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Timothy L. Vollmer, MD
Department of Neurology
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Co-Director of the RMMSC at Anschutz Medical Center

Medical Director-Rocky Mountain MS Center
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Weill Medical College of Cornell University

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Department of Neurology
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Hold Please; MS Requires Patience

By Matt Allen G

I am sitting at the dining room table staring down the length of it with both my elbows propped on the surface. In one hand is my phone against my ear and the other hand is pushing against my forehead and covering my eyes as if it were somehow easing my stress. I have been listening to some public domain jazz music for 20 minutes or so when the line goes silent. Did the call seriously just drop? I look at my phone and it still says I am connected, the elapsed time continues to increase. This music is on a loop so there is no way I “reached the end”! Well, at least it didn’t actually drop… Boooop! The call drops. Sigh… I redial the number to my specialty pharmacy and begin to navigate through the automated menu again until I am once again put on hold while I wait for an operator. 10 minutes later someone picks up and I explain why I am calling all over again and once more I am asked to hold while I am transferred to the right department. I continue to sit and listen to that horrible music when after another 20 minutes the call drops! Again! I take a deep breath to try to not lose my cool. I have to start the entire process over for a third time! “Luckily” the call does not drop this time and I finally get ahold of who I am trying to get ahold of. Sound familiar?

Having multiple sclerosis is not only a full-time job because of the amount of work it takes to deal with the many symptoms it causes but also because of the mass amounts of clerical work many of us have to do. Stuff people actually get paid to do that for us is just a necessary part of life. With this comes the many hours of time throughout the week that we must spend on hold. Multiple sclerosis has greatly improved my patience because of this. Waiting on hold for as long as I do, waiting for that call back, waiting at the doctor’s office for an appointment, waiting at the ER for 7 hours; so much of our time is spent just waiting! At first it was maddening because I did not have the patience that I have now but after years of life with MS I can now just sit and stare at a wall exploring my own thoughts. It still tests me though, having to call over and over again, waiting on hold, listening to that same music, it’s stressful and I hate it but again, it’s a necessary part of life with MS.

The thing is, you know you spend too much time on hold when you start humming along to the public domain music that’s playing while on hold and you know you spend too much of your life on hold when you can call a wide variety of different places and recognize all the different music they all play while you are on hold. “Oh, I love this song! This is my classical music jam! Woot-woot BACH!” Yes, I even know the names of some of these public domain songs! When you recognize right off the bat that someone’s menu has changed or there is a new voice reading you the options. It becomes as familiar as a friend’s house in that you feel the same when you visit and notice they rearranged all the furniture. No one should know some of this stuff! It’s very repetitive as well, to the point where I don’t even have to listen to the menu options most the time. As soon as the recording starts to play I know to press “2, 1, 1 and 8” to skip right to the waiting part. If you really want to test someone’s patience make them jump through the hoops of trying to call the Social Security Administration!

Now one of the most frustrating parts for me is that when I am on hold I have to focus my undivided attention on the call and what I am calling about. People say “just put it on speaker phone and do something else while you wait” but I can’t because if I do that then when someone finally picks up I will not remember why I called! So I have to just sit and listen to the hold music while repeating what I am calling about in my head like I am repeating a phone number over and over so that I do not forget it because I did not have a pen and paper to write it down; as soon as I stop repeating it in my head I will just lose it in the intricate maze that is my memory.

Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by EXAMINER
Note: Materials may be edited for content and length


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