Counting My Blessings: The Kindness of Strangers
While the holidays can be wonderful, all the holiday cheer can also highlight the aspects of our lives that make it hard to feel cheerful. RA can bring out the Grinch in me, so inspired by the Whos down in Whoville who sing in spite of their loss, I am challenging myself to think about all that I can be grateful for. This series will spotlight the elements that make life with RA easier for me to bear.
There are people in my family and in my circle of friends who know me very well and who I rely on for support on a routine basis. In addition, there are also people who barely know me at all, yet they also frequently help me in significant ways. I would like to acknowledge some of these unsung heroes in my battle with Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Office Staff. In the years since my diagnosis, I have had three different rheumatologists, in addition to a variety of other specialists and general practitioners, and I have found one thing to be true: not all office staff are created equal. I have encountered grumpy people who act like I’m an inconvenience, as well as inefficient employees who can’t seem to meet patient needs within reasonable time frames. At my last rheumatologist’s office, I faced such challenges with the office staff that I finally changed doctors, even though I loved my rheumatologist and had been treated by her for a decade. However, there were just too many times when my calls never reached a human, my voicemails were never responded to, and promises to call in prescriptions or provide test results weren’t fulfilled.
The office staff at my current rheumatologist’s office couldn’t be more different. They are prompt, friendly, and efficient. My phone calls are almost always answered, and on the occasions when I do have to leave voicemails, I never have long to wait for a return call. They are professional and polite, even when I’m worried that my request may seem trivial or bothersome. The good women in that office are conscious of the value of my time, and always minimize my wait as much as possible. When I’ve had problems with insurance and mail order prescription drug companies, they have provided me with samples to see me through the wait until my prescription can be filled. While it is my doctor who provides medical treatment, his office staff is critically important in the care I receive. And because they excel at their duties, I do indeed feel cared for.
Pharmacy Staff. When you don’t feel well, inconveniences take on larger proportions. I am blessed to have a local pharmacy with a staff that seems to understand that, as they always go out of their way to be helpful. If I am out of refills, they contact my doctor themselves for a new prescription. If I am out of a medication they don’t have in stock, they will call around to other pharmacies to find one that does have it in stock and then drive over and pick it up for me. If I am battling the insurance company trying to get coverage for the medication my doctor has prescribed but that the insurance company deems “unpreferred,” my pharmacy’s staff will provide me with various pricing scenarios or any other information I may request, never saying they don’t have enough time or otherwise putting me off. Full of knowledge about side effects and drug interactions, the pharmacists have been invaluable in helping me solve medication mysteries. They work to learn their customers’ names to make us feel like more than business transactions, and they have bilingual staff to assist our Spanish-speaking community members. When I was without insurance for a couple of months, I was shocked to discover that they charged about 20% cost of what some of the large chains were quoting me for the exact same medication. Previously unaware that pharmacies could determine sticker prices on drugs, I was floored that my pharmacy could sell me a medication for $80 that one of the large national chains was charging $400 for. There are fewer and fewer quality local businesses, and I am so lucky to have such helpful staff to help me navigate the world of prescription drugs.
Online community. Last but not least, I would like to acknowledge a group of people I do not know but who provide a lot of emotional support when I am dealing with the frustrations of RA: all of you! If I have to have arthritis, I am glad I live in an age where I can communicate with others who have it across the country and even around the globe. I only personally know a handful of people with RA, but thanks to the internet and to online communities I can learn about the experiences of other people with the disease, obtaining tips, perspective, and validation as I read. Thank you!