16 August 2002
I really, really didn't need the conversation with the lab today. It was kind of the
punctuation mark in a day that just seems to have spiraled out of control.
I don't actually know if it's the day that's out of control, or if it's my coping
mechanisms that are out of control. I'm not even sure when it started feeling like things
I think it was when I got the overdue notice on the bill for the office computer. My
first thought was that the overdue notice must have passed in the mail with the check I
sent, but when I went through the checkbook, I realized I never sent the check. HUGE
oversight. Made even more huge by the fact that we'd gone over the bills due and the
balance in the checkbook and made decisions of which bills to pay now and which could be
put off. The overdue notice came after I'd sent all the bills, reducing our bank balance
to a minimal amount.
When I told Dr. G that I had not, after all, mailed the computer check and showed him
how little we had in the checkbook, he asked me if I was sure the figures were right. I
think that's the moment when there was a little "boing" in the wires holding my
brain together. Uh....no, I am not sure the figures are right. Business at the office has
increased so dramatically since Dr. G was interviewed by a magazine recently, that it's
all I can do to keep up with the day to day stuff, the messages on the answering machine,
the patients needing assistance, the phones ringing off the hook to take the time to
balance the checkbook too.
I wasn't really worried about it because Dr. G is going on vacation all of next week
and most of the following week, so I've set things like that aside for when he's not in
the office and things are more quiet and unhurried.
But somehow I have to find enough money to pay for the computer--and I'm hoping that
I've made some terrible checkbook error and I'll suddenly discover we have a couple of
thou' more than my calculations show.
It was noontime and it was obvious that I had lots to do before the end of the day, so
I took an hour or so off to go to the bank and then get something to eat. When I got back
to the office, Dr. G had gone home, leaving another stack of work for me to do (I have to
admit I was a bit put out because he'd put his out-box on my desk chair, as if to say that
he didn't expect I'd remember to look in the out-box unless he did that.)
One of the things he wanted me to do was to call the lab where we send patients for
tests and to find out "Which is the current best test for Pheochromocytoma -- 24-hr.
urine for catecholamines or serum VMA? Or is there another test recommended?"
He spelled "pheochromocytoma" phonetically for me (fee-o-kromo-cyTOma) to
make sure I got it right, which further irked me because I've been typing this stuff for
15 years and I not only can pronounce pheochromocytoma, but I can spell it as well. There
are some days (like yesterday) when he treats me like an equal and gives me all sorts of
things to do autonomously, and other days (like today) when he acts as if I've never
worked in a medical office before.
So I called the lab. After wading through options in three different voice mail menus,
I determined that there was no option of "technical support" so I waited on the
line for a real live operator to answer ("your call is very important to us..."
Does anybody ever admit "we don't give a fig about you and we're going to keep you on
the line as long as possible while we have our coffee break?")
I asked the operator for technical support; she said she would connect me to customer
service. I had a feeling this was not going to be easy.
Our conversation went something like this:
CS: Can I help you?
ME: I'd like to get some information on which tests you are running
for a diagnosis of pheochromocytoma.
CS: For what?
CS: Can you spell that please? Theo...what?
ME: Not Theo...pheo. p-h-e-o-c-h-r-o-m-o-c-y-t-o-m-a.
CS: I can't even find that test in my book.
ME: It's not a test. It's a diagnosis. I need to know what tests you
are running for a patient with that diagnosis.
CS: I don't understand your question. We'll do whatever
test the doctor wants.
ME: We need to know which is the current best test to order for a
patient with the diagnosis of Pheochromocytoma -- 24-hr. urine for catecholamines or serum
VMA? Or is there another test recommended?
CS: I don't have a medical background. I can't give you that
information unless you tell me which test you want to run.
ME: That's the point. I want to find out which tests to
run. Isn't there some technical support person I can talk to?
CS: That would be me. But I don't have the medical background to
answer your question.
ME: I mean isn't there someone with medical background for me to talk
CS: We have different technicians for different tests. If you tell me
which test you want to run, I can connect you.
At this point I just hung up, making some snide comment about how silly it was of me to
expect a medical laboratory to have someone with medical expertise. The only good thing
was that I didn't give her my name or Dr. G's name, so I don't think there will be
That pretty much was all I could handle at the office today, and I left the mountain on
my desk and got into the car to come home. I have a ton of letters to put together for Dr.
G tonight, but before I do that, I have to cook dinner, go see a play and then come home
to write the review. Then I can do the letters. With luck I'll be able to squeeze in a
couple of hours of sleep before Cindy comes to get me to go bike riding at 5 a.m.
(I don't even want to think about the "big tape" that Dr. G swears he gave me
which is absolutely NOWHERE to be found around here. With luck, I won't have to confess
that to him until he gets back from vacation. Maybe there's a good reason why he sometimes
treats me as if I've never worked in a medical office before.)