First Time Working In A Utility Co. Park – A Rainy Week

Disclaimer: The company we are working for this summer has a very specific media policy. I will not be mentioning them by name, or mentioning the specific names of anyone I am working with, except for Lee.  Also, because it’s not really that difficult to figure out which company it is, I want to be clear: I in no way speak for the company or my co-workers, and am only recounting my personal experiences.  Also, any details I get wrong in this or any other post are due to a misunderstanding on my part.  

I started the week off with a firm mental commitment to myself to try and just focus on doing the job and stop analyzing everything so much.  My friends are all going to smile when they read this.  They know what I am like and that this was a tall order for me, but I wanted to try if for nothing else as an experiment to see if it improved my quality of life.  I’ll get into my conclusions at the end, but will say from the beginning it wasn’t easy.

Monday was my day to work in the campground because Lee and I have switched campground days.  Thursday (Lee’s ne day) involves moving all the trash dumpsters out of the campground and I was finding that a little physically challenging.  Lots of things we have done have been a little tough for me, but since our boss has made it very clear he doesn’t expect me to do anything I can’t physically handle, I have gotten pretty good at just looking at a task and saying, “I can’t do that one.”  Unfortunately, the downside of that is the bulk of what I can do is largely scrubbing toilets and cleaning floors.  Oh, and picking up trash.  I am pretty good at using the grippers to pick up “micro litter”.  Our campground days are 8 hour shifts and start at 5:30am when we open the gates.  Once this is done, we check the campground day use area restrooms, walk around the small pond and pick up trash, and check trash cans and clean the fish cleaning stations.

The fish stations are a metal sink with a grate in the bottom and are used by the fishermen to clean fish.  This is by far the least appealing part of the job for me, but thankfully they don’t usually need cleaning on Monday mornings.  Next we check the two main bathrooms in the campground for large messes, or missing toilet paper, and once that is done we have some free time.  You can’t really start roaming around the campground until at least 8am so I used that time to read the pass-on logs and look at campground emails.  During this time period I have lots of time to think and that’s when ideas about improvement start to flow.  Still, I was sticking to the plan, and just read the logs and replied to some direct questions and then headed out to start cleaning around 8:00am.

We have a list of campsites people are coming into that day and a list of campsites people are leaving, so I did some rounds and cleaned the incoming campsites.  They are cleaned after use, but sometimes people “spread” into other campsites, so another check of the fire rings and for litter is a good thing.  Around 9am we can start cleaning the bathrooms and I decided that the smaller restroom really needed a deep clean.  So I pulled out mop buckets, a hose, cleaner, etc and sprayed the bathroom down.  The walls already looked really good thanks to the efforts of Mr. Kayaker earlier in the seasons, but the baseboard needed some extra attention so I spent the next hour and a half working on those.

Not much else to do while you’re cleaning bathrooms other than think, and I spent the time working and thinking about stuff. By the time that was done I was pretty tired and hungry, so I packed up and took my lunch break.  Once lunch was done I started working on the sites people had left, but still had several sites that were still occupied.  Check out time at the campground is 1pm and check in time is at 4pm, and people actually stay here right until 1pm.  Unfortunately we had two cabins and one campsite that were being turned over to new people that same day and they were the ones who chose to stay right until the last minute.  This was my first opportunity to clean the cabins, so I scrubbed floors, cleaned beds and tables, and cleaned the campsites around them.  That was a tougher job than I thought it would be but I managed to get all the sites cleaned and turned by 2:30 when I was done for the day.

Afterwards I was very tired, but decided to take advantage of the sunshine and walk down and sit by the river.  I took a chair, book, and some water, and spent a couple of hours sitting in the sun.  That was nice, especially because a beautiful woodpecker landed on a tree about three feet from me.  I have only seen one other woodpecker this close the entire time we have been on the road and I took it as a sign I was headed in the right direction.

