Getting sick in college is never fun. In addition to fever, chills, nausea, congestion, coughing and the multitude of other symptoms you may experience, missed classes, social isolation and a pissed off roommate just add to the misery. The one thing you should be able to count on is Stony Brook’s Student Health Services, right?
As a freshman that had never been to Student Health Services last semester, I only had stories from my sister, a graduate from Florida State University, to go on. There, every female with a stomach virus is treated with a pregnancy test, blood tests have a successful vein collapse rate close to 100 percent, and the facilities are housed in a building as clean as one you’d likely see on Mike Rowe’s “Dirty Jobs.”
I was only slightly more impressed with Stony Brook’s center. I first went in the day after I was hospitalized for carbon monoxide poisoning in October. I spiked a 104 fever the night before, but had no other symptoms, and I was vexed as to whether the two conditions were related. I let the nurse at the desk know that I had a history of iron-deficiency anemia and that I was interested in getting a blood test to check my iron levels and the CO concentration in my blood because I knew that they had a lab in the building. I was told that only a doctor could prescribe those tests, an acceptable answer.
After waiting for what seemed like an eternity after the nurse brought me into an exam room to take my vitals, the doctor finally came back and examined me for a total of perhaps two minutes before dismissing me with a bottle of dollar store brand Tylenol. I told him what I had discussed with the nurse up front.
“No, that won’t be necessary.”
The staff at the Student Health Center seemed overworked and unenthusiastic. I felt like I was in a well-oiled machine designed to get me in and out as quickly as possible, and the doctor looked annoyed that I was asking him any questions.
I firmly believe that we all must be our own health advocates. After all, who would advocate for us if we didn’t do so ourselves? When I was three, my parents took me back to my pediatrician, one of the most popular in the area, after I developed a full-body rash after taking a round of amoxicillin. He told us that in no way could the antibiotic cause such a rash, and that I must have gotten into some poison oak.
Nowadays, a quick google search will prove that 3 to 10 percent of all children taking amoxicillin will develop a non-allergic rash that is very easily treatable. I no longer saw that doctor.
Fortunate enough to have private health insurance, I now go off campus when I need to see a doctor. The first time I saw my GP on Long Island, I was given a physical, which included blood work. The results came back that I was indeed still very iron deficient, and that my body was not producing healthily shaped and sized blood cells, which I am currently undergoing treatment for. It also prompted referrals to a hematologist and gastroenterologist to check for blood disorders and internal bleeding, very likely causes of my suffering. None of this would have been resolved had I not sought health care elsewhere.
If every student who had the ability to be seen by medical care off campus elected to do so, the Student Health Center might be able to spend the appropriate amount of time and attention on students that depend on the center and the University’s health insurance for care.