Once again, sickness has befallen our little family, and it somehow seems to be my fault. I suppose because I was the first one to take ill, I must be held responsible for bringing nasty germs into the house. Not that it matters; sick is sick, and we do our best to take care of each other.
It started Sunday afternoon, when too much time outside left me with a cough, which got worse as the evening wore on. Overnight it developed into a fever, so I started popping Tylenol and the decongestant the doctor had prescribed the last time I was sick.
Honestly, I don't get sick this often. I have no idea what's going on this winter.
Anyway, I had Monday off as a holiday, thank God, and regretfully took a sick day Tuesday. Miss Chef, unable to sleep that morning, got up, put on some sweats, and went to WalMart to get me some Vicks chest rub and other sickie necessities. (No more stock left, we've had to resort to canned soup.)
That evening, Miss Chef came home from work and said "I think I've got what you've got." She was feeling droopy and her sinuses were clogging. We got to bed early; she was scheduled on the day shift, and I was determined to at least make it in to work on Wednesday, fever or no. I had already run through half of my sick time for the year.
That morning, as I was ready to leave, I went in to wake Miss Chef, as I do when she works the lunch shift.
"I don't think I can work today." These are astonishing words to hear from her mouth. She was trained in the hard knocks school of kitchen work: the only good reasons for not coming to work are to be in jail or the hospital. Literally. And yes, she's had colleagues in both institutions. So to hear her say, first thing, that she wasn't going to drag her stuffy, sweaty little self into work (thereby infecting who know how many others), left me speechless for a few moments. Not to mention a bit worried.
It turned out she had a fever of 102. I asked her if she wanted me to stay home to take care of her, but she declined. She told me she wanted me to take her to the Urgent Care after work. In the meantime, I made sure she had what she needed--Tylenol, water, her cell phone. When I left, she was trying to get a hold of her Chef--with him teaching a morning class and her out sick, the only option was to close the restaurant for lunch service. Or rather, not open it until dinner.
I muddled unhappily through my day at work, knowing I should be at home, for my own sake, and for my co-workers' sakes, and worried about Miss Chef slipping into a fever-induced delerium. Finally, the blessed hour arrived, and I left as quickly as I could.
Once home, I had to try to calm the most bored dog in the world, as Miss Chef and I changed and headed back out. I prepared for a sit-in: two bottles of water, a book, and refills on my medicine. We had never been to this "doc in the box," as my dad calls them, but I did not expect it to be pleasant.
When we arrived, it was dark and raining, and we had a moment's anxiety when we saw the empty parking lot. But my research was correct; the clinic was still open, and there was only one person in the waiting room. With a sense of relief, I settled into a chair next to Miss Chef, who had about six pages of forms to fill out. "I just keep writing my name over and over," she said. "It's a test, to see how sick you really are," I replied.
Perhaps five minutes later, someone called Miss Chef back into the examination room, and I was left to my own devices. After unsuccessfully looking for a way to change the channel on the enormous flat-screen tv, I focused on my book and my water bottle.
Twenty minutes later, she was back.
"What's going on?" I asked, as she grabbed a Kleenex from the box she'd left with me, and turned back toward the front desk. "I'm done," she replied.
Two weeks earlier, I had gone into my own physician's office as a walk-in, by suggestion of whoever answered the phone when I called seeking an appointment. I got there at 10:30 am, and left at 1:00 in the afternoon. In the meantime, I sat alone in a small, chill room on an uncomfortable chair, with no water available. Rest, fluids and keeping warm? Not part of modern medicine, I guess. By the time I left, I had been subjected to a needle prick and two x-rays, and dismissed with a prescription, without any instructions as to its use or possible side effects. By the time I got home from the pharmacy, I had a fever to add to my other complaints.
Now, let me assure you, my doctor actually holds me in some esteem. Even that day, he wanted to start a conversation about the state of the economy, while I stared at him bleary eyed, wanting only my bed and warm socks. I was frankly amazed that he didn't offer me more information about the drug he prescribed. But I tried not to be too critical; he has recently moved into a new building, and I'm sure the legal and logistical demands on any doctor are beyond my imagination. I wonder how many patients a day he must see, just to keep the lights on?
Still, this is the second time I've experienced better service at a "Doc in the Box" than at my own doctor's office. In Mobile, AL, I actually stopped seeing my primary care physician, because the wait with an appointment was longer than the entire in-and-out-the-door visit at the walk-in clinic.
I'd hate to leave my current doctor, as he is generally attentive, informative, and well-informed about my medical history. Part of the reason I've stuck with him is that--for appointments at least--the wait is very reasonable. But...what's the point of a doctor? To take care of healthy people? To care only for those with chronic, appointment-friendly illnesses? Yes, there is something very wrong with our health-care system, when the care of a simple cold or flu becomes a task beyond the endurance of anyone feeling crummy. Surely, there's got to be a market for housecalls out there, and someone willing to fill it.
Now, I know our health-care system is a vast entity, spreading out into pharmaceutical companies, Wilfred Brimley and free scooter suppliers; well beyond any one person's abilities to repair. Still, I bewail the fall of the family physician, who's joined with souless corporations, in an effort to protect himself from lawsuits and long hours away from his family. I'm sure there have got to be a few souls out there who entered into the medical profession out of a desire to help people, but are they even able to follow their calling? Why, why, has it become so hard to do the simplest things for the sick? Yesterday, I had to pull out three different pieces of plastic to see Miss Chef through the clinic and the drugstore (and that doesn't count her own debit card).
And yet, I still feel lucky. While not always "affordable," we do have health insurance, and I am able to include Miss Chef as a "domestic partner." We have access to any number of physicians, specialists and hospitals. I do have an allowance of sick time. And today Miss Chef dozes on the couch, with antibiotics, Tylenol and decongestant within arm's reach. It could be worse.
And yet...it could be so much better.