MOVarazzi

Friday, June 29, 2012

805. The Tenth Circle of Hell: If Dante Were Alive Today

I love our sons’ doctor, the same doctor they have gone to for the past seven years.  Love love love him.  He is brilliant, cheery, kind, helpful—in short, everything you would want a pediatrician to be. 

His office staff?  Not so much. 
Every time I go in there, I feel as if I have committed some type of capital offense.  “Why are you here?” the new receptionist barks at me.  “For a bikini wax and a few rounds of beer?” I desperately want to answer, as I hold the hand of my sick kindergartner who has an appointment. 

Calling the office to make an appointment or ask a question about a medication is an exercise in futility.  I think the DMV must have written their customer service training manual.     
A recent incident floats to the surface of my brain.  Short had some sort of skin rash on his face and head.  The Husband took him in, suspecting chicken pox to be the culprit.  Short was (thankfully) chicken pox free, but our doctor recommended a strep test to rule out that possibility as well.  The nurse called 24 hours later:  Short was positive for strep.  She called our pharmacy to give them our prescription. 

After I administered Short's first dose of Amoxicillin, it occurred to me that the drug might not be compatible with the drug he was on for the skin rash.  I called the doctor’s office to find out. 

Dante’s Nine Circles of Hell need an amendment:  Waiting on hold while listening to recorded messages that don’t pertain to you is surely the Tenth Circle.  I tried to be patient and open-minded while the tape advised me to “listen carefully, as our options have changed.”  I waited for each option, focusing on what could be different; strangely enough, the one I needed (operator) had not changed.  It was still zero. 
But then, I decided to see if there was possibly an option to talk to a nurse.  After all, I didn’t need an appointment, I just needed to discuss if mixing my son’s medications could be toxic. 

There was, indeed, a “nurse” choice.  I pressed the button.  Then I got another perky tape-recorded message: 

“Thank you for calling the nurse!  Most questions can be answered on our website, so please take a few minutes to self-diagnose, and then you won’t need to call us back because it is probably some silly thing like choking and you can just give him a whack on the back and he’ll be fine!  Or maybe you are calling because he is bleeding, but have you even tried a Band-Aid?  Simple solution!  If it is a big thing, you should be calling 911, so you are at the wrong place and wasting valuable time, so hang up and call a paramedic!  Hang up, I say!  But, if you still really really really want to talk to the nurse … too bad.  Leave a message and she will call you back sometime before next Tuesday.  If you or your child is not already dead by then.”

Then I tried to leave a message, but the tape hung up on me, saying the voicemail box was full.  I called back, livid.  This time, I pressed zero. 
The indifferent receptionist knew nothing of my ten minutes in the Tenth Circle of Hell.  I tried to keep this in mind as I spoke to him.  “May I please ask you a question about my son’s medication?” 

“What is your son’s name and date of birth?” 
I told him.  Then I said, “I do not want to mix his medications if they can be dangerous when taken together—”

He cut me off.  “Oh, wow, for that—you will have to talk to a nurse.” 
Duh. 

“Okay, great, may I talk to a nurse?”  My voice was still pleasant at this point. 
“Sure!  No problem!  I will just put you on hold and transfer you to the nurse’s phone line so that—”

This is where I lost it.  “No!  NO!  Do not transfer me to the nurse’s line!  I have already been holding forever on the nurse's line!  The nurse’s line says for me to go to the website because it will answer all my questions but I do not have a vague question, I have a very specific question!  My question is not about choking or Band-Aids!   There is NO WAY my question would ever be on the website because it is a question about mixing the medication for strep with the medication for a skin rash and that is too specialized of a question!  DO NOT put me on hold for the nurse’s line, I need to talk to a live person!!!!  Hello?” 
“Ma’am,” he said, his tone both condescending and weary, “What I was going to say is that I would get a nurse for you.” 

“Oh.” 
Then he put me on hold.  For fifteen minutes.  Then he hung up on me. 

I called back.  I got the tape.  I waited.  A (different) receptionist answered.  I asked for the nurse.  While I was on hold, my cell phone beeped with another call from (you guessed it) the doctor’s office on the other line.  They were trying to call me while I was waiting to speak to them.  I knew if I beeped over, it would be too late.  I opted to continue to hold. 
Finally, just as I was about to take my son’s medicines myself to see if I would die instantly or if it was safe, a nurse answered.  “May I help you?” she asked. 

“Yes,” I said, feeling defeat.  “I am calling about my son, Short.  Do you have his chart there?”
“No, of course not,” she said, like I was stupid.  I was thinking it was the same nurse who had just beeped in on the phone trying to call me.  “Ma’am, what is your son’s date of birth?” 

I told her, and then I told her the medications.  “Ma’am, it is no problem.  He can take both medications simultaneously.” 
“Thank you very much,” I said to dead air space right after she hung up on me.  Then I called my own doctor for a new personal prescription:  Prozac.   

