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Say, what’s your number?

25 Apr

I have blood drawn regularly so my doctor can confirm that my medicine is working and not frying my liver. I usually go at 7am when the lab opens so I can knock it out before my work day, but my schedule was a bit twisted after traveling, so last week I went after work instead. I’m going to blame my day-end fatigue and recent jet-lag for what ensued.

The lab has a kiosk where you check-in electronically using your birthdate and last name. Once you’ve entered those, it flashes a number on the screen and tells you to wait until your number is called. Every time this happens, I think, “Why doesn’t it spit out a ticket like at the DMV so you don’t have to memorize your number?”

After receiving  my number – 286 – I took a seat.

A few minutes later, the receptionist called, “280? 280?” and no one came forward. Everyone in the waiting area (all women for some reason), started looking around at each other suspiciously. Had someone forgotten their number? Had 280 gotten impatient and left?

All of a sudden the receptionist shifted tactics and called MY name, sounding exasperated.

“Oh my gosh!” I said, running over as the other women looked at me like I was a moron. “I’m so sorry. I thought I was 286.” The receptionist laughed, then tried to discreetly ask me  if I was supposed to get a take-home specimen kit for fecal analysis. “Um, no. Just bloodwork, thanks.”

Mystery temporarily solved, I sat back down. A few minutes later, the receptionist called “280?” again as one of the phlebotemists stood by with paperwork to collect his next patient. This time, freshly rebuked, I was on my game. I jumped up and started walking toward the back with him.

“Last name?” he asked as we walked. I told him. “Nope. This isn’t you.” I started to protest, confident that I was 280, but he shook his head and called the last name that was on his form and another patient popped up to join him. Confused, I returned to the front desk. “Sorry,” I said. “I thought you were calling me for him. Did you need me again?”

The receptionist looked at me like I was crazy. “You called 280?” I prompted.

She laughed. “Your number isn’t 280. Remind me – what was your last name?” I told her and she looked at my paperwork. “You’re 276.”

“Wait. I originally thought I was 286. But then you called me over to check my paperwork using 280?” I was royally confused.

She just started laughing. “Honey, you’re 276. Go have a seat.”

I sat down and started laughing at myself. Why the hell wouldn’t they just use NAMES? As I sat there, I felt a bit less crazy as I listened to other patients’ interactions after checking in.

One woman got called over to the receptionist because she somehow managed to have TWO numbers. “Sorry,” she explained. “The number flashed so quickly I missed it, so I checked in twice.”

Another woman cruised straight to the reception desk after checking in. “Can you tell me what my number is? It flashed by so fast I didn’t see it.”

Finally a man arrived and – after a few minutes fumbling with the kiosk – walked over to the receptionist. I didn’t hear his half of the conversation, but I heard the receptionist say, “You don’t speak English?” before accompanying him back to the kiosk to help.

While I’ve never been the receptionist in a medical lab, I think I have a pretty clear idea of what drives that woman nuts about her job.

At last, 276 was called. We confirmed my name and Terrence did his business, sliding the needle in like a professional. “Smooth,” I told him. “You’re pretty good at this.”

“I should be – we’ve done almost 300 today alone.”

“276,” I told him.

“What?” he asked, looking confused.

“You’ve done 276. But you WILL do at least 280 before you leave.”

He looked at me like I was nuts. And perhaps I am, but two can play at that game.

One point for socialized healthcare!

14 Apr

We arrived in London at 7am Saturday, running on fumes from the two hours of sleep we garnered during the red-eye over. We made ourselves push through the day, taking in sites and hopping on a walking tour, so that we could adjust to the new time zone. We covered 20 miles on foot over the weekend and felt properly acclimated by the time we ventured to our office Monday morning.

Unfortunately, I also had the start of a sore throat. A sore throat that got increasingly worse as the day went on. I led my training sessions in the morning, doing a baton hand-off to my colleague after lunch. I sat in her session with an eye toward helping out, but I found I was struggling to swallow, let alone talk. Finally, at 3pm, I decided it would be stupid to continue pushing through while I was obviously getting sick, so I cut my losses and headed to the National Health System’s walk-in clinic.

