• Carmen Marie Fabio

Bunch of sickos


Besides arrogant and gullible, humans can be downright willfully blind when believing precisely what they want to believe and thinking that getting over a bad head-cold gives one protection from getting sick again, for at least a few months, is a perfect example. Or maybe it's just me.

A late September/early October virus took the usual couple of weeks to hang around before I was able to fend it off with a combination of tried and true potables, over-the-counter meds, and downright rancour, followed by the belief that once vanquished, I had blanket immunity from further sickness at least until January.


A bleary, very early morning wake-up last Wednesday that found a tennis ball sized lump in my throat preventing me from swallowing, much less sleeping, left me angry and incredulous. This clearly contravened the widely accepted sickness amnesty code.

A vivid imagination can be both a blessing and a curse and a lump, coupled with pain, emanating pressure, and a lack of immediately discernible fever, can lead one's imagination into dangerous places.

Continually telling myself, “It'll be better tomorrow” as it only proceeded to get worse left me in the ultimate position of finally seeking medical attention on the weekend.

I'm one of the fortunate Quebecers who actually has a family doctor, albeit in a town over 40 km from my home, but on a rainy Saturday morning, the gloves were off and I was at the mercy of showing up at a local walk-in clinic.

For the uninitiated, the opening hour of 9 a.m. is little more than a suggestion. The rest of us know that the wait time starts well before the doors open and thinking I'd jump the queue by showing up at 7:30 a.m. with a copy of the Saturday Gazette, my tablet loaded with new games, and a thermos full of hot tea, I was in for a rude shock to find that I was already fifth in line, elbowed aside by people either sicker or savvier than I.

We’re all aware of the current shortfalls and limitations of health-care in this province but to have patients and families in need of medical attention waiting 90 minutes in cold, rainy weather to see a doctor seems counterintuitive at worst and an assurance of job security for medical professionals at best. Our collective miserable fugue was broken by a man who showed up around 8:20 a.m suggesting we all just take numbers and go back inside our warm cars to wait. He himself went to his car, got a notepad, and began to issue numbers based on the honour-system of us reporting to him the order in which we'd arrived.

By 8:55 a.m., warmed up and somewhat encouraged, we again crowded around the door, making jokes about the comparison between our plight and Boxing Day shopping excursions. By 8:57 a.m., when the cute little blue Audi pulled up to the clinic's rear entrance, someone announced the doctor had arrived. By 9:00:52 a.m., when the receptionist finally unlocked the door, a cheer erupted, punctuated with sneezes, coughs, and at least one faint moan.

I'm very happy to report that thanks to modern antibiotics, the tennis-ball lump in my throat is now reduced to the size of a grape and it's made me realize the true recuperative value of a weekend spent in pajamas, drinking tea, and napping.

Our microcosm of sickos huddled in the rain last Saturday morning perhaps exemplifies the system it represents – a range of young and old from different class levels all mired in cold discomfort waiting to feel better.

It took just a little bit of creative thinking outside the professional medical box to get at least one small cog of the big machine functioning.