I was just a little bit sick over the Christmas holidays. I had a low fever and was coughing up goo. The worst part of it was the fever, which meant I was always cold and achy. This started Monday night, about an hour after I struck a blow for feminism by spraying caustic chemicals within a small and enclosed space. I knew that it was probably not the pesticide, but it did make me consider why the exterminator had been wearing a breathing apparatus.
So Monday night was kind of miserable, with me balled up under a blanket, wearing a full set of fleece pajamas and wool socks. I woke up in the middle of the night feeling like I'd been in an oven, because my body decided it was tired of being freezing cold and went the other way. My temperature was at 100. I got a reasonably good night's sleep and woke up feeling fine, just fine. I pumped my fist in the air, thinking that my rock star immune system had just kicked the flu to the curb. Take that, germs. I don't need no stinkin' flu shot.
However, by about 5 in the afternoon, the chills and the aches and the wool socks were back. As an aside, do you have any wool socks? I recommend them. They are warm and scratchy in a comforting sort of way.
This continued throughout the week - fever starting in the early evening, peaking sometime in the night, then subsiding in the morning. All along there was some light coughing, but my sinuses were clear. I did some at-home medical research, which is a fancy way to say that I googled my symptoms. Guys, I'm just not sure in this case whether more information is better. If you tell the internet that you have flu-like symptoms only at night, the internet will tell you that you have lymphoma, dementia, a bun in the oven, or some combination of the three. Thankfully, I am a sane and reasonable person, so I dismissed all of these. I thought about Josh, who is neither sane nor reasonable when it comes to his health, and how he would have convinced himself that he was going senile. Every time he spills when pouring his beer into a glass, he assumes that he has a degenerative nerve disease.
So the internet did not help, though I did learn a new word: sputum. It was the goo that I was coughing up. Josh had suggested that I had a sinus infection. Let me tell you that I know when I am having a sinus infection. I did extensive research in the having of sinus infections when I lived in basement apartment in Boone. It's a condition that comes with headaches, because your body makes more snot than it has storage room for. My sinuses were free and clear. Whatever I was coughing up was coming from somewhere else. Goo that comes from the lungs is called sputum. Based on this, I self-diagnosed myself with bronchitis. Not because I know anything about bronchi or medicine, just because it seemed like a simple sickness that a body might pick up. Sure, why not, bronchitis. It sounds much better than saying that my lungs are infected.
In the wee hours of Thursday morning, after a few days of this being sick, then not being sick, I decided that I was tired of it. While I mostly felt fine during the day, I never felt well enough to really be doing anything. And this was my Christmas vacation! I should be out and about, enjoying the unseasonably mild weather, not sitting on the couch playing Lego Harry Potter on the Wii. Or maybe I'd be playing video games anyway, but I'd rather not need to do it in wool socks.
I do not have a primary care physician. I have an eye doctor, a dentist, and a lady doctor, but I don't have anyone I go to for these sorts of minor sicknesses. However, the Minute Clinic at the CVS does not deal with infected lungs, so I would have to go to an actual doctor. There was a primary care place that just opened up in a shopping center near the new Food Lion, so I decided I'd check that out. Something about the strip mall location and the fact that they accepted walk-ins lead me to believe that it was kind of like the Minute Clinic, but prepared to treat sputum problems.
I turned to the internet again, not for a diagnosis, but for an appointment to get a diagnosis. The doctor's office had a live chat feature to make appointments. I am wary of live chats, because my experience with them has not been great. It seems like the people on the other end are never really comfortable with the chat medium and also are completely unable to answer my questions anyway. But I tried it this time. I logged on at around 10 in the morning. Five minutes later, I had an appointment for 11:30. I could have had one even earlier, but I decided that I should probably take a shower first, otherwise my diagnosis would be "probably just kinda gross." I spent another ten minutes filling out and submitting my new patient paperwork online. There was a question about the reason for the day's appointment, and I used the word "sputum," because I am a show-off.
The waiting room was bright and modern - filled with flat screens and furniture made of synthetic materials. I had to sign something that indicated that I'd read and understood the privacy materials. I did this at one of two terminals set up in the waiting room. I clicked a button that said I'd understood, then signed a little device, similar to the ones at the grocery store.
While I waited, I noticed that there was a sign on the wall that listed the prices for various basic procedures, for the benefit of people with no insurance (euphemistically called "self-pay patients"). Okay, here I was impressed. My experience with health care is that the pricing is hidden and obscure, perhaps intentionally. Here, it was posted right there on the wall in the waiting room, like a menu. I'll have one tetanus shot to go, please!
I waited only a few minutes before being called back. The nurse, who couldn't have been any older than I am, carried a tiny laptop. She also had lots of earrings, a tattoo, and a pair of Chuck Taylors. I appreciated her ability to show a little personality even in pastel scrubs. She took my vitals, asked a few questions, tap-tap-tapped on the laptop keyboard. Then she went out again.
While I waited for the doctor, I read another sign. It said that if I did not have a primary care physician, the doctors here would love to serve me in that capacity. They had some advertising bullets, for instance about walk-in hours and electronic medical records. The first word in their tagline was "convenient," and I groused at that. My very first thought at that was that medical care should not be focussing on convenience but efficacy.
Yeah, it was a pretty stupid first thought.
I personally can afford medicine to be inconvenient. After all, I had the whole week off anyway. But if I didn't have that kind of work stability, I would really appreciate the walk-in hours and the fact that I got an appointment the same morning I asked for one. I came because I was tired of being kinda sick, but there are a lot of people who can't spare the time to be sick. It wasn't just convenience, it was access.
The doctor, a petite woman who looked to be Southeast Asian, came in carrying another tiny laptop. She asked me more questions, listened to my breathing, typed up some more electronic medial records. She said I had bronchitis and said she'd fax a prescription over to the CVS down the road. I guess CVS does not use only electronic records. I sheepishly asked if the antibiotics would prohibit me from celebrating, i.e. drinking, on New Year's Eve. She said that by that time I'd be fine, which was just one more reason to like this nice doctor lady.
And that was it, my first experience with convenient medical care. I got an immediate appointment (convenient!), used no actual papers (electronic!), and saw a female doctor with a funny name (diverse!). The future is now.