Thursday, January 20, 2011

Some Days, You Are Lucky To Get The Laotian Phlebotomist

I went to the doctor Tuesday afternoon for a regular six-month visit to check on whether my blood pressure meds are killing me. At least that's what I think the reason is for the six-month visit.

This was not a pleasant experience. If my doctor visit was a cruise, Gilligan would be the captain. You heard me. Gilligan. Not the Skipper. Except that the sitcom of my life isn't going into syndication, I didn't drink out of a coconut shell, and I managed to return home.

Here's the thing: they call you in to check on your blood pressure, but only after they have extracted the very last ounce of patience from your meager stockpile of good will. Join me, if you will, on my very own three-hour tour.

It's never a good sign when you arrive at 3:45 for your 4:00 appointment, and have to park in the next to last row of the hospital parking lot. Or that the aged trolley driver did not even bother to cruise by and offer you a ride to the front door. Perhaps he could not see that far.

I signed in at the far window, the one on the opposite end of the clinic from the parking lot, and waited to be called for my insurance information. You know, that ratty letter saying I really do have insurance, but just not a card like any other reputable insurance company besides Anthem Blue Cross would provide their clients by the date the insurance takes effect. Thank the Gummi Mary, that is my secondary insurance through Farmer H.

While I waited 35 minutes to be called to that window, I was swarmed by every germ-toting toddler in a tri-county area. You see, that window is by the 'playroom' consisting of a little table and some coloring pages. The dude ahead of me didn't have his insurance card or driver's license, and sent his wife out to the car to get it. I'm thinking she bopped on over to Buffalo Wild Wings for a snack just to show him who was boss, because she could have hiked to the Newmentia parking lot in the time she was gone. A dudette who came in after me could not find her license after the window returned it. She was tripping, looking under all the chairs, lifting them, turning her coat inside out, asking the window girls, etc. I thought she was going to pick me up and shake me to see if her license might be expelled from one of my body cavities.

After I was certified as being insured and not an impostor, I trekked back to the first window and chose a row of two chairs, facing down the corridor, so people wouldn't hark their phlegm in my direction. Wouldn't you know it, a hick in the corner was coughing up a lung every ten seconds. He should go into the lung donor business, really. Then he took a phone call and told the caller, "Yeah, we're here in the doctor's office. We brought the kids for their check-up." Uh huh. He wasn't even there to put an end to his Typhoid Barry business.

I soon had enough of inhaling those lingering microbes, and moved to a seat with my back to the wall when some lucky dogs got called into the inner sanctum. That lasted all of five minutes, during which a PA came striding down the corridor announcing that both elevators were down, and they needed the special vehicle they use to carry wheelchair people down the steps. I took it for granted that she meant down as in broken, not down as in jumbled piles of metal fragments embedded in the concrete foundation of the building. Did I mention we were on the fourth floor?

My new seat buddies arrived, a teen mom with a toddler and a basket baby, plus her mother. They cooed at the baby while the toddler stood in front of me and stared and coughed. I held my breath as long as I could, then turned sideways to try to sneak a breath. Mercifully, they were called in forthwith.

Shortly after 5:00, I was chosen to receive my long-awaited medical care. First on the agenda was a stop at the scale, followed by a walk to an exam room, upon which I was told to sit down, and a blood pressure cuff ensnared my arm. It came as no surprise to me that my pressure was up. A whopping 138/90, which some years back was nearly borderline hypertension. Anyhoo, it wasn't enough to change my meds. I am confident that in another six months it will be back to the 120/80 that it had been for the past several visits.

Doc did not bother to share my lab results, tried to foist a sleep apnea study upon me, or a cortisone shot in my knee, but I declined both at this juncture. He did, however, send me downstairs to the lab I had just been to on Saturday, to give them more blood for a thyroid test, which had not been ordered six months ago. As an extra bonus, he promised a tetanus booster, after tiring of my story of the garage-nail flesh-ripping incident.

I had to ask for that tetanus booster, though, because his nurses, Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee, came to route me out of that exam room with nary a syringe between them. And they proceeded to quiz me, like people just waltz in there willy-nilly and wait for hours and then try to scam a tetanus booster all in the name of hypochondria. "Well, who are you to need a tetanus shot? What's that all about? Doc didn't write that on the order." I showed them my flesh wound, and Tweedle Dum said, "I'm going to get it right now!" She met Doc in the hall, who verified that indeed, I was supposed to receive the magical lock-jaw preventer, as I wasn't yet old enough to put out to pasture from neglect.

Seeking advice from these wise Tweedles, I said, "So the elevators are down. Why do the stairs have a sign that says, Stairs End at Second Floor?" Tweedle Dum said, "Oh, they'll tell you where to go when you get there." So either there are talking steps, or a sign, or a stairwell attendant for just such occasions. Because she went on to say that the elevators break at least twice a week.

The office gal who gave me the lab order said that the elevators were fixed. I waited until another family went down, then pushed the button, and when that same elevator came back to get me, I took my chances. It was the longest elevator ride ever.

Are you tired yet? Because I was getting might tired of forking over that ratty insurance letter and getting the stink-eye from the staff. The lab people were not behind their frosted window, so I set my paperwork on the computer mouse, thinking it would be discovered. After they called four numbers, I told them I had put my paperwork in, but nobody was there to give me a number. They called me next. At least all the numbered people had been in that waiting room before me. Because I could not squeeze out one more ounce of bitterness.

Just before the Laotian-looking phlebotomist plunged her needle into my tied-off vein, a male phlebotomist with a cart full of blood and pointy things popped in to ask if she would give the OR a try, because after umpteen sticks, he still couldn't find a vein in that patient.

Suddenly, it didn't suck so bad to be Mrs. Hillbilly Mom.


Mommy Needs a Xanax said...

My blood pressure went up just reading about it, HM.

Hillbilly Mom said...

Mommy Ann,
I rest my case.

Kathy's Klothesline said...

I feel almost lucky to not have the necessary insurance for an annual exam .........

Hillbilly Mom said...

Farmer H is lucky that his new insurance company since Jan. 1 has not yet given out cards. At the pharmacy, he only paid $40 instead of the usual $60 that he pays WITH insurance.

Insurance is a racket. Farmer H says that when he wins millions in the lottery, he will not have insurance, but will set himself up a medical savings account and pay as he goes. I suppose it's good to have goals in life.