House Rules

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Tass had had a bad night. She hopped up on the hour to meet the demands of cleansing medications, followed by gatorade chasers in preparation for a morning procedure. I wasn’t exactly perky myself, between traveling all day to care for her, and worry over what the morning would bring. Waking and dressing was of little consequence–we were fully alert before 7 AM.

Tass chirped obsessively that she hadn’t properly cleaned her system, and she fretted over controlling herself until we reached the clinic. My ridiculous attempts at small talk proved no distraction to her intensity–she could hardly hear me.

Her summer had been a tough row to hoe. Digestive problems plagued her every step, literally as well as figuratively. Tass had taken up running and was beginning to truly embrace the sport when her insides began to betray her. So now, after fruitless medical appointments, we were off to the digestive health center to literally look up “her old address,” in the words of M*A*S*H’s Captain Henry Blake.

Two receptionists manned the front window. One young lady, a bit stocky in build, with thick, dark, kinky hair greeted us. The other, a tall thin blonde, scurried back and forth, running from this computer to that, a phone clutched to her ear. She paid us no mind.

Behind the glass, their station had been cheerfully decorated with a variety of Fall memorabilia. A yellow duckie with turkey feathers roosted on the computer, while a vampire ladybug observed us as Tass completed reams of paperwork.

Our secretary wore a hippy-print smock, festooned with peace signs, and little faux buttons saying “Love,” “Peace,” and “Happy,” covering the fabric. Her bustling co-worker was clearly an active Utah Jazz fan. A poster bearing #20 decorated her station, with game tickets posted beneath, and her purple and yellow lanyard bore her swaying hospital ID.

Their cheerful surroundings and attire did not reach the region of their faces. Not a smile could be detected behind that glass window–nothing but purposeful business. Only the plush lady-bug smiled, and she wanted to drink our blood.

In a no-nonsense fashion the receptionist requested Tass’ deductible payment. A sign next to her desk echoed the demand. Payment Due On Day Of Service. That’s code for “cash on the barrel-head,” or we would proceed no further into the facility. Exhausted from the restless night, Tass handed over her payment, then miserably darted to the restroom.

Combining worry and sleep deprivation we had no smiles to compensate for any lack in the receptionist. Tass’ registration process became a mutual, somber wash.

Staking chairs in the waiting room, we were now at the mercy of the clinic’s time table, trapped in the belly of a whale.

Fox news narrated our anxious wait time–time that permitted a more in-depth appraisal of the office suite. There were paintings hanging on the walls, and they were lovely, too. Scenes of Canyonland National Park–Zion, Moab, etc . . . But strangely they only rendered some others as distinctly odd.

Enclosed in black frames were official disclosure documents, about four in all. Enumerated were lists of office policies dotted behind glass, all absolving the clinic of any responsibility for this or that unforeseen outcome. Costs may vary from quotes, Payment due prior to services, Physicians may or may not claim financial interests in this clinic, and other arcane declarations.

“Man,oh man,” these dudes have it all covered,” crossed my thoughts.

The medical staff, in contrast to the muscle in the front office, were all beyond wonderful and compassionate. We couldn’t help but adore Tass’ nurse from the get-go. The doctor was nothing if not an angel sent from above. Her care was superlative from pre to post treatment. And Tass came out with with a good result.

But still, the duality of healthcare is troublesome. The icy chill of the relentless business angle where there is no personal concern, can not help but eclipse the heartfelt goodness of skilled providers.

Whether outcomes are good or bad, diagnosis positive or negative, the house wins.

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