By popular demand (okay, one person requested to read this story in a comment a couple of posts ago), I bring you my ninth-place winner from the Dead of Winter Nonfiction Contest at The Write Helper. If nothing else, it will give a plethora of writers the opportunity to feel superior. Like the homely girl accompanying her friends on a trip to the mall, my writing will make others look good by comparison. I'm providing a service, actually. A big ol' syringe of self-esteem to be injected intraocularly. And now, without further ado, my entry.
My Life of Medication Hasn't Hurt Me None
When you come down with a rash due to an allergic reaction to an antibiotic, the doctor really doesn’t want to see you. Or even give you an appointment. So the only alternative is to drop in and show the receptionist your spots.
The woman behind the window stopped hacking away at her computer and looked at me over the top of her glasses. I didn’t even have to tell her why I was there. "Oh, my. I'll see what we have." She told a pleasant little story about breaking out from a reaction to Cymbalta. Then one of the nurses passing by chimed in to say that she, too, had a reaction to Cymbalta. The last commercial I saw told me Cymbalta was an antidepressant. Perhaps my doctor’s office was not such pleasant place to work.
The window lady asked me if I would mind seeing Julie, the nurse practitioner, at 11:15. I looked at the clock. The current time was 10:00 a.m. "Sure. What else am I going to do, looking like this?"
At 10:15, they called me back to the inner sanctum. I knew better than to get excited. Ever since that time I waited until 6:00 to be seen for my 4:00 appointment, I have come prepared. I brought a Reader’s Digest this time. Because I have a thirst for knowledge.
A nurse who must have developed a tolerance to Cymbalta, judging from her smooth, non-rashy complexion, took my vitals. I gave her the details of my Cefprozil dosage for a sinus infection. I had been taking the Cefprozil as directed. On the ninth day of the ten-day prescription, I broke out with the bumpy red rash. The nurse had never heard of Cefprozil, so I gave her the bottle. She disappeared into the labyrinth of exam rooms.
Around 10:30, the nurse practitioner poked her head in the door. She looked like Dr. Susan Lewis from ER, only shorter, and with more than one facial expression. She inquired, "Stella?" I didn't know who Stella was, but I hoped she’d brought a Reader’s Digest. An unannounced stranger in a white coat accompanied Julie. They both stared. At Stella, they presumed.
"Noooo...I'm Val. With the rash."
Julie the Nurse Practitioner peered at me though her granny glasses, and said, "Ohh!" She possessed quite the repertoire of emotions for someone so similar to stone-faced Dr. Susan Lewis. In fact, her look of concern made me a bit nervous. You would think I had a football-sized goiter on the side of my neck like the senior citizen Elaine volunteered to help on Seinfeld. The one who dated Mohandas Gandhi. The Mahatma. I only had a bright red neck. And forearms. And shoulders and back, too, but I tried not to flaunt them to the public. Julie took the white-coated woman she was towing and left, saying she'd be back in a few minutes. Like I was going to believe that.
Several articles later, in the midst of Life in These United States, Julie poked her head back into the exam room. "Uh...we have three people ahead of you. Your appointment isn't actually until 11:15." Which in doctor-speak means: “You'll be lucky to see me by 12:00.”
I knew the drill. "That's okay. I didn't really have an appointment. They worked me in." Julie said she'd be back as soon as she could. The white-coated stranger remained mute.
I read some Humor in Uniform and scratched a little bitty bit. Julie returned around 11:30 with the mysterious white-coated woman. I wished Julie would introduce this silent partner who was about to become privy to my personal medical peccadilloes.
Contrary to her social skills, Julie’s bedside manner was adequate. She was thorough in going over the chart, asking me questions, and inspecting the rash in various places. She said she felt sure it was the Cefzil, which is what Cefprozil really is. Probably in its pure and non-generic incarnation, not as a cheap knockoff imported from a third-world country after being hand-pressed into pills by five-year-old orphans. Julie offered me a shot of Benadryl or a steroid.
Hey! Julie! I'm not a doctor, even though I watched one that looked like you on ER. Don't be giving me the choice, like it's a shot of liquor. Because in that case, I'd say, "Give me one of each." If I was a drinking woman, which I'm not. Now.
