On the eve of the final day of Spring Break, I break my foot. I knew it was broken when it happened. Felt the tiniest crunch along with the eerie shredding of muscle. Body talks to mind and sometimes we listen. The ER doctor didn't look at my foot. Too impressed with the grandeur of his all black wardrobe, I guess. Maybe even a bit squeamish at the bloodied calf and foot. Who knows?
There were X-rays during the four-hour wait in stall number 17 of the emergency room. They got my $100 co-pay for sure. The doctor returns to tell me, "You're lucky. No broken bones! Just a sprained ankle." Off he waltzes in his all-black splendor, disappearing from the hubbub of the ER, finding a safe haven somewhere where the walls are painted a color other than green.
Toward the end, a nice nurse dressed my wounds, wrapped my leg in gauze and fitted a little plastic nothing around my foot, heel and calf. Then I hobbled out of the ER, hobbled back up the offending front steps, said goodbye and thanks to my friend, who was more concerned with her terminally ill mother than my current catastrophe, and who can blame her?
Ten hours later, an unidentified someone from the ER calls to tell me they have looked at the X-rays and there's a "problem" with the foot. "Define 'problem,'" I say. Lo, there's a bone broken. I knew it. Dammit. What kind of health care is this anyway? Now, ten hours later, after I have hobbled my way throughout this too large house, hobbled up and down the front steps and hobbled into Walgreen's for my prescription and hobbled around to my office, to my bed, to the sofa, to the kitchen for coffee and a bite to eat, hobbled up and down the toilet seat - now this voice tells me: "Stay off that foot!," an imperative coming ten hours later, and fourteen hours after the injury, when my mind clicked into the recognition of "broken foot."
It's now day three of the broken foot. Yesterday I worked six hours trying to get an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon. After repeated grade school excuses ("we don't have your x-rays," "the doctor's assistant will have to do that," "the doctor will have to okay this"), they reveal that the doctor doesn't do feet. I'll need an appointment with another doctor, one who does feet. That won't be until Thursday. Four days after the fall.
I call my primary care doctor's office for help. In thirty minutes, I receive three phone calls, four references and instructions on the care of my broken foot. Now THAT is what health care is supposed to be. Yes, I'm just a lowly consumer out here, caught in the morass of institutionalized "health" but I do recognize a broken bone when it happens, and I do recognize negligent service and I certainly recognize a helpful voice when I hear it.
Today I hope to get a pair of crutches. Today I hope to go to the store for groceries and for more of that sticky wrap and non-stick pads, and to the monolithic office supply store for some necessary duplicating. I hope my life can resume without the hobble and the grief and the pain. Meanwhile, I've lost three days of work with a fourth coming tomorrow.
This is why I abhor the traditional, institutionalized, allopathic health care in the good ole US of A. It's not "health" and it's not "care." It is negligence and delay and bureaucracy. And my experience is only just begining. I hope never to experience another broken bone. I hope never to experience an extended illness. I hope to die quickly rather than in the cold arms of American "health care."