As spooky season falls upon us, WKND asked readers to share their spookiest personal stories… their experiences with Yale Health.
The greatest threat to Yalies everywhere is the stairs of Linsly-Chittenden Hall. I say this because those little divots in each step can and will fling you from your 9 a.m. English seminar to a Yale Health examination room — with the bones in your foot chipped, crushed and in various other states of injury.
It happened on Sept. 8, 2021, just one week into the semester. A figurative fall down the Platonic ladder of love resulted in a literal fall from the LC stairs: I was gripped, wholly, by my seminar’s discussion of “The Symposium.” Perhaps a little too gripped because just as I was about to leave the building, my right foot pivoted sideways. A sharp inhale, a step missed. Stars momentarily filled my vision.
I heard an unnatural crack and tried, fervently, to rise from the ground. But I could not. I don’t entirely remember what happened afterward. Two indelibly kind students must have found me, hoisted me up by my arms and helped me hobble across the Old Campus courtyard to an Uber, which arrived at Yale Health Acute Care half an hour later.
Let me preface this by saying that Yale Health has to be some sort of altered reality. I’m not sure if it was the strange, sterile room, or the stupor that I was in, but I cried so violently that the nurse could not take my vitals. “Oh honey,” she asked, “can you try taking a few deep breaths?”
The x-ray technician then asked me if I had kicked someone too hard. “Ugh, I wish,” I told him. Imagine being taken out by one silly little step! But it was plausible: the verdict was two fractures, a harrowing visit to Yale Orthopaedics, five unbearable weeks in a walking boot and many, many moments of surprising and invariable tenderness. Yale, as an institution, may be one of the most overtly inaccessible spaces ever, but its people — its understanding strangers, earnest suitemates and excessively accommodating professors — are not.
So, to whoever was praying for my downfall that day: it worked! I fell! But if there is any beauty to be found in broken bones, it is that they cannot help but mend themselves. Just as the mottled bruise expels itself from the body, a first year acclimates, inevitably, to the demands of college life — even if such demands include traversing century-old staircases.
Midterms: looming. Death by Yague: impending. Already dashing out of my classes at least three times an hour to empty my sinuses and hacking as if I had a severe lung disease — ahem, but let’s make this abundantly clear… NOT COVID-19 — I notice in the middle of my Math 116 midterm that my eyes are burning. In the Dunham Lab mirror, I look as though I’ve come to class still recuperating from a night of Woad’s mayhem.
At this point, I’ve already called Yale Health twice, describing in no uncertain terms that I am extremely close to losing both my lungs. Both times I was greeted with the chipper lady on the phone saying I’d get a call back from a nurse who would help me set up an appointment. This appointment never came.
So I drag myself to Yale Health, calling to say there is something seriously wrong with my eyes: I can’t see, I am literally outside, you cannot turn me away, I’ve already called twice, I know I need medicine, please let me see a doctor, and don’t tell me someone is going to send me a message in MyChart. When I finally see a doctor, they take one look and say I have pinkeye. Pinkeye! They give me ointment and eye drops for my eyes — spilling half of the tiny vial on the floor, I might add, as they demonstrate how to properly use eye drops, a novel task — and tell me to come back for the rest of my prescription in the morning.
But doc! I implore. This cough has been here for weeks. Is there anything you can give me for my painful and extremely obvious bronchitis?
Now, I must admit that this doctor is very kind. It is 11 p.m. on a Tuesday and a fatigued and ill first year shows up at their door, demanding meds. But they then proceed to tell me that I should really try ingesting straight honey, right out of the beehive. Sensing the futility of my endeavor, I get up to leave, thanking them for this astounding advice that will almost certainly help me stop getting weird looks every time I’m the one who starts the coughing domino effect in SSS 114.
Six weeks after contracting the Yague, I’m still sick, but at this point I think I’m better served cleaning out the cold medicine section at CVS than trying my hand at 55 Lock Street.
Entering college, first years are warned about the “freshman flu,” the vague sickness that haunts many new arrivals. This year, as we emerge from a sheltered pandemic environment, the impact on our immune systems has been even more drastic. But we at Yale are told not to worry, thanks to the resources of Yale Health.
