajar door then enters Emma’s room.)
Bridget: Would you like to make another appointment?
Dennis: Yes please, same time next week if possible.
Bridget: (looking at computer) You’ve been coming in a lot recently haven’t you? You must really like it here. Or maybe you just really like our Dr. Roberts?
(Carol leans forward to say something but Dennis gestures for her not to. Beryl enters with her wheelie walker and very slowly and painfully walks towards the reception desk)
Dennis: The truth is Bridget, Bridget’s your name isn’t it? (Bridget nods), I would rather end my days on a deserted tropical island, drinking beer and fishing, but my body has other ideas…. Too much pain.
Bridget: End your days?
Dennis: Yep, cancer, the big C. It’s into my bones and liver now. Nothing they can do now except drug me up to try to keep the pain levels down. Hence being a regular here.
Bridget: Oh I’m so sorry. I didn’t know, I would never have said….
Dennis: It’s fine Bridget. Seriously. Don’t worry about it.
Bridget: Thank-you. (noting appointment) We’ll see you next week then…. (to Beryl who is about half way to the desk) Take a seat dear, Dr. Harris will be with you soon.
(Dennis and Carol exit. Carol waves goodbye to Mrs. Ryan. Bridget picks up the cake and knocks on Emma’s door)
Emma: (offstage) Come in.
(Bridget goes into Emma’s room. Marg Anderson enters and goes to desk)
Mrs Ryan: You may as well sit down dear. They’re all off having a break and eating chocolate cake. No consideration for us poor sick patients – sitting and suffering quietly in this germ filled environment. I know it’s been said before, but no wonder they call us patients. You certainly need a lot of patience.
Marg: I think it’s all in the way you approach it. You know that you’re going to have to wait – that is unless YOU happen to arrive late and then it will be the one day the doctor will be running on time. I try to approach the waits in a Zen-like fashion. Long waits are to doctors’ surgeries like fees are to banking…. They just are. You can rant and rave all you like but it does you no good. Best to accept it as one of life’s inevitables and bring a good book because the magazines here are terrible!
Mrs Ryan: I suppose you have a point.
(Bridget comes out of Emma’s room. She sees Marg and busies herself behind the front counter, trying to avoid being noticed)
Marg: The thing I get annoyed about though is the “running a little bit late” conspiracy.
Mrs Ryan: (intrigued and excited) A conspiracy?
Marg: Yes, the way the receptionist says “The doctor is running a little bit behind” when they really mean “You’ll be waiting for over an hour”.
Mrs Ryan: (excitedly) Yes, yes that’s exactly what that new young receptionist told me today. I’ve been waiting for 45 minutes.
Marg: We are treated like small children on a long car journey who keep asking “Are we there yet?” and get a “We will be there soon” or “Won’t be long now sweetheart” reply. I would much rather be told the cold, ugly truth at the onset.
Mrs Ryan: (excitedly) Oh, me too, me too.
(Michael walks out of Emma’s room with coffee cup and half eaten cake).
Michael: Now who’s the next cab off the rank Bridgy?
(Marg notices Bridget for the first time and looks at her with a “where do I know you from” expression).
Bridget: Please don’t call me Bridgy. It’s Bridget.
Michael: No need to get all upset. It was a term of endearment. I didn’t mean to offend.
Bridget: OK then. Your next patient is Marg Anderson.
Michael: Marg Anderson, please come in.
Marg: (to Mrs. Ryan) Seems like the waiting room Gods are smiling on me today.
(Michael and Marg enter Michael’s consulting room)
Bridget: (dials phone immediately, speaks in exaggerated whisper) Paul, your wife is in with the doctor at the moment. If I don’t hear from you I might have to ask her where you are. Please call me, Paul.
(Emma enters waiting room)
Emma: Mrs Ryan, please come in, I’m ready to see you now.
Mrs Ryan: (looks at watch and then turns to Beryl who is sitting near her in the waiting room) The doctor is FINALLY ready for me, after 46 minutes wait! No consideration for the pain I’ve had to endure while waiting. My sciatica plays up terribly when I sit in one position for so long.
Beryl: They do their best. I don’t mind the wait.
Mrs Ryan: You’re lucky, dear. Very lucky that you don’t have the same sciatica problems that I do.
(Bridget’s mobile phone rings. Mrs Ryan gets up and walks into Emma’s room)
Bridget: (on her mobile) Finally! I had almost given you up for dead…. (nervous laughter)…. No I wouldn’t have asked her…. Really…. I was just desperate to talk to you and I didn’t know how else to get your attention…. I’m sorry, really I am. I really need to see you…. It’s important…. Thanks babe, see you then.
(Marg exits Michael’s room as Bridget is finishing call and comes to front desk)
Bridget: Mrs. Anderson! That was quick!
