A man hobbled into the clinic today.


Doc told us to speak with him first so we brought him aside - he only wanted some painkillers and anti-swelling cream, but I felt my heart sinking with every sentence he uttered omg.


Frantic googling of Well's score (too, too, high) and failing to find a measuring tape (honestly didn't need one to tell) and waiting waiting waiting for his lab results - was hoping so hard that his full blood count would return with elevated total whites so something could go right for him for once (when your doctor is uncharacteristically serious and considers an infection 'preferable', you really do worry).

It didn't.

Wanted to cry when I saw his face as his finger hovered above his wife's number, to tell her he had to go to the emergency department again, for the 10000th time this year. How do you keep the sadness off your face when you know your answer is going to bring more hurt? Waited with him for the cashier (30 dollars just like this; like that how to survive?) as he debated between taking a taxi (too expensive, how to pay), the train (can't even walk how to go?) or not going at all (already so many problems, maybe should just give up), and watched him limp slowly off. There are so many more things I wish I could have done, but in that moment all I could do was lend a listening ear and try to offer some comfort in my unimpressive Chinese, and pray that he saw through the trite-sounding words to the sincerity underneath. I don't know if he went to the ED in the end - I hope that he managed to make his way there despite his pain, but at the same time my heart hurts to think of the amount he would have to pay if he did.

It's easy for the privileged to take money for granted, to charge $600 for a two-pack Epipen and sit on glided chairs and loudly proclaim that the point of pharmaceutical companies is to make money. In the midst of it all, sometimes what we need is a sober reminder that money can be the sole difference between life and death, that we can only do the best we can, and hope that it is enough.