By Mary Ellen
Scene 1: Dream sequence
(Syd is about twelve-years old and in a ballet studio where her mom is yelling out directions as she attempts to dance along the bar and the mirrored walls.)
Mrs. Hansen: Keep your head up, Syd, and your shoulders straight. Your arms look like wilting branches!
Young Syd: Mom, I can't; I feel so ugly!
Mrs. Hansen: Of course, you can dear! Concentrate!
(An older, present day Syd is watching this whole scene.)
Older Syd: Mom, what are you doing? You know I hated ballet as a kid; I felt like a beached whale!
Mrs. Hansen: I know you did, but inside each mother is still that dream that her daughter will become a star! (Looking over to the younger Syd.) OK, now , Syd, how's about those 100 "ple-ays" you promised…(Younger Syd starts them.) One, two, three, four…
Older Syd: Oh, no, Mom, not that!
Mrs. Hansen: Five, six, seven...It's necessary dear. Eight, nine …
Syd: No! (Syd wakes herself up screaming.)
Scene 2: Hansen Home
(It is a summer day in Providence and Dr. Syd Hansen is up early with a cup of coffee reading over some travel brochures before work. Joanie is fixing Hannah some breakfast.)
Joanie: Well, Syd, I think it ‘s "cheerios" this morning. It ‘s too hot to fire up the stove!
Syd: They said it is supposed to hit 90 today! The clinic will be a bear! The air conditioning has been on the fritz. I'm praying that they fixed it!
Joanie: Well, you can always come down to "The Barkery" and cool off. Hey, what are you reading?
Syd: Well, I got some brochures from the auto club. I thought a day or a weekend trip up to Boston might be fun.
Joanie: Oh, let's see (Looking at the tour book) Fenway Park! Now that's my idea of a good day trip! There's never been a place filled with more testosterone! It's a good place to meet men!
Syd: I should have figured you'd want me to go where the men are! Well, I've been "striking out" in that area, so we'll see! (Looking at her watch) Oops! It's 7:00; I've got to go! See you after work tonight. I'm not sure what time.
Syd: Thanks! You too! Bye, Hannah! (She kisses her before she flies out the door.)
Scene 3: St. Clare's Clinic, later on that day.
(A thin, slight, blond-haired, 17 year-old girl is in one of the exam rooms. As she waits, she nervously steps on to the scale in the room, attempting to adjust it to her correct weight. As she fiddles with the weights, Syd walks in and startles her.)
Amy: (Jumping off the scale, embarrassed) Oh, hi. Sorry!
Syd: That's OK. You ‘re checking out our equipment, I see. I'm Dr. Hansen. And you are? (Extending her hand to shake Amy's hand.)
Amy: (Shaking Syd's hand) Amy Brooke, with an "e".
Syd: OK, Amy Brooke with an "e", what brings you here today? Are you with someone?
Amy: My mom drove me; she is out in the waiting room. I told her that I could see you by myself. (Fanning herself with her hand) Man, is it hot in here!
Syd: I know! The AC is broken. Sorry! OK So, what can do for you today?
Amy: Well, I'm joining a dance company and I need a physical to start.
Here's the form; I'm sure if you just sign it, it will be OK. They have already accepted me into the troupe, so I…
Syd: Well, I don't really feel comfortable just signing it without seeing you first. Do you have another doctor? It says here that you haven't been to the clinic before.
Amy: Well, I ‘ve had several. My mom seems to switch them a lot. To be honest, I'm not really fond of doctors.
Syd: Oh, and why is that, if you don't mind me asking?
Amy: There you go! You ask too many questions!
Syd: Oh, yes, well, we do tend to do that, but look, I'd be glad to help you get that form filled out if you want me to. (She looks at Amy who looks away.) This shouldn't take too long.
Amy: OK. (with a sigh)
Syd: Why don't you put on this gown and I'll send the nurse in to get your weight and vitals, then I ‘ll be right back.
Amy: You promise it won't be long? I have to get down to the Carriage House Theatre for our first rehearsal.
Syd: I promise. (Stepping out to the nurses' desk) Annica, could you get a weight and a set of vitals on our new patient, Miss Brooke?
