James and Nomura completed the eight weeks at ULS and returned to Memorial. James was back on surgical pathology and scheduled to sign out with Haas beginning tomorrow. Dan was unable to concoct a plan of reconciliation. Deanna's talk with Haas was fruitless. James resigned himself to the inevitable. He would be a professional, to change his attitude, and not try to change hers.
It was 11AM. James had almost reviewed all of the day's cases when a familiar voice greeted him.
"Any cases to show me?"
"Hi Dr. Nomura. Glad you stopped by. There's a stat biopsy from Greenberg, patient in the hospital. I heard it's the wife of one of the hospital administrators."
Nomura nodded. "Yes, Kurtz, right? Greenberg told me about this morning. Let's save some time and take a look at it together."
Nomura placed the slide on the microscope stage and together, they viewed the slide. "James, this will be easy for you. What do you think?" James had spent the last two months with Nomura. The confusing latin terminology of skin diseases was becoming clearer to him.
"I thought it was a leukocytoclastic vasculitis. The fibrinoid necrosis is diagnostic."
"Excellent." Nomura sat back in the chair. "There's some eosinophils in there, probably an allergic component to this. I think Greenberg was concerned about a drug reaction. Go ahead and sign the case out with Dr. Haas, I'll call Greenberg and let him know." Nomura handed the slide and paperwork to James. Returning to his office, James placed the case on the top of the day's work. The contrast between Nomura and Haas was never more clear. Why did it have to be this way? He shook his head. The time to face Haas had arrived.
James gathered the cases and paperwork and proceeded down the hall to her office. Her back faced the open door, as she worked on her computer. James knocked. "Excuse me, Dr. Haas, is this a good time for our sign out?"
Haas was annoyed. "Aren't you supposed to be ULS?"
"Yesterday was my first day back." James attempted a smile.
"Very well." Haas turned to face James. "Let's have the cases."
James placed the cases next to the microscope. Haas shuffled through the cases, then settled back in her chair to view the first case. It was the case he and Nomura had reviewed.
"Hmm ...fibrinoid necrosis, hemorrhage, nuclear dust ...history?" Haas flipped through the requisition sheets to the clinical history. "Good...leukocytoclastic vasculitis. I don't know if they are thinking of anything else." Haas surveyed the slide for a few more seconds. "Well...that's the diagnosis, but you'd better show Nomura the case."
James smiled. "Dr. Nomura has already seen the case."
"He stopped by earlier so I passed the case by him and he agreed with your diagnosis."
Haas pushed herself away from the microscope. Her eyes narrowed as she ripped into James. "If you would rather sign out with Nomura, be my guest."
James was confused. He thought Haas would be pleased that he took the initiative to show the skin case to Nomura. "No...no, of course not," James stammered. "He had passed by earlier and-"
"I guess you feel more comfortable with your kind."
James was sure he heard her, but he repeated her words.
"What do you mean, 'Your kind' "? James' eyes narrowed.
Haas was wrong and she knew it. "I...I just meant, you may feel more comfortable signing out with someone else."
"No you didn't." James was not going to let this drop. "You said, 'Your kind'. What did you mean by that?"
"Nothing. Nothing at all. Look you're blowing this out of proportion."
"Am I?" He was surprised by the forcefulness of his own voice. "You think because I'm Chinese, I would prefer signing out with Dr. Nomura? That's...that's...I can't even...He's not even Chinese...He-"
"Calm down. Look, you're making a scene. Let's just forget about-"
"And you think...my kind?" James fumbled for words as his entire body trembled. A few residents hovered outside the door, as they strained to hear the conversation.
"I have to go."
James left all of the cases with Haas. He ignored her as he left. He didn't need to know her reaction. Go ahead and fire me. I don't care anymore.
Dan was the first to find James, sitting alone in the library. He sat besides James who did not acknowledge his presence. Dan opened his mouth but James spoke first.
"So you heard?"
Dan shook his head. "I don't know anything. Heard from some of the residents that you walked out on Haas." Dan's face softened and his voice lowered. "Want to talk about it?"
James did not look at Dan. "She's a witch."
Dan nodded, his expression unchanged.
"She can fire me, I don't care anymore." James held his head downward. Dan moved in front of James and sat in the chair facing him.
