When You're On The Lucky End of US Health Care
Way on the other end of the American health care spectrum -- as far from Harborview as is possible -- is Evergreen, the beautiful facility where I had my procedure Thursday.
Nestled in Greater Seattle's eastside, where the affluent suburbs are located, it is a multi-level, nearly new surgical center specializing in outpatient procedures such as the one for which I was scheduled.
A meandering drive leads into an upper level parking lot full of high end vehicles and an easy walk to the spacious hotel-like lobby of the center.
You are not kept waiting. You're warmly welcomed by smiling, non-harried personnel who gently wrest your insurance information from you, repeatedly make certain you are who you say you are (both insurance card and drivers license are photocopied), tell you it will just be a minute and mean it.
Then the real surprises start. You are ushered by one medical assistant into a small but nicely furnished room (that becomes your private waiting room), where she takes your vitals, and says it will be just a minute ... and means it.
It is barely a minute before two more staff members come in, go through a comprehensive intake with you -- no cursory history here -- and tell you they'll be right back to do the IV.
And they are. Perhaps 15 minutes has passed since you walked through the door. You are in a gown with a band on one wrist and an IV catheter in the other one. 15 MINUTES.
Another five minutes and you're ushered into the brightly lit operating room, where three more people are prepping the operating table and the doctor sits at a low table peering into a laptop at the CD of your MRI.
A quiet, personable man, maybe late forties, he takes the time to ask you if you learn visually or aurally, you say, "Um, visually." and he pulls out a model of the mid-spine and proceeds to show you exactly where the needle will be placed.
Another five minutes, the nurses have positioned you, there've been jokes about what soup is for lunch (the doctor says, "Anything but barley. I hate barley.") you're face-down on the operating table and everything goes blank.
The next thing you know, you're sitting up on a gurney being offered juice (cranberry, please) and cookies. You're giddy with the first complete absence of pain in months and REALLY LOVE whoever is responsible for that. LOVE THEM.
Then it's over and you're in the car, and then you're home in bed.
It's only later that you figure out how lucky you are to benefit from all this technology, that this wonderful service, the skills of these very nice people, will be paid for by a combination of pretty good health care insurance and your ability to work.
And you thank God, and feel a little guilty.