Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Confiscated ID Card.

I've never come even remotely close to being thrown out of a public building. Hopefully it won't happen again.

Wednesday morning I found myself driving up to the normal health clinic for my ER-diagnosed pneumonia follow-up appointment. I was interested not only in what my regular doctor had to say, but to see if she had any ideas or suggestions about possible immunity problems. Not that I haven't already tried. Trust me, I have.

[At some point though, enough is enough. I can't tell you how many blood tests, internal specialists, exams, scans and an assortment of other tests that I've had done. I don't think its a lack of cooperation or trying on my health provider's part... I think whatever I have going on is outside the scope of their practice. Additionally, I think the pneumonia was the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back; I'm eager for a second opinion and a fresh perspective. (And have taken the steps to do so!)]

But I digress....

This will be the last time I walk through these doors I thought grimly as I climbed the steps. I tried not to wheeze or cough. I wasn't successful. No more Tricare Prime for me...Standard - and the ability to choose my own doctors - all the way from now on.

And I guess, in retrospect, walking into a building with the confidence that it will be your last visit to said building, isn't always a good thing. Then again hindsight is, well, hindsight.

I'm not really proud of what I did; in a way I just had to blow off some steam. Was I looking for a fight? Perhaps. But Julie and Sunshine took the brunt of my displeasure.

Let me back up a bit.

Just bare with me - it won't take long. My race reports are MUCH longer, trust me.

I left the house in a bit of a panic. I had lost my wallet - containing all important documentation, credit cards, and a lovely picture of Nathaniel and myself. I look at that image everyday and think about how lucky I am; you had better be sure I wanted my wallet back! (Later on after my appointment, we found it on the couch - squashed between the cushions when Tabbitha and her cat-ass had sat on it. Ew).

There were some tears and frustration - not just with the missing cards, but with my state of health. I threw a few things off the counter, and took great satisfaction to the clanging they made on the wood floors. At least I'm not holding back, holding things in. Thank you 2008 bike crash lessons learned!

But I know how important ID cards are with the military and - for one crazy second - thought the clinic staff wouldn't let me see my doctor because I was missing my ID. In retrospect, all I had to do was take a deep breath for them; they could have heard the pneumonia and verified that I was who I claimed to be.

So instead, I grabbed my first military ID card ever issued. It expired way back in 2007, and through some quirk I had managed to keep it (technically it was "US Government Property". I found that out - later), and faithfully stored it in my bike tool kit. I figured that, even though I carried ID and health cards EVERY time I rode my bike - it never hurt to have an additional ID card in my bike bag. You just never know.

Flash forward....

I'm walking into the clinic...turning red to suppress my cough and not expose the full waiting room, worrying about my lost ID cards, more worried about my current bout with pneumonia.

I waited until the clerk gestured me forward and in a breathless (pneumatic) sort-of-way said, "Hi! I have a 10:30 with Dr. H."

I thought for a brief second I might be able to get away without presenting my expired military ID. I was wrong.

I handed the girl, who looked very nice on first glance, my military ID and explained, "I lost my wallet and couldn't find my regular military ID. This one is expired, but its the only thing I have. I didn't know if you guys would need to check or not. I figure with pneumonia I could just cough and you'd know who I am..."

Let me clarify: when I'm nervous, I talk. A lot.

"Oh." She replied. "Okay - let me just check you in."

I seriously thought everything was going to be okay. That she would hand me back my ID card. I could hear the nurse calling my name and I called over my shoulder that I would be back in just a moment.

And then I heard it. "Oh wait...Um, ma'am?"

Its never a good sign when a 25-year old calls a 29-year old "Ma'am".

"Ma'am? Did you know that your ID card is expired?"

Did I not already go over that with her?

"Yes - you see...I was in a hurry. I lost my wallet and I grabbed my old ID card. I keep it with my bike bag - just in case I get into another bike accident. I like to have an extra form of ID on me at all times. You keep safe."

I tried to stress the word "extra" - as though I would never ever ever walk around knowingly with an expired ID card. Heck, I freak out when our vehicle tags are even remotely close to expiring (after a tearful encounter with a lovely North Carolina Highway Patrolmen, who although sympathetic to my waterworks and expired tags, still wrote me a hefty ticket). I just don't like being in trouble. It makes me nervous. It makes me upset.

