Monday, November 29, 2010

Pulling strings in East Tennessee

Primo woke up at 4 in the morning complaining of ear pain, the day before Thanksgiving. Within five minutes, I'd come up with an emergency earache investigation plan.

Normally, a little ear pain doesn't alarm me, but we had to get on a plane in a few days and I know just enough about pediatric medicine to worry about a perforated ear drum (and not enough about it to talk myself down). I also know that I couldn't take him to be seen by anyone on Thanksgiving or the day after, so I mobilized for pre-emptive action. When we woke the next morning, I called my doc in New York first thing, and he informed me that since he was not a virtual doctor, he would not be able to treat an ear infection in Tennessee, from New York.

"Have him seen by someone over there," he advised.

"Ok," I grumbled, "But just tell me what you'd do, and what you'd prescribe, so that I know if they're doing the right thing."

The reason I love my pediatrician is that he did so, with no complaint.

Then I called my sister-in-law to see who she brings her kids to locally and she referred me to a general practice, walk-in clinic run by - what a small world -- one of David's friends from the Boy Scouts. David hadn't seen this man since he was 12 years old -- in fact, the doc was going by an entirely different first name nowadays - but nonetheless, there was the link.

"Ok, here's what we do," I told David, " You call them up and see if they take our health insurance. Then you tell them you are a CLOSE PERSONAL FRIEND of the doctor's and that we need to see him, and have them squeeze us in -- anytime is fine, whenever opening they have."

"Ok,ok," David complied dialing the number. I listened to him explain the situation and refer to his close childhood friendship with the doctor and I heard him "uh huh." "uh huh" "huh uh" a few times and then he hung up.

"Well, what did they say?"

"Come anytime after 12:30," he said.

"Great!" I exclaimed, "We'll get there early, beat the rush, cut down on the waiting room build up."

With two young kids, you spend a lot of time in pediatrician's offices and you learn some tricks. You learn to strategize.

We get to the walk-in clinic at 12:30 on the dot and find the waiting room empty. There is no pre-Thanksgiving rush, no like-minded strategists, it seems. I gave David a nudge, and he recited the words I'd prompted him to say.

"Hi, I called earlier about my son, who we think has an ear infection. The doctor and I go way back, we were boy scouts together, so I'd love if he could see us today."

"Are y'all from out of town?" drawled the middle-aged woman behind the front desk.

"Yes," I said, "What gave us away?"

She was kind enough not to reply: "The neurotic way in which you try to control everything, and the obnoxious habit you have of trying to throw your weight around and how damn seriously you take yourselves."

Instead, she said, "Y'all just look BE-wildered! Come on, I'll help you fill out this paperwork."

I instantly took umbrage at this assessment, wanting to retort, "I'm from New York and I don't GET bewildered. Being from New York means I'm bewilder-proof. I'm the one who does the bewildering. Capisce?"

But of course, that'd just be me, getting more bewildered. Instead, I filled out the paperwork, tried to bite my tongue when the nurse practitioner looked inside Primo's ear and said it looked "dark" (of course its dark, that's why you use one of those nifty lights) and made a minimal amount of fuss declining the Z-pac she wanted o prescribe and pushing for the more appropriate amoxicillin.

We did see David's long-lost close childhood chum on the way out though, and he gave the kids a sucker. We call them lollipops but I didn't quibble. I can be flexible like that, you see.