… until somebody ruptures an eardrum!
(What, your family doesn’t have that rule?)
Oh, I kid. No one has a ruptured eardrum. I just WISH I had a ruptured eardrum.
So, um, remember that cold I had? My cold that was getting better? My cold that suddenly sensed I was over a thousand miles from home and decided to morph into FORM OF: EAR WEASEL and commence throbbing and itching and generally making me wish for death? Yeah, that cold. I hate that cold.
Why yes, I DO believe that cold knows I’m away from home and also, you know, not generally a fan of the sensation of a creature trying to nibble its way to my brain via the ear canal. Because colds are bitches like that.
OTHER than this whole throbbing pain in half my head thing, I’m having a great time on this trip, you understand. And with enough advil and sudafed in my system I’m able to enjoy our surroundings and activities, or at least, I was, for a few days there.
By the time we got back from dinner with friends last night, Otto was asking me if I was okay (I think it was the way I spent the last hour there holding my cup of tea against my ear), and I had to admit that no, probably I wasn’t. We then had to ponder the best course of action, because while our HMO is annoying at best and abysmal at worst while we’re home, being a thousand miles away from our microscopic coverage area seemed like it might be a problem.
I sank down onto the couch to finish some work due today (no vacation for the
wicked freelancer!), and Otto took charge. He dug out our insurance cards and called the member services center.
It was closed. Of course. Everyone knows you don’t get sick at NIGHT. Sheesh.
He then called the nurse hotline and gave the phone to me.
Nurse: Hello, my name is Perky and I am a licensed and registered nurse. Are you having a life-threatening medical emergency?
Nurse: What is the nature of your medical problem?
Me: Well, um, I think I have an ear infection, and we’re far from home and the member services line is closed and we don’t know what to do.
Nurse: Ma’am, I don’t know anything about your HMO’s rules and regulations. I am here for triage and intake.
Me: Okay, well, I’ve had a cold for a couple of weeks and now my ear has been throbbing for a couple of days.
Nurse: You probably need to be seen.
Me: Yes, well, I agree. But we’re a thousand miles from home. I need to know what I can do RIGHT NOW.
Nurse: I can’t really recommend anything, we’re not allowed to do that.
Me: Well, um, I’m taking advil, but is there anything else I can do…?
Nurse: Ma’am, I am not allowed to suggest any medication, whether prescription or over-the-counter. I can only do triage.
Me: Oh. Okay. So you can… tell me that my ear hurts?
Nurse: Yes ma’am.
Me: I already knew that.
Nurse: I’m sorry, ma’am.
Nurse: You could try microwaving a damp towel and laying on that. You may find the heat soothing.
Me: See? That was helpful. Thank you. I’ll try that.
Needless to say, I was feeling even more warm and fuzzy towards my HMO after that phone call. That’s money well-spent, right there. You call up and tell them your ear hurts and the LICENSED AND REGISTERED NURSE tells you that YOUR EAR HURTS. What a wonderful world we live in!
This morning I called the member services line and asked them what to do, and they told me I could go to the ER if necessary. I asked them if I could call my primary care doctor and beg for a prescription, and they said that sure, I could try that.
My new primary care doctor has only seen me a couple of times, so my hopes weren’t very high. But to my great surprise they called in drugs for me IMMEDIATELY, which simultaneously delights and terrifies me. (True, I doubt a lot of people are calling in with nefarious motives when requesting amoxicillin, but still.) The amusing part is that they want to see me as soon as possible (perfectly reasonable), but given that we won’t be home for another week, they’re happy to see me after that. And we all know that by then they’re just wanting my body in their office so that they can bill the insurance.
And that’s fair, I guess, because the doctor deserves the HMO’s money just as much as Perky the non-information-giving nurse.
Also, if this whole freelancing thing doesn’t work out for me, I’m thinking maybe I could go work for the nurse hotline. “Hello, this is Mir, I’m a blogger. Are you having a life-threatening emergency? No? Excellent. How can I help you? Wow, that sucks. Do you mind if I blog about this? Oh, I KNOW that’s not very helpful, but it’s all I’m allowed to do. Sorry! You could try laying on a hot towel while I mock you, though.”