Writing exercise: Habitual ritual

I completed the first 4 NaNoWriMo themed Coursera classes from Wesleyan earlier this year. They were super beneficial for me. This is one exercise from the course on setting and description. The instructions were to write about a ritual or routine in specific and significant detail in 500 to 750 words. I wrote mine about a specific type of doctor office visit appointment… getting my Xolair shots.

****

You went around twice before you find an empty space. You park your car, turn it off, take a breath and gather yourself, and leave and lock your car. You walk in the vague direction of the door, there’s no clear path between the cars – both parked and moving. It’s bright and a little too hot.

You pull up and park at the curb. Your travel time was less than 40 minutes; you skipped the construction on the highway. Before you leave the car, you take a breathe and gather yourself. From the curb the door to the office is less than a dozen steps. Immediately inside there is the window with sliding glass with a low counter. You nod in greeting, the woman behind the window slides open the small glass door, greets you, and passes you the clip board. You write your name and today’s date on the appropriate spaces and hand the clipboard back. The woman nods at you and you head on back through the door to the right. There’s a decoration of a smiling yellow face on the door which reminds you of decorations in elementary school.

Walking to the back, you pass a medical assistant and he says hi but nothing more, he’s busy. In the infusion center, not all the chairs are full. You never know if your appointment will be in a crowded room or if it’ll be you and the staff.

The head infusion nurse, Lynn, greets you with a smile, like always. She’s busy starting an IV for the young woman in the first chair. You smile, stopping at hi, while she’s with another patient. There are 8 chairs lined up on the right side, spaced enough for room for nurses to administer to their patients. You pick the third from the front. It’s one of the more comfortable dark red chairs. You place your bottle of water and phone on the table, your bag on the floor at your feet, and dig out your novel. You sit down, trying to get comfortable, for now the book is in your lap. The other older nurse, Kate, comes out from the back room where the wide variety of medicines and supplies are stored. The vials, bags, and syringes. This nurse is somewhat reserved but still friendly.

She greets you, “Good morning! Your Xolair is mixing.”

“Hi! Thanks.”

This means your shots are ready in 10 to 15 minutes. The medicine is thick and they don’t mix it until you arrive. In the meantime she brings you a blood pressure cuff, the small battery powered type that goes on your wrist. You attach the cuff around your left wrist and position your arm. The nurse stands ready to write down your vitals.

“124/76. Pulse 89.” She records the numbers as an alarm starts. The IV medicine for the second patient needs attention and the nurse heads to turn off the alarm. The alarms no longer startle you. Lynn is still busy with the same patient.

You sit quietly. The woman in the first chair is young and on oxygen. A thick book sits in her lap. The second patient is older than you, with her chair reclined. Sleeping perhaps? She’s curled up under a brightly colored fleece blanket. The fourth chair – to your right – makes the small child curled between the chairs even smaller. You don’t know how old he is but he doesn’t talk. He appears engrossed in his game on the tablet. It’s one of those educational games meant for kids to practice identifying words or colors and such. His watchful mother is nearby, periodically scrutinizing her phone.

Lynn is walking toward you with 2 syringes. How did you miss her leaving the room? She pulls up the short stool identical to every other doctor’s office and sits down near you. You sit forward in the chair and turn, offering your right arm first, as she pops the cap off syringe number one. The medicine goes into the back of your upper arm. That soft fleshy bit. Even knowing what to expect, the burning pinch is still a surprise. Now the first syringe is empty and she retrieves the second. This one goes in your left arm. You suck air through your teeth and it makes a hissing noise as she slowly pushes the syringe empty. One arm always seems to hurt more than the other.

“Does it hurt?”

“Just a little. Like usual.”

She nods as she finishes. You look at the clock high on the wall. 11:35. You can leave at 12:05. You must wait, in case this time your body decides the good medicine is bad. There’s almost zero risk though. You sit back, the pain in your arms a vague shadow. You open your book.

****

Just a regular day when you’re chronically sick

Or a day in one person’s #chroniclife. Or a typical day when you’re a professional patient. Or the opposite of a fun afternoon. Call it whatever sounds good I guess.

Left the house around 2:15 for a 3:00 appointment. Appointment is to have a very short in office procedure and see the doctor. Supposed to take about an hour total. Forced to valet because the first parking lot had at least four people circling that I saw, so there was probably more. The second parking lot was full. The third parking lot was at least a 10 minute walk and might have made me late so I was stuck going with valet which isn’t part of my routine because I like to sit in my car and have a snack before I leave. Grumble.

Check in at doctor’s office. Pay $300 between the copay and the procedure cost because my health insurance deductible isn’t satisfied yet. Wait 25 or so minutes in the waiting room. At least 20 minutes past my appointment time my name is called. Pro tip: If you have a doctor who seems to be always late, get the earliest appointment you can manage.

Medical assistant person does my vitals, tells me what to expect with procedure. (BP was good, yay!) Have problems with antibiotic and soap because of my allergies/possible reactions. Almost have a panic attack while I’m waiting for someone to come back into the exam room because I’m basically flashing back to the time an asshole doctor told me the diagnosis I clearly didn’t have, without talking to me. (He completely dismissed any of my symptoms and problems and excused me of not respecting him because I wanted to ask questions.) I didn’t want them to think I was trying to be difficult. When I realized I was near tears I recognized the panic and concentrated on breathing slowly for a minute or two. Thankfully that helped and I didn’t have to wait that long for someone to return.

Finally, 5 minute procedure is done. Get dressed. Wait for doctor to come back who, while I was there, talked to at least 2 other patients and made a phone call. I probably saw the doctor for about 15 minutes. 20 minutes absolute max. All my questions were answered and I was given a month of free samples of my med. This is a good doctor by the way. She actually called me “love” during my appointment. I have no idea if she typically runs late because it’s only the second time I’ve had an appointment with her.

Left the office, stopped at the restroom, and then left the building, ate a peanut butter cup, retrieved my car from valet ($4), and then set off home. Took about 35 minutes to get home. Traffic was lighter than I expected. On the way home I managed to miss every single gas station where I could stop to get water.  I was at the doctor longer than expected and so drank my liter bottle before I left the building. Should have bought a bottle of (overpriced) water at the gift shop. Ended up having “peanut butter cup mouth” all the way home. Home about 5:05. Soon as I got home I needed a snack before my blood sugar went any lower. The super simple procedure caused me enough pain that I’ll probably spend the rest of the evening on the couch – when I’m not doing chores. (Silly body, this pain is stupid.)

I have another doctor appointment on Thursday but it’s the chiropractor and he’s never been late.

Then on Friday I get my xolair shots and spend at least two hours at the infusion center.

Both appointments are a half an hour from home (one way).

I don’t have time to work.