Kiss5Tigers

The 5 Tigers represent the big things in life. This blog is about facing them.


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Post Apocalyptic Pharmacy

I went to the pharmacy today. Usually that would be just one more thing in a list of places but today it was a trip in and of itself.

I don’t have a general practitioner or as the insurance people say, a primary care physician. I don’t have insurance right now so I use the public health system. I go to Parkland. My pharmacy is on the hospital campus.

I ran out of my blood pressure meds with this last refill of my meds box so I called it in. They told me everything would be ready Monday. I made my daughter get up and go with me in the morning to get them.

When I got to the pharmacy building, only one door was open. A path was cordoned off so you could only go one way. Two nurses in masks stood at the corner. First they asked why you were there. Some people had appointments but most of us were for the pharmacy. Then they took my temperature. 97.5. I feel like a radio station.

Next I was directed down the line to get a wristband. It was like a concert wristband with a tribal design on it. Then another nurse directed me to the hand sanitizer. After that I was finally able to enter the pharmacy.

The check-in line had X’es taped on the floor showing where to stand. The receptionist didn’t take my ID as usual. Instead I held it up to the glass partition for her to read. The glass partition has always been there, with just a slit to talk through and have her hand me a ticket. I always figured it was a physical safety issue, to keep violent people away like at a bank only for drugs not money, but now I think it has always been about disease.

Turned out my meds were not ready and they needed me to come back after 1230. I left the building and went with my daughter back to her place for a few hours. Coffee and kittens made the wait pass quickly. Just after 12 I got an automated call from Parkland that my meds were ready.

My daughter and I drove back to the pharmacy. I brought my daughter to wait in the car so I wouldn’t have to pay for parking. My budget is that tight right now, that $5 for parking seemed exorbitant. I went through the process again and was let into the building. This time the receptionist gave me a number.

I went into the waiting room. Usually it’s packed. The seats are arranged in rows of 6 and I’m used to 4 or 5 people sitting in each row. Today there was only one person in each row. Several people were wearing masks.

I was number 807. When I arrived, they were on number 788. I figured it would be a solid half hour wait. It was about half that. Things progressed smoothly and rapidly. I got my meds and by the time I left, it was pouring rain. Fortunately my daughter had been waiting nearby so I didn’t have long to wait to be picked up.

Now I am home. It seems so strange now, just going to the pharmacy. I also wonder what I will do the next time. I am now out of refills and insurance. I don’t know how I’ll get my meds next month. Even if they do an automatic refill extension like most places are, I don’t have any income and I don’t know how I’ll pay for them. But I have faith that something will have changed by then.

The world is all different right now and it changed practically overnight. I believe it can change again just as fast, in ways I can’t predict. I can only wait and see.


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Parkland Hospital

So meds are an issue in my life now.

I went to Metrocare for my psych meds. It took about 5 hours as a walk-in. I did see the nurse practitioner. He said that my anti-depressant was a bit high for bipolar and that if it was reduced, I might not need the mood stabilizer. Interesting. This cocktail has worked just fine for me so far so he refilled it as I was taking it, but I might ask about reducing meds.

Then I ran out of blood pressure meds. That’s a little different. I went to Parkland hospital because I know they have a program for people without insurance. I started in the business office. I filled out the paperwork. I didn’t have pay stubs but I had my W-2’s because I’d just done my taxes. I didn’t have a copy of my bank statement. The person who took my information said they’d ask for it if they need it.

I went to lunch at a little cafe serving Starbucks products. It was decent and filling but not fabulous. The coffee was good.

From there I went to the urgent care center. It was quite an experience. After I signed in, I had to wait for someone to see me. That’s to be expected. They triaged me and my blood pressure was a little high. Not surprising since I was out of blood pressure meds and I’d been drinking coffee. Then back to the waiting room.

Of course when they called me, they couldn’t figure out my name. My family name is Leonard, pronounced Lennerd, not Leo Nard. I assume it’s the Spanish pronunciation but I could be wrong. Then they couldn’t figure out Allison. I got Alicia, Alyssa, and finally just a snort and the letter A. It’s not a complicated name. It took me a minute to realize they meant me.