Annica: Sure, Dr. Hansen.
(As Syd walks away from the desk, she looks out into the waiting area to see a woman on a cell phone who seems aggravated.)
Mrs. Brooke: I know, Michael, but we will get down there as soon as we can. I'm at the clinic now with Amy. (She pauses to listen to him speak on the other end.) Yes, yes, I know. We are moving as fast as we can. Oh, (Seeing Syd looking her way) look, I've got to go and get them moving around here! (Addressing Syd as she hangs up the phone) Hi! (Wryly) Do you think you could get the doctors moving around here? My daughter, Amy, is just here for a physical and really, all we need is a signature.
Syd: Yes, I know. Is it Mrs. Brooke?
Mrs. Brooke: Why, yes. Well, good, you've met my Amy then; she's really got a schedule and a regimen to keep and we must be in town by 5:00- the latest!
Syd: Well, I'm actually the doctor who is seeing Amy and I promise this won't take long, but I do need to do an exam.
Mrs. Brooke: You're the doctor?
Syd: I'm Sydney Hansen, the medical director here. (Extending her hand to shake Mrs. Brooke's hand.)
Mrs. Brooke: ((Shaking Syd's hand.) Oh, well, then, doctor, could you move it along?
Syd: I'm off to see Amy now. Just sit and relax; Amy should be out shortly.
Mrs Brooke: (Shouting to Syd as she walks toward the exam room) Well, a pretty young doctor like yourself should understand how important dancing can be to a young, talented girl like Amy!
Syd: Well, Amy, let's get this show on the road. (She grabs the chart to check the vitals that Annica took down.) I met your Mom in the waiting room; she seems like she is pretty involved in this dancing thing with you. (Syd takes out her opthamoloscope and looks into Amy's eyes.)
Amy: Yeah, my mom is pretty involved-sometimes too much! Sometimes I wonder whose dance career this is: mine or hers?
Syd: (Putting the opthamoloscope down and reaching for the otoscope.) Oh, (Smiling) she‘s kind of rough on you, huh? (Looking in her ears)
Amy: Yeah, but I can handle it.
Syd: Dancing can be a lot of work. (Putting the otoscope down.) Can you open and say "ahh"?
Amy: (Amy opens her mouth.) Ahh.
Syd: ! (Syd looks down Amy's throat with her penlight and presses on her tongue with a tongue depressor.) How long have you been dancing? (Feeling the glands on Amy's neck)
Amy: As long as I can remember. I started when I was four!
Syd: Wow! That's great! I never was much of a dancer, but I think my mom wished I had more talent! (They laugh and Syd puts her stethoscope in her ears and places the chestpiece on Amy's chest; she listens intently, moving it to several different places, then she places it on Amy's back.) Could you take a deep breath for me? (Amy obliges.) Good. Another one? (Amy breathes.) And another? (Amy breathes again.) One more? (Amy takes a deep breath.) Good. Could you lie back for me? (After Amy lies back, Syd listens to Amy's heart again then takes her stethoscope off and drapes it over her shoulders.) OK, I'm just going to examine your abdomen now. (Syd presses gently on Amy's abdomen with her hands.) Amy, do you have your period every month?
Amy: (Sitting up and startled at the question) Are you asking me if I'm pregnant?
(Her voice fills with angst.) ‘Cause I couldn't be, Dr. Hansen! I haven't even dated yet! Really! I swear! My mother would…
Syd: Whoa, slow down, Amy. Relax. I wasn't implying that.
Syd: Sometimes girls who are very athletic, do miss their periods. Do you remember when your last one was?
Amy: I haven't had one since we started training for this "Rhode Island Ballet Thing" a few months ago.
Syd: What about your diet? How well do you eat?
Amy: Well, all great dancers must watch their weight.
Syd: OK, but, for example, what did you have for breakfast this morning?
Amy: The usual-a glass of my vitamin drink. It's good for me.
Syd: And what about lunch today?
Amy: A garden salad-without dressing, of course.
Syd: What do you usually eat for dinner?
