Tuesday, January 04, 2005

A Lesson in Patients

I worked from home today so I could take my Dad to his 2:30pm doctor's appointment. We arrived early, as requested, so we could complete the new patient paperwork.

After 30 minutes, we were escorted into the exam room. Dad was asked to stand on the scale and it took a considerable amount of effort to get him on it and balanced upright. He was teetering like a weeble. Finally, he weighed in at 214lbs.

Dad sat on the exam table and I sat in a small chair. We made small talk to pass the time. When 3:30pm rolled around, I thought it would be wise to remind the office staff that we were still waiting.

The receptionist was surrounded by stacks of patient files, and she didn't return my smile when I approached.

"Hi, excuse me. Just wondering what the eta might look like for when we see the doctor?"

"I really can't tell you how long he is going to be."

"OK, it's just that we've been waiting for an hour."

"The doctor spends a significant amount of time with each patient."

"Okay, so no real idea on how long it might be..."


So back I went, into the avocado green exam room with the 1960's Formica counter tops and dirty cabinets. My mind started to drift and I began to wonder when someone last cleaned that room. Suddenly, I began to focus in on all of the dust bunnies, dirt smudges, grime and furniture pocks. I was growing wheezy by the minute.

My dad and I waited another excrutiating hour. Staring at the walls. Listening to other people come and go outside our closed door. Watching the dust bunnies multiply. At exactly 4:30pm, I became Huffy.

"Dad. This is not respectful. Would you like me to find you another doctor?"

Dad quickly perked-up and replied, "Let's bust this joint."

As we walked out, I asked the receptionist to return Dad's $10 co-pay. She hesitated for a moment.

There were no apologies. No explanations. No, "Please wait just a few more minutes. We've been backlogged but the doctor is on his way."

All we received was an unfriendly stare that followed us as we walked out and shut the door behind us.