Afterwards I was still tired though, so I took a nap and then we watched some TV and went to bed.  The next day I had my appointment at a dermatologist.  I’ve never been to one, but my mom was concerned about a patch on my right cheek so I drove into Clackamas to get it checked out.  The doctor was great and the appointment was very quick, with them using a spray liquid nitrogen on the place on my cheek.  It was pre-cancerous cells but nothing too serious as there is only a 1% chance they will become cancerous.  Still they like to get rid of them when they can and the spray is a fast and easy way to get the top layer of your skin off.  It stings quite a bit going on but since then no issue although I do have a scab on my cheek which makes it look like I got in a bar fight 🙂

I also received information on all my tests with my other doctor online and once again I have to commend the medical coverage in the Portland area. In other places my Florida license raises eyebrows and sometimes issues, but here everyone has been very nice.  It seems pretty common that people come and work here for the summer and I don’t get treated any differently than any other patient.  The most amazing proof of this was my mammogram.  They found a small cyst during the test and they immediately requested my previous mammograms from New Hampshire.  Within 4 business days, and yes I am still amazed as I type this, they not only had my scans from 2011, 2013, and 2014 but also had done the comparison and determined there was no change and everything was fine.  Wow…impressive!!  The government has been pushing very hard for all medical information to be online and for doctors to work together to share results and I am a happy beneficiary of that.  If those scans weren’t available, they probably would have wanted to do an MRI and/or a biopsy which I know from previous experience runs thousands of dollars.  This way they could clearly see there was no change and all of those tests were unnecessary.  The whole experience was top notch and made me very happy.

Wednesday we explored, which you saw in my last post, but Thursday it was back to work. My favorite day of the week is the day I am in the truck alone (I am sure it is Lee’s also) not just because it is a short day, but because it is during the week and I get to set my own route.  Working with a partner, even when it’s your husband of many years, requires discussion of routes and priorities that simply don’t apply when we are alone.  To start the day I went to get gas and since our badges still aren’t in, I stopped to borrow my supervisor’s.  We had the opportunity to have a nice chat and he told me how much he appreciated the information I was providing to him.  That was great to hear, and I opened up a little bit about what I used to do for a living, but said I don’t want to bother you with this stuff if it doesn’t matter.  I told him, this is just how I think, and I am as surprised as anyone that it didn’t just stop once I left the corporate life.  He was happy to have information about what was going on at the sites though and I felt much better.  Not every boss we have had is interested in my analysis and on occasion it has caused me some issues, so I am very tentative on what information I offer and when.  Our supervisor was happy to get the information though because “we are closer to the job” than he is, so I felt that I could at least drop him an email when these things occurred to me.

Just to be clear, my emails relate to traffic patterns, challenging in providing a great customer experience, and the occasional idea (such as adding a third toilet paper bar to a couple of restrooms).  They are not rocket science.  But, as I said, I have learned the hard way that some bosses take the feedback as criticism no matter how careful you are and that rarely goes well.  Thankfully our current boss doesn’t fall in this category.  What I realized by Thursday was this is just the way I think.  My earliest job memories (at the age of 16) include me trying different ways of making cheese plates at a racetrack, and bussing tables different way to see which one took the least amount of time.  What I realized was this is not a new thing.  All I did (and it was largely subconscious trust me)  was find a job and education path that honed those skills.  Not that surprising really.  Lots of people pick jobs that enhance their innate abilities and being a business analyst is the ultimate end result of honing that particular skill.  So it is part of how I think and I don’t think that is a bad thing, but what I can control is what I focus it on and the level of frustration I have when the thoughts/ideas never get acted upon.

So Thursday was a good day, despite the fact it started raining and we headed into the weekend.  Although Lee and I like being done early on Thursday and not being back until 3pm on Friday, Friday nights are our least favorite day.  The sites don’t get any attention for 24 hours and at least one of them is a mess when we finally get to it. We never know which one that will be though, so opening that door initially on Friday night we kind of hold our breath (literally and figuratively).  This week though we got some warning, because one of the drivers for a rafting company warned us about the changing rooms at Moore Creek when we walked up.  Moore Creek sees a ton of use, because most of the rafting companies meet their guests there.  They use the changing rooms to get ready and leave their personal vehicles, while they are driven upriver in the van with the boats.  When the ride is finished they usually stop here as well, so the site probably gets double the traffic of any other river site.  It’s not uncommon for the toilet paper to be practically empty on Friday nights and the toilet and floors always need scrubbed, but this night was a new level.  And I am going to stop right here and give fair warning.  If you do not like reading details about restrooms cleanup stop here and skip the next two paragraphs!!

