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There is Nothing Caring Or Urgent About Urgent Care

Last night I caved in and decided to go to Urgent Care. My raspy voice was no longer sexy. In fact, there was nothing sexy about the gallons of greenish snot traveling through my sinus passages, threatening to overtake my nose and cascade out like a waterfall. My cough was no longer a delicate little “ahem”—instead it sounded like a cacophony of strangled ducks, quacking and hacking while they struggle for air. I had started to flap my arms like a duck when I coughed too. My throat felt like it had been shredded with razor blades and my whole body ached from the effort to stay upright.

So I stopped in for a quick visit on my way home from work.

I walked in the doors and was stunned to see the place teeming with people—like a swarm of germs. The room was jam-packed. For a split second I thought about turning around and going home to the warmth and safety of my bed, but I knew if I didn’t go then, I wouldn’t go at all. So I went up to the desk, checked in, displayed all the appropriate insurance information, paid my co-pay and waited for my turn.

There was nowhere to sit. Every single chair was full of sprawling, slouching, coughing, sneezing, bleeding, wheezy, bleary-eyed people. So I found some empty wall space by the front door and sat down to enjoy the US Weekly I bought just for this occasion. Trashy gossip mags and emergency rooms go hand in hand. I didn’t have the attention span for my book, and the paragraph-sized articles with big pictures were perfect. Tabloids are picture books for adults. But the floor was cold and every few seconds the door would open and shut because people were either coming in and out or loitering with their cigarettes by the front door (FYI to the lady with bronchitis: you probably should cut back on that 3-pack-a-day habit). I finally got annoyed with the teenage girl who stood in the doorway, holding the door open because she didn’t want to go all the way outside, but didn’t want the whole Urgent Care population to hear her very important phone call with her OhmygodBFF! I asked her politely to commit to being either in or out, but she gave me a look and said into the phone, “I don’t know. Some cranky lady wants me to move or some shit. I know! Whatev, right?” Sigh.

I didn’t have the energy for that battle so I scooted down the wall a little bit, but I was right under the TV, which was blaring Jeopardy!, which just made my headache unbearable. They finally called someone and two chairs opened up, but before I could get up and move toward them, some dude who had been there all of 3 seconds skulked over to them and sat down, saving one with his jacket. By this time I had been here about 30 minutes. My ass was cold from the floor, I was shivering from the front door and I was turning into a cranky shrew.

Just a little sociology break here: There are two kinds of people who come into Urgent Care. 1. The people who come in, survey the scene and resign themselves to patiently waiting their turn, and 2. the people who come in, survey the room, assume we all have nothing else to do except sit there, pitch a fucking fit and yell about how they’re not going to wait in this mess, try to jump the line, but then sit there looking as stupid as they feel when they realize they need to sit down, shut the fuck up and wait their turn like the rest of us.

Break time must have been over because they suddenly started calling a bunch of people in. My name was called so the nurse could triage me. The dude never even looked at me once. Eyes on computer, asking my questions, typing in my answers. He took my temperature, my blood pressure and sent me back out into the petri dish. And my wall.

A few minutes after I returned to the waiting room, three seats opened up. This time I moved quickly. I grabbed one on the end so I didn’t have to sit between two sickly people, opened my US Weekly and settled in for the long haul. 20 minutes later, the people who previously occupied the row of chairs that I was now sitting in, came out and fumed loudly at the audacity of people stealing THEIR chair. (They didn’t really say audacity, but I can’t really duplicate the expletives they spewed). Who knew they were coming back? And after 20 minutes? Those fucking chairs are fair game suckers.

At about 8:00 p.m., I was one hour into this little adventure and entering the 9th circle of hell. The 2-hour Bachelor Season Finale came on the TV, and the room was rapidly filling with wheezy, vomiting kids who all but oozed snot. Most of them were never told to cover their mouths when they coughed, so they hacked all over everyone, wiping their nasty noses with their fists and then touching every single piece of furniture in the place.

Meanwhile, this older couple sat across from me, and the woman stared at me the entire time they sat there. Not sly little glances, but openly staring. Her eyes bored into me. And god forbid I should cough (while covering my mouth, thankyouverymuch). The woman gaped at me with open hostility, like I was soley responsible for all the sickness in the world. Um, it IS Urgent Care, bitch. Fuck off. Believe me, I didn’t want to be there any more than she did.

I tried to tune her out and read, but I couldn’t concentrate. So I closed my US Weekly and put it back in my purse. At this point, The Staring Woman got shitty with me. “Are you finished with that?” I wasn’t sure what she was talking about and said, “Hu?” (Eloquent as always.) “Are you done with that magazine? Maybe some other people would like to read it.” At this point, I had sort of had enough. I had put in about 90 minutes at this point, so I was the Veterano, the battle-scarred OG, and she was just a thug. (Okay, I was a little delirious at this point.) But I was over this shit and beyond pretending to be nice. So I told her that if other people wanted to read, perhaps they should have planned ahead and bought their own like I did. She sighed loudly at stage whispered to her husband that she couldn’t believe I would steal a magazine from the ER.

