Maybe I wasn’t asking the right question.
I mean, I called the drug store in deep throaty despair and asked the pharmacist to prepare some antibiotics for me.
I was dying.
Okay, so we’re all dying.
But my death was being ignominiously expedited. It was galloping pass the last pylon. A fever was spiking at twice my high cholesterol. My strep throat was more shattered than the broken glass stomped at a Jewish wedding. I was horrendously hacking up fur balls.
And a when a sick man is alone, he don’t suffer quietly.
However, it was an inconvenient time to be ill —a holiday weekend. Even though Xmas wasn’t until Wednesday I couldn’t reach any of my docs – friends or otherwise. Even the Jewish ones. (Talk about assimilation.)
What was this? A conspiracy. Were all of them sleeping with my last ex?
The pharmacist said I needed a physician to call in a prescription.
Why? I know I am sick. You know I am sick. We both know what I need. You’ve got the antibiotics. I’ve got the insurance. And it’s not Obamacare. So what duh heck is the problem?!…
I left unsaid numerous expletives.
I knew the Vietnamese pharmacist. And I could just imagine her squeezing a dismissive, annoyed countenance between those narrow dark eyes that more than indicated the usual bromide. In other words I wasn’t getting lucky with her long, slim pulchritude tonight.
She told me to get a physician to phone in a script and she would fill it.
‘Why do I need a doc?’ I bellowed.
‘It’s the law!’ She retorted…‘A federal law.’
‘Well, change the stupid law. It doesn’t make any sense. If I was in Europe the pharmacist would just prescribe and sell me the stuff…’
I then went on to stipulate that: There’s a shortage of docs. So instead of just adding to the bureaucracy by adding physician assistants, why don’t we first better manage our existing manpower? Why don’t we simply empower pharmacists to prescribe simple remedies?
‘After all,’ I insisted, ‘don’t you undergo 6 years of education before being set loose to hopefully do more than count pills?’
I didn’t have the strength to argue with the female canine. All I uttered was: If what you are doing is morally wrong, how can it be politically right? You are working for a system that you know is wrong…and you don’t speak up?
But saying that to a Vietnamese whose parents suffered 60 years of bloody politics under the French, Americans, Russians and Ho Chi Minh was like hammering another nail into the crucifix. Her silence spoke a resignation to history. She might as well have said: Leave me in peace. I am just trying to get through the territory.
However, in case you haven’t heard, there is no peace for the weary…especially when a junkyard dog like me is barking.
So, like they admonish when you have a 4-hour Cialis erection, I started phoning docs. Any and every doc in the Philadelphia ‘territorial’ phone book. I didn’t care if they were a proctologist, pulmonologist, psychiatrist or a pediatrician specializing in psoriasis.
Indeed, sickness is man’s greatest defect. And there is little doubt that age and sickness bring out the essential characteristics of a man. And essentially, childhood is a disease I never outgrew. Sickness, insanity and death were the angels that surrounded my cradle and have followed me throughout.
At first all I got were answering services and recorded messages. And I would be polite about importuning. You know, ‘sorry to bother you,’ and other civil palaver served through clenched teeth. I requested a call back ASAP.
But time seems eternal when pain is gaining. And my attitude started thickening. I may have been having a heat wave between my ears, but my heart was growing colder than even my ex-wife’s thumper. And hers was where I kept my beer cold.
And meanwhile, nothing ever happens to me in ones… It’s always a gang bang.
Like a day after my open heart surgery following a sudden grand seizure crossing a major downtown intersection, my apartment building all but burned down. At the same time a huge snow blizzard was raging. So one day out of surgery I had to find alternative housing for my nearly perished homeless family with two young children including a ‘changeling’ son.
Do you get the idea that somehow I’ve pissed G-d off?
Fortunately I am not the peevish kind. I just go nuclear. Drive the bus off the cliff. And enjoy the screams all the way down…down…down… It’s only with the sudden stop that everything suddenly stops being insane.
Hmm… don’t worry. For this the docs have raced to provide me pills.
Anyway, while I lay there dying, expiring literally on my death bed, I realized I was on my last leg – and I mean that literally. For on my right leg, where a microdot bug bite had been at the top of my sock line, it was now swollen to the whopping magnitude of a double stack of pancakes. And that microdot suddenly evolved into a manhole spewing scab.
But of course! Hit me again Jehovah. Like that night before my month old congenitally ill son was to have emergency open heart surgery for transposition of the great arteries. I was jumped near the hospital by three toughs with a knife.
Hmm…Don’t let me off easy, Lord. Hit me again, Sugar Ray. And this time give it your best shot.
Lordy…Lordy…Lordy… You’ve got my complete attention – again!
