December 11, 2023   3:37pm

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Here’s one frustrating example of someone who got the “swine” in well-doctored-up New York City, and couldn’t get help — or even a proper diagnosis …

Chills. Fever. A night spent tossing and turning, drifting in and out of fever dreams, intensified by powerful body aches that continued well into the next morning. Weak legs to the point that I could no longer walk. This coupled with a dry cough made me worry I had something more than the bronchitis my friend had just been diagnosed with and warned me about — someone whom I’d spent quite a bit of time with the prior weekend.
Flashes of Sanjay Grupta equipped with suitcases full of Theraflu were going through my head, as I called my friend to ask if I should go to the doctor.  “You might want to ask them for Theraflu.  You’ve got all the symptoms of swine flu.”

Thus began my adventure to a family medical doctor near my apartment (to cut down on car costs). After an hour and a half wait, he finally saw me, but with my fever at 102, my weight down four pounds and my heart rate high, he sent me on to the  ER to get x-rays in case of pneumonia. (He couldn’t do more for me there.)

A moment of clarification:  When I say they “sent me on to the ER,” I mean I walked eight blocks, with fever and without feeling any better. Hello Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center, or as I call it now, hell on earth. Waiting forever in a packed, dirty room, where one guy decided to defecate in his pants, finally, I saw a nurse who took my fever (103.4 at this point), gave me Tylenol and sent me back into the waiting room, where, since there were no longer seats available, I crouched on the floor and … waited.

Four hours later … still waiting, I started to think about all the people I had probably infected and all the people who had infected me since my arrival. Finally, my name was called.

Once with the doctor, she asked how I was feeling, and, to her credit upon hearing and seeing my symptoms, she asked if I’d been around anyone with swine flu. “Not to my knowledge.” Apparently, that was enough reason to skip the throat swab and send me straight to x-rays where they would, finally, check for pneumonia.

The x-ray was probably the most horrid experience of all. After being harassed for not speaking enough Spanish by a nurse, and then, harassed for not speaking enough English by another (without a word from my mouth), I had the x-rays done, went back to the waiting room, was given no direction, and told I was supposed to have gone back to the EZ Care Center afterwards. Thanks.

At this point (11:30pm to be exact) I broke down and cried, which only made things worse.  Another nurse trying to help assumed my tears were because I was being abused by a boyfriend.

After six hours in the ER, the doctor said I had little more than the equivalent of a cold, told me to go home and drink Emergen-C, take Tylenol every four hours and try some Robitussin. I couldn’t believe I’d been there all day, feeling miserable, just to be “prescribed” over-the-counter medicine for  “a cold.” I was even more surprised when the ER bill came in the mail a week later, charging me $1,141.37. (They hadn’t applied my insurance to the cost, despite the fact that I gave them my information while there).

The next day I decided to go to another doctor — definitely NOT another ER–  after developing a worse cough and sore throat. I headed to Mercer Street Medical by our office in SoHo. The  seemed like it would be far better, with the doctor immediately informing me that I probably had the flu, and that they only needed to do a simple throat swab to determine if it was the regular flu or, what she called “the scary flu.” But, yet another road bump.  They apparently didn’t have the correct swab needed to send to the lab, and I would have to walk to Chinatown … in the rain … to another lab … with a fever of about 102 to get the swab done myself.

Fine. I did it.  How much effort does it take just to find out what I had? Another problem: They couldn’t do the swab in the lab. I had to walk back to the doctor’s office to have them swab my throat, and then, walk back to the lab so they could analyze it.

Enough! I walked the correct swab back to the office, and told them I refused to walk it back. They agreed and told me not to worry about it.  But there was one more thing– the swab I had been given by the lab was the same as the swabs they already had in the office. Great. The walk to Chinatown in the rain was for nothing. I was just happy not to be dead from dehydration and irritation.

Finally, they swabbed my throat, sent it in, and I went back home and waited for the call. After a few more days, my on-again-off-again fevers finally subsided.  The body aches were gone.  My headache went away, and I was on my road to recovery (aside from the annoying cough that lasted more than a week past my illness, and still, no call from the doctor).

On Monday, it came. Test result: positive. They would be sending my swab to the Center for Disease Control for confirmation since apparently, no one can really know for sure until the swab is sent off to Washington. Whatever that means. “The doctor says if you’re still feeling symptoms, you can come in to get some Theraflu,” the woman on the phone told me. Wow. Thanks. A little late for that.

After experiencing the whole “scary flu” bit, I’ve determined that sure, it’s awful, but obviously it doesn’t kill everyone it strikes. Though, waaaaay more people in New York are probably walking around with Swine Flu than you think.

The figures, as I see it now, are merely a matter of who was actually able to find a doctor competent enough to test and correctly diagnose it. Three of my friends also had the same symptoms I did. Two of them went to the doctor. Neither of them were diagnosed with Swine Flu. Neither of them received a swab test.

Why is it that there’s such a scare alert out by every media outlet and, even, the government (anybody remember Biden telling us not to ride in subways or planes?) and yet there’s no organized, straightforward way for someone to be tested in the largest, most urban city in the United States? A reporter from the Wall Street Journal also suspected he had come down with Swine Flu, and was also told by numerous people that he simply couldn’t be tested:

“Don Weiss, director of surveillance in New York City’s bureau of communicable disease, said authorities do not have the resources to test everyone. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta is working to expand capacity for testing around the country, Mr. Weiss added.

There are probably 10,000 people with the flu in New York,’ he said. We just don’t have the capacity to test that. People with the flu should stay home and call their doctor,'” the article, “Reporter Tries To Get Tested for Swine Flu,” by Joe Lauria in the WSJ says.

Let’s hope this thing doesn’t mutate into a more deadly form as discussed in an earlier post, “Should you WANT to catch the swine flu?”, because it’s clear, even in its mild stages, New York isn’t very equipped or organized to deal with it.

I hate to think about how the situation is in the rest of the country.

Modesta Zapata, your friendly reporter at

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