in the category of vices-to-get-us-through-the-winter, you will find the occasional french fry binge. these are not the side dish. instead, they are front and center at happy hour…shoestring happiness. there is something about carbs and sea salt combined that will – yes, i know it’s temporary – raise our spirits to the point of giddy. much like the sheer joy my best friend susan and i would experience on giant bike hikes back on long island when we’d pull into the mcdonald’s parking lot and head inside to order large fries and a chocolate shake, d and i wait for the oven timer to go off and do the french-fry-happy-dance when it does. it’s the same. i am back at 14. sea-salty fries and a beverage-of-choice – in this case a red – give us moments to ride up the carb-escalator-of-glee and we have no remorse.
i needed fries on friday. comfort food for a complex day.
somehow i have hurt my foot and, after researching hand-in-hand with google numerous times, icing, resting and advil-ing over the past not-quite-two-weeks, decided it was time to see a real-live doctor.
i made an appointment at a medical clinic i’ve been going to for the last fifteen years or so. my former doctor, a woman, is no longer practicing there but there is a male physician i’ve seen and i figured that since he had an interest in sports medicine he would be a fine person to evaluate my foot, start the process of proper care. the receptionist told me they were “coding” me as a “new patient”, even though i wasn’t. so i asked what implications that had – on my insurance, on this specific visit, on me as a patient. i am a big question-asker. she informed me that there were no implications whatsoever.
cue up debacle.
i’ll skip to the part where i was in the examining room explaining to the nurse about my foot and two other concerns i had wanted to address.
she asked me if i had fasted.
“fasted?” i repeated back. “no…why would i have fasted?”
“for the bloodwork,” she replied.
“bloodwork??? what bloodwork???” i inquired.
“the bloodwork for your physical,” she stated flatly, staring at me.
i stared back, likely with a blank look on my face. “i’m not having a physical. i’m just here for my foot,” i calmly explained, a nagging sensation beginning in the pit of my stomach.
“you’re a new patient. you have to have a physical,” was her retort, followed by “you’re running out of your appointment. what do you wanna do?”
continuing to have eye contact i asked, “why wasn’t i told there would be a physical? why, when i specifically asked questions about the implications of the terminology ‘new patient’ wasn’t i told a physical would be necessary and that i should fast for bloodwork?”
she then threw the front end folks under the bus saying, “they’re receptionists. they don’t know anything.”
evenly, but with a growing nagging sensation now at the nape of my neck, i asked, “if THEY don’t know anything, how would i?”
“look, this isn’t urgent care. what do you wanna do?”
a few moments and a few queries later and it was obvious that this appointment – for which i hadn’t been instructed to fast and for which i hadn’t prepared the laundry list of questions and concerns one should bring to a once-a-year physical – would be the only one health insurance would cover for this year.
i hadn’t been properly informed. i didn’t find that acceptable. this health care system’s “safe care promise” states “see what to expect at your visit” and “clear previsit instructions” will be provided. hmm. not.
after d picked me up at the curb outside the center we sat in the parking lot for a few minutes, processing.
“your health and safety is our highest priority” reads the front page of their website. it would seem that patient-centered care would be their ‘thing’. yet, these were moments when (and i grant you that the entire medical community has been and is in overwhelm – as are all of us living through this pandemic) a nurse in this circumstance could have responded in a hundred different ways.
responding to me, as a patient trusting the information i have been given (or not given, for that matter), she could have apologized for the lack of clarity represented to me. she could have not thrown her colleagues, regardless of the pecking order, under the bus. she could have suggested that they waive the physical for this particular appointment since i had actually seen this doctor before and since they had at least fifteen years of records on me at that location, offering a chance to return for a physical at a later date. she could have given the doctor the choice. she could have ensured that the patient’s pressing need – the reason for being there – pain and an obvious concern that made me limp slowly down the hall apologizing for not being able to keep up – was addressed.
she could have.
but she didn’t.
“you are at the heart of everything we do. we treat each person as a person, not as a patient, an illness or an appointment. anything is possible when we apply our imaginations and knowledge toward our purpose of helping people live well. at advocate aurora health, we’re embracing bold, innovative ways to connect our consumers, team members and communities to their health. where we’re going is for the daring. advocate aurora’s goal is to have zero events of serious patient harm by 2025. this is advocate aurora’s “true north goal”. we also call this our “moonshot goal” since its just like putting a man on the moon.” (directly from the website)
and so, french fries were clearly on the happy hour docket longgg before happy hour.
they didn’t help my foot but they sure helped my spirit.
my foot? it’s on the moon, waiting.