I got a bill the other day for a visit I made to our “urgent care” center last April. It was the first I’ve heard from their billing department.

Last March I came down with what I had thought was the flu — for the second time. I had already had the flu in January, and I’m certain it was the flu. It had all the classic symptoms, lasted about 10 days, and then was over.

There are 2 strains of common flu, so I figured in March that I’d been unlucky and had managed to get both of them. And maybe I had. I’m still not sure. But after 10 days the fever and chills were still unrelenting. On the Saturday before Easter I was miserable, and had been going on 5 weeks. I decided I had to go see about it.

The “doctor” asked me a few questions and took my temperature. She said, “Yep, it’s the flu.” I asked why it had taken way longer than the flu to get over it. She just repeated that it was the flu and I should go home, take Tylenol for the fever, drink lots of liquids. Then she sent me home. And I got the bill for it in the mail last week.

But a week later, I still had this “flu”. So I went to see my real doctor — which I should have done three weeks before. My mistake. The reason I hadn’t was, partly, because it’s a 3-hour drive to get there. We kept our doctor 3 hours away a few years ago when we moved here because we had our suspicions then about the safety of North Country New York medicine. Our suspicions were well-founded. It turned out to be a urinary tract infection that had started to spread everywhere. I was going a little septic. She got me on antibiotics. And she referred me to a urologist. Then she called me back to say that lab tests had come back, and my infection was a strain that was resistant, and switched me a new antibiotic that would do the trick. It did. Within three days I was finally feeling better.

The bills for my real doctor and my urologist have all since been paid.

That’s a long story, all to say that I feel a little resentful to have to pay a bill now for a misdiagnosis that, had I followed it to the letter, would have resulted in my being dead by now. If I were dead, of course, I wouldn’t be around to pay the bill, let alone to be feeling resentful about it.

Last week I got to see my real doctor again for the first time since my infection cleared last spring. It was for my annual exam, and I got a flu shot. Later in the week, we took the Kid for his annual exam. His doctor works in the same conglomerate of “health care” providers as the “doctor” who sent me home with the “flu”. We asked for him to get a flu shot. They didn’t have any.

My real doctor wanted me to get some routine blood work done back at home. “You can get it done there, and they’ll mail the results to us.”

But at this point, I don’t trust them here to draw my blood without killing me. So I’m going to drive the three hours back to a real clinic to have it done next week.

In fact, Brooke and I have a standing agreement. If either of us ever needs to go to the hospital for an emergency, we get in the car and start driving. Even if it’s a heart attack. We’ll probably arrive way too late. We might arrive dead. But we’d die under the hands of the butchers up here anyway.

Meanwhile, I’ll put a check in the mail to the Potsdam Canton Hospital. The awful feeling about paying them to kill me may be just what I need to reinforce the habit of making the 3 hour drive much sooner next time.