So I Went to the Free Clinic Last Night... (For the Uninsured)

… And I got up early this morning, because I was dehydrated, had a slight headache, and I couldn’t sleep anymore. It’s unfortunate that it’s on a Friday, but I had to get up early this morning anyway, to go for more blood work at the hospital. I finally get my new A1C today, as well as a complete metabolic profile, and lipid profile, and I’m excited to see how I’m doing… However, I also got some kind of confusing news about my thyroid… and as it turns out, my TSH is very, very low. Now, I am pretty sure I am a Hypothyroid patient. I have been Hypothyroid for over 26 years, if I go by symptoms, and was officially diagnosed at the age of 15. I have been known to have TSH levels as high as 150.00 (normal ranges are: 0.4–4.5 mIU/L or 0.4–4.5 mU/L (SI units), for adults, and 3–18 mIU/L or 3–18 mU/L (SI units) for babies). So, my doctor had adjusted my Thyroid medication accordingly, to make sure my TSH wasn’t so low… reduced it from 150 mcg to 125 mcg. Only now, my TSH is even lower than it was BEFORE she adjusted my medication. Odd, isn’t it? If it’s not some kind of fluke, I’m pretty sure my Pituitary gland has hit the crapper… Yay for more immune illnesses. NOT.

I am always excited about my "3,000 mile checkups," but they are quite a struggle to get to... You see, I have no insurance, and I have to attend a free volunteer clinic in my local community. That's wonderful, you might think, but the problem is they are very understaffed, and heavily attended. Doctors can only show up to the clinic around 5:30 pm or so, when their already full and long shifts at the local hospital clinic have ended. The lines for the free clinic, however, start to form 2 hours earlier. They can only see between 17-20 people a night, so people really fight their way to get in there, and it's usually a very long wait for the rest of the evening. It used to be that patients were served first come, first serve, but now... they do it by raffle. If you don't get served that night, well, you're just screwed. At worst, you wasted two hours of your life while waiting for them to call out your name. At best, if they do pick you, and you make an early number... you may waste 3 or 4 hours of your life. If not -- like I was so unfortunate, last night -- you may well make it out of the doctor's office at 9 pm. Yes, you heard it right. I was at the free clinic at 3 pm, in line, and I got out at 9 pm.

The services they offer are very limited, as well. I am very thankful that they are equipped with some services to help out with my Diabetes -- but if I had some feet issues, I'd probably be screwed. They do not have specialists that help out, and they more or less consult outside, if they need to -- but do not pay for full blown appointments, for you. While I know that Diabetes is serious enough, I may be (for now), blessed that I do not have something more serious, like Cancer, requiring chemotherapy. The facilities are also pretty inadequate, as they use an office donated by a generous church in our community -- complete with stiff, cheap kitchen chairs, and barstools. The kind of seating that raises a normal person's blood pressure (like mine) from an average reading of 110 mmHg, to 124mmHg, because they waited for 6 hours, while sitting on them, to be seen by a doctor. It's also a very crowded space, with many waiting their turn, and still, many, many more waiting for a chance to be considered at the end of the night.

Unemployment and the bad economy have so affected our communities, that you see it all when you attend the free clinic: Unemployed professionals sitting side by side the homeless; folks dressed in their best duds, and folks dressed in rags, and smelling of urine. Even in this bad economy, we lead such a sheltered life in America. These are the scenes we rarely see when we have a good financial cushion to fall back on, and so many do... I have the feeling that if more and more people volunteered at these places, or even tried to use those services or needed them one day, they wouldn't be so opposed to healthcare reform. I could not, not know and not ever, deny those people at the free clinic from adequate healthcare. I couldn't deny the homeless, the handicapped, the mentally challenged, the young pregnant mothers, or young, sick children, with much needed, adequate healthcare. We're so much politics, as usual, sometimes... and these are the kinds of things that make the Lord cry. Perhaps some congressmen should wait in the free clinic, some time. See what it feels like to be sitting among the unfortunate... for 6-7 hours.

Thanks for sharing this~ my mother volunteers as local clinic on her day off as physician, I’m not sure how similar it is since I had only been there once and not as a patient so it’s interesting to hear about your experience and I think you’re right that if more people volunteered at these places or had to experience them they would probably want to do something to improve the overall health care/insurance system

Thanks for your insightful experience and sharing with the rest of us. I have been in line with the needy and desperate and some times the gimme gimmes. I too have no insurance and take advantage of the loop holes inthe system to acquire insulin. My provider is wonderful about doing what ever he can to get me my “fix”. And then there is the politics - even unemployed I did not qualify for medication assistance because of my income the previous year and t hen that year I made more than the cut off allowed - even though that money waslong gone and I use 8 vials of insulin a month @$90-100/bottle (do the mental math LOL) but I was suppossed to have been able to survive.
I thank God every day for the blessing I have received even if they are small ones.
Peace to you - keep your head up and your numbers low!