James sighed and finally looked up. "I guess you may as well hear it from me since I'm sure there will be several versions of the story. Nomura had come by before our sign out and I simply showed him a stat skin case. When I signed out Haas, she didn't know Nomura had already seen it. She looked at the case, gave a diagnosis, then asked me to show Nomura. When I told her I had already shown it to him, she accused me of preferring to sign out with him because he was my kind."
Dan's eyes widened and he stood up. "What?" Several passers-by were startled by Dan's shout.
James simply nodded. "I tried to explain to her but she wouldn't listen. She then said I was blowing everything out of proportion." James buried his face in his hands. "I couldn't think. I didn't know what to say. I wanted to run out of there. I wanted to yell at her. I just couldn't think."
"I think we need to take this to the chairman." Dan's face was resolute.
"She's just going to claim she didn't say anything like that. I made it all up. Everything will be even worse than it is now." James shook his head. "I don't want to leave. Everything I ever wanted to do is here...everything."
"Calm down. Look, let's take it up with Dr. Morelli. He should know about this."
"Then what are you going to do?"
"Nothing. That's it. I'll just wait for the end."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
Dan paced the floor. "What Haas did is slander. She needs to be reported."
"Don't do anything, Dan."
James bolted from his seat, leaving Dan in the library. Why did she have to say that? What do I do now? After everything I've done, do I return to the Philippines? No! I won't do that. I will fight to stay here. I don't care about Haas.
James clenched his fists and returned to the pathology department. As he entered, he saw Morelli and Haas conversing. They both saw James at the same moment and quickly turned to enter his office. She was probably telling him her side of the story. There was no point to attempt to explain or accuse Haas of the racial slur. Who would believe him? James sat down in his office and closed the door. His thoughts drifted back to an afternoon two months ago. He was shopping in an appliance store, in Ladue, a suburb of St. Louis. He was inspecting a refrigerator and as he closed the door, a small boy, about 5 years old was standing there. He was white with blond hair, dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. Without hesitating, the boy snarled, "Stupid Chinaman." Startled, James looked at the boy then at the young couple standing a few feet away. At first he was going to speak to them but then he realized, they probably told their son to say that. He stood there, glancing between the parents and boy for a few seconds. The parents motioned to their son to come away from James. James was dumbfounded. In his entire time in St. Louis, a racial slur had never been hurled at him. At that time, he was sure it was an aberration. Now? Was he so naive? He couldn't see the simmering hatred directed toward him. He laughed when the other residents joked about the Philippines and Asians. Was his desire to fit in so strong, he was willing to overlook these snide remarks? What about Memorial? Was his acceptance part of a diversity program to accept minority residents? Was this why Haas hated him?
James stopped his thoughts. He was driving himself crazy with the possibilities. Pressure compressed his stomach and now worked its way to his head. It soon filled his ears, clouded his vision. It was suffocating, limiting each breath he took, leaving him gasping. Beads of sweat appeared on his forehead, tracing a path to his trembling lips.
"Aaa..." A feeble cry emerged. Air. He needed air. The blood rushed out of his head as he stood up. He steadied himself on his microscope, knocking over a flat of slides, breaking several. Tunnel vision, he could only see the door. Groping for the door knob, he emerged from his office, his shirt drenched and clinging. The hallway and other offices swept by as he staggered to the elevator that led to the doctor's parking lot. It was only 4PM, he had never left that early. He opened the car and the windows. The cool breeze lapped at his slick face as he sat back in the seat. His eyes closed. His mind drifted to the sounds of his father's footsteps approaching the dinner table. Home. No questions. No answers. Nothing.
"Didn't you hear me calling you?"
Was he dreaming? It was Deanna's voice but he didn't open his eyes. He would shut out the entire world, even Deanna. But jasmine caressed his cheek. James opened his eyes.
"I heard." Deanna continued to stroke his face. "Mind if I join you?"
Deanna sat next to him in the passenger's seat. Their hands clasped as they sat in silence. Not a word was spoken as the pairs of eyes smiled at each other. The setting sun gave notice of the late hour.
"I have to get back. I'm on call this evening." Deanna rose to leave. "I'll call you at home."
James smiled. "I'd like that."
