In Which I Relieve My Feelings by Posting a Timeline

July 27, 2007 @ 12:05 am | Filed under:

Today was doctor appointment day. Pediatrician checkups for Wonderboy and Rilla (including vaccinations for both, which made me smile in connection to the comment thread on yesterday’s post), and then Wonderboy’s annual cardiology checkup to monitor a narrow valve.

9:30. I drop the older girls off at Chez Lickona, where warm-hearted friends have offered the entertainments of their pool, their five children, and a pile of origami paper as an alternative to hanging around in waiting rooms all day. My girls are immensely grateful, and that’s before any of us knows just how much waiting-room-hanging-around there is going to be.

9:55. We arrive at the pediatrician’s office a few minutes early; I’m so proud. Both appointments go well (although Rilla, who is highly offended by needles, would beg to differ).

10:50. Since I have a little time to spare before we need to head to the next appointment, I swing by Target to pick up some deeply discounted moss roses I’ve had my eye on.

11:20. We run by home to park the posies in the shade, and I grab some lunch for the little ones. I decide against grabbing any lunch for myself, a decision I will come to regret.

11:45. Back on the road. We’re going to be early for our 12:45 check-in time at the Children’s Hospital, but experience has taught me to allow lots of cushion room in the schedule. Last time the boy had an appt here (that time it was neurology), we got stuck behind an accident on the freeway and—despite my panicked phone call to say WE ARE ON OUR WAY, ALMOST THERE!!!!—arrived twenty minutes late for our appointment to discover the doctor had given our slot to the next patient and then moved a meeting to that patient’s time slot, so: "Sorry, you’ll have to reschedule."

12:10. We arrive at the hospital and actually find parking on the first pass through the garage. We are somewhat less successful at finding the cardiology suite on our first pass through the hospital. It’s a large medical complex with four or five buildings. Two of them, according to the giant map out front, contain rooms devoted to cardiology. I decide to try "Cardiology Clinic" first, as opposed to "Cardiology Offices."

12:20. I realize I was kidding myself about the likelihood of finding either one.

12:25. No, wait, here it is! And I guessed right about needing the Clinic, not the Offices. I sign Wonderboy in.

12:32. We are taken to another room for the check-in paperwork. I am impressed by the cheerfulness and efficiency of the receptionist. This office runs like a machine. However, I’m surprised by the news that Wonderboy is being sent to Radiology for a chest X-ray before we see the cardiologist. I had expected some tests after the cardio consult—an EKG, an echo—but no one had mentioned anything about an X-ray.

12:44. We are sent back to the waiting room, but only for a few minutes. A nurse takes us across the hall for the EKG. Then she sends us to Radiology for the chest film and says to check back in at Cardiology Reception when we’re finished.

1:20. We do just that. Wonderboy was great in X-ray, and Rilla never even asked to get down from the sling. The cardiology receptionist says to have a seat, the doctor will be with us shortly. I know perfectly well that "shortly" is hospital code for "sometime this century," yet everything has happened so efficiently so far that I actually allow myself to believe shortly might mean "shortly."

1:21. Rilla slips out of the sling, ready to roam a little. Wonderboy supervises as she flirts with other patients and explores the corners of the room. She steals another baby’s hat. Wonderboy rats her out. Everyone laughs.

1:33. Ha ha, it’s not so funny the third time. Or maybe I would think it was funnier if I hadn’t skipped lunch. Wonderboy, too, is finding the waiting room less entertaining than it once was.

1:40. Rilla, searching for new ways to delight her admiring public, plants herself behind the door where she is certain to be smushed when the next person walks in. I retrieve her some seven or eight times. She is not amused. I stick her back in the sling. Wonderboy begs to go hoooome.

2:05. One of us is lying on the floor, sobbing. No, not I—I’m not that far gone yet.

2:10. I ask the receptionist how much longer she thinks the wait will be. "Well," she says brightly, "your appointment time wasn’t until 2:00."

"No," I say. "We were told to be here at 12:45."

"That was for check-in. And you had the chest film. Your scheduled doctor time is 2 p.m."

I sputter. "I wish I’d known that! We’ve been sitting here for 45 minutes. I could have taken them to the cafeteria or something." (Translation: I could have been eating pudding. I adore hospital cafeteria butterscotch pudding, and I don’t care who knows it.)

Receptionist: "Well, you know, you did check in early."