Around this point, her husband got called in and they both disappeared for a while.

Replacing them was a woman and a 2-year-old she had zero control over. While the woman yakked on the phone, her daughter ran in and out of the front doors, making everyone freeze. The woman finally bellowed across the room at the child, waking everyone who was napping, to get her ass back inside. Then, while mommy still chatted into the phone, the little girl, decided to throw her box of crayons up toward the ceiling. Most of us were too sick to have the reflexes to duck, so we were pelted with raining crayons. After crawling through our feet to pick them all back up, she jumped on chairs, leaned into people’s faces to say hi (while coughing), grabbed their stuff and squealed with delight. It wasn’t until she tried to reach over the chair to grab my Blackberry (I was about to dial 911 for help at this point), that her mother finally told sweet little Sophie to sit her ass down NOW! Actually, I was e-mailing a friend of mine who wondered if death was preferable to the emergency room.

Meanwhile, in the middle of one of my horrendous coughing fits (during which I was struggling to breathe) the woman next to me what diagnosing my cough and telling me that all I needed was a little Vicks Vapo Rub. But I knew better. Bitch was just trying to get me out of there so she could move up a place in line.

Finally, 2 1/2 hours later I got to see a real, live actual doctor. I was in and out of the exam room in 5 minutes.

If I wasn’t sick going into that place I was definitely going to be by the time I left. I was going to demand antibiotics if they didn’t give me something. Anything.

Diagnosis? A cold that turned into a “wicked sinus infection.” Yes, that was the technical diagnosis. He called a prescription over to my pharmacy and I was sent on my way. Of course, nothing should be easy at this point, right? The pharmacy had some problem last night and closed an hour early and I couldn’t get my drugs until this morning.

I’m finally starting to feel better, thank god. But if I take a turn for the worse, I’ll blame it on Urgent Care.

But I did learn one valuable lesson: Monday nights are notoriously the worst days to go to Urgent Care. Apparently, people don’t let sickness interfere with their weekend plans so they save it all up for Mondays.

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9 Responses

  1. oh. my. good. gawd. That sounds miserable. I’m glad you’re feeling better but I honestly don’t know how. Yikes!

    • The antibiotics are actually working mini miracles on a daily basis. My head no longer feels like someone dropped a bowling ball on it, air can actually get through my sinus passages and I don’t have to breathe through my mouth so much (because we all know just how sexy THAT is!). If I could just get rid of this cough I’d be good to go.

  2. Good lord. I admire your tenacity – in sticking it out in the waiting room and in, you know, NOT DYING.

    “Wicked sinus infection?” Was your doctor like, 12, dude??

    • The doctor might have been 16. It’s a little scary to me that all the doctors are so much younger than me now. It’s like they graduated 15 minutes ago and I have to resist the urge to call them Doogie.

  3. Ho hum… 2 1/2 hours would be a miracle in this neck of the woods. People sit for anywhere from 7 to 10 to 12 hours in Emerg/Urgent Care in our nation’s capital. And that’s any day of the week, any time of the day. Why couldn’t you go to your doctor? And please see my blog tomorrow for ways to be cool while suffering from illness.

    • Holy crap! You could be dead in 7 to 10 hours. I guess that’s definitely one downside to your subsidized healthcare system, but I guess if people die off in the ER, it’s one less person to pay for.

      As far as my doctor goes, I really only have a nurse practitioner for, you know, those womanly things I have do. Beyond that, i don’t think I’ve seem my doc for about 5 or more years. But I’ve decided to suck it up and pay a few bucks out of pocket to go out of my hospital group and find a really great doctor.

      I will definitely swing by tomorrow!

  4. Glad to hear you’re feeling better. And ya, there are some major drawbacks to this universal healthcare stuff. I can’t even get a GP; I can’t get into a clinic because they get booked up and close 5 minutes after they open each morning; and the hospital just isn’t worth it unless you actually have some broken bones or are bleeding out. Am I concerned that I haven’t had a physical in over 3 years with no hope in sight? You betcha. Ottawa is the worst place I’ve ever been for health care in this country. Perhaps we’ll move somewhere more civilized once the kid’s finished high school and I’ll be able to get a doctor again.

  5. Oh, and it seems I was too generous with those 10 -12 hour waits. An article in last week’s paper cited ER waits of 30 hours in Ottawa now: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/Health/waits+hours+Montfort/1308677/story.html

    HELP US!!

  6. Holy shit, how come i’ve never been here before. Am cracking up.

    I went to urgent care myself this week…..Monday in fact. Took all dam afternoon.

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