As a side note, I found the signage around the clinic a bit odd. British people don’t seem very violent to me, but apparently there must be a fair amount of medical rage:

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After arriving, I was told there was a £75 charge for foreigners to see a doctor. The woman telling me seemed apologetic and assured me I would only have to pay if the person running triage couldn’t resolve me. I didn’t bother telling her that it would cost me $200 – even with insurance – to walk into an ER in the States.

After waiting only 10 minutes, I saw the triage specialist. She took my symptoms, checked my throat, ears and sinuses and said, “Unfortunately, it seems it is viral at this point. I don’t think you need to spend the money on a doctor, but DO get yourself some over the counter meds to manage your symptoms. And if you develop white spots on your throat or your symptoms get worse, come back.”

Part of me was relieved with this advice since I go to great lengths to avoid antibiotics, but part of me wanted some course of medication that might make me feel better since I had nine days of training sixty people ahead of me. I returned to my room, took a bath and crawled in bed.

Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 7.41.38 AMOver night, my throat became much worse. I couldn’t swallow without crying. It was so painful I couldn’t sleep. I was back at the NHS walk-in clinic as soon as it opened in the morning. This time, I was admitted to chat with a doctor, who took one look at my throat and pronounced it strep. (White spots had appeared over night.) She gave me a prescription for penicillin, which I filled before returning to my hotel room.

As a side note: you know how expensive it is to fill a prescription in the US? With insurance, there is generally a $10 or $20 co-pay. Sometimes, if you go for a name brand drug you pay beyond that. And if you don’t have insurance? You’re totally screwed.

Imagine my delight at the pharmacy when I was given four boxes of pills for less than £20. Not too shabby for someone who is uninsured.

Even better – within 12 hours of starting the antibiotics, I was able to swallow again. By the time I woke up on Wednesday, I was feeling almost normal and completely able to resume the training sessions we had designed.

If we had another day in London, I would’ve made a trek to the Fleming Museum so I could see the lab where Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin and give thanks for his brilliance. Without that intervention, this trip would’ve been a bust.

Now I just have to hope I don’t pick up something viral on the flight home!

Apparently I speak Braille now.

8 Mar

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I can’t decide if acne is better experienced as a teen , when pretty much everyone is struggling with it – or as a forty-something, when you have very few shits left to give.

I’ve never really had bad skin – up until the last two weeks of my life. Because I assume it is temporary – likely the result of stepping off the steroids I’ve been on since September – I approach it mainly with curiosity, rather than frustration. It’s somewhat intriguing to wake up each day wondering, “Where might I have a new pimple today?”

I’m reminded of a friend I had in my early twenties, who was quite pretty. When we caught up a decade later, after her first pregnancy, I asked how it had been. “The pregnancy was fine, but my face was NOT. I had terrible acne,” she said, clearly still not over it. “I mean, I’m used to getting the best table or whatever when I go out to eat – and for three months I honestly knew what it was to feel ugly.”

At the time I laughed, thinking, “Finally! She knows what life is like for the rest of us!”

Now, though, I can muster a bit more sympathy. While I haven’t experienced the horror of receiving a downgraded table (probably because I never experienced the thrill of an upgrade!), I can relate to looking in the mirror and seeing – if not a stranger – then a somewhat bizarro version of myself.

It’s a good reminder: beauty is only skin deep, and looks can be deceiving. I’m healthier (knock wood!) with a bumpy face, than I was before with a smooth one. The fact that I’m stepping down from the steroids means things are working and I’ll soon (fingers crossed!) be on a single medication.

Who knew I’d be giving thanks for zits? Oh, Crohn’s, you silly bastard!

Punk’d by a Phlebotomist?