Amy: I don't know. It depends. (Angrily) Look, didn't I say you doctors ask too many questions?!
Syd: Amy, it sounds like you're not eating enough. Your weight is far below the average for your height and …
Amy: But you don't understand, Dr. Hansen! I have to be thin. I'm not nearly as thin as the other girls in the dance company!
Syd: Amy, I know you want…
(There is a knocking at the door and Mrs. Brooke comes in to the exam room.)
Mrs. Brooke: I'm sorry to break this up, girls, but we've got to go. I'm sure Dr. Hansen has gotten all the information she needs. Get dressed, Amy!
Amy: Mom! You rescued me. (Starting to reach for her clothes)
Syd: Wait a minute, Amy! (Reaching over to gently touch Amy's hand)
Amy :(Sighs and looks at Syd and her mom)
Syd: Mrs. Brooke, can we talk first? (Syd walks toward the door and opens it; she looks right at Amy.) Amy, we'll be right back.
Amy: (Looks at Syd and then looks down)
Mrs. Brooke: It this really necessary? (She follows Syd outside the exam room.)
Syd: (Keeping her voice down) Mrs. Brooke, I'd like to run a few more tests.
Mrs. Brooke: What kind of tests?
Syd: I'd like to check her electrolytes, hormone levels and do an EKG.
Mrs. Brooke: Whatever for? Amy is the picture of health!
Syd: Amy's weight is significantly below the average for her height and she has stopped having her menstrual periods. I'm worried that all of this dieting is adversely affecting Amy's health. Maybe we could sit down and…
Mrs. Brooke: (Cutting her off) I assure you, Dr. Hansen, that I am fully capable of taking care of my daughter's meal plan. She and I work very hard on it!
Syd: I know you are trying, but I just want to make sure that Amy is OK. I don't want to frighten you, but this could be serious.
Mrs. Brooke: (Opening the door to the exam room) Amy, get dressed now! (Amy reaches for her clothes and goes behind the exam room curtain to get dressed.)
Syd: Please don't go, I just want a few more minutes with both of you so we can talk. If you have to go, at least set up another appointment with me for tomorrow.
Mrs. Brooke: (Picking up a paper from the desk) It this physical form signed?
Syd: Yes, but I …
Mrs. Brooke: Thank you, doctor, for your time, but we must be on our way. (Amy appears from behind the exam room curtain fully dressed.)
Amy: Bye! (Walking quickly out of the exam room)
Mrs. Brooke: Good day, Dr. Hansen! (She exits.)
(Syd sighs as they exit the exam room and the door slams. Syd turns and she knocks over Amy's purse which she had left on a table in the exam room.)
Syd: Oh! (As she bends down to pick the contents up, she finds a box of laxatives. Hurriedly, she puts the items in the bag and rushes out of the exam room.)
Syd: Izzy, did the young girl I just saw leave already?
Izzy: Yup! They seemed like they were in a hurry!
Syd: (Whispering) Damn!
Scene 4: Later at the Carriage House Theatre
(Amy Brooke is amongst a group of dancers on stage. The director is shouting instructions to them as they are doing some drills.)
Director: Come on people! I know we are just getting started here, but you need to focus!
(Mrs. Brooke is nervously watching from the back row, where she and other parents have gathered.)
Mrs. Brooke: (Whispering) Come on Amy! Show them your stuff! First impressions mean a lot! (As she watches, she sees Syd enter through the back door. She immediately walks over and stops her in her tracks.) Dr. Hansen, are you thinking about a dance career or did you have a house call in this neck of the woods?
Syd: (Startled) Oh, Mrs. Brooke! No, actually, I came to return Amy's purse; she left it at the clinic today. (She holds out the purse.)
Mrs. Brooke: Oh! (Taking the purse)
Syd: Look, I know we didn't get off on the best foot today, but I really want to sit down and talk with you and Amy. It is important!
Mrs. Brooke: I told you we are on top of things! Don't you get it?
Syd: I'm afraid you may not be as on top of things as you would like. I have reason to believe that Amy is, not only dieting, but is also using laxatives to stay thin.
