Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Daycare Lady

“I’m not a doctor, or even a nurse, but I have run a daycare for 30 years so I’ve seen it all,” the woman with the sunglasses said for the many-eth time.  We had been together in the Emergency Room waiting room for four hours by then.  She would tell this to anyone who would listen, and many who had no choice, in part to be helpful, but mostly, I think, to shorten the list of patients ahead of her. 

“Can I see that sliver?  Ok, good, that’s what I was hoping it would look like. You know what you can do?  You put some triple antibiotic on it, cover it with a bandage, and in the morning it will be at the surface and you can pluck it out. Of course, I’m not a doctor, or even a nurse, but I have run a daycare for 30 years so I’ve seen it all. But that has to be a decision you’re comfortable with.  Maybe the person you were on the phone with a minute ago gave you some advice, too?”

“Yeah, that was my brother. He’s a doctor.  He said it would probably be ok until morning.”

“Right, like I said, I’m not a doctor, but I have seen it all.”

The poor kid with the 2x4 in his foot didn’t seem to like the idea of waiting until tomorrow, but his dad eventually tired of waiting and they went home.

When Daycare Lady wasn’t making a show of rubbing her temples or holding her stomach, she was making trips to the reception desk to ask how much longer it would be before a doctor would see her.  Every time she re-entered the waiting room she winced at the noise of the T.V. and shuttered at the brightness of the lights.

“There’s still two people in front of me and I’ve been here since 3 this afternoon.  One doctor on a Sunday, when no clinics are open, can you believe that?”

My wife, son and I were a poor audience for her, always failing to be as outraged as she thought we should have been. Our son was sick, and we were going to wait until he was seen. Simple as that.

“Yeah, well, it is what it is,” I told her once, to her disgust.

“Not when you have a migraine it isn’t.”

By 8 in the evening, Daycare Lady was mutinous.  “Five hours in the ER waiting room! That’s not what I call quality care!”

I needed fresh air (again), so I went outside and walked around the parking lot.  As I walked I thought about Daycare Lady, of course, but in the context of the bigger picture.  Is it possible she doesn’t know how many millions of Americans there are who would love to have her “problems”, who would love simply to be able to see a doctor?  Dumb question. I guess the better question is:  Does one have to try really hard to avoid knowing that?  It’s a scary disconnect when half the people get pissed when they can’t see a doctor without waiting a couple hours, and the other half would give their left arm (some probably have) to see a doctor at all, or go bankrupt after the “privilege”. I don’t give two pinches of coonshit whether you think the solution is an entirely private-run system, or if you favor government-run healthcare, but if you won’t acknowledge that there’s a big problem with the current system, well, fuck you. 

These joyous thoughts were interrupted when Daycare Lady stormed out the hospital doors, stomped across the parking lot and idiotically jerked on her car door handle before unlocking it. It was midnight now but she still wore her sunglasses in case, I imagine, she ran across someone in the parking lot who might feel sorry for her.

Back inside I discovered the reason for Daycare Lady’s meltdown:  my son had been called ahead of her.  “Maybe the system isn’t broken,” I thought.

Because strep is rare in children as young as my son, the doctor didn’t do a strep test until he had taken blood and done a chest x-ray.  After ruling everything else out, he did the strep test. The results were positive and he gave us the choice of giving our son one shot or two-weeks of oral meds. Because we are not idiots, and our son can’t talk, we opted for the shot.  When the nurse came in to administer the shot she thanked us for being patient. “There was a lady out there who got pretty crazy when we called you ahead of her.  But, you know, we don’t go by who’s been waiting the longest. Who doesn’t understand we’re always going to see a sick baby before a lady with a headache?”

“Someone who’s seen it all.”

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