Great Moments in American MedicineSo the other day, as I was standing on the porch of my favorite local coffee shop retelling the tale of my latest tragedy, all my patient-pals were gathered around as I told them one of the worst parts of it all was that I'd just picked up a two-week supply of Lexapro and they'd burned to a cinder on the dashboard of my car. A few tables away sat a man I hadn't seen around before, smoking Top and drinking coffee, hiding behind shades but still bearing the aura of a man whose seen the inside of a hospital psych ward more than once.
"Hey," he called out when I was finished with my story, "you really need some Lexapro? I got some in my van."
"Really? What size?" I said, stepping towards him.
"20mgs. I take 'em once a day," he said.
"Shit howdy," sez I, "that's a two-day bump for me."
Looking at him longer and introducing myself, I couldn't help but notice a silver-dollar-sized lump of derm-plaque in the center of his left arm. It looked like psoriasis, just like mine, only much more menacing.
"Do you have psoriasis?"
He looked down at his arm.
"Oh, that...no. I got bitten by a spider the other day and it just swole up on me."
A woman sitting at another table looked up and came over to examine the wound.
"Jesus - that's quite a bite for a spider. It musta been a brown recluse. Listen, you need to go to the hospital - that bite could easily get necrotic and you could lose use of the arm."
"Oh yeah?" he said, unconcerned almost in his voice. "Well, I went over to UNMH and those fuckers kept me waiting around for four fucking hours and I just got pissed off and left. What're they gonna give me for it?"
"Anti-biotics," she said. "Penicillin at least."
I reached into my bag. The previous week I'd come down with the strongest case of strep throat in memory and went to my pediatrician on a Saturday morning and had him cut me a 'script for pennies. Old fucker didn't even charge me he felt so sorry for me.
"Look what I got," I said. "The strep gone, but you can have these," I said handing him the bottle, wiht about five days supply left."
"Shit, man, that's cool - I think I can spot you even days dose on a straight-across trade."
As it turned out, he passed me five 20mg Lexapros - ten days supply for me. And for a little while at least, we both got to avoid the worst part about medicine in America - me, the beuracracy of the pharmacy, and the the long wait in the public hospital.