MOV

30 comments:

  1. I might have requested valium...
    That happens all too often, it's so frustrating!

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  2. I find that calling the doctor's office is an exercise in futility. I would rather take my chances with death.

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    1. I totally would if it was me and not my son. I will be sick for 2 weeks and tell myself that my immune system can fight it. I refuse to go to the doctor unless something crucial (nose, arm, knee) falls off.

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  3. I can never decide between the good doctor or the good office staff...mostly I am sad to have to choose!

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  4. I'm twitching just reading this. I've been in that circle of hell. It's a very hellish circle. Good luck with the prozac.

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  5. I love love love my doctor, too...but he is really gorgeous and that is probably why. If he weren't married I would beat myself every single day with a big shovel just to go see him. It would totally be worth it.

    I love how the operator option never changes. You are the funniest person I know!

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    1. thanks, Tracie! and your doctor sounds hot! I might have to move to Louisiana now and see if my insurance inlcudes him!

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  6. I have the opposite problem. My daughter's doctor calls and leaves messages like....

    "We are calling to confirm Sheldon's appointment to check the string on her IUD."

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  7. You're making me love my Dr. Henry and staff more by the second. Sorry about your frustration and hold situation. If you ever move to Chicago, I got just the cure: Dr. Henry's number and Extra STRENGTH Prozac...with caffeine.

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    1. I am so jealous of you and your great nice doctor. If the Louisiana thing does not work out, I will move to Chicago.

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  8. When you have situations like that do you ever feel like turning around, giving the evil eye and saying in a low whisper "You just wait! YOU JUST WAIT!! For tomorrow, you my dear, will be my next blog subject! And I will most definitely be embellishing about your nasty attitude,your ugly sausage finger, and that ever increasing zit on your chin. I may even use your real name! Mwwwwaaaahhhhaaaaa" Don't cross me, I BLOG!
    I felt like I was stepping in hell reading your post. And that is a compliment, because you really wrote it out in a way that I felt your pain. How frustrating for you. In all seriousness those are the kinds of answers we need quickly! Hope he is feelin better.

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    1. I totally want to tell them I write a blog! ha! My license plate is "BLOG GAL."

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  9. I can never get past the pit bulls at my doctor's office either. These people do not need to be in public relations position. I dread calling. I feel your pain.

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    1. thanks, Patti! I guess we have all been there.

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  10. Have you told the doctor that the staff shits on you? The doctor might actually want to know how these people behave as representatives of the office. Sometimes, doctors even fire staff members who are rude to the patients. Or, you ask who the office manager is and talk to that person before going to the doctor. One of my common complaint devices is as follows: I'm going to tell everyone I know about blah blah blah, and I know a lot of people in addition to writing a blog.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. I don't know why I do not say anything to the doctor. It is like Elaine in that famous Seinfeld episode, I am afraid the doctor will scribble mean things in my chart (or in this case, my sons' charts).

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  11. Yikes, what a helpful staff and great client service! Definitely let the doc know his staff is awful.

    In the future, if you can't get past the phone loop, you might consider giving the pharmacist a call with medication questions. And a lot of health insurance companies seem to have a "dial-a-nurse" hotline-- granted, it's to keep us all from making unnecessary trips to the doctor (and billing the insurance company), but it's nice to get an educated opinion before braving a cranky clinic staff. A speedy recovery to Short!

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    1. thank you, Capital E, it had not even occurred to me to call the pharmacist. that is a very smart idea. I will totally do that next time. thanks!!

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  12. This is Kaiser, right? It just has to be. This sounds just like my experiences with them. Loved my doctors, but I could do without Kaiser as a whole.

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    Replies
    1. not Kaiser, but might as well be.

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  13. Good suggestion to call the pharmacist. Not only are they super informative but they are usually way nicer than the office staff. I have run into office staff in every doctor's office behaving as if they work for the postal service. Not to mention that in a lot of places there is such high turnover. It's gotta be that the job is super boring and low pay? And possibly in a pediatrician's office the exposure to germs is tough too. Still, a little courtesy is appreciated. I've even tried to kill them with kindness and they don't take the bait. So sorry you had to deal with that. I know it doesn't help to say you're not alone.

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    1. so funny, because the people who work at my post office are awesome!!! I love them. Maybe they get paid more than the staff at the doctor's office so they are nicer?

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  14. Good grief. That sounds horrible! Maybe next time call them only AFTER you've had a nice glass (or 2) of wine. Perhaps that will help? ;-)

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    1. I will keep this valuable suggestion in mind for next time. thanks!

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  15. Manfriend is a pharmacist. I can get all the drug knowledge I need now. It is totally convenient.

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    Replies
    1. do you realize how lucky you are???????

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When you write a comment, it makes me feel like I won the lottery or at the very least like I ate an ice-cream sundae. (This has nothing to do with the fact that I did just eat an ice-cream sundae.)