In July, after my intake appointment at Callen-Lorde (NYC’s LGBT health clinic), my nurse practitioner told me that my cholesterol was high. I needed to lower it before I considered starting testosterone. I bought a bottle of fish oil.
I carried a card in my wallet, with the name of a prominent cardiologist on it, for three months. When I called, the office manager told me that I can’t schedule an appointment until the cardiologist looks at my file. She gave me her name and the fax number, which I wrote down on the back of an envelope.
The next day, I pulled up the Callen-Lorde patient portal expecting to send my results over. I attempted to log in. I tried every permutation of my user IDs and passwords. I phoned Callen-Lorde, and they realized that when they initially registered me they incorrectly entered my e-mail address in my profile (which explained why I never got any emails from them). I dropped by their office to straighten it out and re-register.
I went home, set up the user name and password, wrote the password down on the patient portal information sheet, opened up my file to get my results, and couldn’t find them. I clicked around a lot and gave up. I was going to call Callen-Lorde back and ask where to find my test results, but it was late in the day and the medical records office was closed. I had to wait until the morning.
I thought about calling Callen-Lorde every day, but there was always an excuse to put it off. I waited for a month.
I dread making phone calls. I’m also not very good at filling out paper forms and sending them in. I’m better on email. I’ve been this way since I was a teenager. I’d rather scale a barbed wire fence than make a phone call.
First, I needed to find the cardiologist’s card (which was no longer in my wallet) and the envelope on which I had written the information. I found them buried under a month’s worth of half-opened mail. Then I unsuccessfully tried to re-open the Callen-Lorde patient portal. I went back through the piles and found the piece of paper upon which I had scrawled my user name and password. I opened up the portal, and picked up my phone.
It is all my mother’s fault. Negative and narcissistic, she expected people to be unhelpful or obstructionist. She thought everyone else got better treatment than she did. She felt slighted by every interaction. She believed that things went smoothly for other people, richer people, people with connections, big shots.
In college, when I got shut out of a class I wanted to take, I accepted it as fate and registered for a different, undersubscribed, class. There were other kids who argued with the registrar, or pleaded with the professor directly for permission to take the class, or begged their academic advisor to call on their behalf. They didn’t give up. They felt entitled to get into the class, and they probably did get in.
According to Malcolm Gladwell, in Outliers, those kids were likely raised by a parent who upheld their self-worth, taught them how to negotiate with people in authority, and encouraged them to advocate on their own behalf. These are useful skills if you are transitioning and dealing with gatekeepers, insurance companies, and medical practitioners. I’m not good with the follow through. I get discouraged.
I called Callen-Lorde. They confirmed that the results are not in my patient portal. I needed to fill out a Health Information Release Form, and request them to send my results to the cardiologist. The form was on the patient portal; all I needed to do was find it, download it, fill it out, sign it, and fax it back to them. It might take them a week to send out the results. It sounded reasonable.
I printed the form and filled it out (twice, I screwed it up the first time). I got hung up on the fax it back part. I didn’t ask why I couldn’t email it to them, or if there was an easier or faster way to deal with it. I don’t have a land line or a home fax. When I’ve had to fax something I’ve used the fax at my office, but I only go in once a week. I didn’t want to find a copy shop and pay to fax.
I googled “fax via internet for free”, read a couple of how-to articles, picked out a free service, and subscribed. I scanned my document, renamed it, filled out the fax form on MyFax, attached the document, and sent it. I called to confirm that they got it. It was exhausting.
I still have two phone calls left to place, one to Callen-Lorde to check if they sent it, and one to the cardiologist’s office manager to make sure she got it. And then, maybe, I’ll get the appointment.
Notes: Outliers is the third book of Malcolm Gladwell’s that I’ve read (I highly recommend both The Tipping Point and Blink). While it is does not directly address any LGBT issues, it made me think about why some of us have a lot of trouble dealing with bureaucracy, while others seem to sail right along. Still, I am in awe of those who are well-organized, keep track of where their paperwork is, and don’t procrastinate.