Sunday, June 11, 2006

Great Moments in American Medicine

So 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, 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.