In which our Hero (me) went to refill my medication, met with extraordinary figures, met with magic and mystery, and descending through my greatest Phobias descended into the Underworld and emerged with newfound wisdom and my medication.
Part One: The Call
It was one of the worst feelings possible, a thing of stark horror and long-lingering fear. I had gone to the shelf where I keep my medicine, and discovered that I was out. Not, mind you, of everything. I still had a score of my preventative medications. But I was out of what I consider the most important medications: the emergency onset ones, the ones that you take when a migraine stands on your doorstep and knocks. Being out of those is an emergency all of its own, and I suppose that you could very well guess why. So, I logged onto my computer to purchase another box of Rizatriptan, my onset migraine medication of choice. It is by far the best that I have used, and I have used a lot of onset medications.
Being a young adult grappling for independence and yet still living in the shadow of your family does have its particular perks, such as inclusion on your family’s health insurance plan until the age of twenty-six. This greatly streamlines the process of the acquisition of vital medications. Until, of course, it doesn’t. Like this tale that I am about to tell you.I tried to order my Rizatriptan, but the website flagged it. It needed a doctor’s approval. I shot a text message to my dad, who is more versed in these sort of things, on the virtue of having negotiated with doctors from long before I was born. Hopefully, I would not have to go see a doctor.
My phone rang. It was my father, and I answered.
“It looks like you need to schedule a doctor’s appointment,” said he over the phone.
I grunted my agreement. There are three sorts of people I greatly dislike seeing in a professional setting: the first is a dentist, the second is a mathematics teacher, and the third is a doctor. But, as I needed my medicine lest anything bad happen, I called the insurance company’s hotline to schedule an appointment. The very next day, at two-thirty in the afternoon. “Arrive fifteen minutes early,” said the phone operator, “parking can be difficult.”
Part Two: Crossing the Threshold
Two-fifteen on the next day arrived, and I found myself in a full parking lot. Half of it was designated Staff Parking, and they were all the spots in the shade. “Typical” I said, and negotiated the ways and byways of the parking lot to find a place that I could park my car and enter the office. I had been to doctor’s offices before, and I knew the drill. A building full of a myriad of offices, all housing doctors of differing degrees. An ophthalmologist may share a wall with a pediatrician, and a dermatologist with a gynecologist, and there is bound to be a neurologist and an oncologist in there too. In short, a vast, labyrinthine complex forming a patchwork nation of doctors.
I needed to find myself a directory so that I may find my doctor in less than fifteen minutes. There was no directory. There was a receptionist.
“Hello,” I said to her, hoping to make it to the appointment that I knew I was likely now going to be late to. “Where is the office called “Medical Two?”
“It is on floor two,” she said in a quite droll voice that indicated she had answered this query to a thousand faces.
“Thank you,” I said.
Now I had to find the stairs. I walked up and down the hallway, and I could not find them. All I could find was an elevator. I looked at the time. I prefer stairs. Something about them is fun. Elevators, especially hospital elevators, have a sense of foreboding doom about them. My anxiety picks up inside them, especially the windowless ones, as there is always an off chance that those doors won’t open again. Think of it like the “You put faith in a chair every time you sit in it” parable every motivational speaker thinks constitutes the wisdom of Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, and Kierkegaard combined, but only in this case you are trusting a strange automated steel box you just met to let you out.
The two steel doors opened, and I, having no other choice, stepped over the threshold. The controls had two choices. One, or two. Since I was on floor one, I only truly had one choice.
“Easy to use the elevator in this hospital,” said a cheery voice that gave me a right good start.
“Yep,” said I to the smiling middle-aged woman and pressed “Two” for us both.
The doors opened, and I found myself looking down yet another hallway with five hundred doors. At least these were easily labelled, and I found my destination.
Part Three: The Maze of Trials
The interior of that office was, to say the least, a menagerie of people of all shapes and sizes and ages. There, once again, was the woman from the elevator. She’d found her way faster than me. With a smile, she pointed me to the front desk.
I guess I looked that lost.
I gratefully smiled back at the kind middle aged woman, and made my way to the desk.
