Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Today I wasted another four hours of my life I can't get back!!!

Warning: Some swear words and a great deal of anger...

All I can say is thank goodness I'm not dying! Or as far as I know I'm not. And even if I was, it'll be four months or so until I can get an appointment to find out! And the Democrats want to socialize medical care in the U.S.? Has everyone there lost their collective fucking minds?!? Do people there have even the slightest notion of what that is going to be like? One word: NIGHTMARE!!! How do I know? We have a version of socialized medicine, here!

I have had a bad knee for a couple of years. It has been almost a year since I have been able to walk up or down stairs. Actually, I can do both - one at a time - and up is much easier than down. Down? Forget it. I have a hard time getting in and out of our truck - a Tahoe - it sits up pretty high, but at least there's a handle that I can pull myself up with to get in it. Lately the knee has really been acting up. This week has not been good for my knee; I haven't done anything to it. I got knocked down on it a month or so ago - playing with the Kids - knocked down hard enough to see little tweety birds and stars. It was an accident, The Boy didn't mean to do it, and if our heads wouldn't have collided when I hit my elbow "bone" on the edge of a piece of furniture while playing tug with The Baby and her stuffed bear, then it wouldn't have happened. Whatever. So I have a bad knee, and I made it worse while playing with the Kids one night. I know that when I screw it up, then I just need to take it easy on the knee for a couple of days - don't do anything strenuous [which I don't do, anyway] and eat handfuls of Aleve for the pain. Fine.

Like I said, this week it has been particularly bothersome. Bothersome enough so that I have to use my arms to lift myself up or down into a chair - can's use the bad knee leg at all - can't cross my legs - and if I'm laying in bed I actually have to be aware of which side I'm going to roll over on, or I feel immediate pain. So this morning, when I realize that it hurts so bad that I can't even walk The Kids, I finally give in and decide I have to go to the clinic and have the knee looked at by a doctor, again. I have already been seen several times at our on-compound clinic for this - my bad knee - and every time it gets x-rayed and one of the doctors gives me some benign prescription for Naproxen or Ibuprofen and tells me that the x-rays show nothing and that I should try to be more careful to not hurt it anymore. Duh! Yeah. Thanks a lot for absolutely nothing! Aleve works just as well - if not better - than any of the medications that have been prescribed so far. And, I did the six weeks of prescribed physical therapy a couple of years ago which was utterly and pathetically useless.

I knew that since I didn't get to the clinic before 7 A.M. that there was not going to be any parking. I've blogged before about the game called "going to the clinic." It is NOT a fun game; and requires the patience of a Saint to get through the first two quarters. By half-time, I'm ready to put up a white flag and let the "other side" have the win. Honestly, you can't take enough Valium during the pre-game warm-up to get you through the entire four quarters. So, I had DH take me to the clinic and drop me off so that I didn't have to park several miles away and walk to the Urgent Care Clinic with my bad knee. Asked DH if he wanted to go with me - yeah, right - and realized that was pointless since we can't even sit in the waiting room together: there is a waiting room for women and there is a waiting room for men - you do not mix the sexes in waiting rooms at the clinic, here. Ridiculous.

Because DH dropped me off, I was able to completely avoid the first quarter of the game! I get extra points for being so smart. Yeah! I sign in at reception and go to the designated women's waiting area. There are two dozen women there ahead of me. Damn. They are ALL covered head-to-toe in black; many of them even have on black gloves. Not a scintilla of skin showing anywhere on any of them. I have little lycra bike shorts on and a tank top, which I've covered by throwing my stupid abeya on. I know my knee is going to be x-rayed, again, so no point wearing something that I'm just going to have to take off, right? [I get more points for this, too!] My head is NOT covered, nor is my face, and I could care less that you can see my ankles at the bottom of the long black hefty bag I'm wearing. If you are offended - and trust me - these women are ALL offended - the fact that I am blonde and have not covered my hair offends them - that my ankles show? Whoa! Now I'm extra offensive. When they stare at me - I stare back - and I am NOT smiling at them. I reserve the "fuck you, you old hag" look just for them... I sit there and wait and read my book until I am called to the triage area. There, you go through the obligatory process of having your temperature taken, blood pressure taken, pulse checked, blah, blah, blah and tell the nice nurse why you need to see the doctor. And, not only did I tell the nice nurse that my knee was the problem - again - but I also told the nice nurse that I did not want to see a Saudi doctor. The nice nurse willingly obliged me on this one. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

