THE CLINIC — This is one of those places where everything is quiet, orderly, efficient. No, it’s not a Republican precinct meeting. It’s a UT health facility: The University of Texas Warts and Confederate Statue Removal Center. I am here because, as a taxpayer, maybe this state institution will treat me right, as a long as I don’t want an abortion. Then the Legislature would have me go someplace else – like Mexico. There is this little bump on my face, and, no, it’s not my nose. Just want a dermatologist to take it off. No big deal. Well, my mistake. This is absolutely true: When I called up to make an appointment, I had to show proof that I would pay: insurance company, policy number, everything but my federal tax returns.
When I cleared that hurdle, a few days later I was e-mailed an 18-page (honest) form to fill out. The usual name, address and so on. Then my medical history. (“Who was the obstetrician who delivered you?”), family medical history. (“Any member of your family ever been scalped? Treated for the Black Plague? Refused to pay a medical bill?”) Questions about diseases I had never heard of, medicines 15-letters long that meant nothing to me, and on. By the time I was through, I felt really sick. The day came for my appointment, which I figured would take 10 minutes. The clinic is in a 12-story building with five parking places. I guess the doctors want to see if the patient is healthy enough to park two blocks away in a 10-story parking garage and walk here.
I come to this really fancy clinic, with a nice lobby, free coffee, beautiful furniture, lots of clerks and nurses in booths and offices, and one patient: me. “Looks like a slow day,” I say to one of the receptionists. “The usual. We don’t get much business here,” she says. Note to Gov. Gregg Abbott: “I have found a way for the state to save money, besides cutting funds for education, roads, women’s health, the environment, millions of dollars for legal fees to oppose redistricting and voter ID laws, and prison conditions which judges liken to the Black Hole of India.” The good news is that, being the only patient, I don’t have to wait while reading one of those dog-eared magazines left in doctors’ offices. Terrible about the Hindenburg.
A staff member escorts me into an office where a person at a computer asks: “Name? Address? Age?” I explain that I have already given all that information over the phone and again on The Form From Hell. Smile, we need a photo. Yes, photo. I might be an imposter sneaking in for a facelift or a tummy tuck. They take my blood pressure (can you fail a blood test?), measure my height, weight (their scales are off by 10 pounds) and I fully expect them to swab my throat for a DNA test. Then I am fitted with a wrist band. OK, if I were getting an appendectomy or a new left kidney, maybe I would need a wrist band asking whoever found me, wandering the hospital halls, to please return me to the ICU. But this is getting ridiculous.
Somewhere along the line I am handed a beautiful folder, full color, “Welcome,” it reads on the cover. No doubt this will tell me about medical science breakthroughs in skin cancer, how UT is the cutting edge, so to speak, in dermatology and how to find a parking space. No. Inside is a pamphlet, “Patient Advocacy,” and another: “Medical Identify Theft Prevention.” Is this a medical clinic or a law office? A staff member takes me to a room and hands me clothing. “Take off your clothes and put this on. It’s open in the back.” Do you ever feel you’ve lost control of the situation? I recall the old saying about asking someone for the time of day and he tells you how to build a watch.
I come here to have a doctor, or maybe even a medic, a semi-sober intern, an EMS driver, snip this bump off my face, or drill it, burn it. I’ve been to dermatologists before and know what they do. My father was a pediatrician, and told me he should have been a dermatologist. “Their patients never die and never get well.” That’s probably an old medical school joke, but I was only a pre-med and was tossed out of biology lab when my fetal pig survived. I look around the room for a small pair of scissors and a bottle of alcohol. One snip and I am outta here. No luck, so I continue to wait, wearing a wrist bracelet and not much else.
This is not a complaint, because I begin thinking about all the people who don’t have a doctor, can’t afford to go to a clinic like this. Who get sick and die early. We constantly hear in the debate over Obamacare and Trumpcare: “We have the best medical care in the world.” Don’t put a period there, put a comma and finish the sentence: “if you can afford it.” For example, Houston has the largest and best medical center on earth: the Texas Medical Center. People come from everywhere to die in Houston. But, like cars and cancer, it depends on what you can afford. The doctor arrives and he’s a she. Great. She proceeds to examine me from head to foot, which actually is kind of fun. “Spread your toes,” she says. Have you ever tried to spread your toes? It’s like trying to arch your pancreas. She leaves, returns with a bottle of dry ice or something similar, sprays the bump and says, “That’s it.” Huh? She could have met me at the elevator and done that. It is now a few days later and I receive an e-mail from the clinic. It’s a follow-up survey: 35 questions. Note to Gov. Abbott….
Ashby is recovering at firstname.lastname@example.org