Heck, I barely even speed (anymore). And - the real topper. I'm working on feeling less guilty when I miss a workout in Training Peaks. Not that I would ever get in trouble...I just follow the rules, follow the directions.

I never even participated in underage drinking - I swear. And no, I don't expect you to believe me. But I really didn't.

"Well, you see. Your card is expired and I'll have to keep it." She suddenly didn't seem so friendly. And I could sense that her tone took a slightly hard edge to it.

And then - right at that exact moment - I could feel it: I was getting pissed.

Very rarely do I relish a good fight. I can only think of two - maybe three times in my life where I've openly looked forward to a showdown with another person. One was at music camp when three directors wanted my 14-year-old-self to sigh financial papers saying that my parents were responsible for all expenses for the FULL 5-week camp, when I was too homesick and wanted to leave early. It wasn't cheap, but I knew enough to never sign anything. My Mom is great with this stuff. In the end I prevailed (and I still marvel at the kid I was...still wish I could go back and give her a hug. It wasn't easy - but I'm proud that I didn't even cry (in the adult's presence).

The second was when some Lt. Col's wife told me I had to volunteer for something because Nathaniel was the detachment's Officer-in-Charge during his second deployment. I very kindly told her where she could stick it. We resulted to shouting obscenities over the phone at each other, when she threatened to have Nathaniel blacklisted from being accepted to flight school (her husband was writing one of Nate's many letters of recommendation). Clearly - her reach is far (not). But the fight felt good, the heated words did much to relieve myself of the pre-deployment stress I was going through.

And we got the last laugh; Nathaniel not only got into flight school, but graduated with top honors and got the aircraft that he wanted in the location that he wanted (which is extremely difficult to do. I'm very proud of my guy...).

I thought briefly back to those two instances - I had won them both. And while there was little I could to to retrieve my ID card (short of jumping over the desk - NOT going to happen with my pneumatic state. And I didn't relish being arrested for assault on a government employee), I could at least voice my displeasure.

Again; I'm not proud. But I'm also frustrated. Upset. ANGRY. Tired of being sick - and unfortunately Julie (as her name turned out to be) was the perfect target.

"Oh really? Are you serious?"

Her non-blink, non-response showed me how serious she was.

And then I started talking much louder.

"This us unreal. Abso-fuckin'-lutely nuts. Are you for real? I mean, I've had that ID card for years. YEARS. And there's never been a problem. Its a safety concern - would you even understand that? No, because you are here. I put it on my bike at ALL times. Give it back."

And then - I put both hands in the counter, with my hair slightly askew and wheezed, "Give me back my ID card. Now."

You could have heard a pin drop. I could have sworn there were crying babies when I first walked in - but they were silent. Even the other clerks had stopped filing, stopped talking, and were watching our exchange.

She continued in a slow, deliberate calm voice. Which of course made me even angrier - but I didn't care and I tried to not let it show. "Your ID is expired. It is US Government Property. I DON'T know how you managed to keep it all these years or get a new one with the old one. But its MY job to get confiscate it. And there's no need to be upset."

I was looking forward to this. I really didn't think I would get the card back - but that wasn't the point. I was sick, I couldn't find my regular cards, and I felt like I had nothing (even though I knew that wasn't the case). And there she was - taking something else away from me. Looking back I know I was extremely upset. But again...hindsight.

"Oh wow. Do you think this is upset? Because man - if you want upset, I'll GIVE you upset. I can't tell you HOW many times I've been here in the past few months with no answers and now - of all things I have a fucking case of pneumonia. I'm sick. And I'm tired. And now YOU have taken my only ID card. I carry that ID card in my bike bag. What part of 'back-up' don't you get? This is un-fucking-believable."

She stammered, "Ma'am...I can't give you this card back. Its...expired."

"Fine," I snapped. I pulled my Mom's favorite line, "Where's your supervisor?"

A second - even younger girl walked forward, even though she had been witness to the entire exchange. Even the nurses had stopped calling patients forward and were watching. Had there been a security guard, I'm sure I would have already been thrown out.

"My name is Sunshine. How can I help you."

I just looked at her. And then I laughed. "Are you serious? Oh my God. Is that your real name?"

"Yes," came the reply.

"Wow." I said. "Well, Sunshine and....what's your name?....Julia," I read off her name tag. "I'm very upset. You have taken an ID card that I use when I bike. My wallet has been lost and this is the only thing I could find. I'm taking your names and you'll be hearing from me. This is unbelievable."

