Not that I have anything against lepers. But after today – I know exactly how you all feel when we treat you like, well, like lepers. And I’m sorry.
Let me start at the beginning. Michener style.
I’ve always thought of myself as middle class. I own my own home. My children eat home cooked meals made from fresh fruit, veggies and quality meat. They have more clothes than they can wear in a week, even changing outfits twice a day. Sure, I drive a POS car that’s older than my marriage, but that’s a choice. New cars are simply not a priority.
Oh, and I don’t have health insurance.
I did once. I had a soul sucking corporate jobby-job that gave my whole family insurance coverage.
Then I got laid off. And our insurance disappeared. Just like that.
Now, My husband and I are insuranceless. But my kids are covered.
By the state.
Yeah, we’re “those people”.
My husband and I both own our own successful, small businesses. We looked into getting health insurance. For us to pay for our own insurance it would cost $500 a month. Per person. Kids too. So… That means my whole paycheck, on a steady month would go to our family’s insurance. Oh, and that’s with a $10,000 deductible. Yeah, you read that right.
So, $2,000 a month and it won’t cover anything except hugely expensive emergencies. $2,000 a month and it will just barely keep us out of bankruptcy if something really terrible and god-awful happens. That’s not insurance. That’s robbery.
We sat down, we did the math. We’re good at math. We read the rules of medical care in America. Technically they’re not allow to refuse you. Hippocratic oath and all. They have to put you on a payment plan.
Still, we’re not the types to take chances with our kids. So we looked into making sure they were covered. Turns out, I’m not middle class. I’m poor. Shit poor. Not poor enough for the state to cover my insurance, but poor enough for the state to look after my kids. As long as I’m willing to pitch in here and there.
So, we signed the kids up for state insurance. We got them a primary care physician, and we stopped worrying about it. We’re not really doctor types anyway. We only go when it’s time for a check up or a genuine emergency. We’re not on drugs (pharmaceuticals), we’re not sick and we don’t really like doctors. (Nurses, yes and PAs, absolutely. But doctors, please. Can we surgically remove the ego? Then we might have something to work with.)
This morning my daughter woke up and said her ear stung. On the outside.
I took a look and sure enough the top of her ear was bright red and irritated. It looked like she had slept on it wrong. I told her not to worry, that it would be fine by lunch time.
Today, when she came home from school at three, it wasn’t fine. It was worse. Much worse.
It was still red. It was very swollen. And there were strange, blotchy, discolored blisters all over the top curve of her ear.
My first thought was fungus. My second thought was, how does fungus grow that fast, there? So, I took a cotton swab to it. I’m actually a very calm parent. Nothing came off on the swab. I took a sniff, no odor.
So, I asked The Google.
I had two choices. Horrible virus that’s insanely contagious and needs to be treated topically to reduce the symptoms and the contagious factor, or… even worse bacteria that needs to be treated yesterday.
So, I call my PCP (Primary care physician) who closes in an hour and can’t fit my kid in today. But don’t worry, just go to Urgent Care, they’ll take care of you.
I look up Longmont Urgent Care on The Google, write down the address and throw my kids into the car.
Five minutes later we walk into the Longmont Clinic urgent care and I start to check in. The man at the desk smiles at me and lets me know it’s about a two-hour wait. I smile and nod. It’s always a wait at urgent care. Then he starts asking the standard check in questions. I can’t fill out the form and respond at the same so I hand him my daughter’s state insurance card. “Here, this should have all the information you need.”
“Oh, we don’t take this. We’re a private hospital. We don’t have to treat people like you.” He gives back my insurance card, holding it by the corner as if it might be contaminated. As if I might be contagious.
People like me? What does that even mean? You don’t treat people who need medical care? You don’t treat hard-working families? You don’t treat people who pay cash?
Oh, you don’t treat people who have been laid off and run their own business because the job creators aren’t creating anything but new tax breaks for themselves. You don’t treat people who work 60 hours a week. You don’t treat people who put their families first, before new cars, before big homes, before bling, before anything.
