Kage Baker had the lowest possible opinion of hospital bureaucracy. Not actual medical personnel – they are all, in their various ways, heroes, and she appreciated everything they did.
But the massive disjointed machinery of paperwork annoyed her in its monolithic incompetency: the clerks with attitudes, the volunteers who actually despised the frightened and the sick, the dogs in office. Any large institution fights a constant battle to keep them out; but when they entrench themselves in medical institutions is when they are most poisonous.
A day with those folks could be written off to perdition, she said. And she was right. And I had one of those days today.
I have a biopsy and hysteroscopy scheduled for December 8th. Various tests are needed before the actual procedure, and today was the day for them. It would have been easier if someone had told me about it – no one did – but about 11:30 someone noticed I was missing and called me. I abandoned my computer and took off frantically.
Cedars Sinai is a wonderful place, and its medical personnel are all quite courteous and charming and good at their jobs. But they too are at the mercy of the paperwork gnomes, and can be rendered hysterical and helpless as easily as any poor civilian trying to cope with insurance requirements. My paperwork had been lost, found, lost again, sent to the wrong department and recycled as fire starters – but the computer age does have its distinct successes, and one of them is the ability to reproduce paperwork from electronic impulses. I made it through the initial gateway guards, and started a 4-hour journey through various labs.
At the moment, walking is not one of my best things: my tests were all in twin bastions of the North and South Towers, on several floors – none adjacent, no two in sequence even in the same building. Up and down, back and forth, over the 4 square blocks and multiple stories of the buildings I trekked, yielding frightening amounts of body fluids and being wired into and out of various fiendish devices … I met a really amazing number of clerks who could not manage diphthongs, and therefore could not pronounce either my first or last names with any accuracy. One actually summoned me into the sanctum sanctorum of lab work by calling out for “Patient …. um, K or B?”
But I was finally done, and escaped through the nearest street level door. I was only two block away from my car and somehow on the other side of the building I had parked under … but I trudged gratefully to the garage, drove home, and collapsed back into bed. From which refuge I was woken by a clerk from Cedars Sinai, complaining I had neglected to leave them a urine sample.
Now, a urine sample is something a person tends to be fairly sure of, you know? Hard to neglect, forget or misplace. I knew I’d given one, packaged it with all the right pre-printed labels, swathed it a plastic bag covered with brightly-coloured biohazard warnings – and, most importantly, my actual name – and handed it to the appropriate tech. The clerk finally admitted they had the jar – but it was empty.
I cannot imagine what could have emptied it. Well, actually, I can imagine several things, but I’d rather not. It’s just too horrid to contemplate. And regardless of what it was, I still have to go back in tomorrow and replace the missing sample.
And this, Dear Readers, is why I am not regaling you with tales of I-5 and Dickens Fair tonight, but instead complaining about my day’s adventures with medicine and bureaucracy. Complete with the Mysterious Missing Samples.
Oh, and just to give everyone a Good Night giggle – I must report a most unusual sighting this afternoon at the corner of Franklin and Rowena: a panto horse, rummaging in the back of a gardener’s pickup truck. See? Even in the midst of the most banal and annoying things. mystery and romance are dancing in the corner of our eyes. We just have to notice.