Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Medical Bait and Switch (aka "Medical BS”) PART 2

At the time I was hospitalized to explore why I was deteriorating so rapidly, I was already a myelogram veteran having had one the year before. I was scared to the point of shaking at the thought of having to repeat something all but guaranteed to cause as much pain as I had after the tumor removal surgery that followed the original scan. I reluctantly agreed to go through the sticks, swivels, and sucks of this invasive examination only if I was knocked out before my little backside left my hospital bed. The gruff and more egotistical of the talented pair of surgeons who had kept me alive and walking through round one of the battle with the astrocytoma agreed, and the test was on for the following afternoon.

It took less than two hours for his BS to begin. As he came back by my room during evening rounds with his kindly old grandfather-type partner doctor to discuss plans for me, the nice one of the two asked me how I was feeling about needing to go through this torment again. I told him I was doing just fine because I would be unconscious before I ever saw them and hopefully remain that way long after they completed their sadistic acts. That's when Dr. Crapola jumped in and said that I may not be totally out, but I would be so doped up that I wouldn't know where I was or what was going on. I was as irked as a 15 year old teenage girl could get (i.e. pretty darn annoyed) but since I'd still be out of the clutches of the pain demons, I decided I could live with that and tried to let it go.

BS stage I last until morning, when the doctor's tune changed keys again when he informed the entourage doing rounds with him at 7 am that "the patient" would receive a sedative before the test but may still experience some discomfort. Irked went out the window faster than an illicit lover when a husband comes home long before his adulterous wife expected him, and full-out anger moved in.

I seethed until the nurse delivered some Valium about 30 minutes before I was scheduled for the test. It didn't take too long after she injected it for a bit of calm to wash over me, not enough to keep me from being tense when I slid from bed to gurney, rather just enough to keep me from clawing the eyes out of the next person who said "boo" to me in a tone of voice for which I didn't particularly care. But that sedative effect I was promised hadn't arrived by the time I was wheeled from my room to the stacked up in the hallway of the radiology department like we were airplanes circling an airport with only one plowed runway in the midst of a blizzard, and I was becoming more agitated with every passing minute.

When I could stand it no longer, I put my parents on the lookout for the doctor, and I confronted him about when I would be getting the rest of my happy drugs as soon as my family waylaid him. I started to get a whiff of even more doctor BS before the surgeon even opened his mouth. He informed that I'd received all the meds that I was going to get. It probably goes without saying that this answer had the opposite effect of the drugs on which I was counting. I sat bolt upright, totally nullifying the benefits of any Valium that had managed to take effect thus far, and made a grab for him while demanding to know what the hell he meant by "that's it for drugs". Before he could reply, I reminded him that the deal was he got to do the procedure only if I would be oblivious, and pointed out the obvious: that I was clearly anything but unconscious and was, in fact, only seconds away from rolling down off my gurney to cause him as much bodily harm as a skinny girl with rapidly declining strength and no sense of balance could deliver.

This arrogant bastard, after assuring me that I would feel nothing in front of the same witnesses he now stood before again, looked me right in the eyes and told me such a load of bull that the methane it generated could have powered Cleveland for a year. He swore up and down in that arrogant, condescending tone that's almost a trademark of neurosurgeons that he had never said anything that could be interpreted by anyone older than six and with half a brain as agreeing to make me a zombie before they turned me into a voodoo doll on the wrong end of a vacuum cleaner. As you might imagine, this boldfaced lie didn't sit too well and I went into the myelogram in a state bordering on total terror. If I were a cat, I would have been hanging upside down with all four sets of claws sunk deep in the ceiling with my fur puffed out like I was recently rubbed against a big balloon. Even so, I survived, and I left that little lead-lined room unconscious and a lot more suspicious of promises made by doctors.

I wish I could say that I was never again the victim of a broken promise from a medical professional. But it's happened again and again. A pain management specialist tells me there's lots and lots of non-narcotic options that will alleviate my pain only to offer me two, neither of which brings me any real relief. This bait and switch, plus the unrelenting pain, sends me into a debilitating depression. I finally agree to visit the ER to get started on antidepressants, and tell the resident assigned to me that I'm totally despondent because doctors keep promising to help me and then fail to deliver. The resident assures me that getting me started on antidepressant meds will be no problem. But after consulting with her attending doctor after subjecting me to a two hour complete psych workup, the resident becomes part of the problem by pulling her own bait and switch, informing me that the attending won't prescribe meds but instead wants to hold me for inpatient care. The scary part is that this doctor in training couldn't seem to grasp that she had just become part of the problem that caused my depression in the first place!

And so it goes. Remember the old saying, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” ? Well my experiences made me expand that bit of wisdom by adding, “Fool me thrice and you must be a doctor.”

1 comment:

Jonderson said...

Coming from a family full of health professionals, including three physicians, I can attest to the validity of everything that you have said except one thing. You referred to medicine as art, and while it was that way for fifty years or so it is no longer anything but a business.