When I began to feel sick about a month ago, I called Yale Health. After confirming that it was not an emergency, I was put on hold for almost half an hour, at which point I gave up and went to sleep. When I woke up the next day, I felt my throat beginning to swell. I called Yale Health, hoping to have a strep test. I was instead informed that I should have called the day before, because as of that morning, my COVID-19 test results — at that point just over three days old — were too old for me to be seen by Yale Health. I was told to gargle with salt water and get another COVID-19 test. Here’s the issue: COVID-19 tests can take several days to come back, possibly longer, depending on how many students need tests. Midway through “yague season,” unsurprisingly, turned out to be a busy time for student COVID-19 testing. Told that it would likely be around three days before my results would be emailed to me, I went back to my room to follow instructions and gargle with salt water. Throughout the day, my throat continued to swell, to the point that swallowing was painful and breathing was difficult.
At this point, a friend of mine had been waiting for an appointment with Yale Health for over a week, getting sicker every day. I gave up. Unable to get a strep test, doctor visit or any kind of medication from Yale Health, and knowing I could end up waiting a week or more, I cracked. Being from southern Connecticut, I was able to go home, see my hometown doctor and get antibiotics. The vast majority of Yale undergrads do not have this option. While I was lucky enough to be able to take this way out, students, especially Yale undergrads in the verging-on-post-COVID-19 yague season, depend on Yale Health for personal safety and support — and Yale Health is letting us down.
That same friend, not from Connecticut, resorted to a telehealth visit with her home doctor in California, who immediately diagnosed her with bronchitis, a dangerous combination with her asthma that required immediate medication. Had she not given up on Yale Health, things could have gotten very scary. While it’s understandable that Yale Health is adjusting to new COVID-19 restrictions and is simultaneously overrun with “yague” patients, the way it’s operating right now is not giving students the support we need. Spooky season may be upon us, but our health resources should not be what’s scaring us the most.
Dorothea Faith Robertson:
On Sunday afternoon, Oct. 9, I called Yale Acute Care with a throat so sore I could barely speak. I was told to wait for a call from a nurse. A few hours later, I still hadn’t heard anything, so I called again, and again was told to continue waiting until I could speak to a nurse. Finally, I was told to come in immediately.
Following the half-mile walk in my dirty sweatpants and unbrushed hair, I was stopped by security outside the Yale Health building; for me to enter, my name needed to be on a list. After calling twice — again — and being placed on hold for 15 minutes, Acute Care confirmed that I had an appointment and allowed me to enter. Nurses asked me questions, took my vitals, and swabbed my throat for a rapid strep test, which came back as negative. They then told me that there was nothing they could do. “It’s just a cold; your symptoms should subside shortly, and if they don’t, go to Internal Medicine.”
By Friday, Oct. 15, I wasn’t feeling any better, but I told myself that I couldn’t let a common cold keep me in bed for a week. In the middle of Spanish class on Friday morning, my professor walked up to me, looking very concerned, and touched my arm. “¿Tienes fiebre?” she asked, as I was sweating profusely, looking pale. “No sé, pero es posible.” She told me to go home and rest.
I called Internal Medicine and explained my situation. I had a fever. Over the next five hours and multiple phone calls, I was repeatedly told there were no nurses available.
On Saturday morning, I checked for my weekly COVID-19 test results from the day before — which had not yet been posted. Instead, I found a positive test result for my strep throat culture from the previous Sunday: five days ago.
I waited outside for 30 minutes before simply walking in, but a nurse quickly walked into the waiting room to tell me to go outside. They could not treat anyone without a negative COVID-19 test from the last 48 hours. With tears in my eyes, I explained to her that I’ve had strep throat for over a week with no treatment and I just need some antibiotics. She went back inside, and after speaking with doctors, allowed me inside. As she’s taking my vitals, I tell her the story of the past week. “That’s ridiculous,” she says, “I’m so sorry you had to go through that.” I was prescribed antibiotics and told to rest.
I picked up my prescription and headed back to my dorm. I slept for hours, but woke up with two exams, a paper, and a project still awaiting my attention.