Thursday, October 1, 2009

In Sickness and in Health

With flu season kicking into high gear (and with B home on the couch), we thought it might be helpful to share our experience with health care in the District. When we moved from LA to DC two years ago, I got sick almost every month. It was a scary thing being in a new city and not knowing where to go to get medical help when I needed it. Sure, I know how to go on my insurance company's website and find a local provider but that didn't help me much when the average wait time for an appointment was 2 months. When I inconveniently came down with bronchitis on Christmas eve or tonsillitis at midnight, I needed some alternatives:

Arlington Urgent Care

It goes without saying that if you're really ill, don't mess around and head straight to the ER. DC has lots of hospitals within easy access. When you're not "ER sick" but still need to see someone, urgent care is the answer. Try googling "urgent care Washington, DC" and see if you can find a 24-hour option in the District. When I couldn't, I turned to Arlington Urgent Care.

It's not the fanciest place but they are open 'round the clock and I haven't waited longer than 20 minutes to see a doctor. They can write you that prescription that will get you through the night and will refer you to a specialist if needed. They also take many kinds of insurance so it shouldn't cost you an arm and a leg to get help.

Farragut Medical and Travel Care

If your illness is of the 10am to 5:00pm (Monday -Friday) variety, Farragut Medical and Travel Care is a great downtown DC option that is Metro accessible. I got a flu shot there and was in and out in 10 minutes. They also offer the Gardasil vaccine if you haven't gotten it yet (note that this is a 3 shot series so you'll have to make return trips). If you're headed on an exotic vacation and need vaccines, you can easily head here during your lunch break.

Northwest Nurse Practitioner Associates

When it came time for my yearly checkup and I couldn't get an appointment with a primary care physician, I found NNPA and was able to get an appointment within days. It is located on Connecticut Avenue directly across from the National Zoo and their early morning appointments are great for those with busy work schedules. I saw Erin Bagshaw several times and was incredibly impressed by her warm bedside manner and thoroughness. They also offer travel vaccines and are a "certified Yellow Fever center" if that's important to you. The drawback? They don't take insurance so you're left paying the full amount and trying to get reimbursed by your carrier. While it's a terrific option for last-minute appointments, it can get pricey to use for your regular medical care.

Here's to hoping you never have to visit any of these places. I'm going to go wash my hands and take some Emergen-C now...

Second Thoughts from B

Irony (n): a blog post entitled "in sickness and in health" written when B is the one sprawled out on the bed, while moaning and thankful if he can keep down a small sip of water and a Saltine cracker.

I guess this is karma's way of telling me I should stop teasing J and calling her a "sickly kid." In all seriousness, its been years since I've been sick and I'm much more accustomed to being the doctor than the patient. But while doing my best impression of a quarantined and emaciated Howard Hughes (to be clear I have the flu and not the crazy bug, even if the imagery is similar), it struck me how much a change of coasts can really change your life. It isn't surprising that a move like that involves major life changes but sometimes the smaller, less dramatic changes are equally challenging.

When you leave for college (or even more so, when you stay close), frequent trips home and campus facilities can suffice for medical/dental/eye exams. But when you move to a new city and lack the network of family and friends that can point you in the right direction, sometimes trial and error is the best you can do. Take for example our experience with the DC Dental Spa. Sure, we should have known just by the name but because it was close, had convenient hours, and took our insurance, we gave it a try. In the 3 times I've been, I would estimate that I spend 45-60 minutes in the waiting room (keep in mind I have an appointment) and about 15-20 minutes in the chair. Somehow all the Reba reruns in the waiting room don't make this a good use of my time. Compare that to my dentist back home that had been cleaning my teeth since birth and took personal pride in them. Let's just say this isn't the type of experience I'm accustomed to...

So I'd love to end this post with some sage wisdom and expert referrals but the fact of the matter is, we're still looking (and accepting recommendations). The one thing I will say is to start your search early because you don't want to be hunting while you're hurting. Oh, and another piece of advice. Don't get the flu. It sucks for you and for the people around you... and results in health care-related blog posts instead of a review of the U2 concert that we had to skip because I got sick.

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