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Board Member becomes a Patient!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Originally from Casey's and Sloane's Blog

I live a life of having. I have a home. I have a job. I have insurance. I have reliable transportation. I have a child. I have my health. A happy marriage. Loving friends. The list goes on and on. And, as my sister and I say to each other when things seem bad, I have my own teeth.

A week ago, after a week or so of dry coughing and a no-longer-sexy-to-me-sounding voice, I needed someone – a professional – to take a look at my throat. Getting in to see my primary care doctor is easy when you can book months in advance for a wellness exam, but it gets dicey when you need to see him on the fly. I like him very much and trust him implicitly, but I needed a quicker opinion. Like a walk-in clinic. But the one in my local Walgreens makes me nervous. (I’m sure I’m being irrational and it is just fine.)

Then it dawned on me that I knew of just such a clinic, and I headed for an appointment at the Kansas City CARE Clinic. Excellent choice, and I was able to get in one day after I called.

Me and the Clinic. Well, the front door logo at least.

Now, in an effort a full disclosure, I have served on the Clinic’s board since 2009 and am currently their immediate past board president. I have known about them and their services since 1995 when I began my volunteering love affair with our local AIDS Walk and, therefore, the AIDS Service Foundation of Greater Kansas City. These two entities raise much needed funds all year for not only KC CARE but three other local AIDS service organizations.

I have been a part of leading multiple tours of the Clinic and the building as a whole. I have helped clean the garage, shoveled ice and snow from the front, and sat for a multitude of meetings in the various meeting rooms.

But I had never been a patient in the Clinic. Several people who I work with there knew I was booking an appointment, but I specifically asked that I get no special treatment and that no one on staff know of my volunteer service. I wanted to experience the Clinic as all our patients do.

The reason I had never been a patient is because I have had health insurance since I was 20 years old. Plastic card carrying member of the “I have insurance” brigade. I’ve been lucky to be able to keep it through a multitude of life and job changes and premium increases.

But now, after a multi-year implementation conversion that allows the clinic to be able to accept insurance should a patient have it, I was in!

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Pen choices. I chose the purple flower.

A smiling man met me at the counter. ID card and insurance info were whisked away and returned swiftly. Questions were answered quickly and in a friendly manner. This was an experience I shared with the people who followed me to the counter to check in and then waited with me in comfortable chairs in the warm, well-lit waiting room with a huge west-facing window.

“Ms. Simmons?” the man in the orange pants said as he opened the door to take me back to the scale. My nurse. A private room. A blood pressure check that confirmed, again, my severe “white coat syndrome” and its high-numbered reaction to health care providers. He asked good questions. We laughed at several of my answers, and then he was gone to retrieve the doctor, but not before I asked to take a photo of his pants because they matched my jacket. He smiled wide at the request.

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Nurse pants. Great color.

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A snippet of my orange jacket. And the reading materials.

All was well with my throat. Nothing out of the ordinary, but it was clearly angry. It wasn’t scratchy, it didn’t hurt when I breathed in or out, and it didn’t burn when I swallowed. The doctor and I talked through a few oddities – mid-life onset allergies being one we landed on. We’d wait and see.

Clutching a prescription, he left me to decide whether I needed it after another day or two. I was asked to check back if anything stayed “funky”. I was given clearance to continue to be with people and to share tight space with a friend on a road trip.

Mostly, I was asked to consider making the Clinic my “home”. I knew just enough about the phrase “patient centered medical home” to know what the doctor was asking. I said I would think about it and walked out of the room after a warm pat on the back.

I had to wait in front of the huge window for my ride home to appear. During that time, I watched people come and go from the waiting room. They were always greeted and cared for with a smile and respect. It blew my mind. This was not always the case at my primary care doctor’s office. Many of the people I was sharing this waiting room with – maybe most of them – do not have what I have. Or in the combination in which I have them. Most of them did not have insurance.

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Place was spotless. Spotless.

For over an hour, over a week ago, I was clearly in the hands of people who know how to run a true home. It was warm, inviting and clean. I was cared for, and extremely well.

In that sunny room, for that fleeting time, we all were living in “have”. We were having incredible and focused attention paid to our deepest fears and immediate concerns.

We were all lucky. Together.

Sloane

p.s. The stated mission of the Kansas City CARE Clinic is “…to promote health and wellness by providing quality care, access, research and education to the underserved and all people in our community.” That means insurance or no insurance, if there is an appointment available when you call, you are welcome as a patient. Turning people away is not part of the mission.

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These guys were in my room and were my favorites. It’s like they are begging to be set free!

 

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