Marg: I think Dr. Harris is a believer in the “treat ‘em and street ‘em” style of medicine. Gets patients in and out as fast as possible.
Bridget: Yes, he’s very efficient
Marg: That’s one way of putting it
Bridget: (looks at screen). No charge for today. I’ll just get you to sign the bulk bill voucher. (prepares voucher)
Marg: So how long have you worked here Brenda?
Bridget: It’s Bridget actually Mrs. Anderson. I’ve been here one week.
Marg: I’m sorry Bridget, I’m terrible with names. Please call me Marg. You look awfully familiar. Have we met before?
Bridget: I don’t think so. I have a very common face.
Marg: (thinking hard) Bridget…. Bridget…. Are you the Bridget that used to work for the solicitors, Hamilton and Sons?
Bridget: I was a paralegal there for a short time, yes.
Marg: I knew I knew you. My husband is a solicitor there…. Paul? Paul Anderson?
Bridget: Yes I know Paul.
Marg: So why go from being a paralegal to a medical receptionist? That seems to be a bit of an unusual move?
Bridget: I just wanted a change and to broaden my experiences. This job came up and I thought I’d give it a try.
Marg: Fair enough. Each to her own. I’ll say hello to Paul for you.
Bridget: (quickly) No, no you don’t need to do that.
Marg: It’s no trouble. (looks at her quizzically) Oh, I see. You are embarrassed about leaving law and coming to work here. Don’t worry, it’ll be our little secret. Goodbye Bridget. Hope to see you again soon.
Bridget: Goodbye Marg…. Good afternoon, Hillview General Practice, Bridget speaking….
(Marg exits. Lights down. Lights up to see Frank at front counter and several patients in the waiting room including Casey Lewis)
Frank: There is definitely something wrong with him. I think he might be drunk!
Bridget: Drunk? I’m sure he’s not drunk. Perhaps he was just joking around. Dr. Harris has a very strange sense of humour. It’s sometimes hard to tell when he pulling your leg. Believe me I know.
Frank: (shocked and disbelieving) You mean he’s always like this?
Bridget: He certainly takes some getting used to.
Frank: I think I will see Dr. Roberts next time instead.
Bridget: Wise move. Oh, sorry, I really shouldn’t have said that.
(Frank exits. Michael wanders aimlessly out of his consulting room, unseen by Bridget. Emma comes out of her consulting room with limping Bill. Michael wanders into Emma’s room)
Emma: Bridget, Bill needs to get to hospital. Could you get the vascular surgeon on call at the Royal Brisbane on the phone for me and put Bill in the treatment room for now please?
(Emma goes back into her room. Lights dimmed or blue light +/- busy music. Lights up. Jane (Michael’s wife) walks into reception wheeling a pram. Three patients are in waiting room, including Jim.
Jane: Hi, you must be Bridget. I’m Jane, Michael’s wife, come to pick him up.
Bridget: Fantastic. He’s in his room. (leans over desk) Ooh, you’ve brought the baby.
(Bridget comes out from behind the front counter, picks up soft toy (blue bird) lying in the pram and starts cooing to and waving the toy at the baby)
Bridget: Is it a him or a her?
Jane: A girl. Jasmine.
Bridget: Oh she is SO cute! Congratulations
Jane: Thanks. She’s not so cute after she has been constantly screaming for 4 hours in the middle of the night.
Bridget: I bet…. (starts cooing with the toy again)…. So what was giving birth like? I’ve always wanted to know but no one tells you exactly. Mothers just go into dreamy stares and say “it was really difficult but the result was worth it”. And you can’t trust what they show on TV – all looks a bit over dramatised to me.
Jane: Like trying to pass a bowling ball this size (gestures) through a hole this size (gestures) that has sensitive nerves and important structures all around it. Very bad design.
Bridget: So, proof that God was a) male and b) didn’t pass his engineering degree. (chuckles)
Jane: And the labour pains…. I was in labour for 12 hours before they offered me pain relief and what did they give me? Panadol!
Bridget: And it helped?
Jane: Oh yes, after two Panadol I was floating in a cocoon of pain free bliss…. Oh of course not. I was IN LABOUR. Panadol was like giving a bandaid to someone who had just had a leg amputated. Useless!
Bridget: What about an epidural?
Jane: I asked and asked and they kept saying it was too early. Eventually, they said it was time but the anaesthetist was busy up in theatre with someone having a caesarean section. By the time he came to me, it was too late – my labour had progressed too far.
Jane: Bummer?!…. Bummer?! It was more than a bummer. Let me explain what labour pains are like.
Jane: Imagine lying on a busy road and having a car drive over your belly.
Bridget: Ow. (puts a hand on her abdomen and winces)
Jane: And now imagine that you are tied down on that road unable to escape and that there is another car coming towards you to do exactly the same thing…. and another, and another…. ad infinitum.
