Sunday, July 20, 2008

Jaggy's Trip to the Devil Doctor (or Why Men Should Never be Allowed near a Speculum)

I experienced what can only be described as a nightmarish adventure Friday night. The ordeal lasted about five hours, cost me about $40, and scarred me for life. (Oh, and my thoughts are italicized later--you'll understand when you get that far.)

The Backstory:
I don't like going to see doctors. They are often condescending and rude, and I really don't like being treated as a child when it comes to my own well-being. I haven't had a proper doctor's visit since I was little, partially because I've remained in good health, and partially because I don't feel the need to have someone else tell me I'm fine. I have, however, seen the same doctor a few times for immediate-care-type injuries. I have always been insured, and I will go to see a doctor if I have to (I'm not afraid, I just don't like it). Since I was probably ten years old, I've gone to the same doctor's office for every visit, and I've always listed the same doctor of record.

Last weekend, I began to feel a bit odd. I found an OTC drug that I believed coincided best with my symptoms and self-administered it. Within two days, I felt great. Score one for self-diagnosis! But after a few days, the icky feeling returned. I called a phone number provided by my insurance company that connected me to a live human being (shocker, I know). The nurse told me I was probably correct with my diagnosis and that a full "cure" to my malaise would likely have to come from a doctor. Stubborn me, however, decided to wait a few more days. By Friday, I was feeling pretty bad again. I decided a trip to the doctor was in order.

The Devil Doctor:
I arrived to immediate care at 8pm, one hour before closing time. The waiting room was full of children who, with every cough or sneeze, seemed to be filling the room with their vile germs. Bored parents stared off into nothing, and no one took notice as I, the only one between 10 and 50 years old, walked up to the make-up-tattooed woman behind the glass. She took my name and looked me up in the computer. No record found. She took my social security number. Nothing. The only place I've seen my doctor in the last fifteen years has no record of me existing. Beautiful. They made me fill out chart after chart, sign and date pages upon pages. My quoted hour-long wait extended almost twice that long until I was the only person left in the waiting room. Even the security guard near the front door was drifting to sleep. Finally, that magic door opened and a rotund nurse called my name.

The nurse was nice enough, though not too chatty at first. She took my vitals (all good) and asked me those generic questions. "No, I'm not pregnant. No, I don't use intravenous drugs. Yes, I like to pour bleach on myself and dance naked in the kitchen." She took my medical history. "Didn't you look at the purple sheet I just filled out?!" She explained to me that a doctor would be in to examine me soon. Oh really, I thought I was here for the circus show.

After ten or fifteen minutes, a tall grey-haired man briskly walked in. Without so much as a 'hi' or 'how are you tonight,' he demanded, "What's wrong?" I explained to him my symptoms, and he took my medical history as well. Do you people not talk to each other? I tried to tell him something once, but he cut me off. Then, after a minute, I tried to ask him a question, but he walked out of the room. Just... walked out and closed the door behind him. So I waited.

The nurse came back a few minutes later to say that the doctor would come back in again to finish the examination. She got a few things ready for him, and then he stormed into the room. "Take off your pants," he boomed. The nature of my complaint required a pelvic exam. Wonderful. Not exactly the way I wanted my "first time" to be. I stripped and climbed up to the table. No gown, no sheet, no drape... all my girly bits out for the entire world to see. The doctor grabbed the speculum, positioned it, asked, "Are you ready," and then went for it without waiting for a response. I felt the end of the plastic scraping at the back of my nose before I realized how much pain I was in. I tried to breathe... I couldn't. He did his thing, withdrew the torture device, shucked his gloves, and strode out without another word. The nurse looked at me, and I at her. Silence. She packed up her stuff and left me to get dressed. I have never felt so violated, both physically and medically, as I did that moment. I almost cried.

After yet another long wait, the Devil Doctor came back in. He presented his diagnosis, handed me a prescription, and left for good. That's IT. His diagnosis was the exact same as my self-diagnosis. All that waiting and examining was pretty much for nothing. I let myself out of the exam room, snaked back to the door where I found a zombie for a security guard, and walked stiffly to my car. The nearest pharmacy was closed. In fact, all of the pharmacies in the mid-Willamette Valley were closed after 10pm. Shit.

Salvation in a Basement:
I called my mother to tell her my story. She sympathized. I asked her to do an internet search for local pharmacy hours. Nothing was open. Mom suggested I go to a hospital--they have 24/7 need for an open pharmacy. I didn't think I could waltz up to any ol' hospital pharmacy and demand drugs... that's illegal or something, right? Well, it was worth a shot. I drove over to a hospital and found the emergency room. Empty. After looking around for a minute, a woman finally asked if she could help me. I queried, "Is there anyone in this hospital who can fill a prescription?" She replied that my odds were grim. Possibly, someone in the basement's pharmacy could help me, but they weren't likely to help. I told her I'd give it a try. She gave me directions to the basement (take the staff elevator, turn left, maybe turn right again or else go around the back way, hop three times, and say the secret password). I did take the staff elevator, but then I just started looking at door signs and followed the gurney-lined corridor until I came to a smallish door that said PHARMACY. Bingo.

I tried the door and found it unlocked. It led into a closet with a window on the opposite wall. A man appeared in the window. I handed him my prescription slip and asked if he could help me. He asked what floor I worked on. Whatever floor makes you fill prescriptions! I told him the truth, that I was not associated with the hospital. He said he could fill the prescription, but that it would be considerably more due to a service charge. I'd have to pay in cash. A quick scan of my wallet yielded exactly $2. Dear God, why must things be so complicated in emergencies like this?! He took my name, prescription, and other information to begin processing it. After twenty minutes, he came back to say that my total cost would be $14 and change. He also said there was an ATM upstairs, and that he'd hold my prescription until I came back.

Hospitals aren't my favorite place, and wandering around them looking for an ATM in the dark of night kinda freaked me out. Nobody thought to ask me who I was, and no one questioned my being in the basement (a mostly no-patient area). Nobody told me to get off the staff elevator. I wandered the "upstairs" looking for the elusive ATM for several minutes before finding it glowing in the corner. Of all of the banks in Oregon, it happened to be my own bank's ATM--hooray for no extra fees! I snagged my cash and flew downstairs. The nice man had been replaced with a nice woman. She took my money and began explaining to me about the drug she was giving me. Super helpful, and the lady even answered all of my questions that the Devil Doctor wouldn't. Though I had to pay cash instead of going through my insurance company for something they'd definitely cover, I was able to talk to a real pharmacist who was nice.

Four hours after my ordeal began, I found myself at home. I like doctors even less now than I did before. I don't appreciate how rudely the mean guy treated me, and I can't say as though I'm going to return to that immediate care center again (since they obviously didn't have my files anyway). But, I'm feeling a ton better! Guess that's worth it, right?

1 comment:

MissKris said...

Oh, Honey...I DO sympathize. When I was a 'young lady' my first experience with a speculum was with a male doctor who must've been 100 years old. He jammed that thing up to my tonsils, I'm not kidding you! It was horrible. Thank the good Lord, in the past almost-3-years of major female problesms, I've had the most wonderful understanding excellent FEMALE doctor who helped me thru one of the worst times in my life. She even did my surgery. Too bad you don't live in Portland...I'd refer you to her!! I'm so glad the ATM/pharmacy part of the trip worked out for you. I hope you get to feeling better SOON!