Is that what you mean when you say you don’t treat people like me?
So who does? Because, you see, my daughter’s ear has gotten worse just in the time we’ve been talking. And I don’t know what’s wrong with her, but I know that it isn’t right, isn’t normal, isn’t healthy.
“Well there’s a place in North Longmont that sees people like you. NextCare. It’s behind the Arby’s.”
People like me, huh. I wonder what that looks like. A place that treats people like me.
So, with my sick kid getting sicker, I left. Trying not to swear too loudly.
I drove north to my neighborhood. Where people like me live.
And I went to NextCare. I was still fuming when we walked in. I was furious. I was scared. I had a sick kid and I was afraid these people were going to turn us away too.
I said I needed to check my daughter in for urgent care. The woman being the counter smiled and asked for my insurance card and ID. I handed them over. “I’m not sure you’ll take this, no one else seems to.”
“Don’t worry, we do.” She said with a smile, before she had even looked.
She continued to treat me like a human being, worthy of dignity and respect throughout my stay in the waiting room. Which was only 5 minutes.
Yeah, Longmont hospital was going to make me wait 2 hours and then turn me away or charge me hundreds of dollars in cash to see my daughter. These people, they took my insurance AND saw my daughter in 5 minutes.
The nurse was both professional and kind. The PA (Physician’s Assistant) who saw, diagnosed and treated my daughter was equally professional and equally kind. She talked directly to my daughter as if she too was a real human worthy of respect. She asked questions, took notes and finally popped one of my daughter’s blisters. Thick yellow pus oozed out.
“That’s not good.”
Not something you ever want to hear your doctor say.
“So, this morning this was just red?”
“Yeah, and she said it stung.”
“This is a serious bacterial infection. For it to get this bad, this fast… I’m going to put her on some oral antibiotics.”
She said it calmly, but I could sense the seriousness, the gravity, in her voice.
We talked a little more and she gave me three warning signs to watch out for. If any of them happen I need to take my daughter directly to ER.
Yes, this is that serious and it arrived out of the fucking blue. And Longmont Clinic (A branch of Longmont United Hospital) turned us away. Because they don’t treat people like me, like us.
But NextCare took me in and treated us like humans. Like we were anyone else. Like we mattered. Like they cared.
I’m almost done with my rant. Almost. But I promised a couple of women that I would mention them here.
The pharmacists at the Longmont King Soopers.Thank you again ladies. You turned my nightmare afternoon into an okay night.
When I went to King Soopers on Main Street they told me that what the doc. at NextCare had prescribed didn’t exist. So, they called and clarified. Then they searched their shelves, realized they didn’t have enough of the prescribed drug in stock and called over to the other Longmont King Soopers on Hover. The woman asked them to rush my order, let them know I was on my way and that I would be there in minutes.
When I arrived they were nearly done filling my script. “Let me just run your insurance. This is really expensive stuff.” The woman said.
“Well, hopefully it’s covered, but if not, I’ll bite the bullet. Kid needs this.”
They didn’t laugh, scowl or look down their nose when I handed over my daughter’s state insurance card. They just ran it like any other insurance and said, “Yep, you’re covered. Give us one more minute.”
When I went to pick up the script the woman let me know that it tasted terrible. “Here’s a trick. Give your daughter a teaspoon of chocolate syrup. It’ll coat her tongue and she won’t be able to taste this.”
We talked a little, laughed a little, I told them about Longmont Hospital and about NextCare and told them, “If you ever meet someone else like me who needs care, tell them to skip Longmont Clinic and go straight to NextCare. They’ll be treated promptly, and with respect.”
I walked away feeling like a good parent, a good citizen, a good person again. My humanity had been renewed.
So, thank you NextCare. And thank you King Soopers pharmacists. You’ve won my business and my loyalty.
Longmont hospital on the other hand… Trust me, if I can make it anywhere else without dying, I’ll go. You’ll never get a dime of my money.
Not even when I’m rich and I can afford insurance.