After wrangling the kids and getting them settled at home with his parents, Henrik Stenberg headed to Dr. Cuthberht’s clinic. Dumping them off on his Mom and Dad wasn’t an ideal situation—he knew they’d hold that over him for weeks, but he had to see the doctor before going to the Navarrete’s.
Although it was close to after-hours, the clinic was still halfway full. Bleary-eyed men and women went up to the receptionist’s desk family-by-family to jot their names down on Jaquelin’s list. Not wanting to distract her even with a small hello, Henrik went directly to the door off to her right.
Waiting rooms lined the hallway, their numbers plaqued on each. Each one was dark, a sign that no more patients were being seen. Henrik walked straight to the doctor’s office, the place where their deliberations took place.
He hesitated for a moment at the door, wishing that it could’ve been Bodil doing this instead. Henrik never seemed to know the right things to say when it came to patient care. His recommendations didn’t hold the same level of confidence or authority.
Henrik cleared his throat of any shakiness, and knocked on the door. All you have to do is tell her your observations. You can get through this.
“Come in,” Dr. Cuthberht called.
He did so, closing the door softly behind him. “Good afternoon, Dr. Cuthberht.” She sat at her desk, stacks of patient forms and other documents before her.
Dark hair yanked back in a severe bun, she flashed him a smile that was anything but. “How are you doing?” She placed her ink pen back into its well. “You seem ill at ease.”
“I’m alright,” Henrik said, hoping his correction didn’t sound too forceful or abrupt. “I need to talk to you about Chief Vicente.”
“Are you considering a change in occupation? It’s not something to be ashamed of. I’ve got more work for you here, if that’s what you’d prefer,” Dr. Cuthberht said. “Between the upshots in house visits and patients here lately, we’re shorthanded.”
“Ah, that’s not the problem. I love my job,” he replied, his head bowed. Henrik held his glasses to keep them from sliding down his nose. “It’s an honor to have.”
“What’s troubling you?”
“Chief Vicente is struggling with his regular feeding. He’s been losing weight,” Henrik said.
“Did you bring his charts?”
Henrik had a feeling he’d forgotten something. “No, they’re with Bodil. I’m sorry. And he’s not as lively. I think his lack of liveliness is a result of him not eating.”
“I’d like you to provide me with a little more detail than that, Henrik.”
“He can’t get enough food in him. Sometimes, when he eats, he coughs it up,” he explained. “I don’t know if it’s because he doesn’t like what we’re feeding him, or if he’s having other general swallowing issues. I read that swallowing issues and speech impairments can go hand-in-hand. It could be related.”
Dr. Cuthbehrt nodded. “Thank you for reading up on that.”
“You’ve talked me through the situation and your observations. Chief Vicente won’t eat. You think it could be because he doesn’t like his food, and face it, not many people would, but he can’t communicate that to us,” she recounted, “or it could be that he’s having problems swallowing the food. It has nothing to do with his like or dislike of it. What recommendations do you have?”
“We should try a rubber feeding tube. It’ll ensure that he gets his food down, and we’ll be able to get him back up to a healthier weight.”
“Unfortunately, I won’t be able to see him myself tonight. I have to check up on some other patients, but I like your recommendation,” Dr. Cuthberht said. “When you get to his house, please tell his wife to come see me. I’ll tell her what you told me.”
“You don’t want to check for yourself first?”
“I trust your judgment. Of course, I’ll have to see him before we implement that change in his care, but I’d like to discuss the option with Chieftess Hildegarde as soon as possible. I’ll pencil her in for tomorrow morning.”
“Thank you,” he said. He struggled to keep his face from beaming with pride. Johanna was surely going to hear about this moment in the next letter he wrote to her.
“I’d prefer it if you didn’t tell her I’m seeing her about her husband, though. I don’t want to get her riled up. Try your best to act like you’re unsure, and just tell her to see me for the details.”
“What if she presses me? She’s the Chieftess. I can’t exactly lie to her…”
“You don’t have to lie. Simply explain to her that I need to talk to her. You can do it,” Dr. Cuthberht said. “Have more confidence in yourself.”
“I’ll work on that, thank you,” he said. Step by step, he’d work on becoming more like his older sister, someone worthy of a northern university scholarship. Dr. Cuthberht and Chieftess Hildegarde signed off on hers and if he worked hard enough, they’d do the same for him. “I’ll be on my way now and…is that a ribbon on your desk? It looks familiar.”
“Heiress Ellie paid us a visit today. I had to tend to her dog. I wrote about it in that pile over there,” she said. “If you’re at all interested in animal care, you should give the report a read. It’s an interesting field even for those of us who aren’t working in veterinary medicine.”
“I’ll do that tomorrow. I don’t want to be late.”
“Ah, yes. See you tomorrow.”
“Goodbye, and thank you again, Dr. Cuthberht.”
“Confidence. Remember that.”
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