The driver apologized for the state of the restrooms as a group of young boys they were with had made a mess earlier in the day.  She looked embarrassed when she said she thought they had peed on the floor of the changing room, but we were totally unprepared for what we saw when we opened the door.  One side did have urine on it, but since I have a strong set of rubber boots that wasn’t a huge deal.  The other side was full of dirty towels though and for some reason this really bothered me.  Since the incident occurred early in the morning when we were off the room had looked like this all day and why she didn’t at least pick up all the towels I am not quite sure.  Lee saw the look on my face and to his credit said he would handle it, and I went over and cleaned the toilet area.  This is not the first time we have been taken aback by what we had found, but until now I didn’t feel right about mentioning it. Twice we have found piles of human waste within steps of a pit toilet and in both cases we just sucked it up and cleaned it up.  Toilet “explosions” are somewhat common and a long handled scrub brush along with a mental attitude of someone couldn’t help themselves go a long way in that situation.  But the condition of these changing areas seemed deliberate and frankly malicious and my overall attitude was “Seriously, as if this isn’t bad enough.”

There is a difference between cleaning campground bathrooms and bathrooms open to the public.  Sure these types of things can happen in either place, but it’s much less likely in a campground.  For these roadside toilets, lots of people stop throughout the day and night and since they are not manned there is a certain amount of anonymity involved. I have been hoping that the first two instances were an isolated case, but this third made me realize that this type of behavior was more common than I thought and was definitely going to be part of our summer. And that’s why I am mentioning it.  It would be disingenuous to just show pretty pictures of the river and not talk about this kind of thing because for some people they might be a deal breaker. And to be clear, if you take one of these jobs you have to be the one that cleans it up because that is what we are being hired to do. There is no one else, it’s us.

That realization hit me pretty hard, and since it rained Friday, Saturday, and Sunday so distracting  side projects were largely off the table, we spent a lot of time cleaning the bathrooms and scrubbing floors. And since I wasn’t thinking about work, I had quite a bit of time to think about my life, where I was, and the choices I had made. I want to be perfectly clear here.  I in no way think I am too good to clean a bathroom.  But this job, more than any other we have had, is about as opposite from my former life as possible.  The idea was if we made decent money, people were nice to us, and we were in a beautiful place it wouldn’t matter what we did all day long every day. And since working these jobs we have met lots of people who have found their way to that place.  I, as you know have struggled, and have often felt like I was doing something wrong, because I couldn’t just settle in.  “Life is too short” and “Worry less you will be happier” have been pretty common themes in feedback I have gotten either online or in person from folks and although I know their hearts are in the right place  something in me rebelled against it.

But when I was focusing on the minutia of the jobs, and essentially distracting myself, I didn’t really think too much about it.  Well that’s not fair I did think about it, but shied away from it because in some ways it felt like a rejection of earning money this way meant a rejection of the lifestyle itself.  This time though really forced me to face it head on and the stripped down nature of the job itself didn’t give me any place to hide. The conclusions were ultimately pretty simple.  At 50, I am not willing to commit the next 15 or so years of my life to earning money this way. Once the novelty of these jobs wears off, and that cycle is getting shorter and shorter, I am generally not happy.  The sole exception to that experience has been gate guarding, which was good for me because I had lots of time to write. The other jobs have been physically demanding with challenging schedules, and compared to my old life low paying.  If we were in a situation where we were working occasionally to supplement existing income, maybe it wouldn’t be such a big deal, but since we are spending about 10 months of the year working these jobs and have only a couple of months of “down time”, for me at least it is a high price to pay. Yes, I love this lifestyle and I absolutely feel lucky to be able to spend my life traveling from beautiful place to beautiful place, but for me it is not enough.