Mrs. Brooke: This is ridiculous!
Syd: When I discovered her purse in the exam room, the contents accidentally spilled out, and I found a large box of laxatives-half empty. Check for yourself. (Looking at the bag)
Mrs. Brooke: Well, I can't believe that you would go through her…(Finding the laxative box in the purse, she stares at it in disbelief.)
Syd: We need to get her some help, Mrs. Brooke. (Applause erupts from the theatre as the dancers take a bow. Mrs. Brooke applauds the loudest and cuts off Syd.)
Director: (Clapping) Thank you very much; you have shown me a lot tonight. I think we are going to have quite the summer together.
Mrs. Brooke: I think you have said enough, Dr. Hansen. I would like you to leave.
Syd: (Looking shocked) Mrs. Brooke, you are making a big mistake!
Mrs. Brooke: Dr. Hansen, we can handle this!
Syd: OK, Mrs. Brooke, I won't stay, but I'm at the clinic if Amy needs me. (She hands Mrs. Brooke a business card and walks out of the theatre.)
Scene 5: Later that evening at the Hansen Home.
Syd: (Announcing as she comes through the door) Hello? I'm home!
(As she enters she can here the music of "The Nutcracker Suite" playing loudly in the living room. There is no answer so she calls again.)
(She enters the living room and she can see Joanie with Hannah. Joanie is proudly guiding Hannah, dressed in a tiny ballet outfit, through some ballet steps. Looking quite shocked, Syd stares at the sight.) What are you doing, Joanie?
Joanie: What does it look like we're doing? We're practicing! (As she speaks, Syd is turning down the music.) Hey, Syd, turn it back up!
Syd: Joanie, don't you think Hannah is a little young for ballet?
Joanie: No, I don't! In fact, children are never too young to be exposed to the creative arts! (She turns the music back up.)
Syd: (Turning the music back down.) Joanie!
Joanie: Syd! What is wrong with you tonight? You are usually all set to have fun with Hannah.
Syd: (She sighs.) I'm sorry, Joanie. (They all sit on the couch.) It is just that when I saw you with Hannah it reminded me of…
Joanie: Mom, always wishing that one of us became a famous dancer?
Syd: Yeah, that and I had a run in with another "ballet mom" today.
Joanie: You what?
Syd: Well, one of my patients is an aspiring young dancer and I'm afraid that trying to stay thin may be posing a threat to her health, not to mention, her mom is "Attila the Hun".
Joanie: No twinkies on her menu, huh?
Syd: No, but plenty of exercise, laxatives and dieting to go round.
Joanie: What are you going to do?
Syd: I don't know. The mom is in total denial about this and the daughter, well, she just wants be good enough and thin enough to dance. They won't even let me help.
Joanie: Well, you can't drag her into the clinic, Syd.
Syd: No, but I'm not ready to give up quite yet… (Reaching for Hannah and taking her in her arms) Come here, Hannah! Aunt Syd needs a hug! (Syd hugs her.)
Joanie: Don't worry, Syd, if anyone can figure out this "dance" it will be you!
Scene 6: A week later at the clinic
Syd: (Walking out to the desk with a mother holding her 4 year-old son, she turns to the boy) Kevin, remember, don't ever put anything in your ear, except your elbow! OK? (She strokes his cheek and smiles.)
Kevin: OK. (He smiles.)
Mother: Thank you, Dr. Hansen!
Syd: No problem! Take care!
(Mom and son exit.)
Syd: (Writing in a chart on the nurses station, she addresses Izzy, who is at the desk.) You know, when I was four years-old, I just might have thought that my ear was a good place to hide a spare blue M&M?
Izzy: (Laughing) Yeah, well, at least it wasn't a gummy bear!
(They laugh and the phone rings.)
Izzy: (Picking it up) St. Clare's Health Clinic…Yes, she is. May I ask who is calling? (She pauses.) Can you hold? (She presses the hold button.) Syd, it is a "Mrs. Brooke" for you?
Syd: I'll take it in my office, thanks. (Syd walks quickly to her office and shuts the door. She sits down and picks up the phone.) Mrs. Brooke, it's Dr. Hansen. Is everything all right?
