Friday, February 15, 2008

A good experience with the GW health care system?

I've always been pretty good on my feet. Not in a dancing kind of way, but in a not-falling-on-my-face kind of way. I go hiking a good deal with my family, and never once have I tripped on a tree root and ended up falling down a mountain or anything. And being from Chicago, I've learned to deal with some pretty terrible weather.

Well, my luck ended on Tuesday night. I slipped on the ice on H Street on my way to get groceries. (I didn't see this post from The Colonialist until it was too late.) Basically, I looked like about the last minute of this video:

At one point, I really was spinning around a lamp post, trying to find a non-icy patch on which to stand. But Gene Kelly never said anything about ice skating in the rain (though he did know his way around a pair of roller skates). My hand didn't really start hurting until right before I went to bed, so I wrapped it up in what I had and went to sleep. I unwrapped it after class on Wednesday, and almost fell over because of the pain.

"Well, that's a problem," I thought. I called several of my friends in a near-tears panic, and one promised to bring over an actual bandage. While I was waiting, I called my mother, who told me to go to the health center. But as warned by Molly and Shanna's experiences, I decided to steer clear of the health center. It just wouldn't be worth it to trek all the way up there only to be told I couldn't get an appointment or they were already closing down for the day. So I made myself some grilled cheese (which is surprisingly hard to do one-handed), grabbed several books and a newspaper, and made my way to GW Hospital.

Yes, it did end up taking five hours all-told -- five and a half if you include waiting for 4-ride to take me back to my dorm. But even with my pain, I kept myself busy with the crossword, Sudoku, and the books I brought. I also noticed something about the room of people I was waiting with. It was almost always full. And it was full of all kinds of people, not just drunk GW kids. A good portion of people there were over 50. A lot were waiting by themselves. And everyone just wanted to feel better.

Now, our system is by no means perfect -- anyone who's been to an ER knows the hurry-up-and-wait rhythm that keeps you on edge. And it certainly leaves a lot to be desired when compared to other countries' health care systems. When I was fourteen, I had to go to an emergency care center in England -- it was quick, painless, and relatively inexpensive even considering the exchange rate. Can't we get our act together so that it's easier for sick and injured people to get help without worrying about going bankrupt? If I weren't on my parents' insurance, I know I wouldn't have gone in to get my wrist looked at (it's only sprained; the biggest problem is going to be doing everything right-handed). Guess that's another case of me being lucky.

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