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Medical Meander

For the last two weeks, plus or minus a few days, I have been coughing. This followed a horrible cold -- the second rough cold of this season.

In winter, more of us are in close proximity, leading to more infections. Unfortunately, I teach and that means I am in a small, cramped classroom with nearly two dozen young adults. Most of my students live with lots of other young people. At least I don't work with elementary school students with my tendency to catch everything.

My wife convinced me to stop by the campus health clinic yesterday. I arrived within 15 minutes of the clinic opening. Unfortunately, the clinic is only open from 12:30 to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays. As a result, the clinic doctors and nurses can only see a few dozen first-come, first-serve patients.

I simply wasn't early enough.

Coughing and apparently wheezing, the admitting nurse took pity on me and checked to see if there were opening on the main campus. I would have to try to arrive early the next morning. The nurse politely said that was a bad idea. She said streptococcus and other infections were spreading, so I should try to get into a "Minute Clinic."

At 2:30, my wife retrieved me and drove the 30 minutes or so to the Minute Clinic in a Twin Cities central suburb (though the suburbs here seem like part of one big city). At 3:45 p.m., the Minute Clinic RN on duty interviewed me and decided I might be too sick for her to examine. I could have pneumonia, bronchitis, or something else serious.

I was very hungry, so I convinced my wife to stop by a Kentucky Fried Chicken on the way home. I know that sounds horrible when you have a cough, but I was seriously craving chicken.

We returned home, ate a great dinner, and then I called my physician's clinic about 4:45. Honestly, the meal was the best part of my entire day.

The nurse said I should not wait until a doctor could see me -- I should go to a Minute Clinic. I mentioned I had tried that, so she referred me to "Urgent Care." The Urgent Care facility is open from 6 p.m. until 10 p.m. Ironically, it's located about two blocks from the Minute Clinic.

I signed in shortly before 6 p.m.

Medical exam. Nothing. Chest x-rays. Nothing.

The doctor prescribed some antibiotics to be safe and some cough syrup. I'm not a huge fan of antibiotics, but I'm in no position to take chances.

This entire experience is not unusual. I have to wonder how any "system" could be so disorganized. Of course people don't like the health care system. In the end, after hours of waiting and less than ten minutes total medical consultation, nothing was certain.

Thankfully, I only owed one copay and the costs of prescriptions.

There will never be certainty in medicine. There will always be frustration. I'm exhausted, and still coughing.

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