“Relax your arm,” the nurse tells me as she prepares to measure my blood pressure.
“Wait – I remember you!” she says, commenting on her ability to “remember faces."
She should definitely remember mine. This is my third visit to this office in two weeks.
It all began after I returned from a trip to Kentucky. Throughout the trip, my boss was seized with repeated coughing fits. Complaining of allergies it all seemed plausible – until I began feeling rather sick myself.
Upon my return, I visit Patient First.
The nurse kindly walks me to an examining room. “The doctor will be in shortly.”
After waiting more than two and a half hours, the doctor finally appears. No apology for my extended stay, barely even a hello. She begins the appointment by asking, “Why are you here?”
I refrain from acting on my first instinct - telling her I came for the wait.
I list my symptoms to the doctor. Congestion, fever, earache, sore throat, runny nose. I quickly self-diagnose, telling her these symptoms all amount to a sinus infection. I have a tendency to contract such an illness - no doubt a result in part of the sulfuric acid that burned the inside of my nose several years ago. A story I tend to dislike sharing with each and every doctor I meet, their blank stares and unmoved expressions doing much to make my experience feel rather insignificant. I long for them to read about the past in my file, sparing me from having to engage. Regardless, I attempt to save us all some time by kindly asking her to fill out a prescription.
She prescribes Z-PaK, an antibiotic doctor’s must receive some kind of kickback from since every time I get sick they suggest the same remedy. Usually I desist; yet, my sickly state prevents me from thinking clearly enough to proffer a differing suggestion. Under pressure, I cave, eager to begin feeling the relief only an antibiotic can provide in situations such as these.
I start feeling better, only to feel much worse within a week’s time. A subsequent visit is required to procure a different antibiotic. This time? Keflex. Four days later, I feel even sicker, my swollen glands preventing me from uttering a word. A real travesty, considering how much I like to talk.
Which brings us to the final visit, when the nurse recognizes my face. This time, the doctor arrives in a timely manner, inquiring as to the reason for my visit. I quickly list the symptoms that with so much practice practically roll off my tongue. Seconds later, she asks, “So what symptoms are you experiencing today?”
As if they have changed in the last ten seconds.
I list them again. She exits the room only to reappear moments later, telling me I need a chest x-ray along with a battery of tests. “I heard fluid in your lungs,” she says, inciting a fear that I have somehow contracted pneumonia. I readily agree to the battery of tests, worried that something is deeply wrong with me. Perhaps this is the reason I have been so sick for so long, I wonder. Maybe this is the end.
Half an hour later, I realize the only end I have reached is darkening the door of Patient First ever again. She tells me that my sinus infection has morphed into a case of bronchitis. She prescribes a stronger antibiotic – Doxycycline this time – to knock out the infection.
The next day, I visit my plastic surgeon for a follow-up appointment regarding my facial surgery last December.
“How was your weekend?” he asks.
“It was nice to have time off,” I say.
My mother, ever the truth teller, informs the doctor that in fact my holiday was terrible due to my inability to receive adequate medical care.
“Are you being treated?” he asks.
“Yes,” I answer, detailing the above saga.
Unimpressed by the care I have received over the last couple of weeks, he gently asks, “Would you allow me to treat you?”
He prescribes an antibiotic called Augmentin – for those of you who were wondering, apparently this is the best medication for any and all sinus related maladies.
The plastic surgeon’s preferred antidote did the trick. Within a few days, my infection cleared up, ending nearly a month of sickness. Thankfully, my frequent doctor’s visits were completely covered by insurance, ensuring that I would not have to shoulder an unwanted financial burden due to the incompetence of our medical system. Leaving me with a sense of newfound compassion for those without access to health insurance, as well as those forced to visit doctor’s far more inadequate than my own.
Even more importantly, I learned that in 21st century America, it is not enough for patients to engage in the act of self-diagnosing. They also must have on hand a list of suggested medications to present to a doctor. Unless you decide to save some time and schedule an appointment with your plastic surgeon instead.
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