Yesterday I got a new doctor.
If you consult your Big Book of June Events, you’ll recall that I have some…trouble with keeping medical professionals. Doctors are my Spinal Tap drummer.
I was a normal person with one regular doctor when I was a kid. Mine was Dr. Heavenrich, and I’m telling you right now that as an adult, the thought, “I wonder how Dr. Heavenrich is doing” entered my head THE DAY HE DIED, thereby resulting in me killing him with my thought.
I liked his office. It was ’60s modern with those teensy rectangle windows way up at the top of the wall, a look we all thought was the bomb in 1968. Hey, who needs a real window? Who needs to see outside? That teensy crack of light up yonder should do it.
They also had these weird ring tones in the office. It was more of a chime. I’ve only ever heard that ringtone there and never again. Weird.
The point is, I killed him with my thought and then we were off.
The first doctor I can remember having on a regular basis once I was an adult (well. “adult”) was Dr. Sherwood B. Fyne. This was back in Seattle when you generally got those health plans that required you to have a primary care physician. At my job, a ton of us were in our 20s and had no doctor whatsoever except everyone had a clinic who gave us all our birth control pills.
So we all perused the catalog and picked doctors with cool names, even if they were, like, 47 miles from us. One woman picked Dr. Margarita Stabb. I remember being envious of that one.
Anyway, things were great with me and Dr. Sherwood B. Fyne until he died and changed his name to Sherwouldn’t B. Fyne. Thus began my new search for a physician.
I had several quit. Like, several in a row. So much so that I started calling my mother to tell her. “You’ll never believe who just quit,” I’d say. “Another doctor?” she’d guess.
When I got to LA, Marvin said, “Always pick a Jew. Jewish doctor, Jewish dentist, Jewish accountant.” It ended up being good advice, so I picked a nice Jewish doctor I liked a lot, who lived in my neighborhood and was sort of famous for his long walks around town. He was my doctor for a good five or six years until he killed himself.
‘Nother phone call to mom.
Everyone in my neighborhood took his death hard. A whole group of people dressed up in shorts and carried a folded newspaper and walked his regular route one day, to honor him, which was sweet. I hated to tell them all it was probably my fault.
Two not only quit their practice that served me, they quit the profession altogether. My mother started suggesting maybe it had something to do with me.
Eventually, I moved here, and my first disaster was with a doctor I selected who, when I got some weird results from a mammogram and had to go back for a second look, said, “Prepare for the worst.” He also made me get a $1,500 cat scan because I had migraines. We found a sinus infection.
We ended things quickly.
Right after that, I went to a group of doctors we’ll call Vulture Physicians. I mean, their real name is another bird of prey, so I’m not being that terrible. And in truth, I liked every doctor I worked with there. I say that because in the 9 years I was there, I had probably 10 doctors and physician’s assistants. This wasn’t just because I drive everyone from the profession, but because I surmised it was awful to work there. The front desk women, who were always sick, were really lovely people and worked there the longest. But nurses and doctors? Gone all the time.
Plus, no one worked there full time. If you called, went through their rigamarole of voice mail, paying attention because their prompts always, always had recently changed, according to them, you’d get a recording. “You’ve reached the nurse for Doctor Whoo Dee Whoo. The doctor is not in the office Wednesday afternoons from noon on.”
It was like that with every doctor you called. And it seemed like you always called on the day that particular doctor wasn’t in. So you’d have to press some number or another (pay attention, as our prompts have recently changed MAYBE STOP CHANGING THE PROMPTS YOU FUCKS) to get to the front desk, where the sick women were, who I’d like to say again were lovely. They were. Always helpful and nice to me.
Anyway, at the end of my sojourn there, I had two official doctors and one nurse practitioner I’d worked with, all because of the spotty way they had people available. I was okay with this, but here’s the problem.
When you’re a migraine person, they give you 9 pills a month. Nine. Some months, that’s enough. Some months, like this one, you go through 6 in a week. You aren’t SUPPOSED to, but if you don’t, you’ve lost a whole day to throwing up and feeling excruciating pain. Gee, which would you do? Take a forbidden pill or throw up and be at an 8 in pain level? Hmmmm.
One Friday a few months back, I woke up to half a pill left. And no refills. It feels like I never have refills. I think I should have to go back once a year, have them check me although god knows why because migraine is migraine and tons of women get them, but okay fine. Once a year. Then give me a year’s worth of refills.
