Helen Grainger’s name and Status appeared on the screen as the scanner attached to the door read the chip she’d had custom-fitted into the thin, stylishly-minimalistic bracelet she wore around her wrist. The receptionist viewed the screen, verifying Mrs. Grainger was permitted into a Level 1 care facility and then looked up as the older woman walked toward the desk.
“Good afternoon, Mrs. Grainger. What brings you here today?”
“Good afternoon, dear. My HomeScan let me know my appendix burst and I’m in quite a bit of pain.”
“Goodness,” the receptionist said calmly and pleasantly. “Let’s see what we can do about that.”
She consulted her screen and a concerned look appeared on her face. “Mrs. Grainger, I’m very sorry to tell you this, but there are no Level 1 doctors currently available. Unfortunately they’re all in surgery and booked for the next two hours.” She pushed a few more keys. “There is a Level 2 doctor who’s available immediately. I know this isn’t ideal, but I’d hate to make you wait.
“Oh dear.” Mrs. Grainger had never been a Level 2, having been born into society’s highest class and coming from three generations who had been similarly privileged. She only casually knew a handful of those in the lower group and was sure, in the way only those who have never experienced a single hardship in their life can be sure, that it was in every way inferior in all manners. “You’re sure.”
Her first inclination was to decline and wait for the doctor she had every societal right to see, but a sharp thrust of pain in her abdomen momentarily weakened her resolve.
“Fine. I can assure you a Level 1 support team, including the anesthesiologist and orderly, will be with you at all times and making sure you get the kind of care your Status dictates.”
“Yes, fine.” She winced again as more pain emerged.
“This way, Mrs. Grainger.”
Less than two minutes later she was in a private room being asked to undress and place her clothes and belongings in a safety box for the duration of her surgery and stay. When she signaled she was ready two people walked in the room.
The young woman who came in second began introducing herself. “Mrs. Grainger, my name is Dr….” but was cut off by the older, gruff but still pleasantly demeanored man who had come in first.
“Mrs. Grainger, I’m Mr. Sama. I’m the Level 1 anesthesiologist who will be monitoring your care, as well as the performance of Dr. Rickert.” The young woman looked chastised but also annoyed at having been circumvented by someone who was societally her superior but professionally her inferior.
“How do you do, Mr. Sama. Helen Grainger.” She gave a curt nod to the female doctor still standing near the door.
“We’re going to take good care of you, ma’am. I’ll be by Dr. Rickert’s side the entire time.” Rickert was clearly annoyed at someone speaking for her but there was no way around this, not in the current situation.
“Thank you, Mr. Sama.”
A short silence followed and the doctor realized it was finally her opportunity to inject into the conversation.
“Mrs. Grainger, I’m Dr. Samantha Rickert. I appreciate the…unusual circumstances you’re being asked to put yourself in but I can assure you the best possible care while you’re my patient.”
“Yes, well, we’ll see about that, dear.”
“Yes ma’am. Now unless you or Mr. Sama have anything further to discuss I’d like to have a nurse, a Level 1 nurse, come in and start preparing you for surgery. Time is of the essence, of course.”
“Fine,” Mrs. Grainger said dismissively. She felt this whole conversation was beneath her.
Two hours later she was recuperating in the same room she’d been in initially. The surgery had gone fine. Even Mr. Sama had grudgingly admitted Dr. Rickert’s technique was impressive. The two stood at the nurse’s station desk 10 feet away from Grainger’s room looking over the patient’s chart when Rickert put the tablet down.
“I think I forgot my keypass in Mrs. Grainger’s room.” She patted her pocket as if looking for it. “Be right back.”
She walked into the room and saw Grainger was indeed still sleeping off the anesthesia from the surgery, just as she should be. Dr. Rickert had not, in fact, lost her keypass. It was safely in her purse in the locker room. Instead she walked toward the table to the side of the bed and pulled a piece of paper from her side pocket. She unfolded it and gave it one last look before leaving it on the nightstand.
You think less of me, just as society has taught you to. I will likely never be a Level 1, not because I lack the skills that might earn me advancement, but because talented Level 2 doctors are not discarded easily. It’s one of the few ways our government shows compassion on anyone below the top tier of society, not removing access to quality care without good reason. Having been under my knife has, I’m sure, galled you and there’s nothing I can do about that. What I hope, though, is that you will always remember it was a Level 2 individual who saved your life and that gives you some perspective you didn’t have before today. Not everything is as clear cut as our government would have you believe.
Rickert shook her head. No, it wouldn’t do any good. Grainger wasn’t the type for whom new perspectives that conflicted with her existing worldview came easily. The best case scenario would be that the woman ignored the note. Worst case was she reported Rickert for a protocol breach that could result in her medical license being reviewed and potentially revoked.
She crumpled up the paper and put it back in her pocket. Walking back out toward the desk she saw Sama still standing there.
“Nope. Must be in my locker.” She walked right past him, content in her decision and ready to get back to Level 2 patients and coworkers, no longer be looked down upon.