One November a doctor (not my primary-care) ordered an ultrasound - a simple outpatient procedure at the hospital which lasts approximately twenty to thirty minutes. I wasn't scheduled to have the test until the following April, and in-between I lost the prescription I needed to take with me.
I called the doctor's office two days before the scheduled date to request another written prescription. "Please leave your name, number, and a brief message and the nurse will return your call," the answering machine told me. I did as I was told. No return call that day.
I called back the next day to make the same request. Again I heard, "Please leave your name, number, and a brief message and the nurse will return your call." I explained what I needed and described the urgency for the ultrasound test the next day. If the doctor couldn't fax me the paper, I was prepared to go pick it up. No return call that day.
Since my hospital appointment wasn't scheduled until the afternoon, I jumped in the car the day of the test and headed to the doctor's office in the morning. I signed in and knocked on the closed window. A sign on the glass read, "Please do no knock on the glass."
"Yes?" the receptionist said.
"I don't have an appointment but have left messages for two days that I have an ultrasound scheduled this afternoon and have lost my script. I haven't heard a word."
"Your name? (I answered.) Take a seat, please." The glass window slid closed and I found an empty chair.
"I don't know why anyone comes here, but their reputation is so good," the patient sitting next to me said, her long braid following her as she shook her head back and forth. "There are too many doctors in here. I had a reaction to a medication and I called this morning, but the doctor's gone on vacation. So now I'm supposed to see another one, but I've got to get back to work in an hour. They told me on the phone there would be no problem. I've already waited thirty minutes." Her mouth turned down as she got up to approach the glass fortification at the window.
Just then we heard pounding from the outside hall against the waiting room door. "Let us in!" someone shouted.
"We're stuck out here and can't get in," another voice yelled. The pounding continued.
The patient closest to the door rose to help. His helpful willingness camouflaged his sallow complexion and sagging Bermuda shorts. He fiddled with the door knob but couldn't disengage the lock. The next patient in the row jumped up. "Let me see what I can do, old-timer," he said. When the lock disengaged, a torrent of patients poured in and lined up behind the closed glass doors.
The woman with the time issue stood at the front of the line. "Excuse me," she said, knocking on the glass till it shivered in its tracks. "I'm sorry to cut in," she said to the person signing in, "but I have to get back to work."
The glass slid open. "Mrs. Carey?" I heard.
"Yes," I said, out of my seat like a kid's jack-in-the-box.
"Here's another copy of your script," the receptionist said, handing me the paper and swiveling an evil eye toward the woman who'd knocked.
"Thanks," I said, spinning in place for a quick retreat.
"You're next," the receptionist said to the irritated patient who'd spoiled her day. "Please enter the door to the left. The rest of you, please sign in," she said, slamming the glass shut.
When I got home, I found the original script buried in my calendar.
On my follow-up visit, I bit the bullet. "I've been coming here a long time," I said to the doctor. "May I have a private conversation with you?" I proceeded to explain the situations that had arisen in one day's visit.
"If you don't tell us the issues, we'll never know," the doctor said. "Would you be willing to explain all this to our office manager?" He led me down the hall.
The day before I visited that doctor the following year, I got a personalized message on my answering machine confirming my appointment. When I arrived, the glass doors above the sign-in sheet stood open. Inside the office, one staff member was answering the phone, another writing receipts and scripts for patients exiting. "Good afternoon, Mrs. Carey," the receptionist said with a smile. "The doctor will be seeing you in about ten minutes. Meanwhile, please sign in and let me know if there's anything I can do for you."
- Delray Beach, FL, Westport, MA, United States
- Undergraduate degree, Colby College; MA in teaching, Columbia Teacher's College; former high school English teacher in three states; former owner of interior design co. with advanced degree from R.I. School of Design. Published first book in 2009 titled, MINOR LEAGUE MOM: A MOTHER'S JOURNEY THROUGH THE RED SOX FARM TEAMS. Her humorous manuscript titled ELDERLY PARENTS WITH ALL THEIR MARBLES: A SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR THE KIDS was published in June, 2014. In 2015 A SURVIVAL GUIDE won a gold medal in the self-help category at the Florida Authors & Publishers Association conference. See website By CLICKING HERE.