And then she just had to get smart. Which is exactly what I would have done, had I been in her shoes. "Don't tell me that this is the only form of ID that you bike with? You can't be serious."

From somewhere, my nurse put her hand on my arm and said very sweetly, "Let's go...its not worth it."

I had to get in one more lick. I couldn't help it - "Have you not been listening to ANYTHING? Good God - NO! I SAID that this is my SPARE ID. My regular wallet is lost and I'm in the process of LOOKING for it. I've never been treated like this before - this is unreal and unheard of. Un-fucking-believable..." My words felt like knives, stabbing through the air. But the release felt good - even if I was one-expired-ID-card short of my goal.

And I left it at that.

I can't say that I'm proud of what I did. And later - sitting in the sterile appointment room, waiting for a doctor whom I knew wouldn't give me the answers that I was so desperately seeking - I cried.

I cried because I was ashamed of my behavior, of how I spoke to another person (persons). I knew that they were just doing their jobs, and that even on my military ID card it states "Property of US Government." I cried because I'm so sad and tired of being sick. And I cried for all the people who are currently ill and searching for answers. Its not fair, its not right. No one should have to go through this.

And I cried because I'm scared. Part of me knows that eventually things will get better, that my body will recover and that it will be stronger for having endured what it went through. But in the mean time...I'm still sick, and waiting for answers.

And then, very quickly - so no one would know how upset I was - I splashed cool water on my face and blew my nose. I figured the red and puffy eyes could be blamed on the pneumonia and general crumminess that accompanies it.

I never did apologize to Julie and Sunshine. After my appointment I walked out - sans ID card - to my car. Too proud to offer sympathetic words, to fearful of public tears, to ashamed to face the individuals I took my anger out on.

With that being said: To Julie and Sunshine - I'm sorry. Please forgive my unruly behavior. It won't happen again. (Especially since I really won't be setting foot in your clinic). But bravo for dealing with an unhappy patient - you stood your ground, you held firm, and you did your job. Good work! Enjoy the ID card and I hope that you confiscated it in a manner that would make Uncle Sam proud!

Oh - and sorry for making fun of your name. Yeah - that wasn't very nice either. Hopefully I'll never see you again.

At the end of the day, I think that we all have a breaking point. We are pushed to a certain extent and we can handle only so much. And if there's something wrong we NEED to find a productive way of getting our feelings OUT. Some ways may be more appropriate than others...but NEVER ever ever deny the feelings that you have. Anger, frustration, fear, sadness - all very normal emotions that everyone experiences. Some, more than others...true. But don't deny the feelings exist, even if you're afraid of how they may come off.

Oh well - enough for now. After I arrived home, Nathaniel remarked that my mood was remarkably improved (for having learned nothing new about my health), and eventually we found the wallet. But I really DID feel better - even if it was at the expense of poor Sunshine and Julie. All's well that ends well, I guess. Confiscated ID card and all. And with that note...

The End.


ADC said...

You are right - we all have a breaking point. And sometimes our venting is directed at right people and sometimes it's not.

By the way I still have my old military ID cards. Uh-uh.

jennabul said...

Oh wow! As a person in the medical profession, I can say this - we are used to blow ups like that. Being sick is no fun, and sometimes you just take your frustration out on the nearest person. It happens. The girls in the clinic know it. It's especially hard when you have no answers. At least you got a nice release =). When it happens to me, I try and stay calm and just remember that this person is having a *really* bad day, and it doesn't have anything to do with me, except for maybe being the person who unknowingly placed the straw on the camel's back....hang in there!

Nicole @ Geek Turned Athlete said...

I just hate going to the military hospital! It seems like they are only treating the symptom not the cause! Frustrating!! And the whole ID thing, yes, I know, girl! What a bunch of bitches! I'm sure that they did't go through training, and someone actually told them to take expired ID cards. WTF! Well, I'm glad that at least you got some type of release!

Anonymous said...

Agreed. as someone in the medical field who regularly is blown up at, we are used to it. we know that your frustrations are not directly at us. You likely won't ever get solid answers. What caused PNA is bacteria or a virus. There's nothing to prevent this from happening, nothing to make it go away quicker except for a good chunk of time on the couch. frustrating yes, but be glad it's only PNA!

