Sunday, March 15, 2015
The Flu Shot Insufficiency
The first inkling that a torturous, virus-induced fog of flu was about to descend upon my existence came last Sunday afternoon. At the time it was a small nagging headache that just refused to completely go away. The night before we had just “sprung ahead one hour” and the daily high temperatures the previous week had oscillated between late-autumn lows and early spring highs making life seriously sucky. I literally went to work one night wearing just a t-shirt and jeans because it was so warm but had to put on a sweatshirt around the house the next morning because some freaky weather front had slipped by sending the temperatures into the low forties. When you also consider the fact that I work night-shift, which is like a suicide bomber on my circadian clock, a small headache seemed insignificant.
That night at work though my condition had worsen to the point that I felt like I had slipped into an alternate universe governed by different laws of physics. Absolutely nothing made any real sense and in truth, I would have called it a wrap and went home had we not received news Sunday evening that one of my wife's uncles had passed away requiring a family trip up to Wilmington, North Carolina later in the week. Despite my abject misery, I needed to suck it up and go on into work so I wouldn't waste too much vacation time.
Monday and Tuesday there were times I would get better and feel close to human and living in a three-dimensional universe. But in the space of a few hours I would slip back into the Twilight Zone wishing someone would just shoot my sorry ass. It was Wednesday afternoon when the flu-induced fog permanently set in requiring I finally go to the doctor.
Since I am famous for being misunderstood I'll say this as simply as I can, I hate going to the doctor when I am sick. Despite the stupid and ridiculous nature of that statement there are real reasons. The first being that when I do go to the doctor with a cold I always have this nagging feeling that I am making too much of my illness. It's one thing to feel bad, but when I see another patient in the waiting room throwing up their lungs into one of those cheap curved plastic basins it sort of puts my illness into perspective. The second is work related in that when blue collar types like me call in sick their coworkers always have to pick up the slack. It's a spectacular and easy way to become immediately unpopular despite all the company related talk espousing the idea of teamwork. So it says a lot when I decided that no matter the repercussions, I had to see a doctor quickly.
A third general reason why guys don't like to see the doctor is the hassle. There is always paperwork involved, even when you're actually seeing your primary care physician. However, when I called my doctor's office I was told the first available appointment was two weeks away. The way I felt at that moment I wasn't going to last two days. So that left me one option, the local doc-in-a-box, urgent care facility.
After a nerve wracking twenty-minute drive through suburban rush hour traffic I pulled into the parking lot of the nearest fast food-like medical care establishment and walked inside. Thankfully the waiting room was empty so at least I wouldn't have to suffer through the mental angst of wondering who was sicker. But my troubles were just beginning, see since I had never visited that facility the bored receptionist handed me a clipboard with nine pages of information to fill out, many of them double-sided. At that moment I don't think I could have passed a first-grade spelling test and as I looked over the various sheets I saw questions that required some thought and reasoned responses.
Some ungodly time later I handed the clipboard back to the receptionist hoping she didn't look too closely at many of my responses that pretty much amounted to “beats the hell out of me.” Since she was on the phone with her significant other discussing plans for after work I sat back down pondering the demise of customer service and the scarcity of decent reading material in waiting rooms. No, I don't consider an ancient copy of illustrated Bible stories for children all that interesting.
The receptionist finally ended her phone call, but not before a hushed period where there was some whispering and giggling, and asked me for my drivers license and health insurance card. “Your lucky Mr. Johnson,” she said, “there's no other patients and the doctor will be able to see you just as soon as we finish here.”
Oh the joy! I thought while digging through my wallet. The drivers license was easy to find. But panic quickly set in as my health insurance card was nowhere to be found in my wallet. I have a tri-fold wallet and keep all my important cards in the center section. The end sections are for snapshots and important papers. Well, it didn't take long to realize I simply didn't have my insurance card and the receptionist said that unless I wanted to pay upfront there would be no services for me until I found the thing.
“I'll be back.” I said in a mechanical tone after leaning in close. The receptionist complete missed my intended joke having snatched up her cell phone and gone into texting mode totally oblivious to the rest of the world.
When I got back home I went straight to my sock drawer figuring I must have mistakenly pulled the insurance card out at some point and put it with the rest of the cards and stuff I keep there. No such luck, it wasn't there and I was feeling quite perplexed besides feverish and slightly nauseous. It was then I just gave up and laid down on the bed surrounded by a couple of dozen items like canceled credit cards, insurance agreements, and other pieces of junk required by our modern lifestyle.
“Did you look all through your wallet?” My wife asks when she came home.
“Yeah,” I said having a strange feeling her question was somehow loaded.
She then grabs my wallet and takes out the small piece of plastic designed to hold snapshots. Among the old pictures of my kids was my health insurance card. My wife explained that several weeks earlier she went looking for one of our credit cards and after digging through my wallet she put everything back. What she let go unsaid though was that she didn't place everything back where I normally kept such items like insurance cards.
Had I been of sound mind-yeah that doesn't make sense but screw it-I would have said something about how I'm not supposed to go tearing through her pocketbook but I just let the whole thing drop. No I didn't go back to the doc-in-a-box, it would have taken too much energy, I just laid in bed and somehow made it through one more night of work. I had already put in for Thursday night off to go to the funeral for my wife's uncle. I went straight to the doc-in-a-box the next morning after work and promptly spent two hours sitting in the waiting room. At least I wasn't bored, I got the chance to fill out all that paperwork again. The actual visit with the doctor lasted just fifteen minutes where he declared I had the flu and sent me home.
No, I didn't go to the funeral, although a part of me would have liked to float around several of my in-laws spewing flu viruses like a Las Vegas fountain. And yes, earlier in the year I did have the flu shot that was supposed to reduce my risk of catching it in the first place, go figure.