Mrs. Brooke: NO! Something is wrong with Amy. She is very weak and will not get up. She's been vomiting. I think she took more pills.
Syd: Mrs. Brooke, I want you to call 911 and tell them to bring Amy to Rhode Island Hospital and I ‘ll meet you there. Bring any evidence of pills that you think she may have taken. OK?
Mrs. Brooke: OK. Dr. Hansen, you have to help her!
Syd: I'll be right there. (Syd hands up the phone.) Izzy, I've got an emergency at the hospital. Can you cover things here?
Izzy: Sure, Dr. Hansen. Good luck!
Syd: (Grabbing her bag as she goes out the door) Thanks!
Scene 7: Later that day at Rhode Island Hospital:
The ambulance pulls up to the door and Amy is wheeled out on a gurney toward the ER entrance, followed by her mother. Syd meets them at the entrance. Amy is conscious, but weak and quietly moaning.)
Mrs. Brooke: Dr. Hansen! I'm not sure what she took. But I found this empty box of laxatives in her room. I never thought that she…I…
Syd: (Taking the box) It is going to be fine. (Looking toward the ER Doctor)
ER Doctor: (Running to meet them.) What have we got?
(They all speak as they are pushing the gurney.)
Paramedic: Amy Brooke; A 17 year-old, female; breathing is shallow, BP is 80 over 60 and pulse is 90. We've already started an IV for hydration and she is on O2 at 4 liters.
Syd: I'm Dr. Hansen. I've seen Amy at St. Clare's Clinic. I have reason to believe Amy is abusing laxatives (holding the box) and may be anorexic.
ER Doctor: (Getting to the exam room entrance) Well, Dr. Hansen, we could use a hand here.
Syd: Sure. (Turning to Mrs. Brooke) I'll let you know as soon as I know anything. (Going into the exam room.)
ER Doctor: On my count… One… Two… Three!
(They transfer Amy from the ambulance gurney to the ER gurney.)
ER Doctor: I need an EKG, ABG, CBC, Chem 7, electrolytes, a tox screen and dip a urine.
(One nurse is checking Amy's blood pressure, while the other is checking the IV line.)
Syd: Amy? Amy? It's Dr. Hansen. You are at the hospital. What did you take? Laxatives?
Syd: How many?
Amy: (Very weak and gasping for breath) I don't remember. I take them all the time. (Crying) Dr. Hansen, am I going to die?
Syd: No, Amy! We are right here. (Grabbing a stethoscope hanging off an IV pole in the room, Syd listens to Amy's heart. Then she looks over to the EKG monitor.) Her T-waves are flattened. (Listening to Amy's abdomen.) Bowel sounds are positive. (Palpating Amy's abdomen.)
Syd: (to Amy) It's OK, Amy. (to the ER Doctor)Her Abdomen is distended and tender. I think she is hypokalemic.
ER Doctor: We need to stabilize her electrolytes and rehydrate her.
Syd: (To Amy) It's OK, Amy. I'm not going anywhere. (Taking her hand)
Scene 8: Later in Amy's Hospital Room:
Syd: (Walks in the room puts a canvas bag on the bedside table and reaches for Amy's chart. She looks at it, puts it down and then checks Amy's pulse at her wrist. Amy opens her eyes.) Hi, there.
Amy: Hi. (Looking away)
Syd: How are you doing? You had us scared for a while. The laxatives you were taking made your potassium drop too low.
Amy: (Sighs, still looking away.)
Syd: Look, Amy, I know all you want is to be thin and beautiful.
Amy: But all I get is fatter and uglier.
Syd: I know it seems that way, Amy. (Pulling a chair up close to the bed and sitting down) If you could only see how beautiful you really are. A lot of girls, especially dancers, because they want to be thin, struggle with these problems. Amy, have you ever heard of anorexia nervosa?
Amy: Yeah. (Closing her eyes)
Syd: Well, that's what's making you sick. It makes you feel like you'll never be thin enough, so you do all kinds of things to keep from gaining weight. Like dieting and using laxatives. The good news is together we can beat this.
