Monthly Archives: April 2019

The time elevators had better health care than U.S. citizens

One recent morning, I arrived at the bottom of the 16-floor medical building I work in to find all four elevators were out of service. Right as my finger was about to press the “up” button, a woman’s voice, dripping with frustration and fatigue, told me the elevators were broken. Right on cue, a nearby man told me that the doors from the stairs require a key card. His heavy breathing told me this fact came right from the source. So I sat on the floor, resigned to the fact that I would be late to work. Building maintenance showed up shortly after to announce the elevators weren’t working (no shit, Sherlock), and the elevator company was on-site working as fast as they could but they didn’t know when the elevators would be restored. With an attitude of accomplishment like they had just solved world hunger, maintenance announced that a staff member would hold each door open so we may all get to our appointments. A young woman with a 3-6 month old baby asleep against her chest looked astonished that maintenance acted as if her 16 floor stair climb were a gift they gave to her. Clucks of disapproval and frustration echoed through the small crowd that had now amassed at the elevators. This irritation escalated when an elderly woman with a cane was told to climb the stairs to her appointment. “Why am I not surprised,” a disgruntled voice mumbled next to me, “It is the American health system.” My smirk of approval broke the Seattle freeze ice and we began to chat.

As it turned out, Eric* recently had a medical emergency in France requiring x-ray’s, blood tests, and an exam at an ER. Even though he wasn’t a French citizen, he was treated better than most appointments he had in the U.S. When it came time for his bill, he braced himself for the damage. The doctor, full of guilt, said she would unfortunately have to bill him $29 USD. After quite a bit of stammering and checking that he heard correctly, a relieved Eric paid his bill and left feeling bewildered.

Toward the end of Eric’s story, elevator car 3 (most creative name ever!), which had been stuck open this whole time, finally closed. I guess it collected enough flies. I’m choosing to believe the subsequent dings it uttered were saying “yum yum.” Then car 3 opened its doors and lit up its lights, signalling it was ready to resume its normal job. Perhaps this snafu had just been a lunch break? The first wave of people, myself included, were packed into the elevator like sardines. Just as my claustrophobia and elevator fear started kicking in, the doors closed. Car 3 then let out a screech like it was attempting to give birth to a baby, stopped, and after what seemed like a year, opened its doors. I shot out of the elevator, as plummeting to my death was not on the agenda.

Once I was safe on the floor of the lobby once again, I decided I should share my experience with medical care abroad with Eric. While scuba diving in Australia, I surfaced in a swarm of jellyfish and was stung at least 6 times in 30 seconds. That was the day I learned I was allergic to that kind of jellyfish venom. The total cost of my emergency treatment was $75. Eric and I agreed that universal healthcare treated people like they matter. Meanwhile, here in the U.S., the elevators were getting faster, more thorough care than humans do.

After half an hour of waiting, I decided to climb the stairs to the 8th floor, despite my hip injury and asthma. I had to stop in the middle and take my inhaler. By the time I reached the 8th floor, my hip had seized up and I was limping. But I made it! I did something hard and didn’t quit. I was there to open the office and hold down the fort until everyone else made it up. I was a hero…..until my coworker stepped off the working elevator about 10 minutes after I got to the 8th floor. In retrospect, I probably wasn’t quite hero material anyway.

 

*Name has been changed.

The time I sounded like Darth Vader

I’ve always wondered why Darth Vader sounds like he has emphysema. I realize he was burned in a fire and everything, but with the technology that was available in the world of Star Wars, I don’t understand why he sounds like a scuba diver who can’t conserve their air. After yesterday, when I went to a consult and training to use my new CPAP, I’m convinced Darth Vader must have just had sleep apnea.

My CPAP instructor, Garth*, had some surprising insight. During his college years, he worked part time at a movie theater in Portland, Oregon. This theater just happened to be playing the longest continuous run of Star Wars in North America, so he knew the movie better than the textbooks he studied while monitoring the projector. After all other US theaters had retired their Star Wars run, people began to travel from all over the country just to visit this theater. One evening, Garth noticed a middle-aged, short, slightly pudgy man trying to remain incognito in the back of the theater. Garth approached him and whispered, “You’re George Lucas, aren’t you?” “Yes,” he said, “but don’t tell anyone.” So Garth then balanced his fan boy dreams with keeping his squeaky, star-struck voice to a whisper. As it turns out, Darth Vader’s helmet acted as a respirator for his severely burned lungs. In the 1970s, the idea of a quiet respirator wasn’t really a priority. A device that could prolong life was already fascinating enough. Despite the advanced technology in Star Wars, the audience still needed to understand the severity of Darth Vader’s condition, and a noisy respirator was the best way to convey this message. Who knew that my visit to a sleep medicine clinic would yield such fascinating insight? This is what happens when the Seattle Freeze melts.

May the 4th be with you all…once the day arrives.

*name has been changed

The time pens were phallic

I have a tumultuous relationship with sleep, almost as if my body is holding a grudge. Perhaps long ago, sleep deeply offended my body and now I am involuntarily punishing it. Sleep must jump through hoops to finally find me. The sandman is stopped at the figurative gates around my fatigued fortress until every demand is met: 1) no lights, 2) no noise, 3) no wrinkled sheets, 4) no shoulder pain … 576) no hunger or thirst, 577) an absolutely empty bladder, 578) no crumbs in the bed… I think you get the idea. So when my doctor suggested visiting a sleep clinic, I decided it was worth a shot.

It’s important to note that I am not a morning person, so of course I took an early appointment before work. Apparently the noise I made when my alarm went off sounded a bit like a hippo giving birth. I was slightly more awake, though still sluggish, when my venti vanilla latte and I arrived at the sleep clinic. When I sat down in front of the woman who would be checking me in, I noticed a basket full of pens with fake flowers glued to them. Despite the fact that flower pens are about as plentiful as Starbucks stores in Seattle, the container was still labeled “pens.” Except that it wasn’t. Some cheeky asshole had added an ‘I’ in a very convenient place. Maybe it was my tired state, or maybe the sandman mixed something in with my sleeping dust, but I found this far too funny. Like burst out laughing and snort funny. Then, in a voice far louder than I intended, I blurted, “you know your pen cup says penis, right?” The poor check-in woman starred at me with wide-eyes and proceeded to turn several shades of red. With evident dread, she picked up the pen cup and peeked at the sign. She sat silently for a moment, and then in a squeaky mutter told me she would be right back. She stepped into the back and let out a bellowing laugh. I was pretty impressed that she held it together long enough to retreat into an employee area. I was called back shortly after and didn’t get a chance to say much else. On my way out after the appointment, she held up the cup with the new label she created. It said, “flower pen.” No ‘S’. Perhaps grammatically incorrect but far safer. I gave her a smirk and a thumbs up.

For the record, the sleep doc found a couple things she could treat, so hopefully I can soon lower the drawbridge and welcome sleep without so many barriers. I can just picture myself now, waiting to greet sleep with open arms. As he approaches, I get to say, “Enter Sandman!”