Bridget: Oh my God.
Jane: And now imagine that there are people standing around you on the road…. People who are pain free and not in the path of the cars, trying to give you helpful advice like “breathe through the pain” as another car is bearing down on you. Putting a wash cloth on your forehead as a four tonne truck is driving over your abdomen. And it gets worse. You know there is someone who can help you – the anaesthetist – someone who can divert the traffic, metaphorically speaking. You ask the people standing around you to go and get him and they tell you “No, it is too early” and they keep applying wash clothes to your forehead! TOO EARLY! You start to hate them all. Hate them with a passion. Especially the man who got you into this state in the first place. His contribution was five seconds of ecstasy and you have spent nine months dealing with the consequences… nausea, sore breasts, swollen ankles, stretch marks…
Bridget: (cuts her off, looking very uncomfortable) Speaking of that man, he’s waiting for you just behind that door. Lovely to chat but I really must get back to it. Nice to have met you.
Jane: Nice to have met you too. Thanks for looking after Michael. I’m sorry for the trouble he must have caused.
Bridget: It’s fine, don’t worry about it.
(Jane wheels the pram into Michael’s consulting room. The soft toy gets dropped on the waiting room floor. Lights dimmed or blue light +/- busy music. Lights up to see patient B arguing at the counter with Bridget. Paul comes in and sits down as if a patient while dialogue occurring. No other patients are in the waiting room).
Bridget: I’m terribly sorry but I can’t find your X-ray packet. The doctors usually ask patients to take their X-rays with them. Perhaps you should have a closer look around your house.
Patient B: I definitely left them with Dr. Harris last week. They have to be here. Perhaps YOU should have a closer look around YOUR workplace.
Bridget: I’ve looked EVERYWHERE. How about I ask Dr. Harris about them tomorrow?
Patient B: I need the X-ray films tomorrow. I’m going to see the surgeon. How about you ring Dr. Harris and ask him now?
Bridget: I can’t call Dr Harris. He is unwell. Look, I’ll be onto it first thing. There’s nothing more I can do now, I’m sorry.
Patient B: Well that will have to do I suppose. I’ll await your call tomorrow morning.
Bridget: Will do.
(Patient exits, Bridget rushes up to Paul, goes in for kiss, Paul brushes her off)
Bridget: (gushing) Thanks for coming Paul. I’m so glad you’re here. I feel better just looking at you. I’ve had the day from hell. First Lorraine called in sick which meant I had to deal with reception all by myself, then Michael led me to believe that I was responsible for a patient’s death, then Emma was late and then Michael got stoned and….
Paul: Sounds like a pretty horrible day but this isn’t the way it works.
Bridget: The way what works?
Paul: You can’t just go ringing me, leaving messages on my phone and pleading to see me, just because you’re having a bad day. I’m not your girlfriend and I’m not your mother.
Bridget: I know but….
Paul: But nothing. We had an agreement Bridgy. I contact you, not the other way around. I know it’s not ideal but it’s just the way things are the moment. One day it will be different, I promise.
Bridget: I didn’t ring you because I was having a bad day. There is something else. I have waited for you to contact me but you haven’t rung me for a week and I couldn’t wait any longer. I’m nearly here finished for the day. Can we go somewhere private and chat?
Paul: I really haven’t got time today Bridge. I’ve got to take Bailey to soccer training. Look, I’m here now. Whatever it is, just spit it out.
Bridget: I’m…. I’m…. I’m pregnant.
(Emma’s last patient, Jim comes out of her consulting room and goes to the counter. Paul steps back out of Jim’s field of vision. Bridget gives him a bulk bill voucher to sign.)
Bridget: Sign here please. See you next time.
Bridget: Excuse me for a moment, I just have to step in and have a word to Dr. Roberts.
(Bridget enters Emma’s room. Jim turns to leave and sees Paul)
Jim: Paul! It’s been ages. How’s Marg?
Paul: (awkwardly) Jim Hi! Marg’s fine thanks. And Janet?
Jim: Fit as a fiddle. Fancy seeing you here. You like seeing the ladies eh?
Paul: (Paul looks startled) Pardon?
Jim: The lady doctor, Emma. She’s surprisingly good. I’m not sexist or anything but I’ve always gone to a male doctor. I mean I’m sure that lady doctors are lovely people and very good at doing PAP smears and other women stuff but I just wouldn’t feel comfortable having a lady doctor in charge of my health. As a man. No offence to lady doctors.
Paul: (mutters) Of course not!
Jim: Well today my doctor Michael Harris went home sick. I didn’t think doctors actually got sick – I’ve never heard of one going home early because they felt unwell. Anyway, I really needed to see a doctor today and Emma was the only one here so I didn’t get much of a choice. But she was spot on actually, really knew her stuff.
