Friday, 6 June 2014

Kamala vs Mastitis: Round 3

Here's Round 3... there is probably less TMI, but it's still there. There is the addition of our first experience with the US healthcare system - are you comfortable?

If you've spoken with me in the last few weeks, then you'll know that I'm pretty pissed off about the Abbott Governments' first budget. Changing the way our healthcare system works is probably my main problem with the budget, along with cuts to education, changes to the HECS-HELP system, science and research in general... (Breathe...) The US is in the very early stages of implementing a healthcare system similar to that in Australia. The Australian healthcare system, as it stands, works. It could be better, but it works. There are bulk billing GP's, good public hospitals, and it is possible to call up a doctors surgery and get an appointment that day or the next (unless you're trying to see a bulk billing GP on a uni campus, then you might have to wait a week or try to pick up a cancelled slot). Keep reading and if you're an Australian, and you get angry, please find a way to let your Local, State, and Federal Members know, because that proposed $7 co-payment is just the start...

Kamala vs Mastitis: Round 3
After walking the 1.8 km between uni and home, with a sleeping Jimmy in our Manduca, I went to the office, for our complex, to pick up a parcel UPS had left there, because I wasn't home when they came by. It was a big, heavy box, but I managed to walk the short distance with Jimmy and the box. Now, this may or may not have been the cause, but it was shortly after this that I felt a tenderness in my right breast. I thought it was just sore muscles, so rubbed it lightly and went to bed.

Well, as you can guess, the tenderness proved to be a line of lumps in my right breast. Massage and hand expressing was only going to get me so far as Jimmy was not feeding frequently enough to help clear the ducts (he's in the process of self weaning, which is fine, but that means that he's more likely to bite my nipple than feed unless he really, really wants to go to sleep or is looking for a little comfort). While Jimmy was having his morning nap I realised that I was starting to feel unwell, so I checked my right breast. Yep. It was a little red. Oh dear. And it was Friday.

I did a quick search online for a GP. Someone nearby, walking distance. Preferably female. Hmmmm... I found one place nearby but it was two male doctors, so I kept looking and found someone else. Both places would be closed for the whole weekend. Probably Monday too, because it was Memorial Day. Jimmy woke up, seemed happy enough, so I made the call.

Talk about a stuff around! I spent 15 minutes on the phone. I talked to someone who wanted to know what my problem was (hmmmmm...), she put me through to someone else who took down my address and other details, she put me through to their nurse, because they couldn't fit me in that day, the nurse wanted to know my symptoms ("Do you have a fever?" "No, but my thermometer doesn't pick up a mastitis fever." "Oh, you've had this before?" Grrrrrr...). At least the nurse pointed me in the direction of a walk-in clinic on the other side of town. After that I was put back through to one of the first women, who put me through to the other one, so that I could make an appointment for a Pap Smear in August. They had no room for new patients until that time. I'm still waiting on the info pack they said they'd send out.

That done, I contacted Michael, who just so happened to have forgotten his mobile that morning... Luckily I was able to get his attention through facebook (phew). Jimmy and I had lunch, and then walked to the bus stop, with 5 minutes to spare. I would like to point out that women with mastitis are supposed to rest and not walk 10 minutes wearing a 9 kg baby, plus nappy change gear.

Michael joined us at uni and we stayed on the bus until it reached its most north eastern stop and walked the rest of the way. At least Michael was carrying/wearing Jimmy. We had a rough idea of where to go, but weren't quite sure, but we found the walk-in clinic without any trouble. We walked into the waiting room and saw a father and son, and two women. Sweet! I thought - this isn't going to take too long after all!

(I know what you're thinking...)

There was the usual paper work, which Michael filled in. But it was only the first page... It was ok, there were only 3 pages in total, including one where we had to state how we intended to pay. Yes, they wanted to know if we were paying by cash, card, or cheque, before the appointment. At least they were upfront about the appointment costing $95. There was also a sign near reception about waiting times and how it could take an hour or two to be seen when they were busy. It didn't look busy to us.

Forms in, we waited. The father and son went in and came out again in 5 mins, only to hang around and wait some more. A young woman paid for her appointment and left. One of the women in the waiting room went in, only to return for more waiting. The father and son were called in again, and a middle aged man came out and left with the other woman. We'd been there nearly an hour and the waiting room didn't look much different.

