Today, I really, really, really, really wanted to be back home in South Africa.
It wasn’t even a question.
As I finished my frustrating, shame-inducing phone call with the receptionist, I wanted to teleport myself far, far, far away to the country that is more home to me than my birth country was to me today.
Even though I sound like an American, look like an American, and have mannerisms like an American, coming back to this place and living here after being out of the country for years and years, there are many things I just don’t understand.
Like calling a doctor.
In South Africa, if I need to make an appointment, I am able to schedule my doctor visit for that very day. If it is an emergency, this incredible office staff gets me in that moment if our doctor instructs them to do that! No kidding. It’s happened. It’s happened for every single person in my family. When we’ve called in, if the receptionist believes it’s a big deal, she directs the call immediately to our doctor who then picks up the phone and talks to us. John or me! Right then. Right there. No on hold rigmarole.
Did any of that happen for me today?
First of all, because our family has been forced to remain in the United States longer than six months due to the pandemic, our insurance company dropped our coverage. The policy states that we can only be in the US for six months, if we go over that time period – even in a pandemic – we’re cut.
Not wanting to be without insurance coverage during a pandemic, we looked for new insurance which then would align us with a new doctor in the US while we remain here.
Now, you guys probably know the way this goes, I’m sure. Our family enrolled with a new insurance program. Then we signed up as new patients with a clinic that works with this insurance group. Then, if we need anything, we must have a new patient visit with the doctor. And then, the doctor will refer us to another service provider for anything specialized that we must get done.
For me, I need to have my annual mammogram appointment to make sure that I’m still cancer-free. I really wanted to wait and do this procedure in South Africa. After all, it’s an easy phone call to make an appointment. That’s it.
Not here. First, I needed to have an appointment with my new doctor to set things up for future appointments. And because this is the current pandemic life, the appointment needed to be virtual.
I was all ready for my telehealth visit for my Zoom call – as the practice is not taking in-patient visits right now – unless it’s an emergency.
I followed all the directions on the website, answered all the preliminary questions, and paid the $15 copay.
I waited some more.
I felt like I was missing something.
After twenty minutes of waiting, I called the doctor’s office. I was able to get through to some one who then directed me to another receptionist where I was asked to wait. While on hold, the minutes ticked away. Ten minutes passed until the receptionist answered. No exaggeration.
When I explained that I had an appointment 30 minutes ago, the receptionist replied that the doctor had called me on Zoom, but I hadn’t picked up. They tried to call me by phone, but I hadn’t answered.
Thus, they determined I wasn’t available and cancelled the appointment.
I asked where the Zoom link was because I hadn’t seen it.
She replied, “You should have known to look in your messages. That is where the link was for your appointment.”
She continued, “We sent you the instructions in your email. You should have looked for those instructions there. It’s all listed out for you. We sent them last week.”
I felt so ashamed and so stupid.
I should have known where to look, when to look, and how to look for this link.
I should have known, right?
The thing is that to get all this information, I must log into a new-to-me portal and identify where all these features of this new-to-me website are located. I had done some of that earlier, but obviously I hadn’t done enough because I missed where to look for the Zoom telehealth link.
I missed it completely.
The receptionist expected me to know.
The doctor expected me to know.
But, I didn’t.
And instead of having an appointment today to serve as the entry way of getting a future appointment for a mammogram with a different office, I must start all over again and wait for another entry appointment in a week.
This is why I miss my South Africa today. I just wanted familiarity and understanding.
As I continued to clarify what I should have done to connect with the doctor as I talked with the receptionist and what needed to happen next, I felt more and more stupid. I choked up. I probably said, “I’m sorry,” and “I’m sorry for the confusion,” and “I’m sorry for the inconvenience,” more times than I realized. I felt so out of place and so out of rhythm.
How could this American-sounding person explain that I’ve been out of the country for almost fifteen years and this healthcare system is completely foreign to me?
When I hung up, I cried.
The emotion swelled and the frustrations circling inside of me gushed out – not just because of this shame-inducing experience this morning.
It’s because our family is caught up in a pandemic and we cannot return home.
There is nothing we can do to make a return trip to South Africa possible right now – or even in the next few months. South Africa is currently the fifth country in the world for new COVID-19 cases. Until South Africa gets a handle on this troubling, perplexing, and dangerous health situation, a firm travel ban remains in place.
So, our family continues to wait.
We’ll do what we need to do.
For me? I’ll try again with the doctor next week with a new telehealth appointment and this time I’ll know where to look on the website for the Zoom call link. I’ll get a do-over.
That’s a good thing as I learn more about how to maneuver through life here.
I think the thing that grieves me, though, is that the receptionist I interacted with offered little grace or understanding. She expected me to know something. She basically said that the information was right in front of me – I should have seen it.
The thing is though, I didn’t see it.
I was learning a brand-new system – a brand new way of doing things – that lacked any sense of personal contact or relationship. This is something that I have come to expect after living in South Africa for so long – person-to-person relating and person-to-person understanding.
I miss that.
It makes me wonder in this current time in which many people are accusing others, shaming others, and telling others that ‘you should have known that,’ maybe we just didn’t know where to look, what to see, or what to experience. And perhaps, like me, we need to give others an opportunity to learn and to try again.
Maybe we could use a little more grace.
We may look and sound one way – but in truth, we are seeing, hearing, interacting, and responding to this world from many different, unique vantage points.
I needed a little bit of grace, patience and love today.
I didn’t really get that for some reason.
But that doesn’t mean that I can’t give a bit of grace, patience, and love to someone today.
Jesus asks me to do this as I live out my life in peace and love because He did that:
That is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
English Standard Version, 1 Corinthians 5:13
I’ll try again to do something new and different to me – and offer grace, love and mercy in the process.
I still miss South Africa. I still want to go home.
In the meantime, I’ll wait and I’ll love and offer the gift of reconciliation and peace.
Image retrieved from Telehealth Image Search