I asked which one worked better, and Julie said it didn't make much difference. I told her I had a 30-minute drive home, so she said I'd better not have the Benadryl, which could make me sleepy. You ain't a-woofin', Julie girl.
I had a shot of Benadryl in an emergency room many years ago, due to an allergic response to Ampicillin. The last thing I remember, I sat down on the passenger seat of the car, and my head toppled out the window. It felt like a balloon, but without the helium. It didn’t want to float. It wanted to roll down my right shoulder, pause for dramatic effect at my elbow, which was hanging out the car window, shout , “Look at MEEEE, everybody,” and then execute a swan dive (as good a swan dive as a balloon head with no arms or legs could execute), and skim like a skipping stone along the weedy U. S. Highway 60 right-of-way that the MODOT crews had neglected to mow. Benadryl was not my friend.
Julie took one more look at my spotted arms. She pulled a puzzled visage from her bag of expressions. One of the rashy blotches had taken the shape of a straight line. She said she was going to run it by one of the docs, and hauled her constant companion, White Coat, out of there.
After running a few laps around the building, arm-wrestling the other nurse practitioner, and having a rousing game of dominoes with the doctor over a Meat Lover's Pizza, Julie and White Coat came back. Julie had decided on a shot of whatchamacallit, which I assumed was steroidal in nature. She said a nurse was getting it ready. Just then, a woman hollered from down the hall, "Do we mix anything with that?" It took me a second to realize that the "EEEEEEE!" I heard was coming from my own vocal cords.
Julie assured me, "Oh, she means do we add a painkiller." Julie hollered back, "No. It's just the shot." She made a note on the chart about a Cefzil allergy, and said she hoped I got to feeling better, and that they'd keep me about ten minutes after the shot to see if I had a reaction to it. Then she and White Coat left to find bigger fish to fry.
The nurse came in with my shot and laid the syringe down on the counter. She also had a companion. I entertained thoughts of how on-schedule these people could be if they each worked on a patient instead of going in pairs. The nurse looked like she was right out of nursing school, having just injected countless oranges and her lab partner with saline solution. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Shooter said, "It has to go in your butt.” Her little white shadow nodded. I asked Shooter what I would feel like if I had a reaction to the shot. She said, "I don't know. Maybe you'll break out in red bumps." White Shadow snickered. Apparently, they were compiling material for All in a Day’s Work. Perhaps I would read their story on my next visit.
I asked if it would hurt, and Shooter said, "I don't know. It's a shot." She jabbed the needle into my gluteus maximus, which did not hurt, but then pushed the medicine in, which kindled a small fire in my nether regions.
I must have vocalized my displeasure, because White Shadow said, "Well, now I know that this burns when it goes in." I’m always pleased to assist in medical research.
Shooter put a band-aid on my new booboo, and then washed her hands. Quite a redeeming quality in a nurse. She told me I could go. I told her that Julie wanted me to wait ten minutes to see if I developed a reaction to the shot. This was news to Shooter, but she agreed, and closed the door as she and White Shadow left.
Lucky for me, and the doctor’s malpractice insurance, I didn't have a reaction to that shot. Nobody would have known until they needed that room after lunch time. I read some more Reader’s Digest. Twenty minutes passed. Nobody came to get me. I opened the door and saw the original nurse who took my vitals. At least she seemed embarrassed. "Oh. It's been way longer than ten minutes. Do you feel all right?"
I told her I was ready to leave, but I hadn't paid the copay yet. She took me up front. The two ladies working at that window said I didn't have to pay, because the computer showed I had a credit. That was news to me. A salesman with his whole torso through the window said, "I'll take her credit." I told him that the rash went with it. He declined. He must have been the Cymbalta supplier for the office.
I stepped into the elevator with the Pizza Hut delivery girl, who said the elevator was taking a long time. I told her that I'd been in the office over two hours, and I didn't think a few more minutes would make a difference. She said she had another load of pizza to bring up, and was in a hurry. I knew those folks were eating pizza instead of consulting! That little delivery gal was so pleasant, I almost gave her a tip. She didn't even stare at my red neck.