The Trouble With Elbows.

I have a doctor. I really love him. He listens to me, he remembers me and all my particular anomalies visit to visit, he diagnoses me properly and treats me accordingly, and he’s off on Thursdays and the weekends.

I always get sick or injured on Thursdays or the weekends.

Chris does not have a doctor. He’s that obnoxious healthy type that has cost our family unit approximately .05% of my medical costs over the life of our marriage, and on those rare moons that he does need a doctor, he just goes to our local Urgent Care clinic (not an ER, just an after-hours walk-in clinic.) And he’s a fan.

“Why don’t you just go there? They always get me in and out – with a shot and prescription and I’m all better! It’s so quick! They’re so helpful!”

And I always buy it.

But every single time, the dimension in which my husband exists and my dimension take a sharp wishbone-shaped deviance from one another as soon as I walk into the doors of what I refer to as MedHell.

After my girl’s trip which included my unfortunate trail running – or rather trail falling – incident, I went there to get x-rays and make sure nothing was broken.

After waiting an hour and a half, and everyone else being taken care of, I walked back up to the desk, my footsteps echoing in the empty tomb.

“Um, did I miss my name being called?”

YOU ARE STILL IN THE LOBBY?? Huh. Let me see what happened. Oh…it looks like you got skipped between me putting your sticker on this page and your chart getting pulled. I’ll get them to get you back soon.”

Thirty more minutes…and I finally made it in a room.

I was relieved, though, when the doctor came back from studying my x-rays and said that my elbow was fine (probably just sprained,) but my finger was broken.

Also confused. Because my elbow didn’t feel fine. In fact, it felt much less fine than my finger. I still couldn’t bend it, it was swollen in all sorts of ways including one perplexing poky-outy spot, and the bruising over the next few days gave me the distinct impression that my arm had been replaced with a pair of questionable emojis.
Arm eggplant

But I decided to give it some time and let it heal. Maybe this is what a sprain feels and looks like.

After three weeks, I still couldn’t straighten my arm all the way, and certain movements were sharp and painful. It was waking me up once or twice a night when I’d shift positions. So I decided it wouldn’t hurt to see an orthopedic doctor.

I called to make an appointment, and the receptionist stressed that I needed to bring my x-rays with me when I came.

My appointment was at 3pm on Thursday. I remembered that I needed my x-rays at 9am. This shouldn’t be hard. MedHell is a well-oiled machine, or so my husband says. I should be able to get them easily enough.

This is how that went down.

9:00am: I called MedHell. “Hi. I need to get a copy of my x-rays. Can you prepare them and I’ll come pick them up?”

“No, you need to come in and fill out paperwork requesting them. Then we can prepare them.”

Okay. My plan was to run first, but I calculated my day and I had plenty of time to procure my pictures afterward.

10:15am: Showed up to MedHell. “Hi. I need to get a copy of my x-rays. Can I have the paperwork to fill out?”

“Oh there’s no paperwork. I’ll ask the x-ray department to prepare them. Just have a seat in the waiting room.”

This seemed both promising and scary. She made it sound easy to get these magical documents, but I am also well aware that their waiting room is my own personal Bermuda Triangle.

I wasn’t wrong.

11:00am: I had exhausted my Twitter feed and my butt was getting sore. I knew everything I ever didn’t want to know about Brexit, thanks to the blaring news channel on the wall. I walked back up to the front desk.

“Hi. I’m the one here just to pick up my x-rays. Can I just come back and pick them up later? I’ve been waiting 45 minutes.”

“They haven’t brought your x-rays out yet? Huh. Sure – you can do that.”

Before I left, I dropped by the waiting room bathroom.

MISTAKE.

Never go to the Urgent Care bathroom unless it’s URGENT.

It smelled overwhelmingly of dog vomit that had been festering in a veterinarian’s dumpster. I accidentally made eye contact with the trash can and saw the paper towels used to clean up the tragedy.

Walked out of the bathroom while bathing myself in Purell.

11:05am: As I was walking out of the office, the receptionist called me.

“Ma’am! They’re printing your x-rays now if you’d like to wait a few more minutes.”

“Okay..”

I sat back down in The Triangle.

11:40am: I walked back up to the front desk. She sees me and says “They haven’t brought them out to you yet??”

“No.”

“Let me go check.”

She comes back five minutes later.

“What had happened was they can’t get the machine to work. If you’d like, you can drive to our Lakeshore office and see if their machine works.”

No. This “Machine” had definitely taken a year off my life. And I’d put money on the guy running it possessing six fingers on his right hand.

“Can you email them?”

“No.”

“Can you fax them?”

“No.”

“Can you sketch them real quick on the back of an envelope?”

“No.”

“Can you call the Lakeshore office and get them to prepare it so they’re ready when I arrive?”

“Let me see…they’re not answering. Hold on.”

She left and came back five minutes later.

“They printing it right now at Lakeshore.”

It was 11:45. I had a meeting at 12:30 on the other side of town. If I drove to Lakeshore, picked it up, and immediately sprinted out the door, I could make it.

I don’t know why I believed this plan could work, but I did. I am a closet optimist underneath all my cynicism. And I needed closure – I needed victory – I needed to be done with MedHell.

