Just your ordinary holiday at ‘urgent care’

IMG_20190528_091822933[1]How did you spend your Memorial Day? I spent mine hanging out at the walk-in clinic/aka urgent care in Newport. Good thing it didn’t turn out to be terribly urgent because it took a long time to “be seen.” Think about that for a minute. You go to “be seen,” to have someone look at you. Heavy concept.

I was going to write a patriotic ditty this week in honor of the holiday, but everybody’s doing that, so let’s talk about urgent care.

It started with itchy rashes. Then Saturday I woke up with swollen lips, which made singing at church a challenge. By Monday, they felt like I’d just had Novocain at the dentist’s office. I had a hard time with breakfast; drooling was involved. I took my troubles to Google, which suggested allergies, a stroke, or cancer. Shut up, Google.

Adding to the misery, my back went out while I was bending to wipe the ooze off my dog Annie’s incision. The ensuing moaning and cursing sure got her attention. Soon we were both on the floor.

What happened there is no mystery. I have a bad back. I sit too much. I’ve been lifting the 74-pound dog in and out of the car, and I mowed the giant lawn on Sunday. I had put off visiting the chiropractor for too long. Now I needed an appointment stat. But it was a holiday. They were closed. I couldn’t stand up straight. Oh well.

I decided to see if I could get an appointment to check out my lips, rashes, etc. Now I had a headache and felt slightly nauseous. I might be dying. The doctor’s office was closed, too, but I was referred to an advice line.

A woman I swear sounded just like the mom on the “Young Sheldon” TV show, with her great Texas accent, took all my information and said a nurse would call, don’t be put off by the strange area code on your caller ID. Another southerner, the nurse said she was at a call center in Tennessee. She listened to my woes and said I needed to “be seen” right away. I should not drive myself. Get a friend, take a taxi, do not drive. Well, now I was worried. What if I was about to have some life-altering health event?

My usual emergency person was singing at a Memorial Day event, so I called my neighbor, who drove me into Newport and dropped me off when I insisted she didn’t have to wait.

As soon as she was gone, I learned that everyone at the clinic was about to leave for lunch, so I could expect a 90-minute wait. Swell. You’re free to go somewhere else, the woman at the desk said. Sure. But I might be dying, and I had no car, and where would I go? The porn place or the puke-yellow Lucky Elephant Thai restaurant were the only nearby options. I wasn’t in the mood for either.

Then I discovered I had forgotten my phone. OMG. Panic. I had a notebook to write in, a book I had almost finished reading, and old People magazines for amusement, but how would I call for my ride home? And what if somebody needed me? Well, for once, I could only take care of myself.

I took notes on the clinic. It’s located in a portable building across the street from the new Samaritan Pacific Communities Hospital still partially under construction. If you ever took classes in a portable, you can imagine the ambience: white linoleum, acoustic tile ceiling, a few unframed pictures slapped on the white walls, signs listing office hours, signs saying they DO NOT give narcotics for chronic problems, and signs in English and Spanish saying “cover your mouth” if you have a cough. But a radio played soft music, and the black faux-leather chairs were unusually comfortable for a doctor’s office.

My neighbor dashed in with my phone. Bless her heart.

First thing I saw was a text saying a singing friend, Ellen Cowden, had died. Shoot. Darn, Nuts. Seems like everybody’s sick or dying lately. At least she went quickly.

For the first hour, I waited with just one family. Then more people started arriving. It was worse than a busy restaurant, with no cocktails for solace. They all got told the wait would be at least an hour. Several left. A little girl with big pink shoes stomped around and cried. We’d all do that if we weren’t grownups.

I went out for a walk. It was cloudy, misty, breezy, typical coastal weather. The old front part of the hospital was gone, new framework going up behind the chain link fence. It’s going to be huge when it’s done. The new section that’s already open is bright and attractive.

I couldn’t help remembering my times at the Kaiser Santa Clara ER with my dad. So crowded, day and night. No place to park, everyone in a hurry. We waited for hours, hungry, thirsty, and uncomfortable.

I waited a long time in Newport, too, but at least they were sorry, and I could smell the ocean through the open windows. Finally I was called into a little examining room where I met Dr. Andrea Lind, who is both beautiful and caring. My vitals were all perfect (thank God), and I had even lost a couple pounds. She didn’t know what caused my problems, probably stress. I was definitely not in any danger. She ordered a blood test to check my wonky Graves Disease-addled thyroid (it came out normal) and prescribed some cream to slather on my rashes and my lips. As for my back, I’ll limp over to the chiropractor later today.

My neighbor picked me up from the front of the new hospital, where I took a couple pictures and breathed in some fresh air, confident that I was not dying and would weather this challenge, too.

Annie, who had a possibly cancerous tumor removed from her leg on Friday, was thrilled to see me. Heavy face-licking ensued. We took a short walk, just because we could, and returned to our usual places on the love seat. Later I would eat a ham and cheese omelet for dinner, call my father–who sounded a little better and counseled me that I needed to learn to “let things go”–and watch “The Bachelorette,” where Hannah finally got rid of that fool Cam. A blessed regular Monday night.

So that’s how we spent our Memorial Day. For my father, a WWII vet, it was just another day at the nursing home, from which he hopes to escape one of these days. An airplane mechanic in the Army Air Corps in the Pacific, he loves to talk about his war days. God bless him and all the veterans.

And don’t get sick or hurt on a holiday. Annie says hey, get this cone thing off my head.


Author: Sue Fagalde Lick

writer/musician California native, Oregon resident Author of Freelancing for Newspapers, Shoes Full of Sand, Azorean Dreams, Stories Grandma Never Told, Childless by Marriage, and Up Beaver Creek. Most recently, I have published two poetry chapbooks, Gravel Road Ahead and The Widow at the Piano: Confessions of a Distracted Catholic. I have published hundreds of articles, plus essays, fiction and poetry. I'm also pretty good at singing and playing guitar and piano.

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