So, when you're done with the nurse you go back to the women's waiting area and wait to be called by the doctor. It is much like the system at the deli in the States where you get a little number and wait your turn. At least, while you are playing this quarter of the game called "going to the clinic" no one can cut you off or take the proverbial "ball" from you since you get put into the computer and you MUST WAIT to be called. There is a very, very good reason this system was put into place like this. Saudi men and women do not believe that here they should be expected to wait in a "que" for anything - they all come first. I am very thankful that someone devised a way that requires everyone waiting their turn.

Finally the doctor calls my number and I go in to his little office. He has my records up on his computer, already, and I tell him that my knee is really, really bothering me - that I'm having a hard time just walking on it, that I can't cross my legs, that I can't lift my leg or bend it a certain way. It is very obviously swollen. He examines it; bends it a few different ways just to see how loud I can scream, I guess, and tells me that he wants to talk to one of the orthopedic specialists to see whether or not they think I should have an MRI done. The doctor sends me back to the women's waiting area and says that he will call me as soon as he has spoken with a specialist. Okay. Fine.

Back to the women's "locker room" I go to discover that it is so crowded now that there are no chairs available. You want to know why there are no chairs available? Because "going to the clinic" is a family affair - and "outing" day - and instead of just the sick woman going to the clinic alone, or the woman bringing her [single] sick child, she must bring ALL of her children and her maid with her. I swear. This is how "they" do it. They have snacks for goodness sake! Fine. I'm just going to go stand in the hallway and hold up one of the walls. And yes, this elicits more stares from not only all of the women and all the urchins that are with the women, but also the men who are there - in their special waiting section. The ONLY women that don't stare at me are the maids that are accompanying the women and their huge broods of children. The maids don't take their eyes off the floors - ever. Poor things. And, why did the maids have to get dragged out with the women and all the kids and the men folk, too? Who knows. Perhaps the families are afraid that the maid would take advantage of left-overs in the refrigerator or something while they were gone - or maybe - horror upon horror - even try to run away and escape... Hmmm... Anyway, I'm standing in the hallway, against the wall, reading my book and waiting to be called.

I finally get called again, and go back into the doctor's office. He's a nice enough man, and he wants to help me, but the specialist he wants to talk to is in surgery and will have to call back - which means that the doctor will call me after he gets the opportunity to talk to the orthopedist. I can go home now... I do not leave without his phone number. I've been here long enough to know that when someone tells you that they are going to call you, more often than not, it never happens - you don't and won't get that promised call. As I am walking down the corridor I pull out my cell phone and call my DH to come and get me. My cell phone isn't working. WTF?!? Unbelievable. As if my day isn't going bad enough. And why, pray tell, isn't my cell phone working? It worked fine yesterday. I looked at it before I left the house to make sure that it was charged. I have absolutely no idea what is wrong with my cell phone. I make my way to the nurse's station to ask if I can use their phone. The nice nurse says, "Oh no Madam. Patients are not allowed to use the phone." Okay. Then you make my call for me; I just want to call my DH to have him come and pick me up. The nice nurse must have realized that I seriously was just going to be a minute and not be tying the line up for some inane social reason and she handed me the phone. Half a second I was on the phone. Thanked the nice nurse very much and exited the clinic.

