Sitting around the emergency vet on a Friday night with not much to distract you leaves a lot of time to think… and to observe the comings and goings of those moving around you in the world. The thing I observed most on Friday night… and then again on Sunday morning was the genuine imitation outrage that so many people felt when they were expected to pay for their pet’s emergency treatment.
The ones in the treatment room right next to mine would have been hard to miss, even if I wasn’t casting around for something to occupy my mind while we waited. They’d have been hard to miss because just after 11PM, one of then started screeching that the estimate to treat their dog was “too damned much” for what they seemed to think was a simple treatment – blood work, xrays, and emergency surgery to set or amputate a broken leg.
The value people put on things is always curious. You’re at a vets office in the closing minutes of a Friday night. They have a huge staff who are all being paid for overnight weekend work. They have diagnostic imagery tools that a decade or two ago would have been rare at a lot of rural hospitals treating people. You’re paying to have access to doctors, techs, and technology at a time when almost nothing else is open. As much as the staff at one of these places may love animals, money is what keeps the doors open at times when you might otherwise have to wait 48-72 hours to have your dog seen.
Look, I don’t love spending emergency vet kind of money, but I get why it comes with a premium price tag. Even if I didn’t get it, I’d know better than to scream at the twenty-something young tech who’s trying to walk me through the options because I’m not an awful human being. I’m sure someone will say lashing out angrily is a perfectly natural response in a stressful circumstance… but I’d really prefer it if they didn’t lash out and agitate the people who I’m going to need focused in on taking care of my own pup after they’ve finished up with the screecher next door.
It seems that late september back in ’07 was the tip of the iceberg in my ongoing mission of living a better life through the liberal use of the medical arts and sciences. Join me, won’t you, as memory lane leads everywhere from a Memphis emergency room with a presumed heart attack to a run down office in a rough part of town where they do drug screening for Uncle Sam. Maybe it isn’t the most exciting topic I’ve ever nailed to the door around here, but I think it’s pretty damned funny… especially in hindsight.
We’ll be making our way into October next week, so enjoy what’s left of September 2007 now. And don’t forget to comment if you’ve ever had a heart attack that turned out to be just a really bad case of gas. Happy Sunday!
OK, well maybe it wasn’t so much a funny thing as a ridiculously painful thing. After putzing around the yard most of the afternoon and busying myself shoving furniture around the living room, I noticed a dull ache that seemed to be centered around the bottom of my sternum. No big deal, thought I… I probably just pulled something heaving the couch into its new position. Grabbing a cold beverage and Tylenol, I started making dinner. Well, that lasted about 15 minutes before the pain started moving up and across my chest. Now, I’m not a fancy big city doctor, but I have a sneaking suspicion that this isn’t a good thing. After putting it off another ten or fifteen minutes, I knew it was time to go.
Having a bit of a “typical man” streak, I loaded the address of the local emergency room into my Garmin and set off. I certainly wasn’t in enough pain to justify calling an ambulance… Yet. It’s a quick drive to the ER, especially on a Sunday night, but when the waves of nausea set in, a 5 mile drive seems like it takes hours. Every stop light becomes a personal affront to my sense of order and well being. By this point, I really feel an overwhelming need to toss my cookies. Drawing up a reserve of determination not to spew all over my car’s interior, I drove on. By the time I get to the hospital, I was feeling more or less like someone was busy sticking me in the chest with an ice pick. It’s absolutely as much fun as it sounds.
After five hours of poking, prodding, having blood drawn, getting chest x-rays, EKGs, and meeting with 2 ER doctors, they decided that what I actually had was a bad case of acid reflux. There must be something to their diagnosis, as after giving me some ass-tasting meds and filling a prescription for Nexium, I was feeling much better. Although I’m feeling better and enjoying the unexpected day away from the office, now annoyed at the thought of what’s going to be a ridiculously large bill for a case of heartburn. I’m even more annoyed that I have to take more time off tomorrow to go visit my new “primary care” doc, who I was conveniently referred to by his friend running the ER. He’s supposed to be a specialist in stomach stuff and one of his partners is apparently a hot shot cardiac guy… so two birds with one stone, I suppose.