It takes a lot for me to go to the doctor. So when I get sick, I tend to ride it out and deal with it until it’s over.

But this past weekend, I had a pretty good feeling that method wasn’t going to work. I’d had a sore throat all day Friday, and by Saturday morning it was screaming for attention.

I’d recently moved to Boothbay Harbor from Augusta, and my primary care facility is still in Gardiner. I wasn’t even sure they would be open on a Saturday, and I was more sure that I didn’t want to drive up there even if they were.

So I checked out the website of the local urgent care center in town, about a half-mile away from my house. They seemed to be up and running, nothing about calling ahead. Perfect.

I drove into a parking lot with about six cars in it, and thought I’d get right in. I walked up to the main entrance to find two large stop signs and a blown-over bottle of hand sanitizer with hardly anything in it. Other signs instructed me to wait for someone to come out, which I did. A woman came through the door wearing a mask and gloves, holding a sheet of paper and proceeded to ask me a list of questions about any symptoms I might have, all pretty much related to COVID-19. At the end, she asked why I was there, and I said I thought it might be strep throat. She went back into the building, came out with a mask, handed it to me and asked me to call the urgent care center (where I already was) and tell them why I was there. I did so.

I spoke to a switchboard person who took my phone number, said I was on a list, that I should go back to my car and someone would call me soon. Within a few minutes, a nurse called and asked me more questions about my health, my symptoms, etc. She then told me that she would patch me through to the doctor on duty. I then spoke with the doctor who asked many questions: Had I traveled? Had I been in contact with anyone who had traveled? Had I been in contact with anyone who had coronavirus symptoms? Did I have any of those symptoms? Why was I there? And many others.

After speaking with him, another person called and asked me all the questions you’d normally answer when they hand you a clipboard and a bunch of paperwork. Since we couldn’t meet face-to-face, she told me I would have to come back when everything was “back to normal” so that they could get a copy of my insurance card, my photo ID and for me to sign a HIPAA form, which I had to agree to verbally.

Then the doctor called back and said that he would not be testing me for COVID-19, but would like to do a throat culture. He told me to drive to the side of the building where I would see a blue tent. I was to pull up to that and they would be out soon. I could see them through the window getting all geared up, feeling badly that they had to do this for me, and kind of feeling scared that they had to do this for me. This wasn’t a story on the news.

It was me this time, and it was such a strange feeling.

Within a few minutes, the doctor and another medical person came outside dressed in protective clothing, rolling a cart with a blood pressure monitor, electronic thermometer, all the usual stuff. The doctor reached through the open window of my car, checked my throat, commented on how bad it looked, had me say “Ah” a couple of times and the culture was taken. He checked my heart, lungs and ears through that same car window and off he went to run the test.

The other man took my temperature, blood pressure and asked a few more questions, all with the cold wind whipping everything around us. Then he told me to go back to the parking lot, and the doctor would call in 15-20 minutes with test results.

I got the call right on time. He said it looked like strep throat and it was bad enough for antibiotics, called the prescription into the local pharmacy and told me to call if it got worse. Self-isolate for five to nine days. Ding, dang, done.

Everyone was so kind and just made it all seem like business as usual, even though it really wasn’t. I’ve got two doctors in my family, one in Virginia and one at Maine Med. I know they are working so hard, and I worry about them both every day. As off as everything seems right now, I’m thankful that our medical folks are at the top of their game.

 

Sharon Wood is a graphic designer at the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel. 


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