poetry. thoughts and more than make-believe.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Who needs insurance?

**Names have been changed**to**protect**the innocent**in these crazy**times**

The first thing August and Liam noticed was the smell. They said this tiny waiting room smelled like smoke. I didn't notice the odor of cigarettes, but of old and unclean air. Even if I were blind and unable to notice the grimy doctor office toys or the toddler hands playing with them, I could smell unclean--and not the dirty of mud and earth, but old...stale...unwashed.

Just minutes before, as we pulled to the front of the building, Liam asked if this was a Dr. for poor people. I told him, "I don't know--but most people here don't have insurance," which was very true. I didn't know, at least at that moment--but as we walked in, I quickly realized it was a strong possibility. As for calling us poor, I don't want my children to ever call our family that--because that is a name placed on our situation, but more it is a state of mind. If you think of yourself as poor--then you will be...and we are not poor in any way, other than not having enough money for insurance, savings, better food.... Ironic.

So as we walked in, the kids sat down and I signed us in--I felt a woosh of bad nostaglia.

When I was 24 I had my oldest, August. I was uninsured and single for abit. Without insurance I had to use free-clinics and when we did have insurance, immunizations weren't covered, so again--free clinics. There is a feel to these free clinics, at least for me. Maybe it's because I was raised with a constant state of insurance till I was 23, maybe it's luck, maybe it's my super-sensitive state of mind...but there is a feel. And in my 20's, I felt it, accepted it and knew it was a 'period of my life' I would leave...so when I stepped into this room at 38 years old, I didn't want to accept I was feeling this again.

Liam sat down next to the moss-lined fish tank, while August and I sat diagonal from him. I held her hand and knew I was on the verge of crying.  Trying to keep it contained, she asked why we were here and why we just couldn't go to their other office, I teared up and said, "Well when Daddy gets insurance we can go back to your other office." And that was ok for her. Liam, on the other hand, noticed my eyes immediately and mouthed, "Are you crying?" I mouthed back, "It's ok" and gave him a smile. His empathy is amazing.

There was really no way getting away from the truth, August is 14 and Liam is 12. In two weeks I take Rayne, who is 10 and she also will have alot of questions. I had to answer their questions in the best way I knew how...so...we continued to sit and take in the situation.  First: the family that texted continuously, while their son tried to get their attention. Then: the Grandma who probably wasn't much older than me, without teeth and wearing flannel, commenting on how tall August was. She politely said, "Not really," and I stepped in saying that she is actually quite small compared to her friends. It's those long, lovely legs that people notice, giving the image that she's taller than she really is. Then there was the nurse who looked like she might be packing heat under those Dollar Store scrubs. The doctor on the other hand, who we were only getting glimpses of, looked peaceful.

So we sat. And sat. And sat. And I felt anger. I couldn't believe how unfair this office was to the underprivledged. I know the difference. My children know the difference. And it's all based on money, on insurance. I looked at the other kids here, thinking how unfair for them...just because they're "poor" doesn't mean they have to be treated like "less" and yet, here is what the State is doing for them...treating them like less, so they will be less and continue to be less. It is maddening in the worse way to see how the cycle perpetuates. This is where my tears diminished and strength began.

The nurse called us in. She led us to the first room on the right. The room with old striped pastel wallpaper and 1970's shag blue-green carpet. It also smelled. My kids were less than pleased. Liam looked down at the carpet and said, "I would think that tile would be better for a doctors office, because if someone throws up or a pees, it's going to soak down in the carpet--like it did with the animals when we used to have carpet--and then they couldn't get it really clean." I totally agreed and the August commented, "plus it probably has mold underneath, which may be why it smells." Hammer that nail baby girl!!! They were seeing this for what it is....like the fact they also didn't even have soap in this office. No joke. No handsoap, no papertowels. No hand sanitizer. Nothing. Suddenly I was feeling like my BFF and wishing I carried anti-germ stuff at all times...but I put it out of my mind.

While taking all this in, August is complaining about the situation and Liam is letting her know this is why he is sometimes embarrassed to be in public with her. I'm listening while watching the doctor walk up and down the hall, trying to get a feel on her. She looked about 60, probably Phillipino or something...I told August that this doctor probably feels like this is her life calling to help kids less fortunate. She retorted back that the doctor could be making different choices, she could be making more money. I told her it probably wasn't about money for this doctor. I didn't know the reason this doctor was choosing to work in a run-down office for little compared to other doctors...but I could only assume it was for a true calling--a good karma. Love. And then Liam threw in the fact one of his friends gets to go to the doctor for free because the parents are divorced and the dad owes $20,000 in child support. I explained this appointment was free also. I wanted to say it was free because I was a single mom, their dad lost his job, my library job keeps me at the poverty level, but I didn't. So during this mental pause, I realized they both asked, "It is?" And when I reassured them it was, suddenly their entire energy shifted, letting them be OK with the situation. Thankfully.

The doctor came in, introduced herself, and asked who was going first. Like most situations, August went first...first in birth order, first in school, first in life...and so she sat up on old childrens doctor table. Very old. And August had her physical. Then Liam. And by the end of the exams, both children were laughing with the doctor and the nurse--even after they each had to get two shots. The doctor had connected with my children in a way no other doctor had...even August commented, "Why doesn't our other doctor do all this?" Then I explained that when I was a little girl, doctors did do all the things this one did...they took care of their patients. Now, nurses do and doctors sign off on it, in general. And Liam said, "I like our other office better, but feel more comfortable here." Sigh.

The girls left this dingy doctors office laughing at their pained, shot-taken arms--alarming kids in the waiting room and parking lot with their sibling dramatics, oh my arms...giggle. giggle. giggle. As we drove home I told the children, they may or may not grow up to be doctors or nurses or anyone in the medical field--but they can still help children or anyone less fortunate with their talents. They can volunteer to paint murals to brighten up dingy walls. They can teach yoga or music or anything they know how to do, because they do know how "to do" and will continue to become even more of who they are. Many children, may not have the same chances my kids do or will have, but I want my kids to know these kids deserve just the same quality of life they are used to. And they have the chance to make a difference, just like any of us do.

1 comment:

ClaireMontgomeryMD said...

this made me cry. and laugh. i'm buying you some hand sanitizer and travel size lysol. i wish everyone in america would read this!

"Happiness is only real when shared".....from Into the Wild

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