Cleveland self-help health care in the New Depression

23 Oct

While multiple hard squishes aren't pleasant, it was fast and efficient

Last week I had my first mammogram, and it cost $90. I’m long past 35, the recommended age for a first mammogram, and I have health insurance with Kaiser Permanente. But Kaiser–which covers many employees who work in Cleveland–does not have even one Cleveland facility. Everything is out in the suburbs. And when you don’t drive, their locations pose a problem. RTA cut and rerouted the #9, so it no longer leaves from downtown, and its schedule is once an hour–hardly convenient if you’re taking multiple buses in winter to reach the Cleveland Heights facility. My former Lakewood Kaiser was reachable for basics (though no specialists), but it’s been moved to Rocky River. The big facility’s in Parma, a nightmare to reach. So I didn’t have a mammogram for years. Luckily, the Women’s Diagnostic Center of Cleveland rolled into my workingplace, and, since Kaiser is the only insurance coverage that won’t pony up, I paid–but was happy I could do so.

Plenty still aren’t insured, and get sick and have accidents all the time. My Mom reports a story of advice during the Depression: “If you need an operation, fall into the gutter–they have to take you in!” And that’s still true. But if you’re neither desperately poor nor mobile and satisfyingly insured, you need to be able to take care of some basics in an alternative way. These are my tips for making it through the kinds of average problems that turn up–some need professional help, some are at-home issues.

1. Need a doctor for an urgent prescription or basic care? Most basic problems that require professional aid can be handled by nurse-practitioners, and there’s no better development than the CVS Minute Clinics. Unfortunately, despite the need in Cleveland itself–and the many CVS drugstores here–they mimic Cleveland. There are no Minute Clinics in the city; Lakewood is the closest. Nonetheless, they are the perfect solution to upper respiratory infections (unlike colds, these require prescriptions), pinkeye, glass splinters in your foot, flu shots, vaccinations–even physicals. They take insurance (handy even when you have coverage but something happens over the weekend), and if you don’t have it, they list their prices. Open up a Minute Clinic in a downtown facility, please! Some states have Target Clinics–but not Ohio. How about expanding, Target? Walmart has clinics in Ohio, but not in the Cleveland area–why not? But if you’re traveling and something crops up, all are worth checking for.

Great for traveling--chafing, rashes, itch! Any brand will do

2. Have a well-stocked medicine cabinet. Essentials include bandaids and bandages of various sizes, tweezers and a magnifying glass, peroxide and alcohol for cleaning wounds, antiseptic/antiobiotic cream or ointment to protect them. Target’s generic brands are great. Try their version of Immodium for diarrhea–it works just fine (and this is something you definitely want to have around, especially for visitors). Forget cough syrup–the Target version of Mucinex DM tablets are better than syrup, as good as the brand name, and much cheaper. I prefer aspirin to all the aspirin substitutes (thousands of years of willow bark use can’t be all wrong), but I buy it at the dollar store, where it’s priced as it should be; if you have kids, check out the online discussions of what other analgesic might be preferred. For rashes, chafing, and any other skin problems (not near the eyes!), use hydrocortisone cream. Again, the dollar store usually carries it, and there’s little brand difference. Pure aloe gel is also good for skin problems and minor burns; drugstores carry it (or buy the plant, snap off a leaf, and squeeze out the gel). Alcon’s Naphcon A eyedrops are great for most minor eye problems, including non-contact pinkeye; a little pricy, but worth it in need!

Habanero aka Scotch Bonnet aka ata rodo--in any language, hot but delicious

3. Have a well-stocked kitchen. Vomiting? Drink chamomile tea (recommended while traveling by a doctor in Germany when my pal was projectile vomiting after food poisoning–worked almost instantly). Minor stomach problems? Put some dried ginger in your food or use bicarbonate of soda in water. Bad menstrual cramps? Get a piece of fresh ginger (it keeps for a long time), peel a piece as big as half your thumb and cut into chunks; pour boiling water over it and a little sugar–works, plus delicious. Cloth-headed with congestion? Get thee to the West Side Market or Dave’s off W 25th, or any ethnically-stocked supermarket, and buy a few habanero peppers. Carefully cut one up (VERY carefully–don’t rub eyes afterwards! If you wear contacts, wear rubber gloves or have someone else do it) and toss it in spaghetti sauce meant for four (or adjust downwards); put a quarter of one in a bowl of chicken soup. Delicious flavor, and HOT–guaranteed to clear your head and bring temporary and welcome relief from bad sinuses or a cold. Full of Vitamins A & C, they help in other ways, too. Sore, tired eyes? Take two warm used tea bags, lie down, and put one over each eye. A fever? Bring it down fast with a cruel but efficient cold shower, or cold water poured over the head.

Covers all dimensions--but leave the big things to the docs, since you're in CLE

4. Consult! Again, we’re not talking greatest of emergencies (head for the emergency room). The free app iTriage (for iPhone, iPad, Android, more) is very helpful in pointing one in the right direction. Plus, you can’t beat books–I found this one essential when I lived overseas: Where there is no doctor.

5. Train! Take a CPR class in Cleveland, or get Red Cross training.

Even doctors seem to want us to be pro-active these days, and it’s good to know what to do when you feel too miserable to step outside–or someone else does. Crackers, hot tea, chicken soup and sleep don’t cure everything, but it’s surprising how many things they help. You know when other options are essential. To your health!

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One Response to “Cleveland self-help health care in the New Depression”

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  1. Giving Pinkeye…the Stink Eye | - February 7, 2012

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