Surprise! The doctor, as he promised, called me an hour or so after I returned home. He told me to come back at 12:30, that he had spoken with the orthopedist, and that the orthopedist told him to schedule me for an x-ray and physical therapy. Yeah. Right. Did not tell the doctor that I was not going to accept what had just said to me on the phone but did tell him that I would be there at 12:30, and I was. I planted myself outside his office - didn't even bother with checking in at the nurse's station - and didn't sit in the waiting area - which, by the way, was, again, almost full. I was actually there a little early - even though "early" is a foreign term for everyone here insofar as appointments go - and as he came around the corner I was right there at his door. He had no choice but to see me. Ha! [I score some more points!] I go into his office with him, have a seat, and listen to him tell me that I need to get an x-ray and then go and get scheduled for physical therapy. Umm. No. I don't just want to get another x-ray; you have four x-rays of my knee right there on your computer - they are NOT showing you any problem with my knee and something is most definitely wrong with it. You need to schedule me for an MRI. Oh, and by the way, I will not be doing any physical therapy, either. It didn't do a damn thing for me the last time I was here for this very same exact problem. The doctor can't schedule me for an MRI; he has to get it approved by the orthopedist. You can't be serious, right? He tells me that he will call the orthopedist, again, and see what he can do. In the meantime I will have to wait. Yeah. Okay.

I go to the women's waiting area like the meek little lamb I am... There are a few seats... I sit down. And, no sooner had I sat down than a woman with two children in tow and one very clearly on the way walked in. The little boy is full of energy and is trying to use the chairs as playground equipment, with no regard whatsoever to the fact that the chairs are being occupied. I shoot her the look that says, "Lady control your brat!" She tries, half-assedly [new word?]. But worse - and this woman is sitting directly in front of me at a 90 degree angle to the direction I'm sitting - and she's holding the little girl on her lap - and the little girl is coughing up a storm - and then the woman starts coughing. Nice. I'm being directly coughed on - and exactly what kind of germs are these two carrying and sharing? Doesn't anyone cover their mouths when they cough anymore? The little girl was probably three or four - just hacking up her cough and throwing germs out there all over - at least the woman had her veil on to catch some of her germs - but still. I had to leave the women's waiting area. Back to the hallway.

Finally, I get called back into the doctor's office. Okay. Go and get the x-ray, and while I am there I must get my appointment for the MRI and because there is a four month waiting period to get the MRI I must tell them that I need to be put on the list to fill a cancellation so that I can get it as soon as possible and as soon as I can get an MRI done, then the orthopedist wants to see me. You CAN'T be serious, right? In the meantime, the doctor gives me what they always give me - Naproxen - and when I tell him I want something stronger than Ibuprofen for the pain he reluctantly gives me a prescription for something I've never heard of and sends me off on my merry way to go to x-ray. But... But I'm so much smarter than that! I'll drop off my prescriptions to get them filled before I go to the x-ray department so that they can be filled while I'm waiting. [Yes! More points for me!] I head to the pharmacy; I go to turn in my prescriptions and the pharmacist takes a look at the non-Naproxen prescription and says "I cannot fill this. It must be on a blue form." For the love of... She is serious. Fine. I snatch the pink form out of her hand and storm back down the corridor to the doctor's office, where I knock on the door and enter - don't wait to be called - don't go to the nurses station - nope - none of that. This man, the doctor, has got to know that he gave me the wrong color prescription form! [Why? Why? Why didn't I take two Valium instead of one before I decided this morning to put myself through this living form of Hell?!?] I get the "blue" form and go back to the pharmacy. And, after getting my little deli number trot off to x-ray.

