Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Lab Rat

After months of silence, Peace Corps reminded me that I committed to being jettisoned off to a foreign country in approximately six months. I received an email while in Cheyenne for Thanksgiving telling me that my application status had been updated. Of course I forgot my damn password for my account log in, which led to about five minutes of swearing, annoyance and fending my family off of the computer. With my password successfully reset, I anti-climatically discovered that the change was a medical hold on my application. Meaning my application was finally being medically reviewed, which is good and bad news. The good news is progress is being made and my application hasn't fallen into an underfunded bureaucratic crack where its fate is like that of the Lost Ark in Indiana Jones, banished to a lifetime of dust collecting in some unnamed, not-on-the-map government warehouse full of coffin-like wooden crates. The bad news is that only 15% of applicants complete the medical review paperwork correctly the first time, which pretty much guarantees that I'll be getting back a form that I forgot to date, or even better, reconfirmation on a really expensive physical exam confirming that I indeed have two legs and two arms. What I got back was somewhere between those two extremes.

Waiting for me in Boise was a letter from the Peace Corps office in Washington D.C., telling me that I needed to repeat my urinalysis and send them lab work for Hepatitis C antibodies. Awesome. First, how the hell did I miss the lab work with everything else I had to be poked and prodded for? Secondly, I had all of my blood and urine tests done for free at the VA Medical Center in Cheyenne, so this letter would've been great to get, oh, about five days ago, when I was in Cheyenne. Fucking figures. The VA in Boise doesn't do Peace Corps medical stuff, which is really helpful. Primary Health in Boise, where I had a few tests done for the first rounds of paperwork, wasn't exactly the cheapest option and their receptionists are super awkward, making me want to avoid that place if at all possible. I enjoy awkward, but they take it to a new level, especially Pam. So what the hell is an uninsured, unemployed, total bum of a college grad supposed to do?

I spent about an hour combing the internet for alternate options, which is my typical response when I don't know what to do. Hopefully I will be able to problem solve in a country with limited internet access, but that is a whole other post. After thoroughly searching the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, Central District Health and Centers for Disease Control websites, I discovered that the pathetic fiscal management by our government has made this country's health resources not much more than a website with loads of information. After typing in a search term that was basically a sentence, Google rewarded me with something that could not be true: a franchise of labs across the country who did professional lab work for fairly cheap, no doctors or appointments involved. It's called PersonaLabs. You set up an account, order tests online, print out the confirmation sheet, take it to their lab (there are 1700 across the nation), pee in a cup, and your results are emailed to you in a few days. Seriously?! It was like ordering a pizza online, only this pizza was being tested for STD's and blood-borne pathogens. This was way too good to be true.

I read every bit of text on the PersonaLabs website to confirm it was legit. And it was. They actually had a panel of tests you could order specifically for Peace Corps. Conveniently, there was a lab just down the street, right next to my old high school. I ordered my two tests, paid online and rode my bike over, which was an adventure in itself with all of the miniature ice skating rinks on the roads. I half expected 'the lab' to be in a cubicle by the dumpster in the back of a parking lot. Luckily, it was not. It was in a small office building, in a room with a small waiting area, an examining room full of blood drawing equipment, and a bathroom with a basket overflowing with urine sample cups. Oh, and one very friendly employee. We chatted about soccer as she stabbed me in the arm with a needle and showed me the cool little door-compartment-door contraption between the examining room and bathroom where I was to put my full pee cup after I was finished urinating all over my hand in an attempt to get a clean sample. I was in and out in a matter of about ten minutes. I was pretty sure I had entered some alternate universe, where health care was affordable, uncomplicated and actually pleasant.

It supposedly takes a few days to get results back from a blood or urine sample. So I was extremely surprised when I sat down to check my email this morning and discovered that my results were already posted to my profile. WHAT?! It literally took them eighteen hours to test my specimens and get back to me. This is too much, I can't take how easy this process has been. Nothing with medicine ever goes this fast. Is this the future of health care? Streamline the process, order online, skip the private insurance option because that shit clearly isn't working so well, go to a minimalistic but effective facility and ta-da, you've taken care of your needs. PersonaLabs, thank you for making at least one part of my medical review process simple and quick.

After a flurry of activity, the Peace Corps adventure will go back to what it has mostly consisted of: waiting. Which at times can be frustrating, but mostly it's been good for me to be able to digest this new adventure I will be embarking on in the very near future. And it will give me time to ski this winter, which I am completely ok with.