I was just settling in to a peaceful afternoon of writing the other day – essential emails answered, internet perused, pointless pottering about the kitchen all successfully completed – when the phone rang and it was One’s nursery calling to say he had woken up from his nap with a red, gooey eye, please would I come and fetch him.
I was immediately overcome by a wilting sense of gloom. Not only did this mean that my precious and rare day alone was cancelled, but I knew the rest of the day would be spent in the incredibly tiresome, awkward pursuit of a small bottle of eye drops that I would then struggle to torture my child with for the rest of the week.
I reluctantly shut down the computer, pulled on my proper clothes (I usually find pyjamas to be the most productive work-wear) and phoned the doctor.
“Thank you for calling the Children’s Medical Clinic, we are located at blah blah. If you want medical records, call blah blah, to fax us call blah blah……if you are a physician, press 1…”
Of course I’m not a bloody physician! If I was, I wouldn’t need to phone you, would I? I’d just write my own prescription.
After wading through the endless voice menu I finally managed to speak to a human being who, while she seemed unable to spell or locate my child’s medical chart, was quite adamant that a possible case of conjunctivitis did not warrant an immediate appointment. This is where being British comes in handy.
“Young lady” I said, imperiously
“I will be the judge of whether my son needs to see a doctor or not today. That is my job. It is the doctor’s job to ascertain how serious his illness is. It is your job to give me a convenient appointment and if you cannot find one in your calendar today I shall take my business and my children elsewhere. Do we understand each other?”
There was a silence on the other end for a moment
“Is Four o’clock okay?”
“Perfect” I said sweetly, hanging up.
Sometimes I terrify even myself.
Four and One were surprised and not altogether delighted to see me so soon after I had dropped them off (so unflattering). However I bribed them with a trip to the ice-cream parlor prior to the doctor’s office and we set off after collecting our various odds and ends.
We arrived at the doctor’s at four on the dot and were greeted with the sight of a heaving-full waiting room. Children from newborns to teenagers were wriggling all over the show, accompanied by their tired looking parents. I didn’t hold out much hope for being seen on time, but I certainly didn’t expect to be kept waiting for an hour and a half which is how long it took to see the doctor.
Yes, you read right, an hour and a half.
I just want to flag here for my British readers that this is not the National Health Service.
We do not expect to be kept waiting here for services that we are paying large amounts of money for (or our insurance is). And on top of that, the nurse who took us into an examination room where we spent the last half hour of wait time had the cheek to tell me I shouldn’t have given the kids a lollipop from the jar until after the doctor had seen them.
Oh really? You can just stick that…. On my bill, lady.
When the Doc finally turned up he had a look at One and said condescendingly.
“Well let’s just have a lookee here…Oh, I think he might have a little pinkeye!”
“Maybe we should wait and see if it goes away. If it’s still bad in a few days, come back and we’ll give you a little sump’n for it”
With that said he started gathering his files and papers and made as if to leave.
I took a few deep breaths, counted to ten internally and reminded myself that it would not benefit anyone if I poked the doctor in the eye with a tongue depressor.
“Why don’t you give me a prescription for the drops that I can fill if it doesn’t go away to save me waiting for you for another hour and a half?”
He looked as if he wanted to argue with me for a moment but then, wisely, decided it would be better just to give me what I wanted and get away from us as quickly as he could
Needless to say I took the prescription straight to the pharmacy who, in their very Soviet way, took over an hour to dispense a tiny bottle of drops. Why remains a mystery as there was nobody else before me in the queue.
Finally we had the damn things and then the real fun began: Administration.
I had cleverly stolen a few more lollipops from the doctor’s office. I gave One one and instructed him to lie down on his back and open his eyes which he did, trustingly. I was hoping that the association between sweet and drops would be enough to persuade him that he would like the ocular intrusion 3xper day.
This hope was ill founded.
By this morning, One had found where the drops are kept, removed the top and thrown the rest in the toilet.
So now I’ve had to phone the doctor’s office, listen to the interminable voice menu, speak to the passive-aggressive receptionist and leave a message for the doctor to please phone in my prescription to the drugstore because I ‘lost’ the paper version. Oh, and Four’s eyes looked suspiciously red and crusty this morning, and now, as I write I am beginning to feel one of my eyes itch a bit.
I’m not sure if that is the beginning of virulent contagion or just massive irritation at reliving the entire episode. It’s times like these that I wish I had not been a singer or a writer, but had instead trained as a doctor. Then I could always diagnose myself, write my own prescriptions, give myself Botox (!!!) never have to wait for simple things like routine antibiotics and refer grandly to the entire medical profession as ‘We’ as if they were all my friends.
Next time I ring the doctor I’m going to “Press 1 if you are a physician” and see what happens. I’m sure it will work, and I won’t have to bother with any of those details like med school or internships..
Then when you come to see me I will tell you to go home and see if you feel any better in a few days, if not, come back and I will look up your symptoms on the internet and write you a prescription based on guesswork. If you get better you can pay me, and if you die, you don’t have to.