I owe my soul to the company store…

This blog entry is part two of my new neurologist doctor’s visit to a faraway land called Gainesville, Florida. I had been in Florida for approximately six months and was unfamiliar with all aspects of Floridian life. However, arriving from Ohio, my surroundings were very different, and so was the Florida Veterans Administration. So please accompany me as I continue the story about my first neurological doctor visit to the Florida Veterans Administration.

As we wiped our teary eyes from the excessive laughter, Nurse Joy walked me to another hallway waiting area. Several people spread around the waiting area like pepper on a dinner plate, so I rolled in and became one of the spicy seasonings. The majority of the waiting patients chatted and gathered around a doorway anonymously labeled room 421. Just then, a thought popped into my brain, and my head swayed back and forth as I looked for a restroom to prepare for the facility’s inevitabilities.

At that moment, student doctor Lisa stepped into the hallway and called my name, reminding me that timing is everything. This precise predicament made me think of that old commercial where the person desperately searches for a restroom. As they seek this resolution solution, their brain screams, “Gotta go, gotta go, gotta go right now.” At that point, my body hauntingly said to me in an evil villain voice, “Not yet, but soon.”

Dr. Lisa guided me into a room on the other end of the hallway, and I tried making her laugh, but sadly, not everyone has a sense of humor. The space was open, with a computer desk, a floor lamp, a medicine cabinet, and an examination bed to satisfy the American Medical Association. While it was large enough for its contents, it was still small, and negotiating the room in my manual wheelchair made for tight maneuverability. Lisa began by asking a plethora of probing puzzles that only I could solve using my life’s MS history. Next, we roamed my past with a fine-tooth comb as she jotted, dotted, and scribbled notes in my medical records. Finally, after about twenty minutes, Lisa said it was time to get the primary doctor and left with a purpose.

I sat for just a moment to wait for the doctor and quickly changed my plans, and peered out the door. I entered the hallway searching for a men’s room to release without haste, hoping to return before the doctor. However, my body reminded me that “not yet, but soon” quickly became time to search for a lavatory. Around the corner and passed an empty receptionist’s desk, I found the restroom and rolled in. I was unfamiliar with the surroundings, making the task take much longer than the typical procedure.

When I reentered the room, Lisa introduced me to Dr. Chan, a neurology doctor with the Veterans Administration. I apologized for my excessive absence and explained my bladder and unfamiliarity with the surroundings were to blame for this lame game. Unfortunately, wasting time was not on the agenda for the doctor as she ridiculed my medication choice, as it was not one of the standard MS meds. With a smile, I vehemently stood my ground as our verbal sparring continually discussed her medical degree versus my owning my body. I do not believe she appreciated my smile just then, but this discussion was one disagreement in my life I knew I would win.

Suddenly, a loud knock on the door startled us, taking the wind out of our sails and briefly disrupting our contentious conversation. Dr. Chan stood up, answered the door, and met medical assistant Sandra. The MA shared it was her doctor’s time for this room and requested everyone’s departure. Chan explained she needed just a few more minutes, and Sandra accepted and walked away.

The doctor returned to the lost cause conversation and began fervently praising the MS medications again. I smiled and nodded as I felt this conversation was superfluous and unnecessarily raised my blood pressure from the at-times heated discussion. Another rattan-tat-tap came to the door, quieting our senseless conversation and another visit from Sandra. Chan tried throwing me under the bus to get more time by explaining I visited the loo, which cut our time. The medical assistant, Sandra, was not having it and requested we vacate the room.

We stayed in the hallway after our eviction from the room, briefly discussing final issues and future goals. I do not feel that Dr. Chan and I talked about anything that concerned me about HIPAA issues, as the hallway was empty. Instead, the doctor explained that she wanted me to research the medications for MS, which was a straightforward task for me, as I was uninterested. Chan also made plans for me to get an MRI of my brain and spine, hoping to find that elusive new plaque that would prove I needed her MS medications.

