by NotDownOrOut

Just an update on the week’s events: I drove to the hospital on Friday to start the process of refilling the prescription for my bladder medication. I needed to switch from the generic drug that has covered me in red splotches to the name drug. I took the latter for almost a year without any allergic reaction to it.

When I made it to the hospital the public parking lot was filled and the building was closed to additional cars. This is Stroger Hospital in Chicago–our immense, “new” county hospital. There’s no street parking in the area. The public can use only two floors of the structure. The rest is reserved for staff. There is a large, half empty parking lot right next to the multi-level structure that was closed. It stood more than half empty, but accepts no patients or visitors.

This is what happens when I do not get up at 5:30 a.m. to be there before the building opens at 7:00 a.m.

I could drive six blocks away and park in the Juvenile Justice Building’s far larger parking facility for a shuttle bus. But it was 9 degrees outside and the wind was blowing hard enough to have blown a window in my home open that morning.

I turned around and took my prescription to a Walgreen’s store. It was a risky decision. Some of the drugs that have been prescribed, including a previous bladder medication, cost $400/month. At the hospital I would pay a much lower price. I already had gone without the medication for five days and anticipated having to wait at least five days for the prescription to be filled. My principal side effect from five weeks of abdominal radiation is radiation cystitis. It is painful and causes incontinence. This drug that has brought relief and red splotches galore is the thing that gets me through my darkest days. It quells the spasms that can be very painful.

It was comical. No one at the Lincolnwood, Illinois drug store’s prescription counter greeted me for five minutes. I stood there, feeling like the clinic at the county hospital might have served me better. At the hospital I take a number and wait. At the drug store I was invisible. Eventually a pharmacist took the prescription and asked me to return in fifteen minutes. He said “fifteen minutes” like my waiting time might prove to be fifteen months. I took a seat and waited. Fifteen minutes seems like a short wait compared with three and five and seven hour waits at the hospital–except that, when I am at the hospital, I always know someone will serve me.

I went back to the counter after twenty minutes and waited. It took twelve more minutes for someone to help me. In that time no one acknowledged me. Others working in the pharmacy saw me and walked by. I was not the only person to receive such treatment. Another woman attempted to drop off her prescription. When no one came to assist her she left.

In time, the lone clerk operating the drive-through window finished handling a steady stream of customers. She assisted me. I walked away with a huge bag that contained my small bottle of pills (which turned out to look nothing like the two versions of the drug that I have taken previously).

So, this is one week when there was a win, loss, and a draw. My platelets turned out to be fine. They were not committing suicide, just collecting unattractively to signal dissatisfaction with my medicine. My quarterly check-up turned out to be a bust. The doctors and I never even had a moment in our fifteen minutes together to address my health concerns (I will get to see them again in another ten days or so). I faced inconvenience and frustration all week as I tried to fill a prescription for a drug that would address my principal side-effect of cancer treatment and put a stop to the spread of red splotches from my ankles to my hairline. The drug store only charged me $10 for my medicine. I was feeling like the rude service was an acceptable consequence of having been unable to even get into the hospital’s parking lot.

As I headed out of the drug store I stopped at the front register for about $15 of groceries. The woman who had walked away from the prescription counter without being served was there complaining. The cashier was determined to get the customer to wait to speak with the manager, but the customer left. I echoed her concerns and did stay to speak with the manager. He just apologized. It was not all that satisfying.

When I got home I realized that I had paid for my items, but the cashier (who seemed more intent on having me complain to her boss than I was) had never put my bag up on the counter. I had walked away without my few groceries. I never noticed because I already carried a big Walgreens bag. this means I “paid” $25.30 for the retail prescription I could have gotten for $5 if I had been less impatient and returned to the hospital again or taken a shuttle. Of course, it was not $400, like the drug I last bought retail, but it was five times as costly as if I had shown even more patience.

There’s a lesson here. I am certain of it. But–for the moment–I cannot figure out what it is.