Sunday, October 27, 2013

Free Health Care- Part 1

Our experience using the hospital and clinic on an army base is not unique.  Most will tell tales of  half-days spent in the emergency room, scheduling appointments months in advance only to get a doctor who never once looks you in the eye, and an endless supply of the cure-all wonder drug Motrin.  But it was it was hard to complain about the lack of worth-while care we received.  We were just lucky to have any care at all, right?

I think back at that mentality and I despise it.  I mean, really?  We have to take the crappy because better care would cost more?  Does it really cost more in the end?  Free doctor visits could cost you your life when over worked doctors having large patient loads cease to care and see you as just another pile of paperwork.

When we first moved to Ft.Benning, fresh with a new autism diagnosis, Tristen was three and Tanner was one.  The perfect age to be pumped full of vaccines at "well-visits".
I was determined to be a "good mom".  No one was going to accuse me of not keeping my kids' doctor appointments!  I had their complete shot records with me in my purse that I had religiously filled out at each visit. 

Plus, my oldest child remained sick with frequent ear infections, fevers and rashes, so I needed to take advantage of our new health system.  I couldn't get him better if I slacked on my check-ups!

I rarely ever saw our primary care physician.  It seems she was always busy...I can only think of three times we saw her in the almost five years we lived there. 
One time in particular, I was fed up with not getting any answers about the boy's unexplained skin rashes.  I had tried everything I could think of at the time....changing soaps, detergents...looking for outside reactions or bug bites.  I was at a loss and wanted some answers.

Our PCM barely looked up from her desk.  If they have rashes, we will prescribe Zyrtec. They can take it every day and it will get rid the rashes.
I didn't understand.  I wanted to know what was causing the rashes.
"We don't need to know what is causing it.  Zyrtec will clear up the symptoms."

When Tanner was just a toddler, he fell on the corner of an end table and had quite a gash in his cheek.  The skin sagged at the site, and although I was certain it would need at least one suture,  I dreaded the thought of heading to the ER.  It was evening and I knew I was in for a wait of around 6 hours for something non-life threatening.  I packed up my boy with toys and snacks and headed for what was sure to be a long night. 
I don't remember at what hour I lost my patience, but it was the wee hours of the morning.  I was tired.  Tanner was tired and his wound had stopped bleeding.  We decided to go home.  About a half hour later, we received a call from the ER doc asking us to come back in.  He apologized for not getting to us sooner.  Because of his persistence and sincerity, I agreed to bring Tanner back in.  The Doc met us out in the parking lot....where he saw his face had healed.  He apologized again and gave me a few instructions and I bundled my little sleeping boy back up to head back home.

The most confusing experience I had at the military clinic was when I had Tanner in for one of his "well-visits".  He had his vaccinations, one shot in one leg and two in the other.  I had not met the doctor or nurses before, but I was used to that.  We were instructed to wait in the waiting room for about twenty minutes to be sure he did not have any reactions to the shot....if he started to have a rash, swelling, trouble breathing or anything, I was to alert the nurse immediately.
I have to admit I wasn't worried.  I did this many times before with him and with Tristen. 

I can't remember if it was the swelling, or red streaks or what.....the deepest part of my soul began to panic and fear the worse...I just remember something was seriously wrong.  In slow motion, I got up from my chair and left my autistic son unattended to get the nurse and they swooped him out of my arms.  Nothing makes you feel more helpless than when your sick child is taken from you and a flood of doctors and nurses are surrounding your child and all you can do is stand there in shock.  I don't remember who was watching Tristen...maybe he followed me into the exam room.  I remember when the tension in the room became calmer and the doctor's face looking relieved. 
She told me, "He should not have the DTaP again.  We can't be sure what it was that caused the reaction, but he should not have that shot again."
I was so grateful he was alive and well....having no idea of the damage that was done deep inside.
A few months later, we are back at our "well-check" with a stranger.  He tells us Tanner needs a booster for the DTaP. 
"But I thought he couldn't have that?  He had the reaction last time?"
"What?"  He gasped as if I had said the most absurd thing he had ever heard.  "Who told you that?"
I explained.
"Well, we dont' know if it was the diphtheria, pertussis or tetanus that caused it.  We can give him single doses."
This didn't make any sense to me, but the doctor treated me like I was such a moron, I was afraid to stand up for myself.  He already thinks I'm a bad mother for suggesting it, I thought.
We left with not DTaP that time, but at our next visit, I was questioned about why he had not received the shot.  I explained what the last doctor had told me, again to another doctor I had never met.
"We can't do that.  There are no single shots.  He should be fine."
My head was spinning and before I could think straight they had injected him with the same poison that caused so much trouble before. 
He had redness and swelling in the injection site and a fever.  All which they said was normal, and they sent us home.

I think back at how naive I was and I am just sick.  Why was I so desperate to do "the right thing"...which was only what society was telling me was right, not what made sense or what felt right as a devoted mother.

If our new health care system ends up anything like the base medical institutions or the VA hospitals/clinics, we are in a world of trouble.  For someone who wants run of the mill, standard, impersonal care, maybe it would be fine for them.  If you are poor enough to have no choice but to wait hours for so-so advice and lots of free medication, it may be enough for you. 
It was not enough for me.  I wanted someone who listened to what I said and actually wanted to help my child.  I needed a doctor who took my concerns and looked for  answers.  So, I started to pay for that kind of doctor out of pocket.  No insurance.  Because GOOD health care, is better than FREE health care.
Free health care never looked into my son's illnesses.  Insured health care never looked beyond the end of their nose to help me or my children's illnesses. 


Why would I ever waste my time, ignore my gut, and put my family in jeopardy again...because I'm poor and it's free?  Because now I will be fined?

Not gonna happen.

No comments:

Post a Comment