I was exhausted from my meandering expedition to get to the location in the building to see my new VA doctor of neurology. Since I saw this doctor in a neurology clinic, I am still determining if I will get to see the same doctor every time. However, I am unhappy with the doctor because she spent the entire time quarreling with me about medication. Only time will tell how the Florida Veterans Administration works for me and how I will manage the system.

Day is done, gone the sun.

Lost in a Land Down Under…

Setting up my many doctor appointments after moving to Florida was a dreadfully daunting duty. In Ohio, I saw various “ists” like a urologist, podiatrist, and even occasionally, a phlebotomist, to name but a few. So when it was time to see a VA neurologist, I knew it would be an excursion to the Veterans Administration in a faraway land. Unfortunately, I had to travel just over one hour to Gainesville, Florida, to see a doctor of neurology through the Veterans Administration. Of course, I am not complaining about this travel time because many of my veteran brethren must travel much farther.

Once I had the doctor’s appointment, I scheduled a ride to a place approximately seventy minutes away. They quickly approved me for a VA door-to-door transportation service that uses accessible vehicles. Greeted by the driver, Tom, and trainee Daniel, they carefully strapped me into the minivan like I was a package from Saks Fifth Avenue. The trainee was quiet even when I tried to involve him in the conversation, although Tom was more talkative, which felt like it reduced the distance.

So, after a long seventy-seven-minute drive, we pulled up to a portico where I could exit the vehicle to see this massive building monstrosity. This edifice looked like three VA facilities from Columbus, Ohio, could fit inside the structure with room to spare. Tom unstrapped me from my tie-downs, then Dan pulled me from the van and pushed me into the building, thus concluding the door-to-door service. The receptionist desk was prominent, while the waiting area was capacious and filled with plenty of waiting customers. Donna, the front office worker, helped me check in and then asked me to sit in the lobby and wait for a volunteer helper.

The Veterans Administration has volunteers working to help the veterans navigate their buildings. Volunteer Michael pushed a large empty cart of trays and stopped to guide me to my distant destination. I moved like a snail late for a hot date, so I asked for help pushing, and “immediately” was his reply, and he instantly stored his cart. Mike is the nickname he used instead of Michael on his name tag, but he quickly grabbed the push handles on my wheelchair, and away we went. 

Mike pushed me through the building, past mostly anonymously labeled doors when we arrived at the elevator. He caught the elevator’s door just before it closed, and we rode it up to the third floor, where everything looked as clinical as the previous floor. Rolling down the long hallways and making two right turns and a left, we soon arrived at a small window labeled neurology clinic. The receptionist, Cliff, whistled like he had no care in the world. He then explained we were at the wrong neurology office and proceeded to tell us, well, tell Mike where the other neurology clinic was and gave directions on how to get there.

As we departed the first clinic and headed to the second, we made one right turn and two lefts, stopping back at the elevators. Mike and I arrived on the fourth floor as the directions led us to neurology clinic number two, and I began the check-in process again. Although I called her popcorn, receptionist Michelle asked my name and started rapidly tapping on her keyboard, sounding like the corn snack popping in the microwave. Then, she asked me to sit in the waiting area, and I quickly replied with a smirk, “I sit in every room I am in,” Michelle laughed out loud.

I was anxious, so it felt like I waited for hours, but it was less than ten minutes in the hallway waiting area. Finally, nurse Joy took me to a cubicle with medical supplies, a cart with a computer, and just enough space for my small manual wheelchair. The nurse had an exuberant, jovial attitude that matched her namesake, and our amusing chuckles often thundered out of her cubicle. Our laughter was harmonious, though it caused my vitals to be out of sync, causing a ten-minute process to become a thirty-five-minute endeavor.

It was an extremely long and exhausting day that would go in the record books of facilities to avoid because of distance. Thankfully the Veterans Administration in Florida uses video appointments, making in-person meetings rare. My neurologist Dr. Fein prefers that I have an office visit four times a year, yet only one must be in person. Stay tuned for next week’s thrilling conclusion of the visit to my new Florida Veterans Administration neurologist Dr. Fein.

You spin me right ’round like a record.