Here’s a pro tip, one of many from my encounters with the health care system this year: When you have an appointment with a specialist, take a cooler.
Not to offer the doctor a beer. Not to carry a spare heart for transplant. Though you might find both of those useful, too.
No, bring a cooler because you will need to have a meal with you. That’s how long you will wait to see the specialist.
You wouldn’t have to wait as long if you took the 8:30 a.m. appointment, but who does that? We’d have to get up at 5 to give us both enough time to get showered and dressed, have coffee and breakfast, and drive there in the early traffic.
And if you took a slot between 9 and 10 a.m. you’d have to leave an extra hour early because of rush hour traffic, plus the stress means your blood pressure reading would be abnormally high.
So you can do 10:30, 11, 11:30, 12, or 12:30. Any later and you will be stuck in rush hour coming back, because the appointment itself can take three hours.
These time slots mean you will be stuck in the doctor’s office over lunch.
If either of you is diabetic or health-conscious, you have to bring your own food. Because you can’t eat at McDonald’s – otherwise, why spend time and money going to a specialist, just shoot yourself before you have a heart attack.
We went to see Tom’s physiatrist today, the doctor who specializes in rehab and understands how the brain deals with relearning body movement.
So I carried a cooler with our lunch – shrimp cocktail and a superfood salad – into the Emory Clinic Neurology Department.
Our appointment was at noon and we were told to arrive at 11:45. We made good time on the freeway and arrived at the clinic early, but by the time we waited for the obligatory valet to take the car, got Tom into a wheelchair, got the information on where to go, and found the actual office, it was about 11:50.
I did the paperwork and we sat down to wait.
At 12:30 I broke out the shrimp cocktail. We ate all of it.
When it was getting close to 1 pm, Tom was concerned that we wouldn’t be done in time to make it to his 2:30 physical therapy. This is another reason why I brought lunch. I felt we would make it, but only just.
I decided to return a phone call to the house insurance company, figuring that for sure we’d then be called by the nurse. Yep. Dialed the number, was just being connected to our agent when the nurse called us in.
We made our way back. With the cooler on the arm of the wheelchair, we couldn’t fit through the door. The nurse pushed Tom through and directed me with cooler to the exam room.
We did the nurse-questions thing, and then we waited some more. I contemplated breaking out the salad.
I had just raised the lid on the cooler when the doctor came in.
Here’s the thing about specialists – you wait forever to see them, but then you get an actual doctor visit. Specialists are intensely interested in your particular condition, the way an entomologist will sit and study a bug for 18 hours.
So when they see you, they really SEE you. The physiatrist made Tom walk and move his hands, and then he launched into a long explanation about how Tom is way ahead of the game because he has been able to isolate individual muscles from very early on after his stroke.
We got to ask him every question on our list and he thoroughly answered all of them.
He had a question for us, though. “Where are you from?” he asked, pointing to the cooler with a look of amazement. “Did you come a long way?” He clearly expected us to say we’d driven in from North Carolina or Florida.
“Just Perimeter,” I said with a grin. “But we knew we’d be here over lunch.”
When we finished, it was about 1:30. Just enough time to sit in the lobby and eat our salad.
Then we had to trundle back to the valet parking, pay, and get ourselves into the car. We were a good five minutes late to physical therapy.
But Tom was fueled for it. I fed him and I got him there almost on time.
We are the cooler people. We stay cool.
Today’s penny is a 2014. That’s the year we bought the five-day coolers.