After spending the weekend in bed… wait, that sounds bad. After spending the weekend burning up and feeling like my tonsils were on fire… wait, that’s not much better. After spending the weekend sick, I called my doctor.
Actually, my girlfriend made me do it. From me describing the symptoms, she thought I probably had strep throat. Since she’s had it three times and since I would like to see her again sometime in the near future, I made the call this morning. He had an opening at three o’clock. I said I’d take it. I popped a couple of ibuprofen and crawled back into bed.
At 2:15, I ventured out into the bad, bad world. Let me clarify: Right now, anything that isn’t my bedroom or my bathroom qualifies as the bad, bad world. I went out Sunday for some sickie necessities and that was a big mistake. Not that it’s the worst thing that ever happened to me. I can think of worse things that have happened to me. Getting my wisdom teeth taken out wasn’t one of them, however. I stopped off at the ATM to get some fast cash, which I hoped would cover my copay and my script. Then I headed for the doctor’s office, which thanks to the usual spectacular driving on Telegraph Road, took me the better part of half an hour. The doctor’s office is less than five miles away.
Apparently I hadn’t been there since 1999. Or that was the last time I filled out any paperwork, at least. I was pretty sure I’d been in more recently than that. But I wasn’t in any mood to argue. I wasn’t in much mood to fill out forms either, but that doesn’t have anything to do with being sick. I remember one time, early in college, when I had to fill out a questionaire. One of the entries asked us about our favorite activities. I wrote down, “filling out forms.” (Those who know me well know that I’m never, ever sarcastic. Never. Nunca jamas. I don’t even know the meaning of the word, or I wouldn’t if it hadn’t been a dictionary.com word of the day.)
So I filled out the form, including questions about my insurance coverage I had no way of knowing. Some of it was on my insurance card. I guessed about the rest. The time that passed between me filling it out and handing it in would be ample time for it all to change anyway. For all I knew, Aetna wouldn’t be my insurance provider five minutes later. For all I know, it hasn’t been since 2001 and I’ll be getting a really nice phone call in the morning.
But the form satisfied everyone enough that I got to go in to see my doctor. If I committed fraud in the process, well, hopefully they still allow one phone call after they haul you off to jail. I’ll call Benefits and tell them to make sure the doctor gets paid. And I’ll politely ask someone to let my Pastor know I’m in jail. You know Lutherans. They take an offering every opportunity they get, so they’ll welcome an opportunity to take up a collection to bail me out. I hope. He’ll probably do it if I say I’m supposed to be an usher on Sunday.
They put me in a little room with a padded table, a sink, and a couple of chairs. There were certificates on the wall that said my doctor had been in the Army in the early 1980s and had studied at various military academies. There were a couple of expired AOA and AMA certifications. And nowhere was there any indication of where he’d gone to school. There are only two places for a doctor to go to school, of course: Kansas City and Kirksville.
The doctor came in and asked how I was feeling today. In that usual cheerful voice that people expect a terse “fine.” But I didn’t feel fine. I felt like I had a basketball in my throat and I wanted it out. So I told him my throat hurt. He asked how long my throat had hurt. I said since Saturday. He shined a light into my mouth and told me to say ah. After two minutes of trying to see what he needed to see, he gave up, got a tongue depresser, and shoved whatever had been blocking his view out of the way. I could tell you what he said he saw, but it’s gross. It also was something I could have told him if he’d just asked.
As he got out a long cotton swab, he consulted my records to get some basics on my life so he could ask the kinds of questions that made it sound like he knew me. His acting skills didn’t impress me. Then he took a culture. I didn’t quite cough up a lung while he was doing that, but I tried.
He told me there lots of diseases that can cause a throat to hurt. Then I got an 8th grade Biology lesson. He told me there were two basic types of organisms that can infect your throat. He paused for a really, really long time as he put the culture in its test gizmo and wrote stuff down on my chart. Then he continued: “What I was getting at is that your throat can be infected by bacteria, or it can be infected by viruses.” Then I figured out that he was in the process of explaining to me why he didn’t just automatically write me a prescription for penicillin. So I finished the paragraph for him: “But if it’s a virus there’s no point in giving me an antibiotic because an antibiotic can’t kill a virus.”
I’m pretty sure that 8th grade Biology was the last A that I ever got in a science class. Well, other than Computer Science 103 in college, but that doesn’t count. Even a dumb journalist can get an A in that class.
But yes, I remember my basic biology.
I tested negative for strep. The doctor asked how old I was. I said 28. I hadn’t figured out yet where he was going. He put his hands around my throat–something a lot of people have longed to do for a very long time–and looked for enlarged glands. Then he had me lay back and he felt around my abdomen. Then he checked my breathing.
Then he started telling me about a virus that can make your throat sore: Mononucleosis.
“Mono!?” I interrupted him. I know about mono. I know it’s the bane of college students everywhere. College students tend to get it and it tends to ruin their careers. I remember an uptight health teacher citing mono as a reason why people shouldn’t kiss. Probably the same health teacher who had both of his kids through artificial insemination. With his wife. He was the donor. Yes, he was a bit paranoid. And weird. But I’m getting off topic for about the 47th time today.
“Have you been around anyone lately who has mono?” he asked.
“Not that I know of,” I said. And that’s true. No, I still won’t tell you where I work, but it’s hard to imagine anyone there running around with mono. We’re talking a place where you’re not considered an adult until all of your kids have graduated college. Not to mention that some of those guys’ attitudes about women make me wonder how they ever would have had the opportunity to ever be exposed to mono, let alone the opportunity to have kids who would then grow to college age…
And as far as–ahem–extracurricular opportunities to be exposed to mono, I come up blank there too. I’m not exactly the kind of guy who kisses everything that walks upright and breathes oxygen.
“Well, you’re too old for mono to be very likely,” he said, snapping me back to the present reality. “So I’m going to give you penicillin. But I’m going to order blood work.”
And then I was off for another one of my all-time favorite activities–having blood drawn–but there wasn’t really anything interesting about that. I didn’t look, as usual, it hurt, as usual, and I didn’t know when it was over, as usual, and they put a piece of cotton the size of Texas on it afterward, as usual, held in place by an impossibly tiny band-aid, as usual. The only thing unusual about it was the band-aid had Bugs Bunny on it. Good thing I wasn’t going to work afterward. I’d get teased about that. Good thing only the Internet’s going to know about that.
Then my Bugs Bunny band-aid and I went off to get my penicillin, where I found out that my prescription card is no good. Great, another phone call… The pharmacist said penicillin is really cheap though, so he asked if he should just check the cash price. I said fine. Not having to wait until Tuesday to start my dosage was worth a few bucks to me. The price came up $9.53, Tax Man
Carnahan Holden’s cut included. I’m pretty sure my copayment would have been 20 bucks. So not having a working insurance card worked to my advantage, to the tune of 10 bucks.
Then I went home. No light blinking on my answering machine. That’s good, at least if you ascribe to the theory that bad news travels fast, which I do. I popped my first penicillin, and started to wait the 8 hours until my next.
And I checked the usual symptoms of mono. The only ones I have–sore throat, achy joints, diminished appetite–can be symptoms of absolutely anything.
So we’ll see.