“Insurance member number,” said the checker kindly. I proudly handed her my insurance card and ID. It was like my golden coin letting me into the Ferryman’s boat. “Is this a Southern California number?” she asked. My golden coin turned out to be but a bewitched leaf.
“I am from SoCal, but I have a NorCal visitor’s number,” I replied.
“I need that,” said she.
“Hold on,” said I.
I was ready for this. I’d saved my number for just this occasion. I fumbled through my phone’s notes, and read out the numerals. A few clicks later and I was checked in.
“First time visitors need their picture taken in case you need to come back” she added, and I smiled into her backwards-mounted webcam.
I sat down in the waiting room’s chairs, marveling that I was not late. So much had happened in fifteen minutes.
“Ens, Quaid?” called out the Practitioner.
I got up and followed her deeper into the office, which was a maze of corridors and alcoves, all filled with baroque medical equipment. “Stand there, I need to take your weight; sit there, I need to take your blood pressure” she said, and I dutifully obeyed, taking off my sandals and presenting my arm. “Take off your hat, please,” said the Practitioner, producing a strange wand. She quickly waved it about my forehead three times over, until the thing let out a thermometer’s beep. She might as well have said some word in the language of angels and fairies. Magic like that I had never seen before.
Then she led me further into the maze to the actual room where I was to meet with the Doctor. She left me there, and I sat alone in contemplation.
“I need medicines refilled,” I reminded myself.
NO CELLPHONES ALLOWED cried a flyer printed on yellow that was paper magic-taped to the door.
“I need to ask him about something else, I think,” I said to myself, taking out my phone to snapchat the cellphone flyer.
DISPOSE OF SHARPS AND BIOLOGICAL WASTE HERE screamed the label on a trash can. I quivered.
Anything involving sharp objects in a medical setting is a nightmarish affair, the work of vampires, ghouls, hobgoblins, and other members of the Unseelie Court. I felt a tinge of anxiety run through my heart, making my blood run cold and my skin to perspire, my stomach become nauseous and my ears to go numb. It is all on account of myself being accursed with of haemophobia and trypanophobia–fear of blood and fear of needles respectively. It should be added that these two fears greatly hinder any possible employment in the medical industry.
HERE BE MONSTERS writes the cartographer when labelling the spot just before the edge of the world.
To distract myself I quickly went back to my SnapChat. I’d forgotten to even take the photo. My thumb stretched towards the button when the door flew open.
Part Four: The King of Trials
In strode the Doctor. He was tall, wrapped in a flowing labcoat belying his wisdom in the medical arts. He carried himself with a sort of imperium, the authoritative manner of one who knows he is, at the moment, the most powerful personage in the room.
He sat down, and as this was our first meeting, began to ask his riddles with a smile that revealed a kind individual who was simply getting his work done by acting imperious. The best kind of doctor, in my opinion.
“Quaid A. Ens, answer me these questions three,” said he. I nodded, and waited.
“Why are you here to see me?”
“I am here to get medications refilled,” I said.
He nodded, and produced a small book that was a catalog of medications. The cover caught my eye, as it was an old woodcut of a pair of renaissance doctors and their dog. He thumbed through the book, scrying for the unusual European medications an eccentric Neurologist put me on years ago.
“How have you been feeling lately?”
“Feeling well is a relative term, I have chronic headaches, but I feel good when I don’t have them.”
The Doctor looked at me, and then looked at his screen, and back to his tome.
“Have you had Labwork done lately?”
My head began to spin.
“I just sent a refill order to the pharmacy. Your medications will be filled and delivered to your address. All I need is to go downstairs and get your labwork done.”
The Doctor’s printer whirred, and he handed me a warm summary of our visit, the ink still drying. And with that he was gone with a handshake and a swoosh of his labcoat.
I found my way out of the Doctor’s Maze alone, doing my very best to remember the way the Practitioner had led me in. Soon I was back in the long hallway, and I sank into a bench, trembling with fear. I sent a text message to my father, and waited for a reply.
Part Five: Temptation and Atonement
“How can I get out of this one?” I said to myself. “I could go home. He refilled my prescription. What bad can be in my blood anyways?”
The dread beast diabetes said my mind. Man-slaying cancer helpfully added my memory.
