‘Visit to Duke Hospital’
Ashley was diligent with her research on the disease. On the Internet she found an array of statistics, studies, and options available to cancer patients. One recurring theme kept coming back to her and Skip. Should they ask for a second opinion? Most of the research Ashley had uncovered suggested getting not only a second and third opinion, but also consulting one of the country’s major cancer treatment centers. Charleston had a number of adequate medical facilities. However, having cancer and birthing babies were two totally different uses of a hospital and its personnel. The nearest major cancer center to Charleston was in Durham, North Carolina, at the Duke University Hospital Center. It was well-known and well-respected for its Cancer Clinic. Ashley and Skip decided to take a trip to Duke, although it had never been suggested by Dr. Barker or anyone locally at Roper or any other facility the Sibleys had visited.
At first glance, the Duke Clinic was one of the most depressing places Skip had ever seen. A massive room was filled with patients and their families or advocates, and for them this was their hope. “I want to leave immediately,” said Skip, as he perused the vacuous crowd. The place was full of wheelchairs, crutches, baldness, and people getting sick to their stomachs. A ghostly pale covered the patients’ faces. While this was ostensibly a place of hope and cure, one could see only pain and suffering in the eyes of the burdened. Despair hung in the air as the fall dew on the vine. There must have been hundreds of people there waiting their turn to see the doctor of the day. Skip wondered how they could cycle through this many people in a day. The staff must have been large and expedient.
The one advantage of coming to a place like Duke was that by being a major cancer center, what is rare in Charleston is much less so at Duke. The local pathologist in Charleston may see one or two samples like Skip’s a year, if that, whereas the pathologists at Duke see this kind of cancer many times a year. The wait was several hours, but that was to be expected. Other than wearing a sling on his right arm, Skip, even in the shape he was in, looked like Robert Redford compared to those other waiting room patients—at least on this visit.
“Malcolm Sibley,” said the voice from behind the desk. It was finally Skip’s time. The chaos in the waiting area became a well-orchestrated sonata behind closed curtains. Dr. Laurie and his well-mentored minions, as Duke was a teaching hospital, all flaunted over to Skip and Ashley. The doctor then presented Skip’s case back to him in remarkable detail. Skip had presumed that after walking in from the waiting room, the doctor would have no notion of his case, and it would take time to research, read, and study Skip’s situation. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Dr. Laurie exuded confidence. He was familiar not only with Skip’s case, but also with the possible types of cancer. The biggest piece of any cancer puzzle is the pathology. Dr. Laurie had studied the information sent to him from Dr. Barker via Diane that suggested metastatic thyroid cancer. As was hoped and expected, Dr. Laurie suggested that Duke take the lead on their case.
The downside? More delays. Dr. Laurie needed the biopsied tissue sample so the pathologists at Duke could make their own determination. One of Dr. Laurie’s staff would make the arrangements, and upon finding the pathological results, they would meet again to discuss the findings.
While nothing was really gained on the trip to Duke, Skip and Ashley felt confident in their decision to share Skip’s case with as many eyes as possible. The five-hour ride back to Charleston was uneventful as Ashley drove and Skip rested and pondered his next visit to Dr. Laurie.