They walked me to another waiting area, they walked me to a lab, they walked me to a third waiting area, they walked me to a room, and they walked me back out to the lobby to wait for final lab results. They certainly don’t let you sit anywhere for very long, which probably makes the wait seem shorter. Finally I was given some prescriptions and discharged.

I was sent over to the Anderson building to the pharmacy. You get in line and check in. Then you wait for your name to appear on a screen, meaning the prescription’s been filled. You get back in line and receive a number. Then you wait for them to call your number. It was a lot of unnecessary line time but I’m sure someone thought it was reasonable. No charge for the meds though, that was good. Nice to get something for spending 7 hours of my day there. Pshew.

I got home and figured out that they’d only given me 7 days worth of meds. In the paperwork was a number for a referral for a primary care physician. I tried to call. It wasn’t exactly successful.

The first lady told me she’d connect me to “the clinic” and dropped me back into the queue. I told the second lady what happened, and she told me to call a different number and choose the make an appointment option. Ok. I called the other number and got the same phone tree and made the same choices, including the option to make an appointment. I sat on hold for 10 minutes and had to pee so I hung up. When I called back, the outgoing message stated the office was closed, which means I try again in the morning. I actually feel like the phone operators are either incompetent or lazy, since either they didn’t know how to help me or they didn’t want to. In either case, it looks like I won’t get an appointment until at least 6 weeks out, which means spending every Tuesday up there for the next month and a half.

People talk about folks who get services as if it’s a gift. In reality, it isn’t easy. It takes so much effort to get help. It took all day to walk through the system. It cost me parking and meals out. And I got the bare minimum of help so I will have to keep going through the process repeatedly until someone sees what’s going on. Hopefully once I have an appointment, they’ll just write me a script that will last until then.


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What a week! Part 2

Yep, life is eventful so I am late getting back to this.  What else is new?  I really do want to work on posting something every day or two, though.  Discipline is important, in writing as well as in regular life, and I could use a bit more focus.

Update:  3 weeks later and the bathroom is still dry, yay!  The apartment complex has stated they will get an actual certified plumber out here to fix the pipe itself but that hasn’t happened yet.  I asked them about it late last week and they are much more focused on a visit from the owners than on fixing this, which is frustrating, yet I do understand that if they’re going to pay a plumber that they’re going to wait until they have several jobs for him to do.  So far so good!

The other thing that was so frustrating about the lack of communication regarding maintenance coming by, was that I needed to go to Parkland Hospital to get my prescriptions refilled.  I don’t own a car, so that meant taking DART.

A word about DART:  I have lived in cities with good public transportation, eg. Boston.  Trains come frequently, they go most places you want to go and buses go pretty much everywhere else, it’s reliable and convenient.  Now I live in Dallas and I use DART, and I find the are not even close to as useful as Boston.  There are reasons for this, but it routinely takes me 2 hours to get where I need to go.

If I had a car, it would have been about half an hour, maybe less, to get to Parkland.  On DART, I had to take a bus to Addison Transit Center, take another bus to the Downtown Carrollton station.  I took the light rail to Southwest Medical Center / Parkland Station, then a shuttle to the hospital itself.  I left about 1:45, it was after 3 when I arrived.

I am poor enough that I have health care through Parkland directly.  It took them until December to even see me, but they did make it retroactive to cover some past bills and it’s good through March 31.  I rather naively assumed that I could take the bottles from my previous doctor – from spring of 2013 when I had a job and insurance and a GP of my very own – and simply get my prescriptions renewed.  Silly me!  In order to get the meds, I had to have a ‘script from an in-network doctor which meant a trip to Urgent Care.

