Simple medical appointment, complex reaction
I have diabetic issues, which is a fancy way of saying that my bloodwork bounces around between not-diabetic, pre-diabetic, and diabetic. I have trouble saying I’m diabetic at times because I feel like a bit of an imposter saying it. Like I’m over-claiming my issues. But what it means is that I should be doing regular bloodwork to check my A1C numbers.
When COVID hit, I was a bit behind on my bloodwork and was due for a new “update”, partly as the resident doctor I was normally dealing with at the family centre was no longer available, and I’d be getting someone new. We postponed until her arrival, but by the time I was set to do an appointment, COVID had hit, and my bloodwork got pushed. I did basic stuff over the calendar year, but nothing for my bloodwork. TBH, I didn’t really want to … the idea of going to a lab when I didn’t “have” to seemed almost scary risky.
Then I had all my leg issues in January, we agreed we should do some new labwork, but they wanted me to be off all my antibiotics and other related stuff so it would be clean, and my mental load was already high enough at the time. So I was going to go in March, just in time to have complications with my leg wound and another round of antibiotics. Fast-forward to April, and the doctor wanted me to do a totally different set of labs anyway, as she wanted to screen for mental health stuff too.
Enter the scheduling problem
I went online to book an appointment at a lab near me, and the first available date was almost 4w away. This was just after the most recent lockdown happened. I searched around, found another lab in the same group which has really good online results that I like, and I booked for about 2w later. All good. Way over in Gloucester somewhere, but whatever, it was the earliest available anywhere in the group of labs.
Fast-forward again to the day of the labwork and I woke up feeling a bit off, almost feverish. It didn’t seem like a great risk, and I was still having a bit of anxiety about going. Sure, I don’t like bloodwork normally, but this was more just about going for a health appointment to a general lab. I assumed, 14m into the pandemic and everything being appointment booking, that it would be relatively painless to go, but still.
I cancelled and rebooked, and my new appointment was this past week on Thursday. I prefer to do these types of appointment first thing in the morning if I can, but the available times were at 1:00 p.m. so would go over lunch. Great.
I needed to head out about 12:30, and about 12:15, I grabbed the requisition that I had printed weeks ago, and my phone which had the address. I had never been to the lab before, so I wanted to look it up on my phone app to see the best route. Checked the address. Huh.
I mentioned above that the lab was in Gloucester, which is about 20m away. Well, the FIRST lab was there. Apparently when I rebooked, I had decided that going all the way to Gloucester was overkill, and I would have to wait longer in the booking system but I rebooked in my neighbourhood. I had absolutely no memory that I had done that.
Don’t get me wrong, once I saw where it was, I remembered thinking that I might as well go to the one close to me, but if you had asked me that morning on pain of death, I would have said I was booked in Gloucester. No doubt in my mind AT ALL. In fact, if I had known already where the lab was, I would have hopped in the car and driven straight there without checking anything. It was just that it was my first time going to that location, so I had to look at my phone to see what address I had saved in my calendar. If I had printed out the instructions the first time, I would have just grabbed them and drove. All that way for nothing. Huh.
Okay, moving on, I had a bit more time to kill, went over and entered the building. I was expecting some sort of “new procedure” to get registered but I wasn’t expecting chaos. There was a woman standing in the doorway, with her back foot kind of holding the door open while she took people’s forms and health cards. There was a pseudo line up of about 5 people waiting to hand her stuff, and another 10 people or so around the large hallway just hanging out, obviously waiting. I had thought, and I even thought I had read this on their site, that they weren’t doing “walk-ins”, only appointments. Nope, they were fully open for business. The only real difference from before to now was that they weren’t letting people wait in the same waiting room inside. They had to be “outside” the lab. Umm, okay.
I wasn’t really thrilled, I had expected extremely limited contact with people, and here was a 15-person queue with no indication where to sit/stand/wait, etc. Some were standing too close for my comfort, and I moved farther away. But that’s a lot of people hanging out in a hallway for extended periods of time.
