You don’t look so good – a healthy reminder

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The hacking, wheezing and overall not sleeping finally got to me. I took myself to the doctor thinking I would be in and out of the office in no time flat. I wasn’t. Though I had gone to a clinic with a word meaning speed in its name, it would seem that I wasn’t the only one seeking medical treatment that particular afternoon. The waiting room was packed.

After two hours sitting in a stiff pleather chair surrounded by the sounds of other sniffles, groans, and easy rock ballads, the battery icon on my phone turned red. Well, shoot. Faced with no other easy distraction, I looked around the room. I found myself beginning to question exactly how sick I really was feeling. What’s a little cough? I mean I had made it through an entire week already. I could make it another night. What’s the worst that could happen?

My rationalization grew louder, certain as I was that the doctor was going to tell me that I’d caught a simple virus. I knew he or she would just have to rest and run its course, things I was well equipped to do from the comfort of my home. So why continue to wait around in a room staring at my thumbs or other sick people when I could be back with my family?

I walked to the front desk. “I think I am going to leave,” I told the nurse. She blinked. Clearly, this was not a statement she was used to hearing.

She looked out into the waiting room. “But you’re next.”

I sighed. I’d been there two hours already but had only seen three patients go back. My place in the queue meant little. I followed her gaze. Two more patients had arrived after I had. A girl, barely older than my son, lay draped across her father’s shoulders. An older couple – a woman who could barely sit up, and her partner, a small man who’d caught my eye when they’d entered the room and had attempted to make small talk with me as if I was a life raft while clutching her hand.

“But there are other patients here that need the spot more than I do,” I said, and I meant it. I’d be fine.

I’m not sure the nursing staff was convinced. “We are equipped to deal with everyone. All we need is for a room to become available.”

“Right, which is why I would like one of them to go in my place.”

“But you’ve already paid.”

This was true, and my copay for a visit like this wasn’t cheap. “Can’t you just cancel the transaction or refund the money?”

“No. Once you’ve paid, you would have to wait for a check to be mailed at the end of the month.”

Well, that was a wrinkle I hadn’t quite considered. As I mulled over my response, another nurse appeared, taking the decision from me. “If you’ll come back with me now.”

I followed her through the hall and into a back room where we discussed my symptoms, each of which sounded more and more petty to my ears. So, I have had a cough and can’t sleep. I’ve had a fever and the chills, but the fever goes away and sure, I have shortness of breath and a rattle in my lungs you can hear from space, but I’m fine or will be soon. I’ve waited this long, I can wait a little longer. Really, why don’t you go and help the others?

The doctor looked at me as if she couldn’t quite determine if I’d insulted her professionalism or simply grown two heads. “You don’t need to worry about them. We’ll take care of them too.”

But I did worry. It is the downside of knowing you’ve been pretty lucky in life. You can always imagine those who have had it worse. In my mind, I saw the little girl calling for a mother who hadn’t yet arrived and her father pacing around the room at a loss as to what to do. I saw the little old man struggling to stay strong for his partner waiting to be told that their lives wouldn’t be the same. These stories played out in my head, each more tragic than the one before. I knew my story couldn’t compare – that the doctor would write me off as a waste of her time before she closed the door. Or at least that’s what I convinced myself would happen.

“Now take a deep breath,” the doctor said, pulling me out of my imagination.

Two minutes later, I learned I wasn’t fine. I had pneumonia (aka fun stuff).

While I still feel guilty thinking of those other faces in the room, it doesn’t change the fact that I was sick and deserved to be cared for too. If I had given into my doubts and gone home, those other patients might have been seen fifteen minutes earlier, but I would have been at greater risk of secondary infection, hospitalization, or even worse. The guilt I felt at delaying the other patients’ never-at-risk treatment by fifteen minutes would have paled compared against potential outcomes I now realized I had avoided by allowing myself to come first.

It turns out I needed more than just a day off. I also needed an antibiotic, a steroid, and an inhaler, but most of all, it seems I needed a reminder that while yes, I am often lucky, that doesn’t mean bad things can still happen. It was also a healthy reminder that every now and then I need to put myself first and not feel guilty about it. Because while generosity of spirit is always admirable, strength of body can be a good thing too.

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48 thoughts on “You don’t look so good – a healthy reminder

  1. Such a smart reminder to look after yourself. I get why you wanted to leave, but sometimes doing what you’re supposed to do is what you have to do. Like waiting forever to see a doc. Hope you’re feeling better now. Take your meds. Drink more fluids. Rest.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am not a patient person even when healthy so to have to be a patient, patient – well, it was almost more than I could bear. I’m significantly better now than where I was, but still have a little ways to go.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow. Good thing you went in. That’s scary. Maybe it turns out that those other people only need rest and reassurance that their minor illnesses will go away soon. Glad you got yourself taken care of. Pneumonia sounds nasty. :/

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A great post, Allie. The perfect balance is elusive – found for only moments before it shifts. We need to fill our own wells in order to draw from them for others. I’m glad you are on your way toward good health. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Glad you are continuing to get better! I have been there too thinking I am not really sick enough to seek medical attention. I also have bad habit of self diagnosis which is almost always wrong. Glad you hung in there!

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    • You are right! I totally forgot to consider how my extra days at home must have made my Netflix account suffer. How cruel and uncaring of me. Poor little-overworked streaming video players…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow – this is intense stuff. Yes, we (women mostly) are so attuned to others, that sometimes we forget to take care of ourselves. I was right there with you in the waiting room as I read your post, rather annoyed that you (and others) had to wait so long. Ugh. But I’m so glad you stayed. Hope you’re feeling better now!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am a repeat offender when it comes to telling myself I can do it all, even when I know I am not entirely healthy. I’ve worked myself to the point of exhaustion more than once simply because “mom’s don’t get sick days” and then I feel so guilt-ridden and overwhelmed because I “let” my family down by becoming the one who needs to be cared for rather than the other way around.

      I’m glad I stayed too, though clearly there was something going on behind the scenes during the check-in process which that particular clinic needs to deal with, sooner rather than later.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I do believe I recently posted something about this though not really but guilt and taking care of yourself and whatnot. In fairness to you, two hours is a long time. I’ve done the same thing (except I did leave) but glad you stayed. Hope you’re feeling better and, at the risk of being the pot calling the kettle black, take care of yourself, my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hope you are on the mend. Interesting how our thoughts work isn’t it – we imagine all sorts of things and then reality steps up and gives us a gentle shake.
    Be gentle with yourself, you deserve it.

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  8. Pneumonia – yikes! Glad you were convinced to stay. That’s something you don’t want to mess with. Like you, I’ve been mostly lucky in life too, but there have been a couple of health setbacks that have convinced me I’m just as mortal as everybody else, sadly.

    Hope you’re feeling better soon!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah only a “minor” brush with mortality in your case. It’s has been very chaffing this week not being able to go out and enjoy the weather as much as I’d like, but I really don’t care to relapse, so Mother Nature better just send me another weekend like this last one.

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  9. Yikes! When you listed your symptoms I thought ‘pneumonia’ – I’ve had it a couple of times myself and it is not good. I hope you’re feeling better now, but it is one of those things that will take time to go away fully, so don’t rush things and take care of yourself. Hope April blows a brighter wind your way xx

    Liked by 1 person

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