Paul: (distractedly). Great…. Yeah…. Good to see you Jim.
Jim: Say hello to Marg for me. The four of us must catch up sometime.
Paul: Sure, I’ll get Marg to give Janet a ring.
Jim: Hope your appointment goes well.
Paul: What? Oh yeah, sure.
(Bridget returns to waiting room)
Bridget: (starts tidying reception desk) The last patient of the day has gone, I’ve said goodbye to Emma, just have to tidy up bit and then we can….
Paul: Just stop for a second. Pregnant!!? How did this happen?
Bridget: Well, when two people love each other very much, they lie down in bed together and the man….
Paul: Be serious! You know what I mean. (Accusingly) You told me you were on the pill!
Bridget: I am…. I was. Look the pill isn’t 100% effective. Accidents happen.
Paul: So how pregnant are you?
Bridget: 100% pregnant. You can’t be somewhat pregnant.
Paul: (annoyed) No. How far along?
Bridget: About 8 weeks I think.
Paul: Good. Early enough to….
Bridget: To what?
Paul: You know.
Bridget: I’m not getting rid of it. It’s our baby!
Paul: OUR baby?? Are you sure it’s mine?
Bridget: (hurt) Of course I’m sure. You told me you loved me. You told me you were going to leave her for me.
Paul: (softening) I know I did. I do care for you. It’s just that it’s so complicated.
Bridget: I know it’s complicated but maybe this baby has made the decision for us.
Paul: I don’t think we should make any rash decisions here.
Bridget: It’s not rash. I’ve thought it all out. Maybe my getting pregnant is a sign. A sign that it is time to finally tell your wife and to bring our relationship into the open. You can move into my flat while you sort out property settlements and what not.
Paul: Hang on a minute. Just slow down. I’ve got my three kids to consider.
Bridget: Four kids now (touching her abdomen).
Paul: It’s not a child yet, it’s a bunch of cells. (Bridget recoils and looks stricken) Look I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be harsh, but facts are facts. I have three living breathing children who need me.
Bridget: You can still be there for them. People spilt up and share custody all the time. I don’t mind helping look after them. (excitedly) They will end up with two mothers.
Paul: Two mothers!! No, I don’t think that this is going to work out.
Bridget: Well maybe you want to move into your own place until the fuss dies down and Marg and the kids get used to the idea of….
Paul: No, you don’t understand. I mean that this – you and me – is not going to work out.
Paul: It’s been fun, Bridgy babe, but we’re going to have to call it a day. I’ll always think of you fondly.
Bridget: But the baby….
Paul: I can’t force you to do anything…. I know that…. But I really don’t think that having this baby is a good idea.
Bridget: But you have a responsibility.
Paul: My responsibility lies with my family. I’m sorry but that’s just the way it is. It doesn’t mean I think any less of you.
Bridget: Paul…. sweetheart…. Please don’t do this.
Paul: I’m sorry, Bridge. It’s no one’s fault. We’re just victims of circumstance. We can’t go on pretending that stories like ours have happy endings. It is time to say goodbye. A clean break is better for both of us. You’ll thank me for this one day. You’re a great girl, remember that.
(Paul gives her an awkward kiss on the cheek and pat on the shoulder and then exits. Bridget slumps down on her stool, stunned. A moment later, Emma enters from her consulting room, carrying her bag. She looks upset and is surprised to see Bridget)
Emma: Bridget! You’re still here!
Bridget: I’m just tidying up a few things.
(Bridget starts moving around the waiting room tidying magazines trying to avoid eye contact with Emma. Picks up stuffed toy (bird) dropped by Jane and her baby earlier and stares at it)
Bridget: This belongs to Michael’s baby. It must have been dropped earlier. (starts crying)
Emma: Oh Bridget, don’t let Michael get to you. I know it was a really hard day for you but look on the bright side, Merv Briggs is alive and well, Michael got his comeuppance and you managed to run the whole surgery by yourself really well. You did a great job, I’m so proud of you.
Bridget: Thanks Emma, but it’s not that. There’s something else.
Emma: What’s bothering you?
Bridget: Oh, relationships, families…. You and Michael are so lucky. You have everything you want.
Emma: We do?
Bridget: Yeah you do. Michael has this perfect little baby and loving wife and you have a gorgeous husband and a fun kids-free lifestyle. I’d trade places with either of you in a heartbeat.
Emma: Things are not always as perfect as they seem.
Bridget: Maybe not perfect, but you should try walking a mile in my shoes.
Emma: Sounds tempting actually. I’d be a mile from here and have your lovely shoes. (bittersweet grin) Go home and have a good night’s sleep. It’ll look better in the morning. (takes the soft toy from Bridget)
Bridget: I don’t think it will, but thanks anyway. See you tomorrow, bright and early.
