I reached for my thermometer as soon as my alarm went off. I felt off the night before and had tested negative for COVID-19, but as soon as I opened my eyes, I knew things had gotten a lot worse.
Woozy and light-headed, I glanced down to see my temperature had skyrocketed to 102.7 degrees overnight. I immediately texted my parents and roommate and started the far-too-long process of getting medical advice from the IU Health system.
I've visited IU health facilities many times, especially during the height of the pandemic, so I knew that I had three options: visiting IU Urgent Care, the IU Health Center or a clinic at CVS or Kroger. When students get sick, there should be an easy way to contact campus officials and get sick care through any of these outlets.
I started by checking the urgent care websites for wait times. The primary purpose of urgent care is to cover non-life-threatening emergencies, including a “sore throat, sprained ankle or stitches needed, sudden illnesses and accidents” listed on its website. I visited urgent care my freshman year when I had flu-like symptoms. I quickly got a flu test and a prescription for Tamiflu, so I figured it was an appropriate first stop.
However, the website informed me all spots in line were taken, and the wait time peaked at more than ten hours. After calling urgent care to describe my symptoms, I was told it wouldn't accept walk-ins, even when I had a high fever.
All it did was give me a direct number to the IU Health Center in case my symptoms got worse, which I wasn't sure how they could. So I decided to look at wait times at clinics like CVS and Kroger.
After combing through websites that would only schedule appointments up to two days in advance, the closest appointment I could find was at a Kroger in Greenwood, Indiana. All of the clinic appointments at local stores were filled or unavailable. Unable to walk around for more than a few minutes at a time, traveling to a different city for a clinic appointment was out of the question.
My last potential option was to contact a direct nurse line administered through the student health center. I called twice to no answer. On the third call, I finally spoke to a nurse. They asked for my insurance information and about previous visits and medical history. When I finally got to talk about my symptoms, the nurse told me all they could do was recommend resting and drinking lots of fluids. When I asked for an appointment to be seen, they told me that they were filled up for the rest of the day and I would have to call back around 7 a.m. the next day to put my name down for an appointment.
Exhausted and feeling the worst I ever had, I thanked her for her help and hung up the phone. I missed all of my classes the rest of the week but luckily recovered in time to travel home for Thanksgiving break.
After the sickness swept through the rest of my friend group and none of us tested positive for COVID-19, we figured we must have had the flu. In that case, getting in to see a health care provider would have helped the progression of my symptoms. If I had tested positive for the flu, I would have been prescribed Tamiflu, which is most effective when taken as close to symptom onset as possible, and I might have been able to make it to my last classes before Thanksgiving break.
College campuses seem to be the epicenter for the majority of flu cases in the United States. The national positivity average is 0.3%, while at the University of Michigan, a school comparable in size to IU, the positivity rate is 37%.
It’s only a matter of time until the flu gets worse on our campus, and it’s crucial to students' health and success in classes that IU ensures proper staffing and sufficient appointment availability for students with non-COVID-19-related illnesses.
Chris Sciortino (he/him) is a junior studying theater and public relations. He is involved with the Queer Student Union and College Democrats at IU and spends a considerable amount of time showing people pictures of his dog, Ellie.