Me: "Right, but if I’d known we couldn’t see the doctor until 2, we wouldn’t have sat here all this time."

Receptionist: "If we tell people their doctor times, they come late, and it backs us up. But you came early; that’s why you’ve waited so long."

Me: "But if I’d known—never mind. Anyway, it’s 2:15 now."

She glances at the clock and furrows her brow. "Hmm. Well, go back and wait until 2:30, and if they still haven’t called you, let me know."

2:25. Wonderboy is quietly moaning. Rilla, in the sling, has collapsed into a sweaty, snoozing lump on my chest. I am thinking about eating her.

2:29 and 59 seconds. A nurse calls Wonderboy’s name. The receptionist beams at me: I’m someone else’s problem now. The nurse takes us across the hall to a small suite containing three exam rooms and a door marked HOSPITAL PERSONNEL ONLY. She settles us in one of the exam rooms and takes Wonderboy’s vitals. The doctor, she tells us airily as she departs, will be in any minute.

2:35. Not this minute.

2:39. Nor this one.

2:42. I am eyeing the Purell dispenser, wondering if that stuff is edible. Don’t they say little kids can get drunk from licking it? I pass the time by speculating about dosages. Wonderboy, meanwhile, has given up hope of ever seeing his sisters again and is now writing out his last will and testament on the back of an immunization brochure.

2:49. I notice that Rilla is wearing someone’s watch around her thigh.

2:55. I open the door and peer into the deserted suite. The other two exam rooms are empty. The PERSONNEL ONLY door is closed, and a steady, murmuring voice can be heard from inside. The nurse bustles through, and I stop her and ask how much longer.

She glances at the PERSONNEL ONLY door. "Any minute."

"It’s almost three," I say. "Our scheduled appointment time was 2:00." I stare pointedly at the other, empty exam rooms.

"The doctor is just dictating notes," the nurse says, somewhat reluctantly. "She’ll be in as soon as she finishes."

"We’ve been waiting for an hour," I say, but she has already darted away, leaving me alone with my hunger, my slumbering infant, and my weeping, despairing son. Through the door, the murmuring continues.

3:00. I am still standing there, staring at that door.

3:01. It opens! The doctor emerges! She enters our room!

3:11. She leaves!

During our ten fabulous minutes together, she has taken a complete and thorough family history and listened to Wonderboy’s heart. Of course, she tells me, he’ll need an echocardiogram before she can make a real assessment. "Can we do that today?" I ask, even though we’re already past the time I told the Lickonas I’d pick up the girls. They’re wonderful people; they’ll understand.

"Oh, no," says the doctor, visibly surprised, as if I’d asked for a table in a swank restaurant without a reservation. "You’ll have to make an appointment and come back."

She whisks away, presumably to dictate our notes in the special room. Patient’s mother has air of quiet desperation symptomatic of lunatic fantasies involving billing medical professionals for time wasted. Patient was cooperative but depressed, as indicated by his repeated requests (via sign language) for me to sign his will as a witness. Patient’s 15-month-old sister is adorable but displays tendencies toward kleptomania. Refer entire family to psych.

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13 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Anonymous says:

    Ugh. So glad I am not you today.

  2. Samantha says:

    Ack…Is there not anything we can do about these medical “professionals” that think it is perfectly acceptable for us to have to take an entire day of our lives to sit around and wait on our turn to spend ten minutes with them? So frustrating. Maybe after everyone comments on this you should print it all out and send it to the doctor, her office manager, the hospital administrator, and whomever else might get a kick out of it.

    By the way, you should have let Rilla play behind the door more. When my oldest was 3 and my second was just barely toddling around, we were sitting for hours and hours at a dermatologist’s office. My toddler was playing near the door when it opened. The door didn’t hit her, but it scared her to death and she tried to toddle away and fell hitting her head on a table. Miraculously, they took us immediately back to an exam room! After the doctor checked her head, I explained that we had been waiting for nearly THREE HOURS to see her, had missed lunch, and were at the end of our rope! She went ahead and did the exam right then. So, moral of the story, if someone hits their head in the waiting room, you get seen a lot faster. 🙂 Wonder if you could fake that…

  3. Jeanne says:

    You have to wonder if they have any clue about how this kind of “treatment” feeds into creating “noncompliant” patients and even malpractice complaints. It is as though they take every opportunity to develop goodwill and purposely do the opposite.

