So about that cranky day….
That day after the night of crazy road conditions and multiple accidents and blocked roads and grocery shopping and getting in close to midnight because of the traffic mess.
That day when the laundry mound was piled a little higher because of there not being a washer.
That day when there had been no work for two weeks.
That day when the cries were telling me someone had suffered long enough.
That day when I knew that I needed to take Ian to the doctor because he really must have an ear infection that’s not going away.
That day when I spent 45 minutes or more on the phone trying to find a clinic who would see him.
Yes, That day. Today.
So, I’d thought it was hard to find a new doctor when you move and you don’t know whose view on doctors is more like yours. You know you don’t want to spend that initial fee finding out if you like this doctor, but your new friends like different doctors and you really don’t know where you should go. Well, it’s even harder when no one gives you a starting reference. I started by googling “free health care in Atlanta” and came up with a list of options. Some were free; some had a sliding fee. Then I called and called and no they wouldn’t see a new patient. Or, no, they don’t do that type of health care. Or, oh, they only take three walk-ins per day and they have their quota for the day, but they open tomorrow at 7:00 a.m. Blah, blah, blah. I was rather exasperated. Finally I asked one receptionist, “Well, WHERE should I go? I’m new to the area, so we don’t have a family doctor. I have a sick child, and he needs to be seen.” She so kindly gave me a number and I decided we’d just have to shuck out the dough.
I called them and made an appointment. They said they had a financial program, and I could talk to the center after my appointment. Steve came home from work (volunteer at the mission) to pick us up, so we would have a ride. We took him back to work then drove around looking for the clinic. We finally found the place (in a hospital) They had free valet parking for patients which was nice since it was raining. We got directed to the correct desk only to find out that our 11:30 appointment could not be found. “Oh, he’s a new patient?” and, “Oh, you don’t have insurance?” in .that. tone started my heart sinking, and soon had me moving to another window.
It seemed this receptionist was accustomed to people trying to run over her because she felt the need to assert her authority and state policies in no uncertain terms. Bottom line? “He can’t be seen here today.”
“But where can I go?” I asked in desperation. “I’m new in town, I don’t have an established doctor, and I need to have him seen somewhere. I spent almost an hour looking for places and someone said you would see him here.” A few tears started rolling. I’m not really a person who normally cries about stuff like this, but I was starting to feel desperate. Was I going to end up driving three hours to go back to Ian’s regular pediatrician at home? I almost wished I could.
“You have to take him to the emergency room,” she informed me in no uncertain terms. Emergency room? Hello! This isn’t exactly an emergency, and all I could think was $$$$, and I’m not paying $$$$ to have an ear infection checked (and especially not to find out he’s teething–my great fear when taking a baby to the doctor.) I calmly told her that I didn’t want to take him there because of the cost, and didn’t she know of any other clinic who would see him. She called in her manager. Nope. “You have to take him to the emergency room.”
She ushered me back to financial aid where I thought I was going to sign up for their program. Nope. You have to be an established patient there to get their discounts, and they could sign me up for Medicaid and I needed to take him to the emergency room. Do you sense a theme here? I was feeling very stuck because I knew Medicaid is not an option (a subject where the Mr. and Mrs. don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye), yet I felt like Ian needed to be seen. The only option I was finding was the emergency room which seemed ridiculous to me. The guy in financial aid ushered me over to the emergency room and repeated only four times that I *needed* to have him seen and that it is important that my sick child be seen and that he would check me in. I declined and melted into an embarrassing puddle of tears. I called Steve blubbered through the story.
Steve wondered if I should just go home and try to find another clinic. Normally, I would say that, “Yeah, I think that would be smart,” and complain about the hassle and head out. But it was today. And the fact that Ian was crying in misery even though he was on Ibuprofen and the fact that I would have to pay $7 for parking because I hadn’t actually been a patient were uncharacteristically overwhelming. I whimpered, “Okay,” and trying to be strong declined his generous offer to come take care of us. With tears pouring, I tried to gather our things.
One other woman was sitting in the waiting room, and had obviously been eaves-dropping on my phone conversation. She turned around to tell me, “You need to come in here and be seen. Even if you can’t pay they have to serve you. Me? I have no income and I have a $5,000 hospital bill and they still see me. Take him over there. There be no need for tears.”
I called Steve and relayed what she said. He asked if it would be a lot easier for me to take him here. I said that for today, it really would.
We signed in, and waited. “Mom, watch your child that he don’t fall,” the receptionist loudly called over to me because Zachary was standing on his chair. (He wasn’t even close to falling). And I cried some more. “Mom, tie his shoes when you get back there,” she called as we walked past her on our way to the room. (Thanks for making me feel even more like a winner.)
The nurse asked me what was wrong which just started more tears and I blubbered out my sad story. She weighed Ian and took us back to our room.
Another nurse came in. She must have seen my red eyes and asked what was wrong and the tears just started pouring again. A receptionist came in to take my down payment of $75 for the visit. She stared a little.
At this point they must have had a note outside the door–“Weepy mom. Beware of tear puddles.” An intern came in and talked with us in hushed tones. She examined Ian as best she could with him fighting her off. She was really nice and also brought the boys pinwheels and bubbles and a Popsicle for Ian. She was also new, and a little unsure of herself. I still kept wishing I could be seeing Ms. Wolfcotte who is so motherly and always makes me feel like everything will be fine and answers my questions in detail.
Later the resident doctor came in, and took a quick look to confirm the double ear infection diagnosis. Then the intern. Then Mr. Financial Aid. Then the nurse. Then someone else. Then Mr. Financial Aid again (who said he was so glad that I had stayed and had him seen because he’s sick and he needs to see a doctor). Then the nurse again. Finally we got to leave. Finally I wasn’t crying.
We went home. We ate lunch. Ian slept the whole afternoon. Zachary and I both lay down. I dozed off between pokes and wiggles and he managed to stay awake. ( I guess you know the good parts were the sleeping). Then we got up and thought about all kinds of ways I could have handled the situation, and zoomed all over the city trying to find a washer.
Now we just wait for the bill and go from there. I’m not sure what to do to avoid another fiasco like this one, but you can be sure I’m going to be looking for a pediatrician pronto.
And that is the end of the very sad story of the weepy mother and co. in heart of Atlanta trying their best to be brave.