My appointment was for 3:40, but I had already been waiting in the doctor’s office for an hour and a half. To be fair, I had showed up half an hour early out of fear of being late. Still, it was 4:40 and I wasn’t too impressed.
I had been dealing with throat problems since returning from the United States. I absolutely could not shake them. I had had sore throats before, but this time was different. I could not sing more than five notes without become horse, could not speak up at all without the same result, and my throat became tired after just a few minutes of conversation. I had visited the doctor twice already and had taken several different medical concoctions (including a few I had found online that involved gargling with salt water and several other ingrediences, like Tabasco sauce). At one point I felt as if I had been punched in the throat. I could not sleep at night, could not swallow without flinching, and was beginning to worry that I might lose my voice permanently. Then, upon my third visit to the doctor, I was asked if I had any history of “illness” in my family. I thought for a moment and said, “only heart disease” to which he replied, “what about cancer?” And so I was set up with a specialist. Within a week, I was sitting in the lobby of the specialist’s office.
And so there I sat, in a hospital in North London, waiting to get in to see the doctor. At 4:40 I finally went up to the attendant to make sure that I had not been forgotten about. I hadn’t, but ten minutes later I was sitting in a chair, answering questions, and having something sprayed up my nose. Then I was sitting back out in the lobby again, waiting for the spray to numb my throat.
I began to look around me. Talk about diversity. Not only were there people of all different races, but ages and mental capacity too. There were several parents there with their children. And then there was this lady in the back. She was clearly crazy. She kept laughing hysterically. At what? Nothing in particular. She was just crazy. I continued to look around. There were people of all nationalities represented in that room. People of all different financial backgrounds as well. I sat there, taking it all in. And then it hit me; the reason I had to wait was because here, everybody has access to medical help, not just those of us who are fortunate and/or educated enough to have the kind of job that provides health coverage. Here, working at McDonalds, Asda (Walmart) or a petrol (gas) station doesn’t mean that you’re out of luck if you come down with health problems. Here, everybody gets to go. I was waiting because everybody gets to go.
Since the early 90’s, when Bill Clinton first became President of the U.S., I’ve heard a lot of debate about national health care. Socialized medicine is the term we conservatives like to use. It makes it almost sound ungodly since, as we all know, God hates socialism (though the New Testament church seems to have revelled in it). I’ve also heard a lot of horror stories concerning national health care. Now, to be fair, the UK certainly hasn’t perfected national health care. For one thing, you still have to pay to go to the dentist’s office or to get glasses. But for all the horror stories I’ve heard about national health care, I’ve heard at least that many about HMO’s. And honestly, who hasn’t waited on a doctor before? And for the record, I rarely wait to see my local doctor. He’s usually right on time.
I share all of this because, no doubt, national health care will be one of the strikes against whoever wins the Democratic nomination. But, when those debates do start up, consider why you’ll have to wait an extra half hour to see your doctor; because everybody gets to go. Not just you.
After another half hour, waiting for my throat to numb, I was finally ushered back into the torture chamber where a long tube with a camera on the end was sent, roto rooter style, up through my nose, and down my throat. After a few uncomfortable minutes of looking around, the doctor pulled the tube out of my throat and informed me that I had laryngitis caused by acid reflux…the same “disease” that Ashley Simpson claimed to have had. I just looked at the guy. “Are you sure?”, I said, thinking that I couldn’t possibly go back and tell my friends that I had Ashley Simplson disease. But apparently it’s true. I’m now taking capsules that I can quite literally smell coming out through my pores, and also steroids that I have to spray into my nose. Guess my professional sports career is finally over (though I’m still considering The Tour De France).
In all, I got in about an hour and a half after I was supposed to. Was it worth it? Yes. In fact, if it means that everybody gets to go, I’ll bring my ipod and a couple of magazines and wait a few more hours if it will help. Join me?
(Incidentally, and after watching several of the debates, it appears that Hillary’s hope is to change the U.S. health system completely, replacing it with nationalized medicine. Obama, on the other hand, hopes to simply add to the already existing health system by providing health vouchers for those under a certain income that would allow them to access doctors/medicine as well. I have to believe, in either case, that they’ll learn from the mistakes of countries like the UK and Canada, and come up with an even better national health system. One easy way will be to digitize health records, something that will initially cost a lot of money, but which will save a lot of money in the long run and also make it easier for those in communities, where hospitals are being shut down, to seek medical help in another part of town.)