I'm pretty sure that the woman, who was waiting a second time, went in around the same time I was called in. The young man in scrubs said I wouldn't be long, so I went in alone. There was a woman waiting to weigh me, take my pulse, blood pressure, and temperature - I felt like I was back in hospital because she used the same type of thermometer that the RBWH uses. She asked what I was there for but didn't have a look, instead she asked the man in scrubs if there was a room free and just as she was about to send me back to the waiting room, it turned out that there was one available, so Michael, Jimmy, and I went in.

The same woman chatted with us a bit, we talked about babies, breastfeeding, and biting. And then she left, saying that someone would come and see us.


We'd been there an hour, or so, and we still had MORE waiting to do?!

I felt like rubbish. Absolute rubbish. Like I had a cold. My body ached. I needed sleep. I wanted to be in a sunny room, with a warm cup of tea and maybe a book, with Jimmy and Michael either with me or somewhere enjoying the sun. Scratch that. I wanted to be walking out of the pharmacy in Paddington, Qld, with the amazing mastitis antibiotics in my hand, that my GP quickly prescribed me, after a 20 minute max wait. But no. I was in a box of a room, with a doctors examination bed, two chairs and a stool, a small cupboard, and a sharps disposal box. The room was brown and light with a fluoro light. There was a small stack of magazines, and the escape route on the wall. Jimmy was tired, as he was "due" for a nap, so I fed him, only to have him bite me, so that he might get to play with the paper on the bed.

I curled up on the bed again. I was feeling worse. Michael was frustrated. He was also a little frustrating because he tried to complain about the whole experience when there was still an indeterminate about of time before I would be seen and given a script! I just wanted to go home and sleep. Maybe take a bath.

Jimmy was getting agitated, so Michael got ready to take him out, find out if ANYONE still remembered that I was STILL waiting, give Jimmy a nappy change and possibly walk. And then! AND THEN SOMEONE ELSE CAME IN. Oh! They hadn't forgotten us!!

The nurse chatted with us, she was friendly, let Michael give Jimmy his nappy change right there in the room. She examined my breasts (she actually offered to leave the room while I took my top off and put on a pissy little paper bolero, in the name of modesty and dignity... I explained that I had had an emergency Caesarean section after labouring away - I don't care what parts of my body medical professionals see, or my state of dress or undress when they see it). She very gently said that my mastitis "isn't that bad" and to keep doing what I was doing...

Pause for a minute. Remember what my GP said to me when I saw him, oh, say, on my second day of mastitis, the first time I had it? He verbally waggled his finger at me and said I should have seen him the day before, when I thought it wasn't that bad... And remember that no matter what, our bank account is going to be $95 lighter no matter what the nurse does. Ok, I'll continue.

I was about to cry. Actually, if Michael hadn't been there, the nurse would have walked in to find Jimmy and I crying. All that waiting only to be told "it's not that bad"... My face dropped, even though she was right, because I've never had really bad mastitis because I've acted quickly once home methods weren't working. I don't know what it was, but the next thing she said would have made me sit down if I wasn't already: "... but I'll write you a script anyway. Which pharmacy do you go to?"

I was going to get antibiotics!!!!!!! Wait? What? Why did it matter which pharmacy we were going to?

What happens is that this clinic FAXES scripts to pharmacies, and after about 30 minutes they should be ready for collection. So, we said we'd go to the Dillons pharmacy, because it was near our bus stop and that would ultimately mean less walking. We were still going to have to wait 50 minutes until the next, and last, bus.

We parted with our money and walked away, shaking our heads, even more determined to be back in Australia in April next year. We waited for the script to reach the pharmacy, collected a few groceries, waited some more. When the prescription was ready, we parted with $4 for the antibiotics, and then a bit more for the food, and then we went to the bus stop. Then Michael took this photo. Then we went home, walking in the rain, realised that it was over 4 hours since Jimmy and I had last been there, and I started the course of antibiotics, which worked but they were not as strong as the Australian mastitis antibiotics. Oh well.
Mastitis:1, Kamala: 1, US healthcare system: 1 + $99*

*We are yet to find out how much our travel insurance will refund.

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