It never seemed to work that way, though, and I’d be stuck with no refills and have to try to get in to see a doctor and of course the doctor would be off that afternoon, and the next one would be off the following afternoon and had no appointments, and the nurse practitioner would be full.
So that Friday morning, as I tried to head for work, first I called the pharmacy and it rang and rang. I called three times. Rang and rang. I had half a pill left and it was a Friday. If I didn’t get this prescription filled, I’d be in bed miserable all weekend.
Finally I called the grocery store itself. “Oh, the pharmacy doesn’t open till 9:15,” they told me. “I have exciting news for you!” I told them, “There’s this new thing called an answering machine. You can state what time you open so people don’t have to hear a phone ring endlessly like it’s 1972.”
The person at the grocery store told me I had to get my damn doctor to phone in the refill anyway.
Of course I do. Because why make anything easy?
So that is how I ended up calling my doctor’s office and getting banned from there.
First I had the labyrinth of please pay attention as our prompts have recently–oh fuck your goddamn prompts.
Then I had to listen to the outgoing message, because god forbid anyone ever just answers the phone like a human there. “Thank you for calling. You’ve reached the nurse assistant for Dr. Part-Time.”
Then, I swear to you, because I timed it, they talk for more than a minute. First they ask you to be sure to leave your name, the patient’s name, patient’s date of birth, patient’s need or complaint, and then I forget what else because they TALK FOR A MINUTE MORE, and by the time it beeps you can’t remember what the fuck all they want.
And the best part, THE BEST PART, is they’re sure to tell you that if it’s the day the doctor isn’t in, calls will be returned “on the next business day” AND, AND, refills will be addressed “in 48 hours.”
They also throw in the patronizing “if this is a real medical emergency, please hang up and dial 911.” Oh, THANKS. Thanks so much. I had no idea.
So let’s say you’re barfing because you have the world’s worst migraine. Is that a real medical emergency? No. If you go to the ER will you be hanging out with contagious people, fluorescent lights and loud children? Yes. Will you be there for 5 or 6 hours at least? Experience tells me hell yes.
So because this office is dying to make life convenient for the doctors and the corporation that owns said doctors, you have to lie around throwing up with a screaming migraine for, oh, all of Friday, Saturday, Sunday and most of Monday, because no one is on and refills will be addressed in 48 hours. You know they’re not including weekends in those 48 hours.
That is the mood I had going while all this was happening to me that day, and I’ve been dealing with this kind of treatment
That is why I might just possibly have yelled into the voice mail that day. That is why I might have used the F word, oh, once or 16 times. I told them how fucked up their system was, how annoying their outgoing message was, how inhumane it was to expect a person to have a migraine all weekend because no one could be bothered to refill my prescription all day Friday, and basically I was mad, is what I was.
Fortunately, I am related to a doctor, so I called that doctor and said, “Can I just get a goddamn refill for my migraines, please?” and he called it in like a normal person with a heart.
A few days later, I get a letter from Vulture Physicians. “Due to your inappropriate behavior, you may not return to the offices of Vulture Physicians.”
Oh, fuck off.
I mean, my first reaction was to feel ashamed. I really had lost my temper and you all know how my temper is. My family tells stories of small me stomping down the hall to my room, slamming the door. “I can just see your tiny self stomping down that hall,” Ned said to me once.
But then I thought about it.
NINE YEARS I was perfectly pleasant to them. The front desk, the nurse’s assistants, the doctors themselves all could tell you I was funny, I was considerate, I didn’t call at all hours demanding service or anything. I lost it ONCE when I had a MIGRAINE, and I lost it because their system sucks and is in no way geared toward the patient. And given their turnover, I can tell the system is even suckier than I can imagine.
So fuck ’em, I don’t fell a bit bad about being banned from an entire chain of doctors in my area. I wouldn’t be a part of their damn corporate bird of prey organization if you paid me.
My coworkers are awfully delighted. ‘Oh, did you go out to eat at lunch? I thought maybe you were banned from restaurants in town.” “Oh, your therapist hasn’t banned you yet?”
Oh, HARdee harr.
Yesterday I met with a new doctor, who had me come to his office and sit at a desk like in the movies. We talked for 45 minutes, and I go back in for labs and a two-hour (!!) physical early next month. I waited for him for five minutes before I was seen, and he apologized for that. I was honest about what happened with Vulture Physicians, and his response was, “That doctor has never had migraines, clearly. He doesn’t know what it’s like.”
God, I’m gonna miss him when he quits or dies.