I was faced with making a difficult decision this week. I’d been wait-listed with my neurologist to have another round of trigger-point injections. After decades of suffering, this treatment, administered monthly, had finally proven effective for my myofascial pain syndrome.
At my last appointment, on June 4, the wait time for my next appointment was estimated at four to six weeks. But nine weeks had passed so far. Of course, I’d made pleading phone calls in the interim. Each time I told them, “My nerve pain episodes have become more frequent again. I suspect the stress of the pandemic is contributing to my worsening symptoms.”
The reply was, “We’ve had staffing issues and have had to postpone all of our appointments.”
So, to say I was delighted to receive a call from neurology last week is an understatement. When told the appointment would be in five days, I was absolutely ecstatic. It’s commonly a three-week wait from phone call to appointment.
And then the details were outlined. First, the injections would not be done by my usual physician. A doctor I’d never met would be doing the procedure. Additionally, the appointment would take place at a different location. At this facility, patients were required to sign in one hour prior to their appointment time. I wasn’t happy about the first change, but the second one caused alarm bells to go off and mild panic to erupt.
I wasn’t thrilled with the prospect of spending any time in any building — mask or no mask — where people exposed to the coronavirus (or even symptomatic people) likely had been. But I reasoned that just as I’d done on June 3, I’d be in and out in less than 20 minutes.
However, this was a very different situation. I was being asked to spend closer to 90 minutes there — the required 60-minute wait time, plus an estimated 30 minutes with the doctor. Perhaps it would be even more because it was a doctor I didn’t know. These conditions were unknown to me when I’d pleaded for this appointment. It was then that I remembered my mother’s admonition when I was a child: “Be careful what you wish for.”
I was frightened. However, I accepted the appointment, mostly as an opportunity for time to make a logical decision. Immediately, I began to assess the facts.
My husband and I are both considered high-risk for the coronavirus. I’ve contracted every cold, flu, and miscellaneous illness that’s come along since I was a child. And my experience is commonly more severe and longer-lasting than the norm. My husband has several common ailments that accompany aging. As a result, we’ve both been extremely diligent about taking every possible precaution.
Wearing masks and social distancing are things we do routinely. No one else has been in our house since the beginning of March. The one exception was to have a new refrigerator delivered (definitely an essential). We’ve had no social contacts except with people who are across the street or with people we occasionally encounter in passing as we walk through our neighborhood. Our social interactions happen on Zoom.
Immediate family members have visited twice since March. Each time, we sat in the back yard at least 10 feet away from one another while wearing masks. Groceries are delivered to our front door. Everything else is purchased online. We leave the house only to walk our dog or for essential appointments.
Previously, my neurologist’s injections qualified as essential. However, given the circumstances described to me, I reconsidered. An attack of excruciating pain usually lasting four to six hours was preferable to subjecting myself (and my husband) to the conditions we’d been diligently avoiding. At this moment, avoiding the coronavirus had to be my first priority. I postponed my appointment.
It was a terrible decision to make.
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