Thursday, April 11, 2013

A Not-Unpleasant Center with A Hard Coating of Horrible

I'm not sure why I expected to make sense of that experience, but it was largely baffling, and on balance pretty miserable. Hot chocolate is succoring me.

The office was not lovely, the receptionist was surly and the whole thing--down to the crappiness of the doors--was unfriendly to disabilities. The American's with Disabilities Act may be a step in the right direction, but unlike the UK, the country has yet to take the idea of accessibility seriously.

The first thing I had to do was write on a clipboard. There was no table. A clipboard is irritating but manageable if you're able-bodied. For me, it's hard to use, and when it's used to fill in information that they already have, it is infuriating. I was irked with having to fill out forms full of data that could be pre-filled and printed with gaps to make changes or corrections before I had a stroke. Now that the physical act of writing is hard, it is maddening.

After filling in the largely redundant forms, I exchanged them for an appointment slip and the unwelcome information that, having got Judd to painstakingly record my current array of medication, bringing the pills along was unnecessary. What joy. They're not heavy, it's just stupid and inconvenient to have to schlepp along the bottles as well as regurgitating a list they already have.

I took a moment to look at the appointment slip, and was baffled: rather than a neurological or visual exam, which were options, I was scheduled for a regular internal medicine exam. So, I asked the surly reception guy WTF? He checked, but that was all I was due for. I should call the Social Security specialist to find out more. Of course, there is no cellphone reception in their office. More joy.

Eventually I was called by the medical assistant to take basic stats. He didn't have any clue why I would be doing a regular old exam, rather than a neuro- or visual one either. He did, however tell me that I should put myself in God's hands. When I suggested that God didn't seem to be in a hurry to pay my rent, he assured me that He could. I now know where to refer my landlord in future.

Then more waiting somewhere else. Throughout the process, I had no idea what would happen next, except what I pieced together from overhearing the assistant talk slowly and loudly to people he thought were idiots. Over the last 18 months I've learned the hard way not to make that particular assumption about anyone. (I'm pretty sure the guy with a cane that had no ferrule was faking it, though.  Without that handy bit of rubber, the stick would be useless to me.)

Finally I was ushered into an exam room, instructed to strip down to my underwear and put on a gown. To give you an idea how much slower everything is, I hadn't finished putting the gown on before the actual doctor arrived. She was very pleasant, seemed surprised that I had had many strokes, not just one, and thorough. Talking to a professional who behaved professionally and treated me like a real person was the high point of the whole process.

That was it. Now I'm left wondering when the Social Security specialist will return my call (or answer the phone), when I find out if I get assistance, and whether I have to go for further exams. I can't help but think of all the things I didn't tell the doctor because they have become ordinary obstacles. But I'm a lot less anxious than I was, and I expect I'll sleep well.