It is 2:45 pm and you take a number, look at the "health news" on the TV screen, look for something to read and settle on a 2003 Newsweek. You look at your fellow sick people and wish you weren't here. They look at you and you see them thinking, "Why does he bother!" One by one they go in. I am called back to the receptionist desk to show my Medicare and Humana card, I try to make a few pleasantries hoping to gain some small advantage here and the receptionist looks at me like I am a bug. She asks for my Humana card and takes my co-pay. I go back to reading Woman's Day.
Thirty minutes later, a nurse or someone that looks like a nurse comes out with a clipboard and calls my name. I get up, walk toward her with a smile and a "How are you?" She looks at her chart, seeing my name and says, "And how are you today?" I want to say, "If I was anywhere near OK, I wouldn't be here," but I say, "Fine, thank you."
I wait in the little examination room, sit in a chair and stare at the wall. There is a diagram of internal organs and a cut-away of the human skull. It is not encouraging.
The doctor walks in with a smile, looks at the chart and says hello to me by my name and that is a good sign….he can read. "And what's our problem today?"
"Our problem?" But I do not answer in this manner. He is actually a nice guy and I have always rather liked him. I have been his patient for over ten years. But, I liked him better before he sold his practice to a large conglomerate, you know, before he turned the total management of his practice over to the bean counters. I am probably his thirty-eighth patient (customer) of the day, seven more and he has reached his quota. I tell him I might have a hernia, and he puts on the rubber glove, gives me a quick grope, and walks me back to the receptionist. As it turns out he will refer me to a specialist and he has exceeded his referrals by two for the day. He says something to her and she pulls out a pre-printed form to see a surgical group in Raleigh, no doubt owned by the same conglomerate. "Tinkers to Evers to Chance." I try to say solong to the doctor but he is on his way to the next client behind the closed door.
The visit to the surgical group in Raleigh is not much different. Another thirty minute wait reading a 1993 Popular Mechanics and then to the little examination room. I flash to the feeling you have waiting for the sales manager at the car lot to come in and close the deal the salesman has made. The big gorilla of a man walks in, sticks out his hand without looking at me and says, "And how are we today?" OK it seems I have heard this song before and without further foreplay, he gropes me, tells me I have two hernias, not one. Evidently finished, he walks me to an inner office where a harried looking young lady is ready to take down my specifics, mostly my Medicare and Humana info. She schedules the surgery as I explain I have some real worries about the complications in a surgery she gives me a "not to worry," smile and schedule the surgery for the following week. They never call. The bill the government will pay alongside my co-pay for this experience is $378.00. "Cheap at twice the price!"
I cancelled the operation two days before the surgery. It's not that much trouble to push my insides back into my body several times a day and before bed. "Could I have a gerbil living inside me?" Not with-standing this worry, I rest in peace knowing that the good Ole US of A has the best medical care system in the world!
"First ...do no harm (primum non necere)" to the bottom line…the rest will take care of itself."
Do they still make those little black bags the doctor's carry when they came to your house? Gone the way of the buggy whip, I suspect, but then again, you never know.
The Old Songs:
"And maybe the old songs
Will bring back the old times
Maybe the old lines
Will sound new