The Diagnosis - A Short Story


They were early.


They were always early for appointments.


They sat in their car, a little bubble of calm in a busy carpark, trying to occupy themselves for twenty minutes while the time dragged by until the earliest socially acceptable moment to present themselves at the Consultant's waiting room.


They didn't speak to each other. They'd already said it all. Each was lost in their own thoughts, idly but mechanically tapping away at their mobile phone screens, performing some meaningless but hopefully time consuming function like reading a Tweet or matching three jewels of the same colour.


Mindless.


He checked his watch.


"I can't bear to wait any longer Pam" he said. "Let's get this over with".


Like synchronised swimmers they both took a deep breath, then plunged out of the car and hurried across the carpark to the main building. Then past the croquet lawn where the residents of the mental health wing often played a game or two in the summer months. They took another breath and entered the annex where the Consultant Neurologist held court.


"Sorry we're early" he said to the receptionist.


"Name?"


"Peter. Peter Middleton" he said nervously.


"We have an appointment to see the Neurologist".


As soon as the words had left his lips, he felt foolish. What else would they be there for? The receptionist had heard it all before though, and was professionally robotic.


"Sit there and the Neurologist will see you when she is free".


"Help yourselves to a coffee from the machine. No charge".


They made themselves a coffee and sat down. They still hadn't spoken about anything substantial since leaving home that morning. They were too tense.


More waiting, except this time they could see the second hand of the clock behind the desk crawling round.


The magazines on the coffee table by the vending machine were predictably uninteresting, but the ritual of picking each one up, leafing through it and discarding it ate up precious minutes.


Suddenly, a head appeared around the doorframe behind the reception desk.


"Mr and Mrs Middleton?"


They stood up and held hands as they made their way into the consulting room. He could feel the warmth of her grip. It was comforting.


Inside the consulting room, the Neurologist gestured towards a couple of chairs and indicated that they should sit.


The Neurologist was very kind and professional, and launched into a history of the events that had led to today's meeting - the culmination of series of cognitive tests and a brain scan.


"You pass all of the oral and written tests with flying colours" she said.


"You are what we call "high functioning", and the test results cannot be relied upon to reflect the true state of your cognitive abilities"


"The results of the brain scan however are quite conclusive".


She turned the monitor on her desk around so they could both see it. It showed the side on cross section of a skull.


"look here" said the consultant animatedly, pointing at a part of the brain with the end of a pen.


"You can clearly see significant shrinkage around the hippocampus".


"These are the classic signs of Alzheimer's disease".


She paused and looked at them, waiting for a response.


They looked at each other.


Then they both smiled.


"Thank goodness" he said.


The Neurologist raised her eyebrows.


He continued.

"For two years now I've known that there was something wrong with me. My performance at work was below par, I have difficulty with my short term memory and I sometimes stammer and struggle to speak and find the words to finish my sentences".


"I'm currently diagnosed with anxiety and depression, for which I am prescribed antidepressants, but I have never really felt that that diagnosis fitted me."


"Now we have a firm diagnosis". Now we can start planning the rest of our lives with the full knowledge of what is to come."


"After two years of perplexity and vagueness we at last have certainty. And that certainty is liberating and empowering".


"Thank you"


They collected the pile of booklets that the Neurologist proffered them and quietly left.


As they walked back to their car, still holding hands, there was a spring in their step, and they were talking animatedly, discussing the first steps they would take to smooth the road on his journey into dementia.


The End.

(or is it the beginning?).

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