12:00pm: Made it to Lakeshore. Ran in, breathless.

“He’s working on it. Have a seat in our waiting room.”

<whimper>

While I waited, I Google mapped my meeting destination. Only 12 minutes away. I had to leave by 12:18pm.

12:15pm: Walked back up the desk. “Is he still working on it? I have somewhere I have to be…”

She did not check with their Count Rugen before answering me. She just snapped. “He’s WORKING on it!”

“Okay. I will come back later.”

I left for my meeting, knowing that I’d have to do quite the sprint between the meeting and my 3pm appointment to have time to pick up my x-rays. But surely. SURELY. If I gave Lakeshore two hours to “work on it”, SURELY they could get me four measly pictures of the inside of my arm.

2:13pm: Left my meeting, called The Chamber of Death. “Just making sure my x-rays are ready!”

“Hold on a minute – I know there were problems.”

Hold…hold…hold…

“Yeah, he’s having problems with the machine and said to call back in 10 minutes.”

Who knew X-Ray printing machines were the McDonald’s Milkshake machines of the medical industry?!

“Okay well I’m on my way there and will be there in about 10 minutes and have to have these x-rays for a 3pm appointment. I’ll just hope for the best.”

Really Rachel!? More like nope for the best.

2:30pm: Arrive at Lakeshore.

“Are my x-rays ready?”

“Hold on.”

(Comes back after five minutes.)

“Yeah so…our machine is also broken. A repairman came and he just left to get a part if you want to wait.”

“I have a 3pm appointment elsewhere. Can you not email these to my doctor?”

“My name is no.”

“Fax??”

“My sign is no.”

“Cell phone pic?”

“My number is no.”

2:40pm: I had to let it go.

3:00pm: Arrive at Ortho doc, explain apologetically to the receptionist that after trying diligently from 9am-2:30pm, I failed at procuring my x-rays.

They took my back to x-ray and created a new set in 30 seconds.

I beat my head against the iron skirt and cursed myself for so bludgeoning my day with MedHell.

I saw the doctor, and he said he didn’t see a break. He prodded and twisted my arm and asked which movements made me want to punch him with my good arm, and then said, “I actually think your elbow does have a fracture in the radial head. Let’s get you back to x-ray for one more look.”

4:00pm: Another x-ray.

4:15pm: Doctor triumphantly marched in with a picture.

“We FOUND the fracture!!!”

Hooray.

“See? Here it is right here.”

 Broken Elbow

“This actually should have been hurting you. A LOT. You should have been in a brace for the first three weeks. Let’s see…how long has it been? Three weeks! Well the good news is you’re through the worst of it!”

He sent me home with the biggest load of swag I’ve ever gotten from a doctor’s office (including a copy of my x-ray without me even asking) and a prescription to go see my Physical Therapist for another six weeks.

 IMG_1935-2

And the not-at-all surprising conclusion of this whole story is….

Shocker!

MedHell’s original diagnosis of my just-sprained-elbow was totally wrong.

But since I’m a closet optimist, let’s look at the bright side! I got through the first three weeks of having a broken elbow without having to know about it.

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Comments

  1. Getting your own xrays is a pain. Literally in your case. We only go to urgent care for things like bugs in kids ear or a sore throat for me. I’ve only seen my real doctor once.
    I’m glad though that you finally found out it was really broken and are over the worst.

  2. Kellie Slappey Nothstine says:

    Soooo word to the wise go to PT. I had a fracture in my radial head a few years ago… and never went to PT and now I think I might need to have the arm amputated.

  3. A couple years ago, a friend of my husband’s went to MedHell too. He was sick with a fever and arrived in the late afternoon. They got him to an exam room where he waited and waited. Because he felt so bad, he decided to lie down on the exam table and turn off the lights while he waited. He awoke hours later alone in the closed and locked building. Had to call 911 to get help leaving.

  4. Ugh. As one who has been forgotten in the examination room at a doc-in-the-box, I feel your pain. Not the broken elbow pain, but the other part. I also got the flu there when going in to see if my hand was broken once. It wasn’t. Reading this made me feel stressed out for you. At LEAST you didn’t have your kids in tow.

  5. I once waited for two hours with my daughter to get a prescription for an ear infection I knew she had. While waiting, arm numb from holding my feverish, sleeping child, a woman came in and began registering. Then threw up all over the registration desk. She went immediately back to a room. Moral of the story – to be seen faster, stick your finger down your throat. You’ll get seen right away!

  6. UGH! I too have been burned by MedHell / Urgent Care! We have a summer house in the WOODS. My son got a tick and due to a variety of “stupid, what were we thinking” factors, we went to an Urgent Care ALSO in the woods. They didn’t know how to get out a tick except by trying to yank it out with blunt tweezers. They said they didn’t have the “right tweezers”, ended up causing the tick to bury himself IN my 3 year old, and after THREE hours, finally got released with a tick STILL INSIDE my son and a pack of antibiotics. Seriously? I can mess up stuff like that myself, and don’t need you to charge me for it. gah!

  7. Wow this sounds awful! I hate waiting rooms! This is one benefit of small town…get injured, go to the ER, be seen in about two minutes. It’s great.

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