Why Free Clinics Are Free

I should have known I was in for a ride when the medical assistant standing in front of me mumbled incoherently, and the only reasonable response that I could come up with was a scrunching of my nose and a quizzical, “Huh?”\r\n\r\nShe seemed very unsure of herself, but I answered her questions confidently, and did as I was told. I was made to stand way too long on the digital scale for her to record my weight, but being pleasantly surprised that I had lost some pounds, I wasn’t as embarrassed nor feeling as impatient to step off as I usually am. I didn’t become fully concerned until it came time for the testing of my blood pressure.\r\n\r\nShe delicately wrapped the black band around my arm, making sure all the pressure tubes were lying parallel and not crossing over each other. As she put on her stethoscope, she seemed to have trouble placing in her ear buds, as if she was discovering her ears for the first time. She placed the cool round end of the stethoscope on my inner elbow, adjusting it into the perfect position, and listened for a good ten seconds without pumping the cuff. Eventually, she realized she would need to pump it, and boy did she pump it! Every now and again, I’ll get an attendant who pumps the band way too much, to the point of almost crying, but within seconds, they give a twist of the valve and save me from unbearable discomfort.  Not this time.\r\n\r\nShe pumped it the fullest I’ve EVER had it, and kept on trying to listen without releasing any of the pressure. She finally decided that maybe she should change the position of the stethoscope. Of course, that didn’t work.  By this time, my tingling fingers began going numb. She adjusted her ear buds, and placed the scope down again.  My arm, now having lost all feeling to it, remained perfectly still. The crushing pain in my bicep was the only way I knew that I still had an arm. That, and I could see my lifeless fingers dangling out in front of me. I willed them to move, but to no avail. Just when I thought I might pass out from the mix of pain and numbness, she released the valve the teensiest of bits. I thought, “Finally! My blood is sure to come rushing back in, and she’ll surely hear a pulse!” But no, she merely wanted to reposition the scope, and within nanoseconds, it was pumped to the brim once again.\r\n\r\nAt this point, my entire arm hurt and tingled, as it was briefly given life, and then cruelly taken away. Fortunately (unfortunately?) it took her forever and a half this second time, and my arm soon returned to a numb state. After, at least, a minute and a half from when she began, she released the valve for good, and gently removed the armband. I immediately clutched my hand to my chest, massaging and moving my fingers. I looked down at my upper arm: It was so red that it looked like a horrific sunburn, not to mention that the indentations of the cuff remained on my arm for the rest of my visit.\r\n\r\nShe then wrote my name on a sterile urination cup, handed it over to me, and informed me that she needed to take my weight before I went and did my business. I questioned, “Again?” “Oh, I mean, your height,” she responded.  I followed her to the height rod affixed to the wall. I stood straight and felt the soft pressure of the bar resting against my head. She started uttering, “uhhs” and “umms,” so assuming she was trying to find a polite way to tell me to take off my sandals, I offered, “Should I take off my chanclas?” She said yes, and we resumed with the measuring. Again, I heard “uhhs” and “umms” emanating from her lips.  Then she asked me, “How tall are you?  This is saying 65.”  She lifted the bar from my measured position, and I stepped out from under it. She pointed to the 65 and said, “This is where I think you measured. I don’t get it. It says 65, and the other side says 165.  How tall are you?”  This was when I went into teacher mode, pointing out the inches side and the centimeters side, and letting her know that I usually measure 5’4 3/4″, and that the 65 she is looking at is part of the inches, which is the equivalent to 5’5″, which is essentially my height.  I even took the time to show her that 60″ is five feet, so she could just count up from there for future height measurements.  I guess all that went over her head, ’cause instead of acknowledging that she understood any part of what I said, she mentioned, “This is a new measuring tool, so I’m not used to it. I don’t understand the 165. So how tall are you? Five-five?” To that, I just nodded and conceded, “Yes, five-five.”\r\n\r\n \r\n\r\n

close-up-height-rod

I can see how this could be so confusing…NOT!

\r\n\r\nStill clutching my empty, sterile urination cup, she led me to a line to take a vision test. As I began, a nurse walked by, and politely placed me on the correct line, about ten feet further back. The medical assistant resumed my test by telling me to start on the chart wherever I wanted. So, I chose a line, covered one eye, and began reading, with no guidance from her at all. I got to a line where I knew I was screwing up horribly, and missed more than the allotted amount, so I removed my hand and told her it was too fuzzy. Instead of moving on to the next eye, she urged me to continue squinting and guessing for the remainder of that line and the following line. I just went with it. After each individual eye was done, she started to walk away, and I inquired, “Don’t you want me to read them with both eyes now?” To which she responded with a shake of her head, and a leading of me to a nearby restroom to give them a urine sample.\r\n\r\nAs I walked into the bathroom and looked down at the cup, this is what I saw:\r\n\r\n
“Schatz” is easy. It’s the “Erica” that throws people off.

“Schatz” is easy. It’s the “Erica” that throws people off.

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