Saying this out loud to myself, was a pretty big deal, and I really felt like I needed an objective opinion on it and called my friend Jo. She is a working full timer and a psychologist and although I called her as a friend, her background certainly didn’t hurt.  I laid the situation out and then asked her as a friend and a fellow RVer if I just “needed to get over myself and suck it up” because enough already this was what the life was.  Her response, and wow do I love her, was to say essentially say they are your feelings…own them. And then she said  something that really resonated with me, “Who says you need to do these type of jobs.”  I know that sounds simple, but it disconnected the lifestyle from the type of work we are doing which, for me at least, is a very important thing.   She also helped me to remember that I had a job that “fed my soul” and just because I was burnt out and wanting to try other things didn’t mean those emotions were any less valid.   She recognized that I am a person who gets quite a bit of my self-identity from what I do for a living, and just because I became a full time RVer that didn’t mean that would go away.

She and her husband Ben work as a traveling nurses and not every contract has been a good fit for them.  Plus, because they do different work (she is a hospice nurse and he is a surgical nurse) one of them can be content and the other less so.  I can relate to Ben’s situation in particular because he was previously working in a large city in a trauma hospital and had to be at the top of his game.  Many of their contracts now are at smaller hospitals and the work is often less challenging. The work conditions are also different, because they, like us are temporary.  Even in a professional environment, it is common for the “scut work” to go to the temporary employee so they have to be really careful when they are choosing their jobs to try and find out what the nature of the day to day work will be.  So she gets it and talking to her was exactly what I needed.

I don’t want to rush into anything.  I want to find a contract in a cool place where I think the work will be fulfilling.  That is a tall order and I am ok with waiting for the right thing.  After all we have determined we can live off other types of employment so it’s not an emergency.  What has changed for me is I no longer feel I need to prove anything to myself or anyone else. I am also fully aware that if I am not careful contract work could end up being the same for me, but I am hoping it will give me more opportunity to “feed the soul.”   We will see where it all leads us, and in the meantime I will fulfill my current obligation and continue to enjoy this beautiful area of the country. There really are worse places to have an emotional crisis 🙂


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First Time Scheduling Physicals

We have been on the road 2-1/2 years now, and health and dental care continue to be an issue.  Challenges with high deductibles,  finding out of state providers, and the timing of being in an area long enough to get an appointment scheduled have resulted in minimal heath/dental care.  Since we have been on the road we have only visited one Urgent Care, got teeth cleanings in Mexico, and another cleaning and cavities filled in Alaska.  What we have not done is have physicals of any kind.  Since I turned 50 last August I knew I would need to find a way to schedule annual appointments, but was intimidated by the process of finding an out-of-state doctor.

The ironic thing is I am very well suited to finding health care on the road.  My parents and brother and sister are all in the medical profession and I have 7 doctors and 4 nurses in my extended family.  Yes, you read that right, the medical profession is the “family business”.  And even though I chose not to enter that profession, I have learned quite a bit listening to others at holiday dinners and of course I have a terrific set of resources right at my fingertips.  I mention this because you would think it would be easy for me to work the system and find healthcare on the road, but unfortunately that is not the case, and the fact it is so difficult even for someone like me should tell you something.

I loved my doctor in Keene.  I had a schedule, we had a relationship, and I rarely had to worry about whether my insurance would cover something.  I had one issue in the 15 years I lived there with an anesthesiologist not being in plan, and when I called the insurance company they advocated for me and made sure the doctor accepted what they would pay.  That is absolutely not the case now.  I have a Blue Cross/Blue Shield Florida plan and although I am lucky enough to have access to a national network of doctors I have to be VERY careful who I select to perform services.  That is assuming of course I can get an appointment.  I’ve made the mistake in Alaska of waiting too long to start making phone calls and setting up appointments and as a result ran out of time and was unable to schedule a physical there.  I thought about scheduling the physical in Texas and even made a few phone calls, but very few doctors in the San Antonio area were accepting new patients.  So I kicked the can down the road to Oregon and on one of my first days off I took a deep breath and sat down to tackle the problem.

In the interest of sharing information I am going to walk you through the experience, but fair warning, quite a bit of this is colored  with anger.  This really shouldn’t be so difficult. Hopefully though you will find something beneficial in the account.

