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Pillow Talk

“You know Haas did the autopsy on her own miscarriage.”

“Get out of here!” Carlos de Jesus frowned in disbelief at Dan Rosenthal’s comment.

Dan was unfazed as he continued between bites of his sandwich. “She didn’t trust any of the residents with the job so she brought the fetus in, sent everyone out of the morgue, and did the autopsy herself.”

“Whoa..how could anyone be that ice cold and do that on their own child?”

“A child? It’s a macerated fetus…a stillborn.” Dan interjected the pathological description for a miscarriage.

James could not contain himself. “It is a child. It doesn’t matter whether the child is a fetus at conception, 2 months in the womb, or a term infant.”

James did not think a hospital cafeteria could become that quiet.

“Here come the skin docs. Late today…must have been a conference.” Dan changed the topic pointing to the group of residents streaming into the dining room.

“Yeah…wonder what happened?" added Carlos, as he feigned interest. The St. Louis summer beat down upon their patio table. The stifling humidity added to the uncomfortable exchange. Life is so cheap for Americans, James lamented. Abortion was prohibited in the Philipines but here, many medical clinics derived a lucrative practice from the procedure. It was the rudest awakening for James as he encountered numerous aborted fetuses in the grossing room of the hospital. A woman's right to choose was a noble title but it could never justify the murder of innocent children. It was the most dishonorable aspect of pathology and of American medicine.

“Guys, you look like you’re having fun!” Deanna Berkowitz placed her tray on the table and sat down next to Rosenthal. Jasmine perfume announced her arrival.

“Father Deetan is giving us a sermon on the sanctity of life.” Dan put his hands together in a prayer and tilted his head in James direction, who gazed downward.

“It’s about time someone gave you a talk about life! Hope you learned something Dan, ” Deanna winked at James.

“Ah, Dr. Berkowitz! I know far more about life than you could ever begin to imagine.”

“Life's more than jazz music but if that's your definition, you've achieved enlightenment. How does Karen put up with you? She hates jazz.”

“I have other talents that keep Karen interested in me.”

“I don’t think we want to go there!” Carlos laughed.

“Seriously, she told me last night I was a sex god!”

A severe coughing fit by Deanna interrupted the bursts of laughter. She cleared her throat and bowed in Dan’s direction.“The next time I come across road kill, I’ll be sure to offer up a sacrifice to you.”

Deanna's laugh filled the room beguiling any lonely male heart within earshot. Throngs of male residents obeyed the siren's song to accidentally find themselves outside her office. Her shoulder length chestnut brown hair playfully danced in the light breeze that caressed the patio. It was several shades lighter in the sunlight compared to the usual fluorescent illumination, a vision that always surprised James. Her brown eyes flashed a mischievous look before melting into a smile.

“So why are you late Deanna?”

“Nomura and I were presenting at the dermatology grand rounds.”

“Did you present my pyoderma gangrenosum case?”

“Yup, the patient was there so it was quite impressive to see the size of his lesion. He also had ulcerative colitis with a recent colonoscopy biopsy surveillance revealing a high grade dysplasia at several sites, so he may end up with a total colectomy. Very sad…I think the patient knew what was in store for him. You know, I can present at tumor board, chest conference, breast conference, neuropathology….but I can never get used to these dermatology grand rounds, when you actually meet and see the patients. I didn’t think I would be doing this in pathology.”

“Deanna, you're great with patients!”

“That's sweet, James, but sometimes it's hard to draw the line. In medical school, they videotaped our interviews with our psych patients. I unconsciously held the patient’s hand if they broke down and cried. My profs hated that. Their evaluations told me I'd be a good minister but not a good shrink.”

“Father Deetan and Mother Superior Berkowitz! Imagine that, a Jewish nun!”

Deanna flicked a stray bread crumb at Dan’s direction. “Rosenthal, purgatory welcomes true believers like you! Carlos, how's cytology?”

“Saving lives everyday!” Carlos De Jesus pumped the air with his fist. “You know, Deanna, if you're bothered by seeing patients how do you manage when you're on cytology?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, when you are on the fine needle aspiration service, you're seeing patients with probable cancers in their thyroid, breasts, chest wall….and you have to aspirate these tumors, all the while talking to them, knowing that you are probably going to be giving them a death sentence. You smear the aspiration on a slide, stain the slides, and look under the microscope. A death sentence in less than 5 minutes.”

“I guess I don't think about it.”

“Don’t forget the bone marrow biopsies,” James quickly added.

“Especially the bone marrow biopsies!” Carlos shouted back. “Patients hate it when we stick them in their butt with that Jamshidi needle. The hematologists always turf these patients to us when they don’t get paid by the patient’s insurance. All we get left with are pissed-off patients.”

"Yeah. We're the ones who make the diagnosis, but the patients think it's their surgeon or oncologist.”

All nodded in agreement. The humidity added weight to Carlos' words. Carlos glanced around the table, grinned, and waited for a few more seconds, as he inserted a dramatic pause before his pronouncement. “I guess its time for pillow talk.”

Deanna shook her head. “Must you reduce all your observations to a sexual encounter?”

“What? We just had this intense discussion and now we need to wind down, spend that obligatory five minutes comforting our woman.”

"Five minutes wouldn’t even begin to do it for me. How did you come up with that figure? Wait, I know, twice as long the time you actually spend with your ladies?”

“No, it's how soon I need to get out of there before my girlfriend finds me missing!”

“Carlos as a newly crowned sex god, I agree wholeheartedly!” Dan slapped Carlos’ outstretched hand. “It’s a guy thing, Deanna, right James?”

A flush of blood filled his cheeks.

“Oh, sorry James. I forgot priests were celibate.”

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