The favorite parts of my day as a sonographer are the tidbit conversations with my patients. Some are hilarious, some tearful, some aggravating. There are fascinating tales of World War II and adorable couples celebrating five decades of marriage. There’s also the carotid Doppler patient (those are often interesting), 40 years my senior ecstatic and applauding when I walk in, as I am apparently her long-lost twin from San Mateo. Her mother loved me, she reassured me. Her dad thought I was okay.
One patient snapshot that lives close to my heart exemplifies the growing pains of generations of race relations and civil rights. The patient was an elderly African-American woman, regal yet frail, who came for a lower extremity arterial exam. While I performed the study, she remembered the historical violence in her newly integrated high school in Texas. “All’s that happened to me was potatoes thrown at my head,” she said. “But, oh, some of them young men took big beatings.” When the exam was completed, I picked up her shoes and asked if I could help her put them on. I was tying the laces when I heard her sniffle. I looked up and the patient was in tears. When I asked if she was okay, she suddenly burst out laughing, “I had never dreamed in my life that a white girl’d be putting my old shoes on my old feet and pretending she likes it!” We had a good chuckle and as I wheeled her chair back to the front of the office, she reached for my hand. “Thank you for being so kind.”
While I don’t particularly enjoy fussing with other people’s shoes, it is sometimes astounding to imagine walking a mile in them.