I started on Wednesday morning about 10am and the first thing I did was pull up the in network list of caregivers online.  Since it was out of Florida, I needed to go to the expanded list of providers, but there was quite a good selection.  That selection narrowed significantly though once I checked the search criteria box for “Accepting New Patients.”  It’s surprising how many doctors were eliminated and mostly what was left were doctors who were part of large medical groups.  I personally don’t have an issue with large medical groups, my brother belongs to one, and they provide lots of benefits to the physicians by handling administrative and billing tasks for them.  It also allows the doctors to have more of a regular schedule because they can share on call responsibilities with the other doctors in the practice.  Many of these groups also have nurse practitioners and  as my mother was one for many years I have no issue with seeing one of these either.  As long as the nurse practitioner can “write all the orders” (i.e. order followup procedures and write prescriptions) I have found their care rivals that of physicians I have seen and most take new patients.

Another major benefit of nurse practitioners as an alternative is that they are generally much easier to get a timely appointment with.   The appointment I ultimately got was with one, and it was actually scheduled for Friday of the same week which was two days away and pretty amazing.  It’s extremely unlikely I would have gotten that quick of an appointment with a regular physician.  In order to get to that point though I had to get through the gatekeepers, and that was a difficult process.  Initially I called the phone number online and got a scheduling service for Providence Medical Group, which has over 600 providers in its network.  I was told that they needed to do an initial new patient appointment prior to scheduling the physical and when I asked how much that appointment would cost (because I would need to pay this out of pocket) was told between $200 – $700.  Obviously that was absolutely unacceptable and since the person on the phone was unwilling to work with me and my somewhat unique situation I asked to speak to a supervisor.  The most distressing part of this conversation was if I would have not asked the question and just followed their advice it would have cost me extra money.  In the old days I would have, but now things are different.  I have a $14,300 deductible on my insurance and do not have the luxury of spreading these appointments out over a 6 month period.  I need to consolidate appointments, keep my out of pocket expenses down, and work around my work schedule.  If I can’t get someone on the phone who is wiling to work through that with me (which is what happened when I tried to schedule an appointment in San Antonio) I simply have to move on.  I have learned that the hard way.

The supervisor, thankfully, was that kind of person.  I explained my situation and she found me a nurse practitioner who was willing to skip the first visit and go right into the physical.  The only reason they were willing to do this, by the way, was because I stated I was in excellent health.  In the case of seeing a new dentist or doctors they always want to have an extra appointment.  Those appointments are rarely covered by insurance (and delay getting the actual treatment you need)  so I get someone on the phone and explain I have a limited time period to get the work done and have no pre-existing conditions.   If we did have pre-existing conditions we would have to pay for those first visits out of pocket every year, assuming of course we had a different doctor every year.  And I should probably stop here and say our situation is somewhat unusual.  Most full timers we know go back to the same place every year and get physicals.  As a general rule they schedule those appointments to coincide with family visits and are able to establish relationships with doctors and dentists in the area.  This is a great solution, but since our family is all back east and we are exploring the west, it doesn’t make a ton of sense for us to drive across country for a doctors appointment and then drive back.  To solve this problem some people even fly back, but again they have family in the area they can stay with.  If one of us gets to the point where we are having a serious health issue we would definitely need to consider this and luckily Columbus, Ohio would be a good choice for us because we have family in the medical community there. For right now though we are trying this the hard way and hopefully we can find a solution on the west coast that allows us to travel.

So my physical is scheduled for Friday and from there I will need follow-up appointments for a mammogram and a colonoscopy.  It is EXTREMELY important that you make sure all of this work is coded as preventive.  You can slip in questions about health issues you are having, but if the appointments become all about solving those issues rather than general wellness, they will have to code the visit as diagnostic and you will be on the hook for the cost.  This is a fine line, and a tough concept for many people, Lee included.  He despises going to the doctor anyway, and the fact that he can’t just talk about what’s bothering him once he gets there makes him nuts.  I agree with him philosophically, but since that is the system we are stuck working with I don’t have a ton of patience for his aggravation.  The main point in all of this is we all have to be our own health advocates and the days of relying on our providers, and more importantly, their billing agents, to look out for our best financials interests are largely over.  It is just the way it is.