At x-ray, I'm standing there, telling the man who was working at the desk that I need to get an MRI scheduled and since they are booked four months out that the doctor has said that I need to be put on the list for calling if there is a cancellation. The man tells me that I need to call myself for the appointment. Oh. No. I don't think so, pal. That is NOT what the doctor told me to tell you to do. Mohammed was the man's name. And Mohammed doesn't want to have to do the work to put me on the "call" list. I know this; and he knows I know this. I tell him to call the doctor himself and explain that he doesn't want to get me put on the "call" list. While I'm standing there, having this conversation with Mohammed, another "patient," a middle-aged man, walks up and interrupts us to get his x-ray scheduled. Mohammed doesn't even say "excuse me" to me, but instead starts trying to help the man that has interrupted us. I am ready to blow a gasket. Since Mohammed doesn't have any balls and won't tell the man to go wait his turn, I do. "Excuse me. I was here. Mohammed is helping me. You wait." And, I actually outstretched my arm to back him up. Asshole. I'm in no mood, right now. Mohammed - who is probably about to shit himself since men in this country are not used to women EVER asserting themselves - actually had the gall to tell me that if I didn't want to wait for four months to get an MRI then I should go to the hospital in Dammam. "What did you just say? Go to the hospital in Dammam?" "Yes, Madam." "Well, if I could just jump in my car and drive myself, then I would happily do that, but since I can't, you are going to have to schedule my appointment - which is what the doctor just told you to do." "Yes, Madam. I will do this. Have a seat." Fine. Jerk. And off to the women's waiting room in the x-ray department I go.

I was the only one there. The wait was less than five minutes. The x-ray technician called my name; I followed her. She first took me to the changing area and handed me one of the lovely hospital gowns. Told her I didn't need it and whipped my black hefty bag off. All ready. Take the pictures and let's just get this over and done with. And, as I'm laying on the table, on my right side, with my bad knee bent in an awkward and unpleasant position while she is adjusting the film thingy her cell phone rings! No. You are not going to talk on your mobile while I am laying her waiting to get my x-ray taken. She pulls her phone out of her pocket and looks at it and then looks at me [if looks could kill!] and puts her phone back in her pocket. Wise decision. Very wise decision. I get my x-rays done, put my black robe back on, and go back to Mohammed. He has made my appointment for August 17th. Won't do. I won't be here. Did I not make it clear to you, Mohammed, that I need to be put on the list to call, that I need to get this taken care of within the next week or so? Do you really want for me to come over the counter and strangle you with my bare hands?!? I am furious. I make Mohammed write down his last name and his telephone number. I'm going to the Patient Advocacy office to report him. He won't do what the doctor has told him to do or what I've asked him to do; and he told me to go to another hospital to get my MRI! Unacceptable.

Of course I have no clue where the Patient Advocacy office is - but I do know that there is one! I asked one of the "Information Desk" guys where the office was; and I think he must have seen that I was on the verge of melt-down because he jumped up and took me to the office himself. Ahh. Bless you. You have probably just prevented someone from being harmed... All the while we are walking to the Patient Advocacy office he is telling me that my being so upset is just making things worse, that I should just calm down, that things are going to be fine. He's right - I am just making things worse for myself - but I am so frustrated that I could just scream. I'm not going to calm down; the Valium has completely worn off, and unless I can get my MRI scheduled and get into see the orthopedist things are NOT going to be fine.

A very nice, calm young woman is now working on my "case." She has got me on the "call" list to get an MRI as quickly as possible and she is going to report Mohammed for telling me to go to another hospital. She informs me that the compound residents are never referred to outside facilities, especially women, because there is the matter of "safety" to consider. There is? What is she talking about. I tell her that I really need to get all of this taken care of in the next few weeks so that if there is a problem that requires some sort of medical procedure to correct, that I want to be able to have it done in the States while we are on vacation. Nothing scheduled as of three o'clock this afternoon, but she's working on it, and I have her number - and she has all of mine - our home telephone number, my cell phone number and my husband's. We don't part on the most positive note when I explain that my entire vacation is going to be absolutely miserable unless I can fix whatever it is that is causing me great distress - my knee - and she actually said to me, "Your vacation will only be miserable if you let it be." I'm done. There is just no talking with some people. And if I don't leave now I just know - KNOW - that I am going to do something that is going to get me in some serious trouble.

Unfuckingbelievable! But I don't have the patience to handle any more today. I will take TWO and possibly THREE Valium before I start trying, again, tomorrow!!! And, thankfully, the pain killers that the doctor gave me have kicked in and my knee isn't hurting as bad as it was. My poor DH is afraid that he is going to be called into his manager's office tomorrow and have to discuss his wife's behavior at the clinic. Nah. After all, I didn't actually hurt anyone. Just a lot of cursing and dirty looks.