These two cast their gnarled shadows on the wall behind me, and joined in the tempest of fear that circled about my head. There was still no reply to my text message. Images of medical equipment, horrendous tubes ending in points and beeping machinery flooded my mind. “I cannot do this. I’d rather die” I said, and walked down the hallway. There before me, were the stairs. “Finally found them,” I said.
I was in my car, fumbling to get my non-working hands to place my key in the ignition when my phone rang. It was my father.
“Blood test, eh?” He said.
“Y-yes,” I stammered.
“Bummer. You going to do it?”
“I don’t want to.”
“If you wait, it will only get worse. This is the best time to do it, or you will be destroyed by knowing you have to take one.”
Cancer, diabetes, blood, and syringes swirled in my head. Nevertheless, I knew he was right.
“I’ll do it.” I declared, reaching for a book of poetry I had brought along in case anything like this happened.
“Slay the dragon,” he said. “I will pray for you.”
Part Six: Apostasis and Winning the Prize
The lab was dreadfully easy to find. It was on the first floor, just below the Doctor’s Maze, and mindful of each of my footfalls I entered that underworld. It was crowded with people, all waiting, and none of them smiling. With no Virgil to guide me through this limbo I found my way to a great red wheel that produced numbers on tags. I reached out and plucked one—number ninety-five. I smiled. Having that high of a number meant something. Maybe a longer wait? Was that good, or was that bad?
“Ninety-three!” called the lab’s Receptionist.
Turns out it wasn’t really that high of a number. I sat down, struggling not to abandon all hope.
I thumbed through my book to distract myself, and found “Sir Lionel”, and began to read as I waited. Sir Lionel was a Knight of the Round Table who fought a monstrous wild pig that had itself killed forty knights.
“Sir Lionel would not be fearful in this situation,” I said, looking about with a watery eye.
I took a deep breath, and walked up to the receptionist, who pointed to a doorway. With a churning stomach and a swirling head, I entered that dungeon well-lit and cold.
“Hello,” said the Practitioner sweetly. She was another middle-aged woman, the kindest face I had seen that day.
“Take a seat right here,” she said, motioning to an empty cubicle.
“I must be honest, I am terribly afraid,” I said.
“This will be over quick,” she said, and I looked away as my unfairly sensitive arm began to be lashed with pain.
“All over!” she said, and I waited five seconds so I would not see anything. Then I turning saw my bandaged elbow, and looked away again.
“Have a nice day!” she said, and I got up to leave.
My arm was weak, but I had done it. I hurt, but it was all over. Fast, just as my father said was best. I sighed, and clicked the seat belt in my car and drove away, still unsettled. But nevertheless, I had faced my fears, and better yet, I had made it out of the Doctors’ Maze with my intended prize, my Rizatriptan prescription refilled.
Part Seven: The Return Home
The next day I found a voicemail on my phone. It was the Doctor, informing me that my blood had nothing wrong in it. I sighed a sigh of relief, and watched my fears die away.
“But,” said he, “Your white blood cell count is a little high.”
Understandable, I thought. I had a cold recently, and that’s what white blood cells are for.
“So, in a month or so I’d like another test to check on that.”
“Oh, come on,” I said aloud as my Roommate handed me my prescriptions, which he had found in the mailbox.
“What?” he said.
“Oh nothing,” I said, putting my phone away.
And now as I sit here, reflecting upon and typing up my story, it makes me think of many things. The value of bravery, sure, with myself as the bravest man at last, the cruelty of modern medicine (my arm is still sore, my sensitivity is a complicated medical issue all its own) as well as the virtues of modern telecommunications, but I think the most important moral of this story is the value of kindness. Everyone involved, from the Middle-Aged Woman to the Doctor, and even the dour Receptionist, was the pinnacle of kindness. And that, I think, is one of the most important pinnacles to be.
As I conclude this tale, and to finish any disputes, I will vouch that ninety-five percent of this is true. Direct conversations were paraphrased as per my memory, but all of these people are real and interactions happened. I omitted the doctor’s name for privacy reasons, and used titles for others to maintain the Fairy Tale vibe. Only cred I will give is my roommate Blake. He is a good deliverer of already delivered medications.