After scheduling the doctors appointment I also scheduled dental cleanings.  Thankfully I had a recommendation from the trainers we have been working with here and called McKinsey Dental.  They were willing to accept new patients but once again wanted two appointments.  When I assured her we had regular cleanings, no history of periodontal disease, and used ultrasonic tooth brushes she agreed to allow us to schedule one appointment that included a cleaning.  Since we will have dental insurance with the company we are working with as of August 1st, we scheduled the appointment for August 15th.  This is cutting is kind of close, especially because I might need more cavities filled, but it’s better to wait and have the exams and cleaning covered.

Lastly I scheduled an appointment with a dermatologist.  Once again I looked at the list of doctors in the area accepting new patients and this list was very small.  The closest one did have an appointment on June 6th and since I will be self paying, the initial 15 minute full body check would cost $200.  She couldn’t give me a price on what removing a mole would cost because there are various methods of removing them, but since she was friendly and seemed to understand cost was an issue I was OK with that.  It is VERY difficult to get prices on the phone when you call medical people.  Some of that is because the scheduling department and the billing department are so different, and in all fairness the procedures can vary as well, but how are we supposed to do a price compare if we can’t get basic pricing information over the phone? I hear quite a bit of political rhetoric about how being an educated consumer is going to change the face of medicine, but I can say from personal experience that is not an easy thing to be.  It actually reminds me a little bit of trying to get a quote from a car mechanic.  Unless you are educated about what actual costs are it’s hard to tell if you are being charged fairly.  In the old days I let my insurance company advocate for me (and themselves) but with these high deductibles it seems better to go with the discounted self-pay costs in which case you have to negotiate yourself.  In the case of the dermatologist I will go through insurance if they find anything complicated which I am hoping they wont.

I should probably mention here that I am going to a dermatologist because my mother was recently treated for basil-cell carcinoma.  I didn’t really understand what that was, but when we met in Vegas and she explained it I had her look at a spot on my cheek.  She was concerned and told me I needed to see a dermatologist right away and before I took care of any of my other medical needs, which she considered of lesser importance.  Since my mom is a very smart nurse practitioner and also my mom, I am doing what she told me to do. According to “This type of skin cancer tends to occur in areas of the skin that receive the most exposure to the sun, like the head and neck. Basal cell cancers usually grow slowly, and it is rare for them to spread, or metastasize, to nearby lymph nodes or even more distant parts of the body. However, this can occur if the cancer is left untreated, so early detection and treatment is important.” Her main concern for me was it’s location, because the longer it is left unchecked the deeper they need to go to remove it.  Since it is on my cheek the eventual surgery could leave me with a pretty nasty scar and since she just went through this herself (thankfully in her case near the nose so it blends in) and if this is what I have she wants me to catch it as early as possible. If it is something, then we will also need to figure out how to handle it.  We have money in our HSA account but don’t want to wipe that out on one issue.  Hopefully if it is something it will be relatively minor to remove.

The long and short of all of this is we aren’t kids anymore, and these types of issues are going to be more common.  It would be more easily managed if we returned to the same area on an annual basis, but that is not how I want to travel at this time. That forces us to treat healthcare very differently though.  Back in April when we were in Vegas Lee went on a horseback adventure (a sunset walk kind of thing) and his horse went a little nuts and threw him.  He’s an experienced rider and has never been thrown from a horse before in his entire life.  Thankfully he was able to control his landing a little bit and avoided the rocks and hit the sand. But he landed on his side and we are pretty sure he cracked at least one rib.  Instead of rushing to the doctor, we did some research on Web MD and determined it likely wasn’t a punctured lung.  Then when we saw that the treatment for a cracked rib was leaving it alone to heal we decided to skip the doctor.  It probably would have cost $500- $700 for an appointment and an X-ray and since there was nothing they could do to help, what would the point have been?  Still, the whole thing just makes me angry.   All we need is reasonably priced healthcare with some wellness care, moderate deductibles, and a national network.  I had that type of coverage when I worked full time and everyone on Medicare has it as well, so I know it exists.  I don’t understand why as a self employed person I can’t have the same thing and it pisses me off. We are not the only ones dealing with this, of course.  Our fellow camphosts (the kayakers) are going through the same thing.  Mr. Kayaker has Medicare now, and according to them it is the best insurance they have had in years.  Mrs. Kayaker isn’t old enough though, and because she has a Florida based HMO can’t get medical care in-network out of the state.  She is thinking about signing up for the company provided healthcare for at least a couple of months so she can get some tests done.  The whole thing is crazy and I don’t see anything better coming along in the future.  That’s why I am pushing so hard to get all of these tests done, before we lose what little healthcare we have.