26 Sep

Funny Stool Sample

Apparently my Crohn’s took a turn for the worse this year without my knowing it. When I went for my annual colonoscopy in June, my intestines had narrowed significantly, indicating either some crazy amount of ongoing inflammation or the creation of scar tissue. Since I don’t experience symptoms on a daily basis, I was inclined to ignore it and carry on – but after the three doctors told me that doing so would likely result in my intestines rupturing and necessitating emergency surgery, I decided to listen.

As a result, they’ve started me on a combo of steroids and an immunosuppresant (6MP, used primarily as chemo for people with leukemia). Because of this, I need to have blood drawn weekly to check my white blood cells and make sure my liver isn’t short circuiting from the influx of chemicals it’s being asked to process.

I share this by way of explaining how it was that I found myself seated in the lab at GW Hospital, waiting for a large man who didn’t possess an “inside voice” to draw my blood Monday morning before work. The way the blood-drawing stations were positioned, I was in the awkward seat that faced out into the waiting area, so I had a bit of an audience.

I normally wouldn’t have a problem with that since I’m fine with needles, but it’s something of a game-changer when you’re facing an audience and the phlebotomist booms, “DID YOU BRING US A STOOL SAMPLE TODAY?”

“Um, no?” I tried to use a librarian’s voice to provide an example for him.

It didn’t work. After drawing my blood, he brought back four containers, a plastic bag and a sheet of instructions. Instead of discreetly handing them to me, however, he decided to give me a very loud lesson on what needed to happen.

I chose to bask in the awkwardness, so as he started yelling (“THE LID HAS A SCOOP FOR YOU!”), I glanced around the waiting room to see if any of the other patients found this as amusing as I did. The same strangers’ eyes that had been keen to watch my blood get taken were all suddenly boring holes in the floor. No one would meet my gaze – it felt as if I were wearing the human-equivalent of a dog’s cone of shame.

I’d half tuned him out in my assessment of my audience, but my head whipped in his direction to the tune of a mental record-scratch when I heard him say, “SO YOU STRETCH PLASTIC OVER YOUR TOILET BOWL…”

Excuse me? Are you reading a passage from “Pranksters 101?” I’d missed what he had said before that, but I couldn’t think of a single reason that it would be EVER a good idea to stretch plastic over one’s toilet bowl. Later that night, when I related this to my sister, she eloquently bottom-lined it: “Wait. So he wants you to shit on Saranwrap?”

Before I could even suggest that she’d missed her calling as nurse, she followed up, “Why is a phlebotomist giving you instructions for a stool sample anyway?”

“I got the sense that he was providing the instructions theoretically but had no first-hand experience with the collection process himself,” I told her.

“Right,” she responded. “He probably just makes things up just to see what he can convince someone to do. Did he wrap up by asking you to report back on how it goes?”

I could hear her wheels turning as she warmed up to the idea of a phlebotomist prankster giving ridiculous instructions. “If I were him, I’d tell people, ‘Listen, you’re going to shit on Saranwrap, so try to have a little fun with it. Roll out your yoga mat, grab the handle of your oven door…'”

Headshake. And this is why we’re glad my sister is not a doctor. Or a nurse. Or a phlebotomist.

Next week when I go in for my blood work, I’ll be prepared. When he asks how it went, I’ll say, “The trickiest part was getting the water out of the bowl before I lined it with plastic…”

Two can play at this game. Bring it.

 

 

Tidbit: Les Mis + Yoga

22 Mar

Image Source: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/99/7d/c8/997dc8cd37664e1fbbcc0fcba55f79b0.jpg

In my 10 years regularly practicing yoga, today was a first: I was kicked in the head by the guy on the mat in front of me as we lifted up into Warrior 3. 

All righty then. Here’s to new experiences!

Tattooed (in 100 point cursive font) on his left leg was a quote from Les Mis:

To love another person is to see the face of God.

Fair.

And now he knows what you see when you kick another person: My Face. Slightly less serene than that of God.

Can’t wait to see what he has tattooed on his right leg in our next class.