Oh, and I found out why my cell phone wouldn't work! They've done something at the Urgent Care Clinic so that NO ONE'S cell phones work! You can only make emergency calls. [They, obviously, haven't implemented this at the rest of the medical facility, though, or x-ray girl's phone wouldn't have rang...]


  1. All i can say is If i ever need something to get done... can i please please please take you with me.There is only one way to deal with these fuckers. Its to make them hate you so much that they will do anything to get you out of there as soon as possible.
    P.S. Im curious on how you missed the girly man article in the saudi gazette today. Its so pathetic that its hilarious.

  2. I'm sure I'm well-hated, here, Hermit! And, unfortunately, I am no where near done at the clinic. Getting what I need is going to take several trips, no doubt. Knee is worse today than yesterday - tomorrow and Friday - the weekend, here. If, by Saturday there is no knee improvement - I'll be there at 6:55AM!

    Caught the article on the girly-man. Perhaps I'll get to it later. Did you see it on-line or in the actual paper? In the paper it is in a BIG BOLD headline. It deserves to be scanned before blogging.

  3. Actually I caught it in the news paper. Hope your knee gets better soon. You know you can always go to saad specialist Hospital. They bleed you dry money wise, but your insurance from Aramco should cover it. I think you can get an MRI done there quicker.

  4. Thanks, Hermit. It may come down to that - getting an MRI done elsewhere - it won't make me happy - the money and insurance coverage are NOT the point. Make some of the others here that are not residents - just dependents - go to Saad. They have drivers; I am not allowed to have one.

  5. See if you can get your hands on a drug called Voltarin, its made by Novartis I think. It will take about 3 or 4 days to kick in but when it does it is miraculous! I had a buggered knee a couple of years ago and our local pharmacist recommended it and I have never looked back! Wonderful stuff! Oh and I found that the slightly weaker dose worked better for me because it was a slow release - I think it comes as Votarin75 and Voltarin100. Anyway I took it for about a month and the knee has been good now for over a year!

  6. I think Voltarin comes in a cream, too, doesn't it, Rose? That is what they told me to use - directly on my knee - when I fell on it in November. Voltaren Emulgel - that's what it is. And made by Novartis. Will check the pharmacy for the pills. I would be absolutely thrilled if my knee could be HALF as good as it was before! Unfortunately, I really think that there is more going on behind my kneecap than just the "occasional" swelling and almost constant pain.

  7. Hi Sabra,

    Incredible. Absolutely incredible. I think you showed admirable restraint.

    Both my knees used to swell up horribly if I used them wrong. Had fluid drawn out and steroids injected in 4-6 times in a little over a year. Then I tore a meniscus, did the MRI, had arthroscopy etc. I have the cartilage of a 60 yr old (I was 46 at the time). Surgeon recommended Cosamin DS--that kind only, not BioFlex--to take the rest of my life. Knee vitamins. No trouble at all since. And I'm a black belt at 48 (surgeon said to stop taekwondo and I tried, I really did, until DH insisted I return to classes--that's how pleasant I was without being able to kick and punch on a regular basis). If I stop taking the Cosamin DS (it's expensive), or try to switch to a cheaper brand, I can tell the difference!

  8. Incredible, yes, Evelyn, but it IS the way things ARE here and there is no changing the system. I WILL get it resolved - but only because I refuse to just sit back and let everyone do nothing for me. I am just thankful that I have only ONE bad knee and not two bad knees.

    Thank you for the compliment - my showing such admirable restraint - I'm no so sure the doctor, nurses, Mohammed and Patient Advocate are thinking the same, but hey, I didn't actually HARM anyone...

  9. Oops... "I'm NOT so sure..." Not, "I'm no so sure..."

  10. Who cares what they think? They walked away, right? (If I didn't detest "smiley face" endings, I'd put a smiley face here.)


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