My Life on the Post Road: Virtually Medicine

The last thing I want to do during this pandemic is enter a medical facility - kudos and thanks to those who have to and do. But alas, this body is out of warranty and needs scheduled service. Osteoporosis runs in my family, and I have not escaped its strong grip on my bones. I currently receive an injection biannually to bolster them. I resist this medication as I do every other, but my bones beg to differ. I missed a full year’s worth while in England, and somehow, I managed to skip October (I blamed it on them not reminding me). My very diligent and persistent endocrinologist tracked me down and asked, “What’s up?” Benign neglect, I told her, and she suggested we schedule a telemedicine appointment to discuss.

Let the games begin, I thought. I hate Zoom and was pretty sure a videoconference with my doc would be as miserable. But it beat the alternative of visiting in person. So, 10:15 a.m. appointment and instructions in hand, I sat at my small dining table and waited.

10:09 a.m.: Call #1. Receptionist. She “checked me in.” Told me to sit tight and hung up. My small dining area became a waiting area.

10:17 a.m.: Call #2. Nurse. She asked that I sign into the MYCHART App and enable Zoom (on my iPhone). I fussed with both and miraculously got them working, and played Tiles on the New York Times app, picked at my cuticles, and thought how maybe I could’ve made even a minimal effort to not look awful while she had me on hold until 10:31. I don’t know why. When she came back, she told me the doctor would call and hung up.

10:35 a.m.: Call #3. Nurse. “Are you on? The doctor cannot see you.” My video session had timed out because she’d had me on hold for 18 minutes. I signed back in to MYCHART and Zoom. Waited for doctor to call.

10:40 a.m.: Call #4. Doctor. Thank heavens. I’d conquered Tiles, and my cuticles needed no more intervention. She explained that, no, I didn’t need another bone scan until 2021 (I was hoping to use this as a delay tactic), and yes, I needed a shot. We chit chatted about Covid19 and its devastating impact, and how we are both coping. Then she told me I’ll need to come into the office anyway for a blood draw to make sure my kidneys are functional. I wondered but didn’t ask: why, if I needed to come in anyway, did we not just meet face to face?

This series of calls ended at 10:50 a.m. Frustrating at times, yes, but no more so than if I’d driven to their offices and had to check in, wait in the waiting area, and see the nurse in person. But I saved myself the drive time, potential exposure to the virus, and any need to look presentable.      

All of which I ended up having to do that afternoon anyway for the blood draw. A pre-receptionist took my temperature and asked a series of questions before I could even go into the outer office. She directed me to stand on a red X marked in duct tape on the floor. And not to move from it until the receptionist called me. I stood six feet away from the receptionist on another X, this one white, and shouted answers to her questions at her as she sat, protected, behind a now ubiquitous pane of plexiglass. She relegated me to a far, uninhabited corner of the waiting room to sit by myself. When the nurse finally called me in 20 minutes later, I explained my miniscule veins to her, told her I’d drunk plenty of water to pump them up, and prayed she could find one without black-and-bluing me. Her indifference was as glaring as the rhinestones in her long, bedazzled nails, and the mask she wore only covered her mouth. When I asked that she cover her nose, explaining my high-risk status, she retorted from two feet away in a small room with the door closed, “I’ve been working all day in this mask and I need a break to breathe”.  Okay then. She applied a tourniquet to my arm, made me pump my fist, slapped at my inner elbow repeatedly, and then went in for the kill, fishing around with the needle for my elusive artery. It hurt. A lot. When I winced and asked that she stop, she snipped “Well if you hadn’t moved your arm...You have a vein (I figured as much but appreciated her confirmation), but it moved when you did.” So, I thought, as with my children and former husband, everything is my fault. I asked that she stop again and to speak with someone else. I cried as I waited for my doctor’s assistant in a different room. She came in, masked, apologetic, and compassionate, and found a vein in the other arm quickly. And apologized again.

So, despite my reticence in the face of technology, the virtual meeting took 39 minutes and required only minimal praying to the gods of technology. The in-person meeting took over an hour and caused considerably more grief. Fortunately, my kidneys work well, and so I have the go-ahead to get inoculated - once I clear the myriad insurance hurdles and approvals. I wonder if they’ve figured out a way to give me the shot over the internet...


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