Now, yes, I had an appointment, and after the woman went back in to register all these people and hand over the forms and health cards, I was the first person she called when she came back out. My appointment was at 1:10, I got there about 1:05, through the line about 1:11, and they called me into the waiting room (where about 3 other people were, all the other chairs removed) around 1:18, and then called me back to the cubicle about 1:25 or so.
One of the tests the doctor asked for is not covered by OHIP apparently, so I had to pay $13.00 for something, which is a bit unusual I guess, but whatever. When I got to the cubicle, there was nobody there, just me, and one person basically doing all the blood work. She was going from cubicle 1 to 2, 2 to 3, 3 to 4, 4 back to 1. When I got there, she was doing blood with someone in cubicle 3, so I had to wait for her to do 4, 1 and 2 before she got to me. Not long, maybe another 15m or so, but the whole time I was thinking, “What the heck am I doing in a small enclosed space for 15 extra minutes when I don’t need to be here?”.
My anxiety level went up the whole time I was waiting. The initial COVID screening amounted to the equivalent of “Do you feel sick or have you travelled?” and that was about it, so it’s not like I was feeling “safe” or that someone else might not have been sick and in the same airspace before me.
Literally, my skin was crawling. I wanted to just leave. I need the bloodwork, and my brain was likely over-reacting, but I kept thinking, “And this is what it is like when I made an APPOINTMENT?”. I noted when I was leaving that the waiting list (a digital one nobody in the queue can see because it’s in the old waiting room, not the hall) showed intake waiting period of 72 minutes, which was definitely NOT shared with anyone registering anew. If I had waited 72 minutes + another 20-25 to get through the bloodwork, I would have been unhinged.
Plus, there was something odd with my regular bloodletting. Because of my size and fatty arms, they can’t do blood in the crook of my arm, it’s just easier to do it on the back of my hand. Lots of people can’t do that, it hurts, but it’s minor compared to multiple stabbings in the arm. So we do the right hand, she needs 5 vials, and normally after the initial needle is inserted, it doesn’t hurt. This time, it hurt the entire time the needle was in. At the end of vial 3, my vein said “Okay, I’m done”, and closed up. It clotted fast. It’s never done that before.
She switched to my left hand, started in, got another vial, and that vein closed up too. She was puzzled, I could tell.
And it makes me wonder if it could somehow be related to the AZ vaccine…there are risks of people having blood clotting problems. Is it possible that even without bigger issues it causes faster clotting generally? I have felt more sluggish since I got the vaccine too, 3w ago. Who knows? I’ll mention it to the doctor when we review my bloodwork results. I have my results, my A1C is a bit higher than I would like, back a little in the actual diabetes range, but still lower than my highest and I’m surprised considering my eating and exercise habits of the last year.
When I was leaving, I thought about taking a picture of the waiting list and then letting people outside in the hall know their status, a “nice” shared group experience and instead I just bolted. I just wanted to go. We had all bonded briefly in the hallway when new people showed up and wondered “what do I do? where do I stand?” when the greeter wasn’t actually there. But nobody was looking to make friends, we were just helping out because there was no signage and nobody wanted others being stressed as we compensated for the poor setup.
Understanding my reaction
I’ve been thinking about my reaction since I left. I was in such a rush getting out, I paid for my parking and then tried to throw the stub to get out of the lot into the garbage can and just take the receipt. I wasn’t in a fog so much as I just felt “icky”. Like I needed to go home and take a shower.
But as I reviewed the experience, it wasn’t simply the chaos. Or the waiting. Or the blood-letting. Or the time.
I think what bothered me most was that after 14m of a pandemic, THIS is what they have in place? Really?
I was expecting streamlined, organized, something resembling intelligent delivery design.
Instead, I had a greeter holding the door open with her foot while she took forms from whoever happened to step up next. Every other medical thing I have done in the last 14m was handled better for COVID. This was a shit-show.