Wish I was there because it would have been funny!

cherelli said...

That, Marit was one beautiful confrontation (pretty sure the silence in the room was other patients wishing they could've been you!) - an outstanding vent!!! I'm pretty sure those ladies wouldn't have been too offended, like someone else said they would have been able to see you were sick and any normal person knows that sickness reduces the number of buttons that can be pushed before you reach the edge. Oh, and I totally kept my ex-military ID after leaving the Air Force. Used it a couple of times for military discounted events... :) Alas, now it is lost (and I have aged too much anyway)...thank goodness you don't have to go back to that place!

Angela and David Kidd said...

Oh Marit, I'm glad that stress release made you feel better. I can't imagine how frustrated you are and I'm sure Julie and Sunshine are used to it (and honestly, they probably get a pretty good laugh out of it behind closed doors). I don't even have an excuse and I almost totally lost it this morning when the old ladies kicked me out of the pool for water aerobics. I turned into a mean, hateful person.

And good for 14 year old you not signing something! Those fools should have known something signed by a minor isn't legally enforceable.

Michelle Simmons said...

OMG I can completely picture that whole scene! I probably would have reacted the same way, although like you, only when already very close to my breaking point. :)

Feel better soon so you can vent your frustrations while running instead of in random public places. ;)

D said...

Why do people have stupid names like "Sunshine"? Seriously to-be parents: Don't do that to your child!!!!!

You need to get away. I know a few great places...

GoBigGreen said...

Marit when you emailed me this scenario i had to chuckle inside as Jennabul said, I have seen it from their eyes ( who names their kid Sunsine? Oh D already agrees with sorry) anyways..I am sure they have seen and heard worse.
Just laugh it off. And laugh at yourself:)
Hang in there, "Sunshine."

Mer! said...

Honestly, I too have reached the breaking point with the whole "ID expired confiscating thing"....I yelled at an MP down at 32nd street, then his supervisor walked over and looked scary and I got I didn't get a chance to get it all off my chest, so thank you for getting it off your chest for the rest of us who didnt' have the guts!!

Seriously you have so much going on right now and sometimes you just want people to do their freaking jobs.....if the first doctor had done an xray--maybe Julie and Sunshine would've been spared the altercation?? But, in my experience (and I can say this since Dave is a physician and i've experienced AWFUL care even with Dave standing right next to me!!)---people slack and when people slack at their jobs, unfortunately in every profession....others suffer and it totally totally sucks....

So relieved you can pick your own docs....way better!!!! And, actually, it's really not that expensive..i've been doing it since pre-pregnancy and it's worth it!!!

Sending more hugs!!! GOOD ON YOU for standing your ground!!

Kim said...

marit, i would have stood up and applauded you had i witnessed this. oh honey. way to let it out! do not feel guilty - i think releasing your emotions is a great thing and it happens to all of us. including "sunshine". wishing you lots of laughter, rainbows, kitty-cats and m&ms :)

Stacy said...

Loved this post for two reasons:
1. I'm extremely mild mannered, but when I get pissed... watch-out! I could so see myself in this situation. Oh and I would have totally cired in the exam room too!
2. Working in the medical field, we see this with our patients. But after the patient goes we pretty much just laugh it off. I think you got the last laugh though! come on... Sunshine!?!

Let me know if you need any doc recommendations. I know a few great ones in Carlsbad!

Beth said...

Oh Marit! As someone who works in health care - trust me, those two are used to it. And why? Because it is scary and frustrating and awful to be sick and not be able to fix it right away. So lots of people let out the stress like that and I've seen much worse than your exchange! :) I'm glad it helped!! And hopefully that next doctor will be able to handle what you've got going on!!

Laura said...

Sunshine? Really? I would have laughed too. Is she SURE it wasn't just a nickname? I mean, Sunshine?!?

Sending wellness vibes to you Marit!!

Anonymous said...

I so loved that brave, wonderful, and innocent 14 year old. The men (if you can call them that) should have been ashamed of themselves - Shame on them. And, as your teacher had said - they needed you more than you needed them - that's why the scholarship.
Your strength under fire was amazing. I was beyond angry at how you were treated, beyond sad for you. The leadership at the M.I. Music Camp changed the following year. And we never wondered why.

I so love that brave, wonderful, and (sadly) not so innocent 29 year old. You do your family proud. You continue to amaze me.