Fever, strep, leg infection…What’s next? I already take Viagra…and Super Horny Goat Weed…and Yohimbe…and AndroGel…
Anyway, my phone messages to duh docs became more demanding. Strident. Obstreperous. I was downright frothing. Put me in one of those cages, I was zealously keen for full body contact.
Then one of the doc’s assistants suddenly called back. She actually chastised me for being ‘rude.’
“Ask nicely,” she excoriated. “The doctor is not your servant.”
“But it worked, didn’t it,” I roared. “Someone — namely you — finally called me back. A wagging dog may get petted at times, but a rabid, drooling bitch gets everyone snapping to attention. Like a menopausal woman I can finally just be myself…”
She said she would have the doctor get in touch with me.
At about the same time I managed to get through to a real person at another doc’s office. But this Nurse Ratchet was asserting that I must have ‘my’ doctor call ‘her’ doctor.
Hmm…I attempted to perform some deep meditation, but skipped the mantra and leaped through cell phone cyberspace to rip out her lungs.
I lied when I growled that ‘my’ doctor told me to call ‘your’ doctor. But everything else was just me being ‘delirious’ me: That I am the patient. That I know what’s wrong with me. That I’ve had strep before. That I am not one of your supercilious hypochondriacs. That I know how to communicate very well…So have ‘your’ doc call me, the patient, very, very shortly. Or, I’ll come down to your office, hang your dog, castrate your husband and sell your children into sex slavery!
And guess what?
Within the hour ‘her’ extremely polite and courteous doc called me – directly.
Hmm… You gotta have faith…and endurance…and perseverance…and stick it where the sun don’t shine.
I mean I can’t blame the Pope for opposing birth control even though there are too many people for too few doctors….
Well, it’s not ALL the Pope’s fault.
But I can blame our woeful healthcare system on the venal bizness of how America delivers its high-priced medicine, in over-priced hospitals by docs who get well compensated for procedures rather than results.
We absolutely do have the best trained docs in the world. Just not enough of them to provide reasonably priced care for ALL of us. Which brings me back to empowering pharmacists to prescribe a lot of stuff.
But that’s another story for another day.
Meanwhile the doc that called me was conversely opposite to his name: Stern. He couldn’t have been nicer. He explained that with the holidays that doctors and staffs were sparse. So he kindly suggested I go to his hospital’s ER where they could monitor antibiotics.
I told him I was reluctant to go to any ER’s anymore after the years of bad experiences with my chronically ill son. Like often having to wait hours upon hours to get a simple pill, and so forth. But at his urging I found myself entering Philadelphia’s historic Pennsylvania Hospital.
And I have to admit that the nation’s first hospital has come a long, long ways. From the doormen, to the receptionists, security guards, nurses, orderlies and docs I thought I really must be delirious. If I wasn’t such a cynic I might have thought I had checked into the Four Seasons.
Indeed, it was that good.
Even when they peered down at my over-bloated leg’s proud swollen flesh, they diplomatically concealed their gut reaction to grab an axe and amputate. They immediately put me in a bed and hooked me up to an abundance of antibiotics.
They also fed me. Checked in on me. And put up with me even when I told the doc, a woman with one of those hyphenated maiden and married names, that wives who keep their names often don’t keep their husbands.
She merely squeezed a patronizing smile and ordered a muscular male nurse to puncture me with more needles. Then she drew big circles around the Buick-size infection on my leg. At that she informed me that if the redness starts coloring outside the lines I may then be in serious do-do.
Okay, she had my attention. I promised not to interfere in her future matrimonial problems.
And after a long night, they bid me farewell with a prescription for 10 days of megadose antibiotic pills. I was to take a red pill and a white one four times a day.
It is safe to say I am going to live…again.
But as I began this opus I will end it: Perhaps we aren’t asking the right questions.
Certainly there are simpler and straighter answers to our complicated labyrinth and serpentine healthcare bizness. We’re not reinventing the wheel here. Better organization of resources and utilization of existing manpower – such as our well-trained pharmacists — would be a start. Tort reform is another. Then there is stiff-arming the high OEM costs. And, of course, there are all sorts of those computer errors still turning up. I mean, you’d be surprised to know the number of doctors who claim they are treating pregnant men.
Our present healthcare business is horrendous. Believe it or not, Obamacare is a step in the right direction. But it is only a first step after 7 other Presidents tried and succumbed to the healthcare powers that be.
To make it affordable we’ve all got to participate and garner more realistic expectations. Our doctors and nurses cannot put scrambled eggs back in the shell. At the same time most of our health maintenance comes down to DEA – Diet, Exercise and Attitude. (And you thought I was going to say Drugs, didn’t you?)
If you maintain your DEA, you won’t have to worry so much about whether your healthcare is affordable or not.
As for me, I have been saved yet again.
From what? I may never know.
For what? Well, all I can say is: You can never be too crazy, but you can be too sane. And I am absolutely delirious.
And dats yDrewIS on dis penal colony…