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  • Annmarie Throckmorton, M.A.

"Don't Have To Deal With This"

This past week I had a bone density test because my medical insurance provider pays me $20 to do so; and also because I am committed to doing as much as I can of what my primary care physician and medical insurer recommend; as my kindly PCP put it, to stay in the loop medically. Frankly, what I really want to do is just stay home and maintain my own in-home habits and stretches as I move through this last twenty minutes of life, or perhaps it will be twenty years, there is no way to know. I am assuming that I will have twenty years more but I am prepared to go when taken. I know all of the various things that are wrong with me at age seventy-two and what can and cannot be done to help me get along and endure. After decades of seeking medical help and spending many thousands of dollars on it, I am chastened to realize that there is not much the medical establishment can do for my various pains and senescence, to slow the gradual deterioration of my function and characteristics.

I did not have a bone density test done in 2020 because I was too overwhelmed by being confined to my home as mandated in the global COVID-19 hysteria. I was seriously ill several times that year. Going out was unpleasant and even scary as people behaved erratically. My 2019 bone density test found "IMPRESSION:: Normal READING is seen in the lumbar spine with moderate osteopenia in both hips. From the relentless pain that I experience in my hips I am surprised the osteopenia is only moderate.

The medical clinic where I had my 2021 bone density test is replete with bad memories of struggling to get my late parents to their doctor appointments, circumnavigating their protestations of not wanting to go to their medical appointment (to adjust their medications), and without help for me with their wheelchairs from the medical clinic staff. Occasionally I had both parents in wheelchairs and I had to commandeer a by-stander to help me. Medical staff refused to assist in any way until I had managed to deliver my parents to their examination rooms. Yeah, not too many good memories.

When I checked in for my bone density test this week at the medical clinic, the young African-American woman at the window wore a tight-fitting facial mask, as all medical facilities Illinois still require masks. Her eyes were tired, she was probably suffering from hypoxemia, below-normal level of oxygen in her blood, as everyone who wears a mask all day at work suffers. My impression was that this check-in technician did not particularly like me, and she liked me even less when I mildly complained that the CDC said that as of this week we do not have to wear masks if we are fully vaccinated and I am fully vaccinated so could I take off my mask as I am old and I cannot breath though a mask? I was afraid that I would pass out. She unpleasantly said that I must wear the mask. The check-in technician next to her offered me a chair, but I said no please let's just keep going and get me checked in. Even though the medical clinic has computerized photo identification and does not even require me to show my insurance ID card, the check-in technician who was working with me apparently decided to punish me for annoying her by making me repeat my birth date, phone number, my email address, and my physical address. (This chanting of it makes me very breathless and then I suffer from vertigo.) When I neglected to speak my zip code, she put her hand on her hip in annoyance and typed away at her computer one-handed. A hand on the hip is a universal sign of annoyance, and I was tired of being ill-treated by someone who was simply supposed to be helping me check in, so I called her on it by quietly asking, "You put your hand on your hip, are you annoyed with me?" She lied, "Oh, I always do that." Then she asked me to sign the electronic signature pad, the one where you hold a germy stylus and sign a germy pad that everyone else has used, and give your agreements to medical consents that you cannot see. I do not do that as a general rule, so usually medical staff note my verbal consents then sign the germy electronic signature gismo for me. Not this time, the check-in technician stood up in a huff, declared, "I don't have to deal with this shit." and stomped out of the room. I was left with my mouth hanging open and still not checked in. The check-in technician sitting next to her jumped up to help me, she was very, very kind. I asked her for a tissue to hold the stylus and I signed everything that she asked of me. I still have no idea what I agreed to.

I believe that this incident was racial charged because when I finally got myself checked in and sat down in the lobby to wait to be called in for my bone density test, I instantly saw that the other two patients waiting to be called were glaring at me as if to drill holes in me, and both were African-American. I tried to steady them by asking the man, "Sir, can you please tell me the date?", which I need to complete a paper form. He told me the date but it was a snarled, hateful answer. I looked at the woman to smile at her above my mask, but she was giving me the hate glare. I realized that when I had stood at the counter both of them could have easily overheard my unpleasant encounter, and maybe even given looks of solidarity to the African-American check-in technician which would have amped-up her annoyance with me, an old, white woman wanting to take off her mask and to not touch germy equipment.

My bone density test was pleasant enough, and afterward the imaging technician went off to find a supervisor to whom I could complain about my check-in experience. She told me that there was no supervisor in the building, and when she did not get back to me in about twenty minutes, I went to a clinic administrator and he took my complaint seriously, said he would look into it, and apologized sincerely. I thanked him and declined any follow-up as I did not want to continue the stress of the event.

Afterward: my heart skittered and lurched for fourteen hours, until just before 4:00 AM the next morning, I simply could not calm it. I finally took a nitroglycerin pill and was able to sleep fitfully for six hours. Age makes it very difficult for me to recover from what once would have been an easily forgotten minor altercation.

Don't Have To Deal With This

by Annmarie Throckmorton 2021

germ-ridden electronic signature pad-state of the art in 2021-random internet image

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