Amy: (Looking at Syd.) Dr. Hansen, I'm scared. I don't want to be fat!
Syd: I know. It is scary, but with some help you can overcome that fear and finally see the beautiful you that we all see.
Syd: With some time, hard work and a doctor that won't give up on you!
Amy: (Turns away again)
Syd: Hey, I brought you something. (She takes a pair of old toe shoes out of the bag she had put on the bedside table and places them in front of Amy.)
Amy: (Taking the shoes in her hands) Hey, these are awesome!
Syd: Yeah, I think my mom figured if I had good shoes, I'd be a better dancer, but it didn't work out that way. I was better at biochem than ballet. (They smile.) They are all yours if want them.
Amy: Thanks. They're really nice, but I don't think I'll be dancing much anymore. (Putting the shoes on the table.)
Syd: No? Why not?
Amy: I just don't think I'll ever feel "good enough".
Syd: Well, I plan on sticking around to remind you that you are good enough- whether you become a "prima ballerina" or not! Keep the shoes anyway! You never know when you might need them.
Amy: What about my mom?
Mrs. Brooke: (Entering the room) Your mom is going to make sure you know that you don't have to be perfect. You just have to be you. This whole thing has made me realize how hard I push you, Amy. I don't want a dancer; I just want a daughter. (Taking Amy's hand) Dr. Hansen, (looking at Syd) thank you so much for your persistence. I'm not sure what we would have done if you hadn't been there.
Syd: You're welcome; I ‘m glad I could be. Well, I'll be back to check on you. (Syd turns to leave.)
Amy: Dr. Hansen?
Syd: (Turning back) Yes?
Amy: I'm glad you became a doctor not a dancer.
Syd: Why, thank you. Even though I ask too many questions?
Amy: Yeah. (Smiling)
Syd: Get some rest, kiddo. (She strokes Amy's face.)
(Syd walks toward the door)
Mrs. Brooke: Good night, Dr. Hansen.
Syd: (Turning and smiling) Good night.
Scene 9: Later at the Hansen House:
Joanie: (Holding Hannah) Syd, do you think Hannah will grow up with a good self- image? I mean, I still wake up and hate what I see in the mirror some days.
Syd: We all do, but I guess it's important to keep it all in perspective.
You know, Mom did a pretty good job at that. She may have dreamed of us being ballerinas, but deep down we knew it was OK to be what we wanted to be.
Joanie: Yeah, I guess you're right. Remember that time that I was all upset because I didn't make the cheerleading squad?
Joanie: She came to me and said that no matter whether I was in the stands, or on the field cheering, I should always know I was beautiful.
Syd: And that's what you'll teach Hannah.
Joanie: I'm going to try. (Handing Hannah to Syd in the rocking chair) Can you take her for me, Syd? I'll be right back.
Syd: Sure, Joanie.
Syd: Oh, Hannah, honey, it's time to sleep! (Rocking her on her shoulder and closing her eyes.) Shh…(Singing and closing her eyes) "Hush little baby, don't say a word…"
(Mrs. Hansen walks into the room as Syd rocks and sings to Hannah.)
Mrs. Hansen: Syd?
Syd: Hi, Mom!
Mrs. Hansen: Nice singing, Syd.
Mrs. Hansen: I just wanted to say thanks for those kind words you and Joanie said about me tonight. It did my heart good to hear you speak of me that way. I had no idea.
Syd: Well, Mother, I know we bickered a lot and still do. Sure, you had always wished that I'd been a ballerina, but you always helped me to know I was good enough just being me. That meant a lot.
Mrs. Hansen: I most certainly tried, dear. It is not easy, you know, but I think Hannah is going to be just fine. She's got Joanie and you to remind her that she is beautiful whether she is a ballerina or biochemist.
Syd: She sure does and she still has her grandmother, too! Good night, Mom!
Mrs. Hansen: Good night, Syd!
© 2000 Mary Ellen
DISCLAIMER: Characters mentioned in this story that have appeared in the NBC
series "Providence" are the property of National Broadcasting Company. No copyright infringement is