Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Doctor's Office

It was reckless, this visit to the city medical center. I knew that.
Regardless, I snapped the latex gloves over the cuffs of my sleeve, pulled a rumpled Kleenex over my mouth and nose then handed my husband his own costume. We hoped these small protections would keep out the swine flu germs as we entered the busy emergency facility, a center that would likely be receiving patients with the full-blown virus. They were our only options, however: Both our neighborhood drugstores were sold out of surgical masks and didn't expect to refill their shelves for a week.
As we bolted across the parking lot, I again questioned my decision to come.
A routine obstetrics exam seemed at first glance a ridiculous reason to break my two-week quarantine. This timeframe had, after all, been suggested by a veteran physician who said contracting the virus might bring harm to my unborn baby. We had happily complied, going so far as to pull our five-year-old twins out of preschool and creating a homemade hazmat zone for my husband to decontaiminate himself after work.
Still, I had to weigh the odds of catching swine flu against the need for baseline numbers. See, I had been on bedrest for two months with my first pregnancy then struck suddenly with pre-eclampsia at 34 weeks, forcing me into an emergency C-section and two weeks of NICU time. Thus, I wanted to make sure my OB knew what my body looked like healthy so that he could detect if it ever began to sour.
Jim gave a little moan.
"My God, there are no obvious stairs," he muttered.
Having worked in hospitals as a college pre-med major, my husband knew firsthand how dirty they were. Our strategy had thus been to run like rabbits through the enterance then dash up the staircase to the OB's office on the third floor to avoid as many people as possible. Now were were faced with riding a huge elevator with other patients and--gasp--touching elevator buttons.
There seemed to be no choice.
The doors slid open and, lucky for us, we were alone all the way to the third floor.
That's when we encountered the crowd.
The office--home to a lucrative practice that included maybe nine OBs--was packed with at least a dozen hacking, sneezing pregnant women, their spouses and several snot-nosed kids depite the early hour. (Our own children, whom we planned to bring with us to learn the baby's gender, were carefully squirreled away with a friend who had quarantined her own offspring then shellacked her home in Lysol.)
"This place sounds like a tuburculosis ward," Jim said, taking a chair and eyeing another near the door.
I signed in with the front desk using a gloved hand and my own ballpoint.
Then, we waited.
And waited.
And waited.
Time seemed to drip by.
Jim reached for a magazine but stopped short.
"That's covered in swine flu!" I screeched using marital ESP.
He stuffed his latexed hands in his pockets.
The door of the office suddenly flew open and in strode a gigantic man carrying a battered briefcase.
He marched directly to the nurse's window and pushed open the glass.
"I'm here about the virus," he snapped.
"Oh, yes, yes!" said the nurse. "We'll prioritze you. Just a moment."
The man coughed roughly into his shirtsleeve.
My God, I though, I've walked into the heart of darkness!
I have just sealed the fate of an innocent!
I am going to get swine flu!
My baby will be born with a snout or at the very least reject innoculating breast milk in lieu of pork byproducts!
Sweat began to pool on my forehead.
"Do you want to leave?" Jim whispered.
Just then, the door swung open and three nurses with concerned faces peered out.
"Oh, Mr. Johnson, thank Heaven you're here!" the tall one said. "That virus is back! Our computers are down!"
It has now been 24 hours since our visit to the OB's office.
Neither I nor my laptop have come down with any type of virus--swiney or otherwise.
And our baby girl is, so far as anyone can tell, perfectly healthy at 20 weeks.


Em said...

It's still funny.

And you owe me a can of Lysol ;-)

Jamie said...

I love that this quarantine has you blogging so much - I was in withdrawal after not hearing for the most of April!