A Word to the Why(s): The Behemoth of Modern Health Care

Until this week, I had not seen a doctor for seven years.

Well, “seen” is incorrect. I see doctors all the time. I take my Mother for some of her regular visits with an array of physicians, each assigned the care and maintenance of one or another of her organs or systems. I spend a great deal of time in waiting rooms and at drug windows and counters.

Too, once upon a time long ago before I became a rarely-published writer-slash-house/pet sitter, and even before my years of corralling children and actors – many of whom came to me medicated – I worked  in the health insurance industry. I started out processing claims, moved on to auditing other processors and paying high dollar claims, and, finally, heading up a systems set-up department.

I’m not a fan of the way we think about health and medicine in this culture. This week did little to change my mind. Monday, I called my new primary care physician group because I could not kick my sore throat and too, I was “required” to see them within 90 days of having signed up for the mandated health care coverage. Because I was a new patient, they could not see me until Friday and suggested I go to a walk-in type place in the meantime.

I did. Two strep tests and three hours later, nothing was wrong with me. Probably sinus drainage. I’m good with that. I did as suggested. Tried some over the counter allergy pills and spray. Sore throat still not gone by today. And, honestly, I’m okay with this. I don’t expect an illness to disappear magically and drainage is drainage and I will live. Yes, it’s hard to swallow and yes it’s annoying but, so what. The rest of me is healthy. It will pass.

Go to my “new” physician this morning. I am the SINGLE patient when I arrive. This does not mean, however, that I am seen. For my 10:30 appointment – which, they insisted, was 10:45 – I was not taken into a room until 11. And no one came in until 11:15, at which point I was interviewed by a nurse about all the things I had ALREADY spent 20 minutes filling out forms describing. Okay. I get it. However, she takes my blood pressure and it is 130 over 70. NEVER in my entire life has my blood pressure been high, which I tell her and suggest she take it again. She ignores me.

She goes, about twenty minutes later in walks a physician’s assistant. I’m fine with that too. I don’t need to see a doctor. She asks me all the same questions. I answer. Again. I assure her that I am fine but have come because I was SUPPOSED to and because my family and friends are crazy and I want to assure them with some medical back-up that I am fine.

She looks me over and suggests my blood pressure is high and maybe I should eat less salty foods. I suggest she knows nothing about my diet and perhaps she should take my blood pressure AGAIN because when it was taken I was annoyed and stressed about my having to wait 20 minutes when I was the only patient there. She said she would. She did not.

SHE THEN said my throat looked fine (I knew) and it was probably sinus drainage (I knew) and suggested that I try a different over the counter pill. Okay then. SHE THEN said that she was going to do another two strep tests ANYWAY – just to be sure – I suggested that perhaps four in five days was overkill? She laughed, as if I meant to be funny.

No. Not really, SHE THEN said that while we were waiting for the strep test results they could do the bloodwork. I asked what bloodwork that would be. She said bloodwork to check my cholesterol and sugar and prostate something and on and on and on and too, that she would be writing me  a referral for a colonoscopy since I was at that age and —

I said, “No.” She said, “What?” I said, No. As in I will not be having any bloodwork. I will not be having a colonoscopy. I will not be doing anything but drinking plenty of water, continuing to monitor my weight, exercising six days a week, living my life happily and believing I am healthy until – I hope – I drop dead at a reasonable age from something that hits quickly and fatally, but that what I would NOT be doing was spending twenty years taking this or that drug or going to the doctor every few months to be bled and tested and etcetera.

She was literally speechless. She got herself under control – although I must say she was far less perky than she had been previously – and said, “Well, I guess that’s your right.” Yes. It is. She then sent in another nurse to do the strep test. I opened wide. She took the sample. I sat. Ten minutes later she returned to say that because my gag reflex stopped her, she had gotten a swab from my tongue, not my throat and I had to try harder.

Uhm, gag reflex? I don’t want to be crude or offer too much information but TRUST ME ON THIS, my gag reflex was NOT to blame for her swabbing the wrong place. Which, in less polite terms — oh hell — I said, “Not to be rude, but in certain circles where I use aliases and alternate personalities, I’ve long been well-known for my absence of gag reflex. Trust me, if someone messed up that test — it was NOT me.”

Another one left speechless. Off she went. Fifteen minutes later, another person, “You can go. You’re negative.”

I answered in an English accent (Sebastian had taken over), “Well, in all the ways that count, yes, yes I am. I’ve always been very careful about that. But on the whole – as in the ENTIRETY of things – I’m quite positive. Good day.”

And STILL no one offered me a psychiatric referral or mood-altering drugs. President Obama, you need to get that task force back on the case. LOL. Never. Again.

 

 

 

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