Urgent Care is like Emergency except of course it’s for people who aren’t actually having emergencies.  So, nasty headcolds and swollen ankles, not so much heart attacks or gunshot wounds.  That means waiting.  It took about 40 minutes for me to get into triage, but at that point it got speedy for me.  The medicine I take is for high blood pressure and I had been without it since before Christmas so at that point my blood pressure was actually quite high, high enough to make the staff uncomfortable, high enough that they considered admitting me.  Well, I had been running for the shuttle in order to avoid waiting in the cold and I do have a slight murmur that acts up when I exert myself too much, but it always surprises me how long it takes my body to recover.  I was surprised that over an hour later, my numbers were still that high.

So I got to see the doctor fairly quickly and he looked at my old meds and he said a fairly surprising thing.  He said that he should probably send me to Emergency and have me admitted but it would take several hours for that to happen and then I’d be over night or longer.  Or, he could certainly renew my meds and I could leave AMA (Against Medical Advice) and come back if symptoms didn’t improve.  I realized that what he was telling me without actually saying it was that probably my “problem” was due to not having my meds and that admitting me was simply going to take extra time to provide the same result.  So I chose to leave with prescriptions.

I went back to the pharmacy at about 5:30, and was told it would take a good 90 minutes to fill my ‘scripts.  Since the pharmacy officially closes at 7:00, I did verify that they stopped taking new customers at 7 but they would finish all existing orders before closing completely.  I hadn’t eaten since 11:00 am and I had an hour and a half, so I went to the cafeteria.

The cafeteria has about 5 different food stations for various types of food ranging from salads to burgers to Mexican to a hot meal.  I imagine at lunch time the place is fully stocked but at dinner there is only the hot meal section open and they have a very limited menu.  I chose chicken fingers and mashed potatoes.  I thought about a salad, but a one cup prepackaged salad cost as much as the rest of it so I didn’t get it.  Remember that I am poor now so dollars are a big deal, and I still had to pay for my meds.  I got a cup of water and sat down to eat.  About two bites into my meal, I felt something hard in my mouth.  At first I thought it was a piece of chicken bone but as I shifted it around to get it where I could spit it out, I realized it was ceramic.

I have one piece of ceramic-y stuff in my mouth.  One of my eyeteeth is a baby tooth that never came out, and once upon a time my Uncle Jack who was a dentist before he retired had put a cap on it so that it wouldn’t look so out of place in my mouth.  Apparently the mashed potato was too much for the tooth and it finally broke, cap and all.

So back to Urgent Care for me.

The nurse was not happy to see me.  One of my concerns when I was there earlier was timing for getting home.  Working backwards, it looked like this:  The last 361 bus through my neighborhood from Addison Transit Center was at 11:00 pm.  In order the get there, I had to catch the 400 bus from Downtown Carrollton station at 10:34 at the latest.  Buses are every hour at that time of day, so I really wanted to catch the 9:34 if possible to be sure the connection worked.  If the 400 was even 5 minutes late, then I would miss the 361 and it would be a bitch of a walk home late at night in the cold.  Train takes about 30 minutes to make that trip, and although it comes only every half hour at that time of night, there are 2 lines on that section of track so it’s a little more frequent.  Plus I had to allow time for the shuttle.  So pretty much I needed to be on my way by about 8:15 to be really comfortable with the schedule for getting home and that means waiting to be seen made me edgy.  The admitting nurse wasn’t happy about that earlier, and she was a bit sarcastic to see me back.

Fortunately it was shift change and the late nurse was very understanding.  He fast-tracked me and got me seen in less than an hour with a referral for a dental visit.  I haven’t done anything about that at this time, because pretty much the option is leave the broken tooth or pull it, Parkland doesn’t cover orthodontic repair.  It has always been a debate whether to cap that baby tooth or pull it and brace me to rearrange the remaining teeth, so this isn’t a huge loss to me although now I have a hole in the front of my mouth.  I figure I just need to do the pulling and braces at this point, but since Parkland doesn’t cover the braces, I’m loathe to remove the remaining root and have my teeth shift on their own.  I’m not in pain and I’ll have health insurance again in April, so it feels like I can wait.

And I did make it home in time, so that was good.

But with 3 inches of gray hair and a missing tooth, that makes it pretty hard to make a good impression when looking for a job.

(There is so much more to this story, but my daughter needs me and this is getting long, so . . . )