Wednesday, March 19, 2008

SF Update: Being Uninsured in the City

We have an ongoing joke at CSM, which is "calling in sick!" We are only staffed enough for everyone to do their part and nothing less; however, I was becoming ill. Because of our light-hosting schedule, I was lucky. I only had to host one group, and then rest and attempt to recover as the other girls continued to host. My illness began with a cough that grew into body aches, fatigue, and shortness of breath. I was unable to sleep at night, due to coughing and trouble breathing. I awoke one morning to find my voice had escaped me. It was on vacation for several days!
Now, this is where my adventure begins…On Friday morning, day eleven, I decided to visit the doctor, it was about time! BJ, my brother, was kind enough to do extensive research on clinics in San Francisco. He called clinics, trying to find information for me, his dear sister, since I was voiceless. I decided on the Tom Waddell Heath Center in the Public Health Building. I was told to arrive by 8 am to being the enrollment process. I walked to the Public Health Building, about a 15-minute walk, stood in the cold until the clinic opened around 8:15 am. At that point, I received a number. My number was called and I reported to a Nurse, who took my vitals and asked for my symptoms. I then returned to the waiting room again. Next, I was called to the registration center. At this point I was to explain my insurance, residential, and financial status to see if I was eligible for the City of San Francisco's free services. (It may be hard for some of you to believe, but yes, I am considered below the poverty line!) I was approved and back to the waiting room I went.
The morning was nearing 9 am and the clinic was getting full. I proceeded to a room where I waited for the doctor. The doctor then gave me an examination and found wheezing in my right lung. He gave me a breathing treatment, and sent me to San Francisco General Hospital for a chest x-ray as a precautionary check for Pneumonia. I called Shelby, one of my roommates, for a ride. We arrived at SF General around 10:30 am. I proceeded to x-ray, where the intake nurse asked me for my doctor's order. I did not have it. She said, "We can not take an x-ray without the doctor's order!" What was I to do? They wanted me to go back across town and pick up the doctor's order or to call the clinic and get them to fax over a copy. I persisted in calling the clinic; the phone continued to go unanswered for about 45 minutes. The hospital did not have any other numbers for the clinic. Shelby and I trekked back across town to the Waddell Clinic. Upon arrival I was able to draw the attention of a nurse who pulled my record. She wrote out another order for an x-ray, and sent me back to the General Hospital. Once back to the x-ray department, I was told to register with the hospital, so I proceeded to wait in yet another line. I finally was registered and able to get my x-ray. I was then told to go back to the Waddell clinic in several hours for my results. By this time, I was exhausted! I went back to the Waddell Clinic and waited to see a doctor.
Finally, the results were in, I was Pneumonia free! The doctor was unsure as to what I had but came to the conclusion I had a common cold, and then caught a viral infection that resulted in laryngitis. He sent me on my way with cough syrup, cough drops, and a note to rest. Wow! What a day.
-Lindsey, SF Bay Area City Host Spring 2008

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