Doctor, Doctor

As is normal at this time of year, I got the sniffles last week. The demands of work being paramount, I tried to squelch the matter by trying zinc, which is allegedly effective at halting a cold in its tracks. This was not my experience. Apart from feeling like I had voluntarily poisoned myself, I found that my sniffles seem to gain strength from the “medication.” Even the cocktail of zinc and store-brand daytime+nighttime flu symptom-relieving pills seemed to annoy the sniffle-microbes. As a result, I have what I am calling the “Death Cold from Hell.” It’s day 10 and it’s still hanging around, using up all my tissues, non-prescription medicines, and patience.

Why don’t I just go to the doctor, you may ask? Because I don’t have a doctor in NYC yet. When I moved to the United States, there was a full-fledged university clinic that saw to my trivial medial needs. When I needed surgery or other specialized treatment, the primary physician would refer me to someone at the nearby university hospitals. This is a first time since I’ve moved out of my country that I have to find a doctor and it’s a bit daunting.

Where I grew up, there were three doctors around my home. Depending on the day or the ailment, we’d wander into any clinic, sit around in the tiny waiting area, get called in by the doctor into the tiny exam room, get a check-up, and then get the medicine from the compounder or local pharmacist. We’d pay the doctor whatever he or she asked (usually the equivalent of a weeks’ worth of a newspaper subscription) and that was that. Every once in a while, someone would be too sick to go to the clinic forty feet away so a family member would ask the doctor to come home, which they would do. The visiting fee was probably no more than the price of a bottle of soda.

If you still live there, you won’t be surprised by any of this (except the costs, which are probably a bit more now). But if you live here, this probably sounds like Brigadoon. Getting medical treatment in the U.S. is a peculiar cross between running the hurdles and a marathon. First of all, you have to be lucky enough to have a job that pays your medical insurance. If you do, you have to look through the insurance manuals to figure out which doctors/clinics/hospitals/treatments are covered. Different health plans have different options. If you go to an approved provider, your medical costs are covered (mostly). If you don’t, well…make sure your trust fund is hefty. If you need specialized treatment, you may need the primary physician to make a “referral”; if you just find someone yourself, the insurance may not cover it. Even when you go to an approved provider, you may have a significant co-pay (basic fee that comes out of your pocket even if you have full medical coverage).

Faced by these choices, my response has been to sneeze and groan my way through the day, drinking tea brewed with cinnamon and cloves (though what is really needed is sunth (dried ginger) and lemongrass). I try to find the right incline for my back so I’m not vertical enough for my nose to run too rapidly but not so horizontal that I can’t breathe. I’ve taken long, scalding showers to get decongested and layered on clothes and blankets to get the fever to break. I’ve raised Kleenex’s profit margin for the last quarter of 2012 and helped 100 Pipers move a bit more uisge beatha.

But it may be time to open that manual and find someone who will give me some antibiotics. After all, why should the poor pharmaceutical industry not get another chance to lighten my wallet?

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