Deanna closed the car door and hesitated. She opened her mouth, about to say something, but guided it to a mock frown. "We have to stop meeting like this!" She quickly turned and headed back to the hospital. James followed her with his eyes, her white coat slapping in the light evening breeze. He could still smell the jasmine on his face.
The rest of the evening was a blur. He didn't even remember if he slept that night. It was a series of tortured images and contorted conversations. James was relieved to get out of bed when his alarm went off. He would face Haas today, there was no doubting that. He would be firm and if she fired him, at least he spoke his mind, and the truth.
A message from Haas was waiting for him on his desk when he arrived in his office. It referenced a breast cancer case from yesterday's sign out with a request that he bring it to her office. This is it, he thought. He found the case but realized he left the paperwork in her office in his rush to leave. Another reason for her to yell at him. As he approached her door and was about to knock, she opened it.
"Oh, James. I was just about to look for you."
James looked straight into her eyes. "I brought the case you requested."
Haas looked at the flat in his hands. "Yes, thanks. Let's look at it together under the scope." The two positioned themselves at the microscope. The slide flashed as Haas drove.
"That was a good call you made on this case." Haas continued to move the slide on the stage. She could see the confused look on his face. "I got a call yesterday afternoon about this biopsy so I reviewed it. You wrote angiosarcoma on the worksheet." James recalled the case. It seemed like a month since he last looked at the slides.
Haas continued. "That's exactly what it is. Very rare, I think I've only seen one other case in the breast. Good call."
James nodded. It was evident that Haas had signed out all of his cases. He looked at her. She was acting as if nothing happened. It couldn't be that easy. The misery she had caused him. It would not be that easy.
"James, what are you doing next weekend?"
What was happening? James was unsure how to answer. Her face was calm, her quiescent tone was unfamiliar to him.
"I...am not doing anything."
"Tom and I were wondering if you would like to come over for dinner this Saturday, say around 4:00?"
James was speaking to an imposter. Without dwelling on the absurdity of the conversation, he blurted, "Saturday at 4:00 would be great."
Haas smiled. "Wonderful. Tom loves to cook. Seafood okay?"
James nodded. "Good. We'll be expecting you. If you'd like to bring a friend, please. And don't bring anything, just your appetite! You know where we live, right?"
"I do. Thanks, Dr. Haas." All the residents knew Haas lived in a beautiful estate next to Forest Park. He had passed it many times, always kept at a distance by magnificent wrought iron gates that surrounded an immaculate lawn.
James returned to his desk. He was now more confused than his confrontation less than 24 hours earlier. Dan was the first to see him after the invitation.
"So how'd it go? Did you tell her how you felt?"
James closed the door of his office. "She invited me to dinner at her home."
"Am I crazy, what's happening?"
"She's apologizing." Dan pulled up a chair. "Haas never apologizes, never says she's wrong." Dan leaned forward. "You know, no resident has ever been invited to her mansion."
"She told me I could invite a friend."
"Sorry, I'm busy this weekend."
James smiled for the first time. "You know you were my first choice."
"Are you going to confront her?"
"I...I don't know anymore. No, I couldn't."
"Look, just let this invitation sink in a bit. See how she treats you over the next couple of days. Maybe this is what was needed to break the tension between the two of you."
"Maybe...Dan, may I ask you a personal question?"
"Do you feel uncomfortable that I'm Chinese, that I'm the only Asian resident?"
"What do you think?"
"I don't know ...I don't know anything anymore."
James' hurt look convinced Dan of his sincerity. "I've never given it a second's thought. Just so long as you can push glass, you could be orange and I wouldn't care."
James nodded but wanted more. "You think Haas is a racist?"
Dan shook his head. "I can't speak for her but I do know she respects a good pathologist, regardless of race."
"I never see Nomura and her joking, it's always business."
"Always business. Haas has no friends on staff. Has nothing to do with Nomura. Just go and enjoy yourself, you're in a unique position."
James thought about Dan's answers. They were satisfying but only spoke for his feelings. What about the others? He may never know the entire truth. Perhaps it wasn't important anymore.
Send mail to The Doctor's Doctor with questions or comments about this web site.
Copyright © 2004 The Doctor's Doctor