Emma: (looking at toy). See you then.
(Bridget picks up her bag and exits. Emma’s still looking at the blue bird toy)
Emma: (starts singing softly) Somewhere over the rainbow, blue birds fly, Birds fly over the rainbow, why then oh why can’t I?
(Emma hugs the toy to her chest and weeps. ?Recorded music of “Over the Rainbow” (Garland or Israel K) )
Act Four: Emma’s consulting room
Emma’s consulting room, 5 months later.
Note: The patient encounters in Act 4 are done in flashback fashion – they are not part of the interaction between Michael and Emma.
Bridget: So that’s the last booking for today.
Emma: Finishing my first day back before five! That’s very civilised. No urgent messages? No emergency home visits? No nursing home crises?
Bridget: Not one. There’s the backlog of paperwork if you are feeling bored. (gestures to a large stack of papers on Emma’s desk)
Emma: (groans) I’ll think I’ll come in and tackle that lot over the weekend. Thanks for all of your help today. It made a real difference to my day.
Bridget: You’re welcome. We’re SO pleased to have you back, Emma. You’ve been sorely missed by everyone. It’s been so long.
Emma: 5 months is a long time. A lot has happened.
Bridget: For me too. (pause) Emma, there’s something I want to tell you.
Emma: What is it?
Bridget: (hurridly) I got pregnant. A couple of months before you left. The father of the baby… he didn’t want to know about it. Broke up with me. I wanted to keep it, I really did, but I’m young and alone and in the end… (pause) I just couldn’t.
(Bridget gets upset. Emma goes to Bridget and comforts her)
Emma: It must have been an awfully difficult decision to make.
Bridget: It was horrible and I still feel terrible about it, wondering if I did the right thing. When I found out about what you and Shaun have been through, it made me feel so much worse. Here was I, deciding to end a pregnancy that I didn’t want while you were so desperately trying for…. Oh I’m so sorry Emma. I had to tell you. I had to apologise.
Emma: You have nothing to apologise to me for, Bridget. In many ways, you had it much harder than I did.
Bridget: I did?
Emma: You had a choice.
Bridget: But isn’t having a choice a good thing?
Emma: In general, yes, but when there’s a difficult decision to be made, sometimes having it taken out of your hands is a blessing. Choice can be paralysing and guilt inducing.
Bridget: I felt awfully alone. I was so angry that he deserted me when I needed him the most. But I realise now that it was for the best. He was a bastard. I’ve found someone much better. Someone who truly loves and respects me. He’s funny, sexy, smart… the whole package.
Emma: That’s wonderful, Bridget. I’d love to meet him sometime.
Bridget: Ummm….sure…. sometime. Early days yet.
(Knock on door. Michael’s in casual clothes e.g. jeans and T shirt)
Michael: Howdy stranger, welcome back!
Emma: Michael! You’re a sight for sore eyes. Come on in.
Bridget: I’ll leave you two to talk doctor things.
Emma: So the minute I come back, you’re off like a shot eh? Leaving me to man the fort alone.
Michael: You bet! It’s been my first day off in four weeks – since the locum left. I thought of turning off my phone and disappearing for a week but then that damn conscience of mine got the better of me and I thought I’d better call in to see how you were going and give you a bit of a handover. (suddenly serious) It was OK to take the day off wasn’t it? Bridget said she had talked to you about it and that you were happy about it.
Emma: Don’t worry… she did and I was. You’ve been working so hard and holding this place together in my absence. Thank you so much.
Michael: I haven’t given you the bill yet! I muddled through this time, but don’t go getting cancer on me again, OK?
Emma: I’ll do my best.
Michael: I’m looking forward to giving your patients back, that’s for sure. You have some absolute shockers!
Emma: It takes all types.
Michael: That’s for sure. So how was your first day back at work?
Emma: Really great actually! I hadn’t realised how much I missed it!
Michael: That feeling won’t last – I’ll give you 3 days, tops, before you are feeling overworked and underappreciated again.
Emma: There may be the occasional day like that, but overall we’re very lucky.
Emma: Well, don’t you think it’s an amazing privilege to be allowed into the most intimate parts of people’s bodies and minds? To have the power to make a real difference?
Michael: We don’t have much power at all, really. People do what they like, despite what we tell them to do.
Emma: I don’t mean that kind of power. The days of “God the Doctor, do whatever HE says or else” are long gone. But we still can help people change, when they are ready to do so. Take Jessica Delaney for example…
(Jessica Delaney enters from offstage (stage L or stage R, not through door), carrying a very small (premature) baby (doll) and sits down in the patient’s chair near Emma.)
