Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Urgent Care Center

It used to be if you had an urgent medical problem after hours or on weekends you would need to go to the Emergency Room. Even these days, you’ll still need to go to the ER sometimes, for some things.

Here in NYC, Urgent Care Centers are really taking off. This was excellent news for Jeremy on two occasions. Both occasions involved a kitchen type accident that required stitches.

The first time happened to take place on what we call a Jacob anniversary. People who’ve lost a child like we have will know what I’m talking about. When a child dies, you are left with all of these difficult dates to either acknowledge in some way or try to ignore. It’s a little different for everyone. For us, Jacob’s birthday, his diagnosis date and the day he died are all these kind of dates. There’s more, but that should give you an idea of what I’m talking about.

So we’re experiencing a Jacob Anniversary together and Jeremy cuts his hand in the kitchen while washing a Star Trek glass with Captain Kirk’s picture on it. Oh shit, I’m going to have to go to the ER, Jeremy said. I felt like the idea of Jeremy going to an ER on this particular Jacob date was bad idea.

I had just read an article about two former ER doctors who opened an Urgent Care Center not far from where we live. I made a quick phone call to make sure that they could handle a few stiches. They could. Jeremy wrapped his hand up and I helped him into a cab. The Urgent Care doctor was really nice and Jeremy was in and out quickly.

The next time Jeremy needed stitches, it was because he cut his hand on a tin can. We didn’t even consider the ER. We worked together like a well-oiled machine. While Jeremy was wrapping his hand, I called the car service and then the Urgent Care Center to let them know to expect him.

In the meantime, the Urgent Care Centers are popping up all over the place in many different neighborhoods. It’s such a great idea that it’s a wonder that someone didn’t think of it sooner.

When I navigate NYC, I usually use the subway to get where I am going.  But once I’m in the general vicinity of my destination, I do a lot of walking. I am fortunate to be able bodied. I don’t take that for granted. This asset allows me to do more walking around than many people.

As I walk around in all different neighborhoods, for different purposes, but never aimlessly, I began to notice a predictable thought pattern with myself.

As I pass different businesses, there is a dialogue going on in my own brain.  I walk by Trader Joe’s I wonder if we need anything that is a specialty of Trader Joe’s. I pass a library and ask myself if I need to book shop. Lately, I’ve noticed that the answer to that question is always yes, yet I have a big pile of books next to my bed that I still want to read. So I have started to distinguish between needing to book shop and wanting to book shop.

I’ll do similar things as I pass drug stores, independent gourmet food shops, Sephora, The Salvation Army and supermarkets.

This strikes me as pretty funny as I think about it. I’m not a particularly spontaneous person. I’m a planner and a maker of lists. Stopping at one of these places is something I would have already put on my schedule if we needed anything. But the questions do seem to serve some sort of purpose.

And so it is with the Urgent Care Center.

As Urgent Care Centers started to proliferate and I found myself walking by one or another of them on a semi regular basis, I developed this little habit. The habit was quite established before I started to really notice it.

I ask myself if I happen to have any urgent medical needs that can’t wait for an appointment with my regular doctor. Then I spend a minute or two mentally reviewing my health status.  I note that my head feels fine and I seem neurologically intact. My arms, legs and back are pain free. I’m not bleeding. I do not have a fever. I am not vomiting. I am not covered in unexplained bruises or petechiae.

I’ll acknowledge that there are some small things going on. A tiny patch of probable eczema near my knee.  A heavy feeling in my sinuses, indicating a possible cold coming on. Acne. Stuff like that. Barely noticeable issues that don’t even need the care of a doctor.

As far as I can tell, I am perfectly fine. Upon realizing this, I’ll feel myself smiling a little. There will be an extra spring in my step. Because I do not take my health for granted, it feels like I’m given a little gift every time I pass the Urgent Care Center.

I’ve gotten better in recent years at not worrying about things that could take me to the Urgent Care Center, or worse, the ER, in the future. I’m also not thinking about the idea that I might have something small and imperceptible now that will later develop into something large and life threatening and necessitate a visit to the Urgent Care Center. I seem to not be focusing on those things. I’m just grateful that I don’t need to be at the Urgent Care Center now.

It’s a similar feeling that I have when I’m sitting in the pediatrician’s waiting room for a well-child check up or minor health problem with Hannah or Noah. There will be a flurry of activity discernable from the waiting room. The doctor is running late. The over-scheduled moms are pacing and looking at their smartphones. Some nannies will be worried because they’re concerned about what’s scheduled after the appointment. It’s part of their job to get the kid to taekwondo or violin.

I’m calm and patient. We’re not the emergency today, as I look over at my child, reading a book or watching BuzzFeed. Then I go back to whatever I was doing before.


  1. Excellent, as always, Karen!

  2. I am glad that you do not take your good health for granted. We all would better if we had the same outlook as you do when passing urgent care facilities. Every day that my family members and I do not need medical care is a blessing. I will begin making an effort to have the optimistic outlook that you have!