Just another day at Cooper Green

I spent Friday morning with Edwina at Cooper Green where she had an appointment with her ob/gyn. Cooper Green, the only county hospital for the indigent in Jefferson County, has been struggling financially for years. Just this week, it was announced that both the emergency room and all inpatient care will be closed for good in September. Patients will need to seek care elsewhere throughout the Birmingham metro area. The problem, of course, is that a lot of the “elsewhere” alternatives aren’t going to be any too happy about the new patient population heading their way. No money or insurance? The exit is that-a-way.

Other than an outing or two to the grocery store, this was one of the few times I’ve been with Edwina this summer. Most of our contact has been via phone calls or texts–and the latter is always a bit confusing given my friend’s less-than-stellar spelling.

Sometimes, I forget how different our worlds are until we’re together, facing the latest challenge side by side.

In the exam room, I asked Edwina why, specifically, she was seeing the doctor. She didn’t know. When the doctor finally walked in and started talking about biopsy results, I had a Eureka moment. Edwina had told me that she had undergone a biopsy for one part, when, in fact, it was another. And the doctor’s explanation for why Edwina was back for more tests, more checking to see what might be going on suddenly made sense. I had doubted Edwina’s story about a biopsy for a body part that I knew couldn’t be tested in a doctor’s office under local anesthesia and her update a couple of weeks later that all was well and she “didn’t have cancer no more.” Possibly revealing more about me than her, I had wondered if Edwina had tried to trick me into coming to her rescue. Turns out, she was just misinformed and needed somebody there to help decipher what the doctor was saying.

“I didn’t get what them big words mean,” Edwina told the doctor, who was facing away from us to stare at the computer screen.

After her appointment, Edwina asked me how the book was going. I told her it was moving along, but I needed her more recent medical records to update the project. So, she and I traveled from the 5th floor to the 3rd and walked into Medical Records to retrieve the latest clinic notes.

Since I’m not the patient, Edwina has to sign a form giving me permission anytime I need to access her files.

“How you spell your name?” she asked me.

“‘C’ for ‘Cynthia.’ and just the one ‘a’ for ‘Ryan,'” I replied.

“For real? I thought you’s spelled your name with ‘S’–I never can remember that,” Edwina said, shaking her head. I’ve become so used to Edwina texting me with the salutation “Miss Rayan,” it never dawned on me she didn’t know how to spell my first name either.

Maybe Edwina suspected I was the one messing with her.

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