Emma: I always thought I was banging my head against a brick wall with Jessica. Nothing I said seemed to sink in. 19 going on 14, pregnancy was a game and the baby at the end was a fashion accessory, something that would make her just like her friends. Worse, she saw a baby as a money earner – with the baby bonus, a single parent pension and Centrelink not pressing her to look for employment, she thought she’d be on easy street. Pregnancy hardly put a dent in her lifestyle until she reached 28 weeks and developed pre-eclampsia. Within a fortnight her condition has worsened to the point of her starting to fit. She was airlifted toBrisbane but refused consent for the emergency caesarean section until the consultant had asked my advice. I received a call from a rather annoyed and slightly embarrassed consultant at 5 o’clock one Sunday morning.
(flashback to consult earlier in the day)
Jessica: I’m sorry that I bothered you while you were holidays but I was scared and they were like confusing me. Telling me that I could like die and that the baby could like die too if they didn’t do the surgery straight away but then telling me that the surgery was really risky for us and that we could like die anyway. I didn’t trust them and wouldn’t let them touch me until you told them the best thing to do. I knew you would look after me.
Emma: You’re welcome, Jess. I’m just pleased that it worked out so well.
Jessica: Little Britney Cocoa Rose was really sick at first and had to spend like a couple of weeks in intensive care but she’s fine now.
Emma: That’s an interesting name.
Jessica: (proudly) I came up with it myself. Britney is for my second favourite singer,Cocoa is for my favourite food, well chocolate is really, but chocolate is a stupid name, and Rose is for my second favourite flower.
Emma: Your second favourite singer and flower?
Jessica: If I used my favourite things her name would be Pink Chocolate Gerbera and that’s just silly. She’s got my surname ‘cause that prick, Damien, doesn’t want anything to do with her. Even like refused to sign her birth certificate without a DNA test. Didn’t even visit her in hospital. Said her being sick and all was too intense for him. Bastard.
Emma: I’m sorry to hear that.
Jessica: It’s OK. We’re better off without him anyway, loser.
Emma: So how is motherhood going Jess?
Jessica: It is a lot harder than I thought but I like really love it. I never knew you could love something so much. As soon as she was born I felt that she needed me to protect her and do everything I could to make her healthy. She was so small and fragile. I have not touched any pot or ciggies since. I wish I had listened to you earlier.
Emma: I’m just really proud that you have given up now. Are you breastfeeding?
Jessica: Nah. I tried but I had to give up. I started expressing when she was in intensive care but it really hurt and it like took too long to do, so I switched her to formula. At least now I can have a few drinks without like feeling guilty. Formula is so expensive though. So are nappies. It’s like so unfair. My Mum says I should use cloth nappies and wash them but that’s like SO gross. As if anyone would do that! No way.
(End of flashback. Jess leaves)
Emma: She’s unlikely to win mother of the year but still, a definite improvement.
Michael: I don’t know if it your story proves anything except that a lot of the people around here seem to come from the shallow end of the gene pool.
Emma: That’s not very kind and also not true. I’m just very pleased to have been able to help her, even a little bit. That a big part of why I’m a doctor.
Michael: I don’t subscribe to the “wanting to help people” motivation. I want to study them and fix them if possible. I suppose I am a cross between an anthropologist and a mechanic, not a social worker and a priest. I couldn’t approach my work like you do. I heard how you cared for Dennis Langford even while you were really sick yourself.
Emma: I couldn’t abandon Dennis in the last few weeks of his life. We had been through such a long and special journey together. I had to see it through, no matter what was happening to me personally. If anything, it helped me too. Distracted me from what I was going through and made me feel that I was doing something really worthy at a time I felt pretty useless.
Michael: Well, according to his wife Carol, it did mean an awful lot to the two of them too.
Emma: He was a delightful person. Did I tell you that after two years of ignoring my advice about lowering his cholesterol, Dennis decided to do something about it when he was terminally ill?
Michael: You did. His timing may have been a bit off but at least he showed that he’s been listening to your advice. Hey, I’ve got an interesting cholesterol story. I have a young patient who recently had a breast augmentation.
(Calista enters and sits on other patient chair – placed near Michael)
Michael: Her self confidence has soared and apparently she has blossomed socially, but has developed a rather worrying obsession with the rest of her appearance, diet and weight. Last week, she asked me an unusual question…
Calista: What is the caloric content of semen? It seems very creamy. Does it contain lots of cholesterol?
Michael: That’s a rather unusual question, Calista. Why do you want to know?
Calista: Well as I said, I’m keeping a food diary and counting up all my calories. Semen wasn’t in the calorie counter book though and I was concerned that swallowing it might be causing me to go over my daily calorie and fat limit.
Michael: There is no cholesterol in semen. It’s mainly protein and a bit of carbohydrate. A typical ejaculate is about a teaspoon in volume and it contains only about 5-7 calories.
Calista: That’s not much.
Michael: It isn’t. So unless you are swallowing litres of the stuff, I don’t think you have to include it in your food diary.
