It took a couple days before I realized what the “social isolation” I’d been asked by the Health Department to practice might mean for my penny streak. Day one I’d found one in a pocket but that was a re-find so it didn’t count. Monday on the floor of the closet I found a dime that may have fell out of my sweetie’s pocket but I couldn’t be sure. That’s when it hit me that for the first time in 13 years, I wasn’t going to be doing life like I normally do. The odds of finding any coin were slim. I told myself not to dwell on this. One of my mantras of late is, “this is temporary.”
Wednesday, I went to my mailbox and there was package. I wasn’t expecting anything so it was a nice surprise. When I tore into it, I found a bracelet with a charm on it the size of a quarter. My heart swelled with appreciation. Thank you, Lord, for a coin-like reminder of your love.
I was expecting the charm would have some cliché phrase on it like “Stay Strong”—which would be unlike my sister-in-law but you never know. Much to my delight it was snarky. “Let that #$%! go,” it said. Immediately the bracelet goes on my wrist. I’m not taking this off I thought because right now I’m dealing with a whole load of bull#$%!. Let me tell you how it started.
After being sick for 43 days I called a specialist I see to talk with him about whether or not this was an autoimmune flare-up. I’m loaded up on steroids by other members of my healthcare team, to help me breath, but one of those medications puts me at risk for COVID 19. I’m wondering what he’d think about that. He’s also the doctor that prescribes the immunosuppressant I take so he needs to know what’s going on.
He worked me into his schedule which I appreciated. After examining me he said it might take another 30 days for the inflammation in my airways to calm down. Not what I wanted to hear. He told me to increase the risky med and be vigilant about my eye care. I asked about coronavirus and he brushed that off. I haven’t traveled and it hasn’t hit Grand Junction yet he reminded me.
Two days later his medical assistant calls and says, “Dr. _____’s been thinking about you and thinks you should be tested for coronavirus.” I’m completely surprised because he’d been so cavalier about it. She gives me the phone number of the Health Department. “If you have any problems give me a call back.”
I call and they tell me I don’t meet the criteria for testing and even if he called them, they wouldn’t test me. If he wants me tested, he should send me to the hospital. I feel relieved (sort of) and call the MA back and tell her what they’ve said. She consults with him and calls me back. “I talked to the doctor and he said, ‘well okay’. We hope you start feeling better.” Curious….Okay to what?
The next morning, I start feeling like a truck has run over me. I assume it’s just a combination of being sick for so many days and having lupus. No fever or cough just a paralyzing fatigue. My laryngitis is still bad and my eye crazy mad but these aren’t new things. I stay on the couch most of the day which is completely unlike me.
That evening the phone rings and it’s the Health Department calling on a Saturday??? They ask me to confirm my birthdate and then ask how I’m feeling. It all feels suspicious but I’d called the day before so I proceed to chat with them. This is when I’m told that earlier in the week I’d had “close intimate” contact with someone presumed positive and they would like to test me. I’m shocked. Who are they talking about?
It takes me a minute to piece it all together and then I realize they’re talking about the specialist I saw —the one who blew off my coronavirus concerns. In four seconds, I go from relieved I don’t need to be tested to insisting they test me now. I’ve unknowingly exposed my family and others. Not close intimate contact but people in my circle. The Health Department explains the soonest they can test me is Monday.
In a scenario that feels surreal they test me and then call to ask more questions. This is when they confirm that it was the specialist I saw and now he is a verified positive. They ask me to keep this information private so as not to panic anyone. They tell me my results should be back the next day. They’re still not back. I’m on Day 9 of self-quarantine.
My anger with my provider is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. If what the Health Department is telling me is in fact the timeline of things, it was more than careless on his part to see patients it was negligent. Not to mention, in that same appointment he told me to double up on a medication that is risky for me. Equally as bad, when he knew he’d been tested and coyly tried to get me tested he accepted no for an answer from the Health Department. All this begs the question—The Health Department expects me to be quiet?
For a couple days I complied, but as I watched them fumble all over themselves, my doctor’s office go silent, and my need for medical care not just for my eye, but the dog bite emergency that got added into the mix I’m outraged. My sweet pastor friend Valerie told me if she’d ever seen a situation where a righteous anger was called for it’s this. The patient advocate for my provider’s employer was so shocked she admitted she wasn’t even sure how to address it with the hospital.
On Friday when the Health Department told me they have no idea when my results will come back, I asked them what I thought was a fair question, “Why was my doctor able to get his results so fast?” Their answer, “He’s a healthcare provider so he’s prioritized.”
“And I’m a patient in need of immediate care that can’t get it because of him.”
“I know that does seem unfair,” the public health nurse said.
“It’s bull#$%!,” I said and there it was. That word that I normally would never have in a blog post. The word I have on my bracelet. That’s when I knew going forward this will be my greatest challenge. Letting all that go while every fiber of my being wants to embrace the anger I’m entitled to. But I have to because it’s completely counterproductive. If I don’t let this go, I’m only making my immune system weaker. Anger is a poison you drink thinking it will kill someone else but it just hurts you.
I don’t have a magic formula for letting it go. My bracelet is a nice reminder but it holds no power to help me do that. Venting (even in this format) doesn’t empty the tank. Venting feels good while you’re doing it but this kind of betrayal isn’t erased by it.
The only thing that works is prayer and so that’s what I’m doing. Asking God to put out the fire on my anger and strengthen my voice so that at the right time, it’s heard by the people who need to hear it. If I don’t speak up who will? Medical providers and healthcare systems are rarely held accountable for their negligence. One of the ironies right now is that the perfectly healthy dog that bit me was immediately quarantined and might be put down. However, my doctor will be back in his office later this week. But again, I HAVE TO LET THAT GO and only focus on what’s right in front of me which is getting my strength back. The view from my couch is lovely but I have people (like my Mom) who count on me.
Friends, I know you might not be in my situation exactly, but these are turbulent times and most of us can find something to be angry about. Please hear me when I say you have to find a way to let it go. Anger is the most expensive fuel you can burn and now more than ever we all need our strength.