    I have been the one with the emergency patient that threw off everything else in an office, and I am always cognizant of what life-changing stuff might be going on behind closed doors.

    And I recognize that insurance nightmares plague medical practices in ways that probably make them feel justified in making everyone miserable.

    But when the process seems systemically designed to disrespect the needs of me and my children, I get really huffy.

    I think this is how I got started homeschooling as a matter of fact. . . . but my cardiology monitoring equipment (Mom’s ear to chest) truly does not compare with what they make a family wait for four hours for. This upper hand they have keeps up going back for more, um, service.

  4. joanne says:

    I’ve been on many visits such as this with my dd and grandson. The neurologist and Children’s hospital seem to be the worst. And once she was 15 minutes late for an appointment (was almost a 2 hour drive for her.) She’d phone their office when she saw that she would be late as opposed to early. But they told her she’d have to reschedule for another day. Then they rescheduled with the PA instead of the doctor. When she arrived for that one, the PA told her that a special needs child really should be seen by the doc. Ugh! These visits can be so frustrating.

  5. JoVE says:

    That is awful. When we had cardiology appointments at hte children’s hospital here, they informed us of all the stuff that would happen and the timing. So it was please come for 10 a.m., you will have an echo and an EKG and then you will see the doctor. This could all take 2 hours.

    Why they can’t tell you that, I have no idea. And certainly there was no reason why she couldn’t have informed you ONCE YOU WERE THERE that you were scheduled to see the doctor at 2.

    And didn’T the waiting room have children’s toys and books and maybe a TV and DVD in the corner? Our children’s hopsital seems to have more children’s DVDs than Blockbuster (and a TV on the ceiling in the echo room so the kids can watch a video while they do it).

    I guess my taxes are paying for a better system than the private market, but maybe we all knew that anyway.

  6. Lindsey @ enjoythejourney says:

    Bless your heart…Been there done that. Many times. It is frustrating to say the least.

    When we actually get into the appt on time and out in good time, I feel like it is a big, happy day. The children’s hospital we go to is famously behind most of the time.

    And by the way, they do the “don’t ask don’t tell appointment time” thing too. Frustrating!!!

  7. Alice Gunther says:

    Horrifying and maddening and all too typical!!!!!!!!!!

  8. Mama Squirrel says:

    Ack, agh and the rest.

    And I was just telling our youngest Charlotte-listener that our doctors now are SO much better than they were when Charlotte’s brother got sick (I have visions of total panic here next time somebody gets a splinter)…:-&

  9. Samantha says:

    It so hard to believe that they can keep you waiting for hours to see them, but if you’re unavoidably detained and are 15 minutes late, they give away your appointment to someone else. I once sat in an OB’s office for two hours before they figured out that they lost my chart and that’s why they didn’t call me back at my time. I asked if they wanted to pay the extra two hours for my babysitter, but they didn’t think it was funny…

    OK, I’ll let it go now… 😉

  10. Meredith says:

    Oh My, what a day, I hope you finally got some lunch, you ARE Wonder Woman, you know that don’t you!!

  11. Andrea says:

    I have lived this day…FUN!

    Though my children were more partial to thrashing temper tantrums than petty theft. Oh, and I am living proof that the ‘injury in the waiting room’ strategy is not 100 percent effective…

    If only those that live in medical specialist time could better understand and empathize with the challenges of living in mommy time. Aren’t we all on the same team?

    Notwithstanding all of the above, I loved this post. It made me wish that I could meet you in person and sit at a kitchen table and talk with you 🙂

  12. Michele Quigley says:

    A year ago I could feel sorry to read this but now I can truly relate! Oh my can I.

    Thanks – somehow it made me feel better. Not just that misery loves company 😉 but that others understand the frustration.

  13. Rachel29 says:

    Man oh man, this reminds me of all the visits and tests we had done when we were trying to figure out his developmental and learning issues. What a nightmare those days were!! (Actually, even taking Ben to his pediatrician or anyone else…even when they are running ON TIME…is a nightmare. At almost 12, he is still worse than a toddler in waiting rooms!)

    However, I do have to say that I am jealous that you know the Lickona’s IRL. How cool. Tell Matt that you have a blog buddy who adores his book ‘Swimming With Scapulars’ and actually got a few people to buy it and read it. His blog is a kick in the pants too.

    Hope your weekend is alot more fun!