If you’ll recall a few weeks back, I was having some heart trouble and ended up in the Emergency Room. Since I was discharged, I would have the occasional bout of heart fluttering, but nothing as bad as the day the original episode.
When I called to make my appointment, I was surprised at how laid back the person who was scheduling me seemed to be. Sure, she must get people calling all the time, and often for things far worse than a bit of fluttering in the chest and a rapid heart beat, which I had.
Still, when she told me the earliest appointment she had was sometime in early July, I felt as though I wasn’t being taken seriously. After all, the Emergency Room people sure felt it was worth dealing with right away. She told me if I wanted to, I could call my family doctor and see if she could bump me up the list to a sooner appointment.
That statement made me wonder what’s wrong with our health care system. What if I had a serious problem? Waiting three weeks wasn’t exactly the best way to deal with it, and pestering my doctor to get me bumped up seemed to be kind of ridiculous to me. I mean, does my doctor, who wasn’t even there in the Emergency Room when I was having this problem, really know what I’m experiencing any better than me.
I wasn’t about to take the spot of some elderly person who probably genuinely needed to see the cardiologist before me, so I decided to wait my turn and see the doctor three weeks later, on schedule. Considering I had been using up a lot of my vacation time for other stuff and I was still backed up a whole week from the time I took off for my trip to Mexico, I frankly couldn’t afford to miss any more time at work.
The weekend before my appointment, I get a phone call from an automated message. As I answer, I’m fooled by a very human sounding recording to remind me of my appointment. I begin to answer the person asking for me, which resets the recording. I feel like an idiot and listen to the appointment I knew was on my calendar for Monday.
What the recording didn’t tell me was where the appointment was, so I had to do a web search for the office. I knew roughly where it was from the Google map. Delaware is laid out in clusters of shopping centers, with very few “Main Streets” to speak of. One basically learns clusters of stores or medical centers like landmarks. For this appointment, I couldn’t remember which of the two I was thinking of. Of course, I was pulling into the parking lot of the furthest one when I realized I had gone to the wrong place.
Now I had to turn around and lost my 15 minute window I wanted to have to fill out paper work since I’m a new patient. I’m scrambling in mid afternoon traffic. And, all the while, I’m going between cursing myself out for not remembering where I needed to be and trying to calm down because I’m going to see the cardiologist. I arrive with seconds to spare for my scheduled time and don’t even bother trying to call the elevator.
The office is the most palatial of any doctor’s office I’ve ever seen. It was absolutely huge, with plush chairs in the waiting area. A large screen television was tuned into day time talk shows and a giant fish tank had about a dozen beautiful fish swimming happily. I signed in and took a seat on one of the comfy loveseats.
Eventually, they called me back for my appointment. The nurse asking questions about my medical history. It was awkward to explain that I had no knowledge about my mother’s side of the family as we’re estranged. I was able to provide a bit of information, but nothing recent. Fortunately, she was understanding, and didn’t linger on the topic.
She took my blood pressure, which was normal, and my pulse, which was high, but not terrible. The doctor came in shortly thereafter, a pleasant looking man in his 40s dressed in a dark green striped golf shirt and khakis. He was just as pleasant as the nurse, and discussed my EKG, which the ER had sent over. There wasn’t anything out of the ordinary on the report and he recommended a 48 hour heart monitor and an echo-cardiogram.
The nurse who scheduled me for my follow up and echo was probably the person I had on the phone when I made my first appointment, because she had the same laid back attitude towards scheduling. I understood, meeting in person, that it was her way of keeping normally freaked out patients calm and doing her best to get them the appointments they needed. She told me another nurse would be out shortly to discuss the heart monitor.
Sure enough, within minutes, a frantic looking woman appeared from the back and told me briskly that she would be with me in a minute, but she “HAD to call her kids.” Um, okay. You do that. So off she went, and returned a few minutes later. She grabbed my arm rather firmly and told me that with the monitor on, I would not be able to bathe for two days.
Considering that I had to work the rest of the week, and that it was July and nearly 100 degrees outside, this was not a good idea. The calm woman began to berate the frantic one and insisted that I would be able to wash at least some of my body. But the frantic woman persisted. No, she told us, getting the monitor wet would result in me being charged $1,500 for it and I could not even sponge bathe for the next two days.
I looked at the calm woman with a shocked look. I said that’s not an option for me this week. If I couldn’t shower or bathe, then I didn’t want it. The calm woman became irritated with the frantic woman and began berating her for “scaring” the patients without reason. Eventually, she went to speak to the doctor, who told her she could put it on over a weekend and then I wouldn’t have to worry so much about being smelly. That was more reasonable, and I agreed to come back the following Friday.
As I scheduled the rest of my appointments, the calm woman was still worked up about how the other woman had treated me. She apologized, saying how ridiculous the idea was that a device would be invented where you wouldn’t be able to clean yourself, if even with a damp cloth on the smelliest of parts and were careful not to touch the device. At that point, I was just happy to get out of there. I’ll be back next week for the device, so I can’t imagine what fun that will be.