If you live in Salem, Oregon and you need to have a seed removed from your ear after 8 pm, I recommend that you put on a dog suit and learn how to whine convincingly.
Because after hours emergency medical care for canines is much superior to that for humans.
Not to mention medical care during regular hours. I'm not the first to wonder why in this not-always-so-great United States animals fare better than people when they get sick or have an injury.
Sharon Glassman wondered, "Why is my dog's health care better than mine?" Excellent question, Sharon. I hope you'll ask it of the presidential candidates.
Recently my wife, Laurel, engaged in some early evening poison oak and blackberry spraying on our ten rural acres about five miles south of the Salem city limits.
During one of her bending-overs in tall grass she got a seed in her ear. Not exactly life-threatening, but definitely irritating. When Laurel tried to get it out, the seed lodged deeper in her ear canal. We browsed some medical books and did some Googling of "seed in ear."
Trying to wash it out wasn't advised. That could make it swell and cause damage. Seeking professional medical attention was advised. "No problem," we thought. It was just 7:45 pm. We'll find an urgent care center in Salem and get the seed removed.
Except, oops, there isn't any urgent care center in Oregon's second largest city open after 8 pm – when the one adjacent to Salem Hospital closes.
Laurel phoned there after learning that an urgent care center on Commercial Street that we'd been to before wasn't operating anymore. She'd called our family physician's after-hours number and been referred to the Salem Hospital center. We were told it stayed open until 10. We were told wrong.
So we were stuck. The woman who answered the phone just before 8 at the Salem Hospital urgent care center said that Laurel could go to the Emergency Room. But, she added, "it's crazy there right now."
Meaning, filled with lots of other people with health problems, most of them probably more serious than Laurel's. So she'd end up waiting and waiting to get the seed removed after driving half an hour into town. Not an appealing prospect.
Laurel called our family physician back. Eventually she answered her page and told Laurel that it'd be OK to wait until morning before getting the seed out. The next day her physician's assistant was able to do just that, thankfully (otherwise referral to an eye, ear, nose, and throat doctor would have been necessary.)
Throughout the evening's frustrating effort to find some basic after hours medical care, we kept thinking about when our dog got a deep cut on her head a few years ago – blogged about in "Serena needs 'Extreme Makeover, Dog Edition.'"
There's an Emergency Vet center in Salem that's open all night. We rushed Serena over there around 10 o'clock. She was seen immediately and given highly competent care. It pays to be a dog when you need health care.
Whenever Serena goes to our regular vet for some problem, the next day I get a phone call from them. "Hi, just checking to see how Serena is doing. Do you have any questions about her care?"
Geez, I always think. When was the last time my doctor phoned to see how I was doing? Um, guess that would be NEVER.
Our health care system for humans sucks. Big time. I'd trade our expensive Blue Cross insurance policy for a single-payer national health plan. In an instant.
New York Times columnist Paul Krugman tells it like it is:
A recent article in Business Week put it bluntly: "In reality, both data and anecdotes show that the American people are already waiting as long or longer than patients living with universal health-care systems."
A cross-national survey conducted by the Commonwealth Fund found that America ranks near the bottom among advanced countries in terms of how hard it is to get medical attention on short notice (although Canada was slightly worse), and that America is the worst place in the advanced world if you need care after hours or on a weekend.
Yeah, we can vouch for that. If you don't believe me, stick a seed down your ear some night. Good luck getting it out.
Unless you live in France, England, or any other enlightened country that offers its citizens health care comparable to that given to dogs.