Calista: Oh, I’ll include it anyway for completeness sake. 5 -7 calories per come you said?
Emma: You can’t possibly tell me that you knew the calorific value of semen off the top of your head.
Michael: Of course not. I consulted Dr. Google, which is what Calista should have done instead of embarrassing herself with such a stupid question.
Emma: Dr. Google in the wrong hands can be disastrous though, Alison Best being a perfect example.
(Alison enters and sits in the patient chair near Emma)
Michael: She’s a lot less focused on her symptoms now that her Mum has leukaemia.
Emma: I know, I saw her today.
Alison: So Mum is still in hospital and I’ve moved down to Brisbane so that I be near her and help her out. I’m handling everything. The chemo has not worked and so they are going to give her a bone marrow transplant. (very proudly) Turns out I’m a match so I am going to be donating my bone marrow to save my Mum’s life.
Emma: That’s a wonderful gift, Alison.
Alison: I know. Apparently it’s a very rare type and the doctors are really surprised that I’m such a good match. I always knew I was special. I was reading all about bone marrow transplants on the Internet and I am going to put myself on the bone marrow register so that if other people are dying and need my bone marrow to save their life, I can help them.
Emma: That’s a very noble idea.
Alison: I know. I think I’ve found my calling. To give myself to save others. Like Mother Theresa.
Emma: Hmmm… So how has your own health been?
Alison: Oh I’m fine. In fact, I’m in perfect health. The doctor who is doing the bone marrow transplant told me so.
Emma: That’s fantastic news. So no more headaches, palpitations or fatigue?
Alison: No, I don’t think so. I’ve been too busy.
(flashback ends. Alison exits, Mrs. Ryan enters and sits in patient’s seat)
Michael: Amazing, isn’t it? And she’s not the only one who has been cured in your absence. I’ve been working on Mrs Ryan for you.
Emma: So she said today…
Mrs Ryan: Why were you gone so long?
Emma: I’ve been unwell.
Mrs. Ryan: I heard that you’ve been travelling overseas.
Emma: That’s true. I went on a trip toEurope during my recovery period.
Mrs. Ryan: Going toEurope to “recover”? Sounds like an excuse for a holiday for me. That wasn’t very fair on your patients. We needed you.
Emma: I believe Dr. Harris has been keeping things running very smoothly while I’ve been gone.
Mrs. Ryan: Dr Harris? Hmmph! What a rude man. He had the gall to insist that I bring a maximum of two problems per visit AND he showed me the door after 10 minutes each time. I’ve never been treated so appallingly in all my life. (pause) He did help me a lot though.
Emma: That’s great! (suspiciously) How exactly?
Mrs Ryan: He got me into a trial for the new wonder drug, CCP. I go to the pharmacy once a week to pick up my supply. It comes in a little white bottle without any markings on it – that’s how new and special it is. Apparently it is going to be very expensive when it is released to the public but because I am on the trial, I get it for free. It’s a miracle! My headaches are much better, I have a lot more energy and I don’t get bloated after meals anymore. The funny pins and needles in my L thigh have gone too!
(flashback ends, Mrs. Ryan exits, Michael’s laughing)
Emma: OK, let me in on the secret…CCP? What did you give her?
Michael: CCP…calcium carbonate placebo. Yep, I went into cahoots with the pharmacist who was sick of her as I was and we decided to give her a harmless calcium tablet to take each day. Thanks to both of us talking it up, she has been magically cured of many of her ailments. Definitely worth the $6 I spent on the calcium tablets.
Emma: You can’t do that!
Michael: Why on earth not? It is not hurting her – in fact it is good for her bones, and she is a lot happier because of it, which makes life easier for me too. Sometimes you have to bend the rules the little. Like with Beryl Jones. She passed away peacefully in her sleep a few months ago. She just needed a little bit of gentle encouragement. I’m so relieved for her. She was suffering so much for so long.
Emma: You care more than you want to admit.
Michael: I am human, you know. Who wouldn’t feel compassion towards a sweet little old lady in terrible pain and want to do something about it?
Emma: Speaking of deaths, I heard Morris Harcourt died while I was away too.
(Mrs Harcourt enters and sits on the patient’s chair)
Michael: Umm…yes. He went when he came… lucky bloke. His wife was a bit hard to handle though.
Emma: So I heard…
Mrs. Harcourt: I hold Dr. Harris responsible. He’s the one who gave him the Viagra samples without asking for my opinion. I thought we had finished with that matter after talking to you but the silly man went to see Dr. Harris the next week… without even telling me he was going! I told Morris his heart couldn’t take it. I told YOU his heart couldn’t take it and YOU said he would be fine.
Emma: He didn’t have any absolute contraindications for Viagra.
