Friday, November 21, 2008

How Do I Help You Help Me?

Recently I had a lot of frustration around getting medical treatment. Hubby has a new job, and new health insurance, but the insurance cards had not yet arrived by mail. So even though I had an appointment to see my doctor, and the pertinent insurance information written down, I was told that I would have to pay for the visit. They had a policy, the staff member said. She had asked three people. She had tried. Having suffered foot pain for 10 days, I could not wait another week 'til my cards would probably arrive. I could not justify writing a check for $95.00 for an office visit, and so I walked out of that office, determined never to return there, not for myself, or for any family member.

I drove down the street and parked in front of an urgent care clinic. I hobbled in painfully, slowly, and approached the counter. A lady in maroon scrubs asked me something nicely enough. I said, "I hope you can help me. " I proceeded to explain about my failed visit with my doctor, and I showed her the written insurance information that I had in my hand. She looked at me with her chin down, and she POINTED TO A SIGN ON HER OFFICE WINDOW. No smile, nod, or repeating what she'd heard. She merely POINTED TO THE BLASTED SIGN! It said, in a nutshell, YOU WILL PAY BY LIMBS IF YOU DON'T SHOW US THE MAGIC CARD. I said, "There must be somewhere I can go."

A lady in the back office had overheard, I guess, and started prompting the one at the window. The window witch explained to the hidden one (Glenda the good witch, perhaps?) that I didn't have my card, and that I ONLY had the group number. (This by the way, was a LIE. I had other pertinent information, but she obviously did NOT care.)

Window witch wrote down three items of information that I needed to acquire before being seen, on a pretty purple sticky note. She shoved a slip of white paper toward me with a pen and a great deal of purposeful force. The form I was looking at asked the reason for my visit. I shakily wrote down my symptoms, then reviewed the sticky note. Window witch suggested that I call my insurance company or my husband and get the numbers. Perhaps because my mind was befuddled with pain and frustration, I did not think to say, "Oh, OK, thanks! May I please use your phone, since you've been so very kind already?"

I left, came home, called my dad the babysitter, and called my insurance company, but not without great frustration just getting the Internet connection here at the house to work. Without that connection, I cannot even use the phone. My prayers must have been answered, because I got through to a very helpful person at the insurance company, who gave me all the information I needed, and who even had a sense of humor, bless her! Further blessings to this point include my parents taking care of my 3-y-o while I hobbled around town trying to get some help, and the kind police officer who had pulled me over before this whole ordeal began, having mercy on me and issuing me only a warning for speeding. (See, bending my foot to press the gas pedal down while my heel rested on the floorboard aggravated my painful toe, so I had changed my foot position so that my whole foot was resting firmly on the pedal.)

So I ate lunch and returned to the clinic, where Window Witch had evidently been lulled into a spell of civility (perhaps she'd had time to lunch?), or who was possibly magically entranced by my newfound numbers! In any case, she gave me the traditional tome to complete, and I was so ridiculously grateful!

Soon, I was seen by a nurse briefly, who took my vitals, and led me to a small exam room. She then instructed me to remove my shoe, and as soon as I had done so, she said, Actually, let's go to another room.

. . .and then I was finally seen by a doctor, who burned some kind of infected-tissue-growth on my big toe, and pulled some of it off. Thank goodness the nurse had put some kind of numbing agent on my toe first! I only wish she had used about 10 times as much. I had to use my breathing techniques from childbirth. That was alarming to the doctor and nurse, who kept asking me if I were OK. I kept telling them I was fine, alternating crying and laughing. And breathing deep and hard.

They gave me lots of instructions, and then I was discharged with lots of papers, including two prescriptions. As I was leaving, the nurse directed me to exit through a different door than the one with which I was familiar. I walked out and saw the longest hall I've ever seen in my life.

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