My normal doctor was out of town when I came down with strep throat. Instead, I had a replacement: a soft-spoken young Asian woman who carried herself like she didn’t know exactly what she was doing in a doctor’s office. I had already waited in the waiting room for 45 minutes, so I was happy to see anyone who could figure out why I had the worst sore throat of my life. And I figured I’d give her the benefit of the doubt; my doctor has always been great, and she wouldn’t have hired someone inexperienced on her staff. But she had some qualities that didn’t exactly leave me assured of her competence:
“Hmm, I don’t seem to have your charts,” she said right after walking into the room. She got up from her desk and looked in the compartment on the door. “Nope, it’s not here, either. Well, let me ask you a few questions then.” She shuffles papers on her desk. She seems to be missing something. “Hold on a second.” I figure she’s going to get my records, which should be all neat and tidy in a folder kept somewhere safe in the office. She returns a minute later with a blank medical chart, and starts asking me about my entire medical history. I was expecting her to ask me if I remember the first time I sneezed.
Doctor: Okay, let me take a look…
Me: down my throat?
Doctor: Yes, let me just…
[Reaches for the shelf]
Me: get a tounge depressor?
Doctor: Okay, now could I get you to…
[sticks tounge depressor in my mouth and holds up light]
Me : ick iy unge owwn?
“We’re going to give you a strep test.” Naturally, that makes sense, since I was the one who suggested I might have strep throat. “I think you might just have a sore throat,” she said. “Do you have any other symptoms?”
“Well, I had the chills last night. Chills and sweats. Sometimes at the same time. You should probably take my temperature.” She did, it was 99. No fever, she tells me. “I just took some Tylenol for my throat before I left.” Tylenol is a fever reducer. If she actually had my charts, she’d know that even 99 is pretty high for me.
“Well, maybe you’re right. We’ll just have to see, I guess.” She gave me the test, took my phone number, and told me she’d call back with the results in the afternoon. At least I think that’s what she said, she might have trailed off.
Nearly eighteen hours after leaving the office, I was completely convinced I had strep throat. It all added up: I had a fever, chills, a headache and a sore throat – and nothing else. All signs point to strep. But I hadn’t gotten a phone call yet, so I call up the doctor’s office to get the results of the test. After going through two hurdles, including an indignant triage nurse who said that the office no longer gave out test results on-demand from patients on the phone, I finally got an office worker who was willing to do my dirty work.
“Oh, she tried to call you, but you didn’t answer. You do have strep, and she wants to know what pharmacy to send the prescription to.” I told her I never received a call. The phone number she had was correct. She even read it back to me twice. I was baffled. So was she.
I got the cold shoulder from the doctor. I can picture her in her examining room, staring at the phone, thinking, “hmm, should I call him? I think it went well, but I don’t want to sound too needy. Maybe I should wait.”
Now I’m all drugged up and slowly improving. And I’m following doctor’s orders: drinking plenty of…
and maybe, I guess, eating lots of…