Mrs Harcourt: Don’t hide behind your doctor talk. I KNEW it was going to be too much for him and I was right. His sexual activities have always been, how can I say this….energetic. Unlike the way he conducted the rest of his life.
Emma: It must have been a terrible shock for you to see it happen.
Mrs. Harcourt: Oh I didn’t see it happen. I was asleep.
Emma: Asleep? But I thought…
Mrs. Harcourt: I’m a very sound sleeper.
Emma: But still, I can’t see how…
Mrs. Harcourt: Oh we weren’t having intercourse, dear. He asked me to but I told him “over my dead body” – a little ironic as it turns out. He was, how can I put this, self serving. I woke up in the morning to see him lying there, stiff ALL over, with his pyjama pants around his ankles and a big grin on his silly face.
Emma: Oh, I see. I’m so sorry for your loss, Mrs. Harcourt.
Mrs. Harcourt: No need to be sorry, dear. He went out with a bang and now I’m free. No longer do I have to feed, wash and look after him as he sits like a slob all day watching telly. I’ve booked to go on a cruise next month and I’m going toAmerica next year to visit my grandkids. It’s so exciting. I always wanted to travel but Morris wouldn’t go anywhere. He even refused go to our daughter’s place inBrisbane for Christmas. I do miss him a little now and then but it’s better for both of us this way. I’m so much happier.
(end of flashback. Mrs. Harcourt leaves)
Emma: Marriages eh? You never really know what’s going on behind closed doors. Shaun and I…never mind. So how is Jane going? I heard that she hasn’t been well.
Michael: It hasn’t been easy, that’s for sure. She hasn’t been herself since the baby was born. I feel like I have lost the woman I married.
Emma: I’m so sorry to hear that. Post natal depression can be really horrible for the whole family. Is she getting help?
Michael: Yes, she is on medication now and is seeing a psychologist but I don’t think it has helped much. She has completely lost her sense of humour and seems to spend most of her time either silent or crying. Or yelling at me. I can’t seem to do anything right.
Emma: And you’ve been working here longer hours covering for me. I’m so sorry to have put the extra stress on you and to have kept you away from home so much. I didn’t realise how bad things were.
Michael: No need to apologise. I’m really glad I’ve had the surgery to look after these past few months. It’s actually been the only thing keeping me sane. I can escape from what’s going on at home, feel like I’m making a difference, actually helping people.
Emma: For the man who doesn’t subscribe to the “wanting to help people” theory, helping people seems to have helped you!
Michael: Touché. So maybe I’ve changed… a bit. The thing is Emma, I dread going home so I spend as much time as I can here. And the more time I spend at work, the more difficult things are when I finally get home. The more I escape, the worse it gets and so I escape even further. It is a vicious cycle. I know it is not her fault. I know she is ill but still… I don’t know if we will make it.
Emma: Oh Michael…
(Brigid knocks on the (open) door. She is holding a cake. Michael instantly is back to acting like his usual self)
Michael: Oh Bridgy, is that for me? You shouldn’t have.
Emma: I have a feeling of déjà vu.
Brigid: I promise this one doesn’t have any exotic herbs and spices. I baked it myself. In honour of your return.
Michael: She’s a gem, isn’t she?. Couldn’t have got through the last five months without her.
Emma: It really is good to be back. The patients are happy, the building is still standing and the two of you haven’t killed each other. What more could I want?
Michael: How about a piece of cake?
Emma: Sounds great. I’ll go and get some plates.
(Emma exits. Bridget goes to Michael and kisses him)
Bridget: Do you think she knows about us? That comment about us not killing each other…
Michael: Relax Bridge. Our secret is safe.
Bridget: But does it need to be a secret? Why don’t we tell Emma? I’m sure she’d understand.
Michael: (pushing her away gently) YOU need to understand, Bridget. We’ve been through this. It’s complicated. I really do care for you but I have a family to think about. Let’s enjoy this special “just us” time for as long we can.
(Bridget walks away from Michael)
Bridget: (to herself) I’m the one with déjà vu now. Been done this road before and yet I keep on hoping it will lead me to a different destination. If only real life was like a fairy tale and we could end with happy ever after instead of…
(Emma enters with plates and a knife)
Emma: Let’s eat cake!
* Explanatory note
If computer and printer are functional – scripts, notes, forms etc can be printed out and given to patients. Otherwise Emma can handwrite these items
** Explanatory note
The intense high produced by orally administered marijuana can
create effects that mimic serious illness. Physical effects include
sedation, dizziness, numbness, rapid pulse, dry mouth, dry eyes, thirst, muscle relaxation, loss of coordination, sensory deprivation, nausea, vomiting, headache, and flu-like symptoms. Psychological effects can include racing thoughts, disorientation, confusion, memory loss, hallucinations, paranoia, psychosis, fear of dying.