Health Via VISA

It started the day before I saw Los Campesinos! (who were, as ever, excellent, and I did bump into a few members of the band as I was walking through Echo Park waiting for the doors to open. But you never know exactly what to do in those situations, do you? Do you say ‘Hi’, when you’ve never actually met, but you’ve chatted with them on Twitter, and even sent them chocolates and sweets in a rather odd way of saying goodbye to the UK. Yeah, it was probably a good idea I didn’t say anything, I guess. Concert was great, a little less energetic than the last UK one I went to (along with a lack of vitriol screaming along to “You could never kiss a Tory boy”), but I didn’t feel as if I was the eldest person in the entire venue. Including the bar staff.)

Er, yes, it started the day before. A pain in my finger. I ignored it, because my fingers normally hurt once a week for some reason, and bleed once a month simply because they can - plus I bite the nails, and sometimes I bite down too far. So, didn’t really think about it. On Saturday, it was throbbing a bit, so I stuck a plaster on during the daytime, though again, I didn’t really think much about it. Another plaster went on when I came back from the concert. Now, I should have realised something was up when I had to take the plaster off at about 3am, but I was distracted by the arguing couple next door.

Sunday came and went, still with a sore finger, and then back to work. It was sometime on Monday afternoon when I looked at it properly for the first time since Friday.

It was bulging.

It was also getting considerably more painful. I did what any respecting thirty-two year-old would do at that point. I took a picture of it and sent it to my mother. “Does this look like an ingrowing fingernail to you?" I asked. “Also, Ow." The response came back that it looked infected, which was what my internet research was suggesting as well. Monday night was very very painful, as the finger was so sensitive that even the slightest touch of the bedclothes was pure agony.

On Tuesday, then, the suggestions to go see a doctor started. I was resistant, because I hadn’t done that here yet, and I wasn’t actually sure how it all worked. Instead, I went to the pharmacist, who took one look at my finger and told me to go see a doctor. Ignoring him, I went back to work, actually feeling a bit better due to all the ibuprofen in my body, and thought I was over the worst.

The fever kicked in around 2130 on Tuesday night. Not fun. Really not fun. More unpleasantness followed in the morning (strangely, preceded by unpleasantness being heard from the room next door, to the point where I do wonder if part of my issue was a hotel-wide bug, but I digress). The suggestions of a doctor’s visit turned to pleading, and I was a bit worried myself by this point, so I printed out my insurance card and wandered off to the nearest Urgent Care facility.

It was somewhat smaller than your standard UK doctors - a tiny waiting area plus an office, with the beds and consulting rooms in the back. I obviously flagged their suspicions with my accent as I came in, but I surprised them by pointing out I did have insurance, so they gave me a bunch of forms to fill in and I sat, dizzily, waiting for somebody to see me.

“Er, Sir? I’m afraid we stopped taking your type of insurance at the end of January."

At this point, I was starting to feel sick again. It was my own fault, of course - I had just assumed that places just took insurance. That was alien enough to me, being able to walk into an NHS facility back home, so this extra leap hadn’t occurred to me at all. The receptionist did however have the name of a clinic that would see me and said it wasn’t too far.

Unfortunately, what he meant was it wasn’t too far by car. On foot, mind you, it was a forty-five minute walk. Which I could handle. Just about. However, it then became clear I would have to walk alongside traffic on one of the busiest sections of the Pacific Coast Highway with no path, oh, and a 20-foot drop on the other side.

I seriously considered it, but even I’m not quite that crazy. And I had almost fallen into the road about three times by that point, so I wasn’t entirely confident about my abilities. I trudged back to a shopping complex and ordered a taxi. And then ordered another one after the first one was stolen right in front of me (though revenge was had the next day when the taxi driver phoned me up to see if I had left my umbrella behind - obviously he didn’t have the contact details for the guy who was really in the cab).

Eventually, I got to the second clinic. And they still took my insurance. After handing over the $20 co-pay, I got to see a doctor. Who I’m happy to report, was almost the spitting image of Dick Van Dyke, and acted in a similar manner (in a Diagnosis Murder way, not Mary Poppins, obviously). Two viral infections were diagnosed, and I was sent back to the local pharmacy armed with a prescription for antibiotics.

So I survived my first brief encounter with the American health system. Have to say that on balance I prefer my old way of doing things, but having insurance does make things run relatively smoothly here, at least for the little problems.

Sorry for the lack of updates since I got back to Los Angeles. Haven’t had a huge amount to say, and I thought I’d spare you all a long series of posts about Watching. Back in Durham for the weekend, then back here again for a few more weeks. Almost Spring.