Friday morning Lee drove me to the doctor and the whole experience turned out to be terrific.  First and foremost I highly recommend making appointments on the Friday before major holiday weekends because the crowds were relatively light.  When I checked in to see my doctor, I discovered that the receptionist checking me in was from Keene,  New Hampshire.  She knew a good friend of ours Ernie and I Facebooked him while in the waiting room and let him know she said hi.  It always amazes me when I meet someone on the road from Keene, but it is indeed a small world.  Unfortunately, despite my lengthy conversation with the scheduler, Tiffany did not have anything in the system about me skipping the pre-exam.  I explained the situation and she asked her supervisor, who was noncommittal, and then I was called back.  The nurse took my vitals (I need to eat less donuts) and I explained that I needed to be set up for a Pap Smear.  At first I heard the party line, but when I said I had gotten approval from a supervisor she went ahead and set me up.

The nurse practitioner was great. Once again I explained the situation and then apologized if I was making her feel like an order taker at McDonald’s.  She immediately said nothing to apologize for, and said she was glad I was taking such an active interest in my own healthcare and wished more patients did the same thing.  I was careful though not to take up too much of my 40 minutes with talking though, and after running through my history pretty quickly we completed the exam.  If I was having any problems, or if I had a complicated medical history no way would I have gotten away with that. Since I kept it simple we had enough time.  She was pretty great about ordering the additional tests as well, putting orders in as we talked for a colonoscopy, mammogram, and routine blood work.  She also set me up on their online My Chart system so I could see the results (rather than waiting for them to be mailed) and best of all told me I could go right downstairs for the blood work.

So off I went for blood work, and after verifying during check-in all the blood tests were coded as “routine” I called to make my mammogram appointment while waiting my turn.  I tentatively asked if that had any appointments that day and she said as a matter of fact the entire afternoon was open.  I snagged the first available at 11:15pm and then went in to get my blood drawn.  My technician did an excellent job (minimal pain, only one stick required) which she said was a benefit of working in a busy center…lots of practice.  Afterwards I walked a couple of buildings over to the cancer center and checked in for my mammogram.

That was really nice.  Heated robes, tea and coffee while we waited, and a very nice technician.  We spent a little more time talking about my history prior to this test since I had a small piece of breast removed about 9 years ago, but once again I stressed this needed to be coded as a routine screening and not diagnostic.  The whole process started at 9am and I was waiting for Lee on the sidewalk at 12:00pm. Pretty awesome.  (I made much better use of my morning, going all around downtown Portland visiting camera stores in search of a pro sling strap since my daughter stole mine, and a few other things that I didn’t even know I needed. – Lee) The colonoscopy will of course be scheduled separately but I felt great about every interaction I had and would highly recommend the Providence Medical Group and their hospital if you are in the Portland area.  I’ll talk more about the remaining visits (and how Lee does in his visit) at a later date, but for right now I feel pretty darn good about the whole thing.  It required some upfront work, and vigilance throughout the process, but hopefully we won’t have any issues with the billing. (I do not expect my experience to be anywhere near as smooth, pleasant, or painless. – Lee)

Oh, and as an extra treat we stopped at Dean’s Homestyle Cafe for lunch and we got a bacon cheeseburger, hamburger, fries, and onion rings and left a $5 tip for a total of $20.  It’s not much to look at on the outside, but the inside had really comfy booths, the food was great and the portions were huge.  My kind of diner!!

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